Deep draft analysis: Running backs

Scout.com draft analyst Dave-Te’ Thomas goes almost 20 deep on his analysis of the running backs and fullback in the 2015 NFL draft.

GORDON, Melvin | Wisconsin | TB | rJr | 06:00.5 | 203 | 4.43
Gordon and James White shared tailback duties for the Badgers, producing 3,053 yards and 25 touchdowns combined last season. With White now in the NFL, it is Gordon’s time to shine. While Georgia’s Todd Gurley entered the 2014 season as college’s best big back, no player was a more electrifying ball carrier than Gordon. On the football field, there are a lot of similarities in his game that Chris Johnson displayed during his 2,000-yard season with the Titans a few years back.

The Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist is the favorite to break this position’s two-year first round drought. Having shared running duties since he first arrived on campus as a freshman, the 2014 regular season saw Gordon carry the bulk of the rushing load, piling up a Big Ten Conference season-record 2,587 yards with 29 touch-downs on 343 carries (7.5 ypc). He recorded five 200-yard rushing performances and the nation’s leading active ball carrier with 4,915 yards also holds the NCAA all-time record with an average of 7.8 yards per carry, joining USC’s Reggie Bush (7.32 ypc; 2003-05) as the only two players to average 7.0 yards. He teamed with Corey Clement (844) to tally 3,180 yards rushing in 2014, the most by a tandem in NCAA history.

Gordon shows explosive lateral agility and movement and is a threat to break for a long run any time he frees himself along the perimeter. He has the crisp plant-&-drive agility to make sharp cuts and despite his exceptional quickness, he is a patient runner waiting for blocks to develop. He has outstanding balance on the move, keeping his feet churning to break arm tackles. His acceleration makes him a viable threat and he has more than enough moves to defeat a defense on his own to gain separation. He is best when running off tackle, but he also has the power and hip wiggle to go for big yardage running inside. With a pair of first round picks, Cleveland could snatch up Gordon before Miami gets a chance, but with contract issues (Demarco Murray) looming, look for Dallas to possibly trade up (Browns?) and replace one league leading rusher with college’s leading ball carrier.

Gordon has a burst and maintains acceleration on extended runs. He might lack blazing speed, but his quickness makes him competitive. He has that body control and balance, along with loose hips to redirect and separate in the open. He doesn’t have that explosion to win foot races vs. cornerbacks, but has the moves to set up the defender and elude. He runs inside with very good body lean and awareness, especially when picking and sliding. His short area burst lets him bounce to the outside when the middle is clogged. He is a good downhill runner with the slippery moves and change of direction agility to get through trash. He knows how to get skinny through tight creases, but needs to improve his leg drive, as he is not the type to move the piles.

Gordon runs with good awareness and body lean, but also has the agility to bounce outside when he generates a short burst. He compensates for a lack of raw power (strength is functional) with his balance and body control running up the middle. He is much more effective eluding defenders with his lateral slide and veer moves, combining them with his burst, but will never be confused for being a nifty outside runner. He is much more slippery than explosive in his stride. When he tries to make multiple moves in space, the defense has time to recover. His range and cutback agility will generally take the defenders off their feet.

Even though he is not used much in this area, Gordon has soft, natural hands, doing a good job of catching the ball outside his frame. He has the vision to look the ball in over his outside shoulder and the cutting agility to separate after the catch. He is used mostly on controlled routes, but has the quick stride to be lined wide or in the slot. He is very effective settling in underneath and is alert to coverage (very rare to see him run into crowded spots).

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#GURLEY, Todd | Georgia | TB | Jr | 06:00.4 | 232 | 4.54
Let’s face it, 2014 has not been the best of years for the Bulldogs junior – a suspension for a sports memorabilia signing, only to suffer a knee injury upon his return to wipe out the rest of his final season at Georgia. While Melvin Gordon might have passed Gurley on most team draft boards, he is still a better all-around athlete than the Badgers ball carrier, as he is not only a quality runner, but also excels as a receiver out of the backfield and is a dangerous kickoff returner. The 232-pound junior has proven to be a potent option in all three phases, as his 4,322 all-purpose yards in just three seasons is second-best in school annals behind Herschel Walker (5,749). His 44 total touchdowns also rank second to Walker’s 52 and his average of 6.44 yards per rushing attempt broke the old Georgia record of 6.42 yards by Charley Trippi (1942, 1945-46). In just six games, he was twice named National Player of the Week, finishing with 911 yards and nine touchdowns on 123 attempts (7.4 ypc) in 2014. The biggest test for Gurley will be when he steps in front of team medical staffs at the NFL Scouting Combine. He needs to assure GMs that he is not getting to the dreaded “injury prone” stage most ball carriers with a huge work load experience. In addition to his knee injury this season, he had an ankle injury in 2013 that cost Gurley three games, but there might not be a big back in college that has the pure blend of power, balance and quickness that the Bulldog possesses. Compared favorably to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, he can generate a second gear to separate in the open and has the nimble feet needed to make precise lateral cuts. His loose hips and change of direction agility makes him very elusive avoiding traffic. He has nice feet and above average balance in his initial burst, doing a nice job of “getting skinny” to pick his way through tight creases. Miami is targeting tailback as a primary draft need and there is talk that Atlanta will look to end the Stephen Jackson era and take the local product before the Dolphins can secure his services.

