2015 NFL Combine: RB Workout Analysis

What matters and what to look out for from the running backs at the 2015 NFL Combine

For those invited and participating in the 2015 NFL Combine, what matters? What did they need to do? How was the workout? What to take away from …

1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin 6-1, 215
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:His hands. Fumbles are a problem at times, and he wasn’t that big a part of the passing game on a regular basis. Strength and blocking ability will be watched out for, too. A big 40 time would be nice to show off some top-end speed. A 4.6+ won’t be disastrous, but it could drop him to the late first round or early second.
Key To The Workout: He did everything he needed to do. The warp speed isn’t there, but a 4.52 40 is more than fine – and it was a bit better than expected. He showed explosion in the jumps with a huge leap of 10’6” in the broad jump and with a 35” vertical. More than that, he was quick through the cones and caught the ball well. If you thought he was the No. 1 running back before, he did nothing to change that.

2. Jay Ajayi, Boise State 6-0, 221
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Just how much tread is there on the tires? He was used, used, overused, and used some more. There’s a chance he could become the first back taken in the draft with a few great workouts, but the physicals are going to be vital.
Key To The Workout: Terrific. The 4.57 40 was good enough considering he’s a big power back, and the 39” vertical and great broad jump showed off his explosion. While he wasn’t blazing quick, he moved well for his bulk and he shifted well. He did exactly what he needed to do.

3. Todd Gurley, Georgia 6-1, 222
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Can he deal with the physical? He’s still trying to get healthy, and he needs to show that there’s still going to be healthy enough to be worth the investment. Teams are going to have to fly blind when it comes to picking him, so it’s going to be an interesting call – will he be the same back, or better, with a fully-healed knee, and will he be able to stay in one piece?
Key To The Workout: He made the curious decision not to go through the medical process. That doesn’t mean teams won’t be able to see what the situation with his knee is, but it’ll have to come later. It created a stir – probably not the best PR move since it seems like he has something to hide – but it’ll be ignored if things are on track in a few weeks. The 17 reps he did on the bench were fine.

4. Tevin Coleman, Indiana 5-11, 206
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:How fast is he? He plays more of a speed game than a power one, and he’s big in open spaces, but he’s not a normal NFL workhorse. If he’s going to be the type of fast runner who busts off the occasional home run, he has to show off the deep wheels.
Key To The Workout: And now come the concerns. He measured about two inches shorter than expected, and he was a bit smallish compared to his previously listed weight, but that wasn’t a big deal. Missing the running drills because of a funked up bone in his big toe, though, that needs addressing after playing through it during the season. It’ll get fixed and he’ll be fine, but he didn’t get a chance to show what he could do outside of a great 22 reps on the bench.

5. Duke Johnson, Miami 5-9, 207
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Does he have any power or strength? As a speed and quickness back, he has to dominate the speed and quickness drills. The physicals will be a big deal after getting beaten up over his Miami career – there are going to be some big durability red flags.
Key To The Workout: Good enough. The explosion was just okay in the leaping drills, and the 4.54 40 was par for the course, but he really showed off through the cones where his feet were quick his balance was excellent and he was smooth for the type of back he’s supposed to be.

6. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama 6-1, 226
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Can he hit? He’s a big back who doesn’t play with enough power or toughness. Is he good enough at any one thing or in any one area to be a special NFL runner? There are just enough question marks – fumbling? – to knock him down a few pegs, so he has to come up with a great weekend.
Key To The Workout: It’s an overstatement to call the workout disappointing, but he just didn’t show any real spark. He wasn’t quick, and wasn’t really fast – running a 4.61 – and he wasn’t all that smooth. The 22 reps on the bench were good, the 36” vertical was great, and he wasn’t awful, but he just doesn’t seem like the same back he was a few years ago.

7. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska 5-9, 205
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The 40. Of course, the quickness and short drills are really more important, but considering Abdullah’s lack of bulk – and with no ability whatsoever to get bigger – he had better fly. He’s going to be sold as one of the best all-around backs in the draft, but he has to shine as an exploder. That has to come with a 4.4.
Key To The Workout: Interesting. He’s a strange prospect considering his tools. He’s too small, but he ripped off 24 reps on the bench. He’s too slow with a 4.6 40, but he killed it in the short drills and jumped out of the stadium with a 42 ½” vertical and 10’10” broad jump. The poor 40 stands out, but everything else showed enough to blow off his other shortcomings.

