Cowboys 2015 Draft Profile: RB T.J. Yeldon

Eight of the Cowboys draft picks over the last two years were brought in for official visits. T.J. Yeldon is on that list - and inside, scouts him as a possible lead back for Dallas' 'running-back-by-committee' approach.

While there is always going to be mystery when it comes to the NFL Draft, over the years the Dallas Cowboys have done their fans a bit of a favor and tipped their hands so to speak. Not only have they (not once, but twice) given us a look at their draft boards after that year’s draft was completed, but in their actions they’ve also alerted us to some key tells about their actions. In our must-read post from earlier in the off-season < a href=“” target=”_blank”>"6 Draft Tendencies and Tells'' we listed the following:

    5. Dallas uses their Valley Ranch visits very wisely, and will most often select players throughout the draft that visit team headquarters through the 30 National invites of Dallas Day visits.

This is by no means an end-all be-all list. Morris Claiborne wasn’t invited to the Ranch, and Dallas spend two picks to acquire him. Maybe the lack of development their helped guide their hand recently, as eight of their picks over the last two years were in for official visits. In that vein, we’ll be bringing you in-depth looks at the draft candidates that Dallas schedules for visits, so that you can be better informed about the small sample size many of the next group of Cowboys will likely come from.

Name: T.J. Yeldon
Position: Running Back
School: University of Alabama
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 226 LBs
Second Team All-SEC – 2014
First Team All-SEC – 2013
Freshman All-American - 2012
Mr. Football in Alabama - 2011
pSparq Score: 122.7 Z-Score: 0.1 NFL Percentile: 54.6

pSparq is an approximation of the “Sparq Score” metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are “3 Sigma Athletes” in the NFL, J.J. Watt, Calvin Johnson, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson, along with one from the 2015 draft class, Byron Jones. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out

Measurables vs others at his position:

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Games Studied: Auburn, West Virginia

Run Game:

TJ Yeldon is a very steady type of runner, who is very patient waiting for blocks to develop. He has the speed to get the corner but also does a good job getting north and south when he gets the chance on the sweep or outside zone. He’s not an explosive guy from a lateral agility stand point but he has enough ability to make guys miss both in the open field and in the hole. One of my favorite things about Yeldon as a runner is that he rarely gets tackled by the first defender, mostly because he is just elusive enough to keep them from getting a clean shot on him. This helps him get 2-3 yards on plays that are blocked for zero. He is very good as a press and cut runner on zone runs, and had a lot of success on the split zone running scheme getting out the back door on cuts.

Passing Game:

Yeldon is one of the more complete backs in the class, he has the football intelligence to see his guy in protection and get over and shut his guy down. He was late one time on a corner blitz from the field when he was aligned to the boundary, but that was the exception. Had limited opportunities as a receiver but caught the ball naturally when he got the chance and used his ability in space to be a weapon.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

There are obvious connections between the Cowboys and the Crimson Tide, and despite questions about the recent performances of former Alabama players in the NFL, TJ Yeldon should be a solid NFL running back. He is probably a second to third round player on most team’s boards, and will likely be in serious consideration at pick number 60 should the Cowboys take a corner or some other position in round one. He would likely be the lead back in a committee, where he saw between 15-18 carries per game, and would likely be a 1,000 yard runner as a rookie.

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