8. Javorius Allen, USC 6-0, 221
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The second-level burst. He’s fast and quick for his size, and while he doesn’t bring enough power, he’s okay. However, does he need to gear back up after his first cut? Interviews are going to be key – he has to sell the idea that he’s going to be a killer who can handle the NFL workhorse rigors.
Key To The Workout: Solid. He’s flying a bit under the radar compared to the top backs, but he’s looking more and more like a possible mid-round steal with good size, enough speed with a 4.53 40, and good quickness and balance through the cones. The 11 reps on the bench are a slight concern considering he doesn’t provide the thump, but it was a good workout.

9. Karlos Williams, Florida State 6-1, 230
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Is he a running back? Is he going to rock the interviews? There was an off-the-field incident that GMs will have to dive into and have to ask about, even if he wasn’t charged with anything. On the field, the former defensive back has to show off the finer points of being a running back after showing flashes of greatness on offense.
Key To The Workout: Good. He still needs some polish, and he wasn’t a natural through the shorter drills and as a pass catcher, but the 4.48 for a 6-1, 230-pound back was excellent. He needs to sink his hips more and he needs to cut a bit sharper, but his speed overcame some other concerns. It was what he needed to do.

10. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State 6-0, 208
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:If there’s a way to show more pop and power, he’ll have to. He’s fast, athletic, and productive for his size, and he can catch, but for his style he needs to be laterally quick and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he hits the bench hard.
Key To The Workout: It’ll be interesting to see how the scouts evaluate him over the next few months. He didn’t get any pre-Indy hype, and he has always flown under the Big Ten radar, but he looked outstanding starting with a blazing 4.42 and his smooth-as-silk runs through the short drills. Forget that the short times were just okay – he was silky with great feet and fluidly effortless cutting ability. Don’t go by the numbers – he was outstanding.

11. Mike Davis, South Carolina 5-9, 217
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Interviews. There was something that just didn’t quite mesh with Steve Spurrier at times, and he’s going to have to prove that he’s ready to sell out to become special. He has the compact frame, and he could be someone’s favorite running back sleeper, but his draft stock depends on how he comes across.
Key To The Workout: It wasn’t great. He was slow in the 40 with a 4.61 and he was a bit lumbering through the cones and with his cutting ability – he looked way tight at times. He’s a stronger football player than a workout warrior, and he showed a little bit of power on the bench with 17 reps, but it wasn’t the workout that’s going to open any eyes.

12. Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn 5-10, 212
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Does he have the lateral quickness to bounce to the outside? He’s a tough, between-the-tackles runner who can crank out yards and chunks, but he needs to show hands, route running ability, and the fluidity to do a little of everything right.
Key To The Workout: It was pretty good. He was slowish through the cones and the short drills, but he exploded with a 36 ½” vertical and ran a good 4.53 40. He was a bit too tight and didn’t always show off the best feet, but he looked mostly like he was supposed to – a good interior runner who’ll be a nice mid-round selection.

13. David Cobb, Minnesota 5-11, 229
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Is he a one-note back? He’s tough, powerful, and grinding, but that also screams Short Shelf Life at the next level. If he comes off as an athlete and isn’t plodding, he’ll up his stock in a big way. He also needs to look the part as a receiver.
Key To The Workout: He wasn’t supposed to be a speed back, and he wasn’t – he really, really wasn’t. The 4.81 40 cemented him as a just a power runner who’ll keep the chains moving, but there’s just nothing flashy about his game. However, his 38 ½” vertical bright the pop and power – he’s actually what the NFL needs, but don’t ever expect any home runs.

14. David Johnson, Northern Iowa 6-1, 224
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:With his size and his bulk, he needs to be fast. He might not be as powerful as he should be for back of his size, and he could stand to look the part of a power back, but the scouts are going to want to see the raw athleticism to go along with the great tape and a strong Senior Bowl week.
Key To The Workout: Wonderful. One of the big question mars was whether or not the tools could match the tape, and they more than did with a strong 4.5 40, an explosive 41 ½” vertical, a huge broad jump, and tremendous quickness in the short drills. He already showed off his hands in the passing game during the season, so it didn’t matter that he was just okay in the Indy passing drills. Throw in the 25 reps on the bench, and he was outstanding.

15. Michael Dyer, Louisville 5-8, 218
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The interview process means everything. There’s the potential to be a great part of a rotation – he could be a far better pro than a college player – but the character issues are going to be more than just a red flag for some teams.
Key To The Workout: Yeah, he’s great, but that’s not the point. He ran well – a 4.58 40 – and he looked quick and exploded when he had to, and the 26 reps on the bench were outstanding, but his big concern is whether or not a coaching staff can trust him. On the plus side, he was far more athletic than expected.

16. Matt Jones, Florida 6-2, 231
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Does he have any hope of lasting in the league? A pure power back, no one will question his strength, toughness or pop, but he’s not quick enough and he’s not all that fast. If he can come up with good times and look fluid, he’ll up his stock.
Key To The Workout: Sluggish. The 4.61 40 was okay for a power back of his size, and the 20 reps on the bench showed his strength and toughness, but he looks a half-step slow through the cones and the short drills and struggled – as most backs do – to cut and maneuver. He’s a true north-south runner, and this workout might have cemented that.

17. Malcolm Brown, Texas 5-11, 224
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Does he have any pop or anything special? He’s going to be seen as a serviceable back, but nothing necessary unless he blows up the stats and the drills – he needs a great workout to make the scouts want to do a deeper look.
Key To The Workout: He’s going to start to be seen as a better bargain the more the scouts dive into him considering he doesn’t have a ton of wear and tear. While he wasn’t all that fast with a 4.62 40, he zipped through the cones with excellent quickness and athleticism. He might be a great part of a rotation, like he was at Texas.

18. Dee Hart, Colorado State 5-7, 199
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The physical will mean everything. There’s lots to like, and he has sleeper potential in the mid-rounds, but his knee has to check out. The workout has to be great, and he has to be ultra-quick, but his knee injuries are going to be the issue.
Key To The Workout: It was an uneven workout. Brutally slow in the 40 – running a devastating 4.8 – he was the epitome of quicker than fast looking as smooth as glass through the cones with great balance and shiftiness. He’s not big, he’s not powerful, and he’s not explosive, but he showed enough to be a part of a rotation.

19. Zach Zenner, South Dakota State 5-11, 223
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The numbers have to be great. He has looked the part of a big-time school runner despite the small-school tape, but there’s nothing really slick about his game. If he can look fluid and quick in any way, his stock will quickly shoot up.
Key To The Workout:Terrific. He wasn’t smooth, and he’s not going to be fluid in any way, but the 41” vertical, the 4.6 40 and the 25 reps on the bench made him a workout star. He was quick enough when he had to be, and he looked the part – the tools matched the small school tape.

20. Josh Robinson, Mississippi State 5-8, 217
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:He has to look athletic. A bowling ball of a runner, he can run well and has power, but there isn’t anything too creative about his style. He needs to surprise and show some potential with some great 40 and quickness drill times.
Key To The Workout: Checking in an inch shorter than listed, he looked even more like a stocky runner. While that gave him a nice center of gravity when he had to move, he was painfully slow in the 40 with a 4.7, and he didn’t look athletic enough. That’s okay considering his style, and with the 21 reps, he’s going to be a short runner who can work here and there – he’s not a long-term answer.

21. Joey Iosefa, Hawaii 6-0, 247
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:There’s one thing he can do well – power the ball – but if he can be quick in the short drills and show good blocking toughness – at least compared to the other backs – he could be seen as a possible option as both a fullback and an H-back. <
Key To The Workout: Forget the 5.02 40, and none of the other times matter. He cranked out an offensive lineman-like 30 reps on the bench and was shockingly fluid and smooth through the short drills, moving like a much smaller player. He showed he could be an interesting all-around option in a backfield.

22. Kenny Hilliard, LSU 6-0, 226
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Does he have the lateral movement and quickness? He’ll blast away, but he might never be seen as anything more than just a power back if he can’t come up with some excellent numbers in the speed and agility drills.
Key To The Workout: Okay, so he’s a short-yardage back and a fullback. He doesn’t move all that well, and the 4.83 40 was relatively worthless, but no one will ever expect him to be a blazing home run hitter. You know what you’re going to get – a thumper who’s doing to wear down defenses.

23. B.J. Catalon, TCU 5-7, 186
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The pass catching skills have to come out. He’s going to be pigeon-holed as a third-down back so the more he can look the part as a receiver and the quicker he looks, the more creative the scouts are going to get with him.
Key To The Workout: A lot shorter than expected, he moved great and effortlessly through the cone drills – they were built for him – and he blew up the vertical with a 36” leap. The 4.57 40 wasn’t fast, but his game is more about being quick than blazing. No one will know quite what to do with him, but he showed he’s worth a long, long look.

24. John Crockett, North Dakota State 6-0, 217
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:If there’s a way to show strength, he needs to do it. The bench doesn’t really matter, but the explosion in the jumps and power in his legs have to come through. He has to look like a receiver, too
Key To The Workout: Outside of some explosive leaps – going 10’5” in the broad jump and with a 40” vertical – it was underwhelming. He didn’t go fast with a 4.62 40, and he wasn’t smooth. He just didn’t quite look the part even though he needed to stand out.

25. Thomas Rawls, Central Michigan 5-9, 215
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The workout has to be great, but the interviews will be more important. He has the tape, and he has the skill, but off-the-field issues this season will be what everyone wants to look into. Injury concerns and health will make the physical a big deal, too.
Key To The Workout: It was good enough. He’s an interior runner who needs to be in the right system, and he was fine when he had to move. He’s not a north-south runner – the 4.65 40 showed that – and he’s not going to blow anyone away with his tools, but he didn’t hurt himself. Is is whatever you thought he was physically going in.

26. Trey Williams, Texas A&M 5-7, 195
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:He’s better bring it in the 40 and the quickness drills. With no size and a questionable move to come out early, he needs to wake up the scouts by looking like a flash of lightning.
Key To The Workout: He did exactly what he needed to do. A possible kick returner and a toy to play around with, he needed to be fast, and he was, ripping off an easy-looking 4.49 40. He needed to look quick, and he was, coming up with one of the smoother times in the short and cone drills. He’s small, and he’ll never be a regular runner, but that’s not his role in the world.

27. Braylon Heard, Kentucky 5-10, 198
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Can he look like an NFL running back? He’s built like a slot receiver – which he might turn into – and he’s going to time well, but the stronger he can appear, the better.
Key To The Workout: Too slow considering his lack of size – he needed to be in the 4.5s and ran a 4.63 – and not all that great in the leaping drills and the short runs, it wasn’t great. However, he moved better than he timed and looked like a possible third down back.

28. Dominique Brown, Louisville 6-2, 234
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Does he have the speed to go along with the power, and does he have the strength to go along with his size? More than that, he has to show the GMs that he’s worthy of being a mid-range pick after falling off the map over the second half of last year.
Key To The Workout: He’ll need to show what he can do on his pro day. The 17 reps on the bench were fine, but he’s not a blaster of a runner like he’s supposed to be. He didn’t run, and while his 40 might be clocked with a sun dial, he still needs to show he can move.

29. Jahwan Edwards, Ball State 5-9, 220
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:Already a shifty back, he needs to stand out in some way with his quickness and speed. He can do a little bit of everything well, but can he be special? Something has to excite the scouts.
Key To The Workout: Yeech. There was no athleticism or quickness as an NFL runner whatsoever, slugging through a 4.80 40 and not exactly flying through the cone drills. Needing to make his mark as a power back, the 16 reps on the bench didn’t help.

30. Marcus Murphy, Missouri 5-8, 193
What He Needed To Prove In Indy:The hands have to be there to look like a possible third-down back, and the more he can appear to be a kick and punt returner, the better. He’s quick – he has to time really, really quick.
Key To The Workout: The 4.61 was way too slow, and he didn’t show any explosion in his jumps, but he was quick and smooth when he had to cut, and he looked like what he was supposed to – a special teamer. He’s a return man and a true specialist, but he could be a third down back with good hands.

OTHERS IN INDIANAPOLIS (in alphabetical order)
Michael Burton, Rutgers
Jalston Fowler, Alabama
Gus Johnson, Stephen F. Austin
Terrence Magee, LSU
Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette
Tyler Varga, Yale

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