COLEMAN, Tevin | Indiana | TB | Jr | 06:00.1 | 205 | 4.62
While Gordon and Gurley head the running back class, teams are also showing tremendous attention to the skill-set displayed by this Hoosiers junior. Tied for the national lead with eleven 100-yard rushing performances this year, he became the 18th player in FBS history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season, ranking 15th on the all-time list with 2,036 yards, as he (264 attempts) became the fourth-fastest rusher to reach 2,000 after Melvin Gordon (241), Larry Johnson (251) and Mike Rozier (258), besting Barry Sanders (268). He is just the third Big Ten rusher to reach the milestone in the regular season, joining Gordon and Larry Johnson (2002). His 7.5-yard average per carry is the fifth-highest among the 18 2,000-yard rushers. His career average of 7.1 yards per attempt is third-best in Big Ten annals and 13th in FBS history. Coleman has a very good burst and explosion off the snap. He is a physical runner who can consistently move the pile and has the valid strength to beat the press in passing situations. He shows above average vision and is a patient runner who waits for blocks to develop. He can stick his foot in the ground and explode laterally, showing an explosive vertical burst when changing direction. He has very good stop-&-go quickness, along with the in-line acceleration to race up the rush lanes. He is a shifty type with outstanding feet, doing a nice job of avoiding low tackles on the move. He has the functional speed to take the ball long distances and runs with good balance. In isolated coverage, he will generally win any foot race. He has swivel hips, rather than veer and weave. Due to other pressing needs with their first round picks, Oakland, Miami and Baltimore, all in need of upgrades at tailback, are hoping that Coleman is still available when their turns come around in round two.

#ABDULLAH, Ameer | Nebraska | TB | Sr | 05:08.6 | 199 | 4.45
Abdullah’s running style is similar to Tennessee’s Bishop Sankey, the first running back taken in the 2014 draft, but as November kicked in, the smallish ball carrier’s heavy work load seemed to have caught up with him. He struggled early in 2013 with a knee sprain and in the November 2014 clash vs. Purdue, he left after the second series with a left knee sprain, totaling one yard on six runs. After posting 229 yards vs. Miami, 208 vs. Illinois and 225 vs. Rutgers before the Purdue clash, he was held to 69 vs. Wisconsin and 98 vs. Minnesota in his two appearances after the Boilermakers contest. Overuse might be the cause for him breaking own at the end of the year, as he touched the ball 237 times for 1,523 yards and 18 touchdowns, catching 16 passes and averaging 24.7 yards on 11 kickoff returns in 2014. His 6,700 all-purpose yards rank second in Big Ten annals and leads all active FBS players. A potential target for Detroit and Baltimore in the second round, his cat-like quickness has scouts likening him to former Detroit Lions Jahvid Best. Abdullah has the field vision and open field cutting ability to simply fly past second level defenders. With his lateral agility, he can easily escape linebackers, locate the cutback lane and take the ball up the crease. That lateral quickness is what gains him advantage on most of his perimeter runs.

JOHNSON, Duke | Miami | TB | Jr | 05:08.6 | 206 | 4.42
The more Johnson totes the football, the higher his draft stock gets. The junior has been on an incredible second half tear in 2014. Johnson has out rushed Miami’s opponents by a 895-502 count in the last five games, closing out the regular season with 1,520 yards (second on the school season chart) and ten touchdowns on 218 carries. The school’s all-time record holder with 3,387 yards on the ground (O.J. Anderson held the old mark at 3,331; 1975-78), his average of 6.7 yards per carry is second on the Atlantic Coast Conference career-record list. Fully recovered from a 2013 ankle injury that cost the Hurricanes a chance at playing for the ACC title in 2013, he was leading the team with 920 yards and a 6.3-yard average for a ground attack that generated 198.25 yards rushing per game with Johnson in the lineup. With him sidelined, they averaged 99.6 yards in those five contests. He also averaged 28.3 yards as a kickoff returner (replacements averaged 20.5 yards). He might lack the ideal size a team might look for in a featured back, but looks are deceiving, as he has a compact, muscular frame with good chest thickness, tight waist and hips. He has the quick feet and short area acceleration to hit the holes in an instant. The thing that keeps defenders honest is his outstanding lateral quickness, as he is masterful in ducking in and out of traffic when working in-line. From the talk coming out of South Beach, Johnson could be handed “bus fare” on draft day, as the local Dolphins are expected to make a big play for the Hurricane in the early rounds of the draft.
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AJAYI, Jay | Boise State | TB | rJr | 05:11.1 | 220 | 4.54
It will be a year to remember for Ajayi, as he ranks second in the nation with 29 total touchdowns, 25 scoring runs and 325 attempts, piling up 1,689 yards on the ground while snatching 45 passes for 536 yards in 2014. His 656 carries rank fifth in Mountain West Conference history, placing third on those charts with 3,662 yards and second with 47 touch-down runs. The Broncos averaged 198.3 yards rushing per game in 2013, with Ajayi accounting for over 55% of that real estate (1,425 yards and 18 scores on 249 carries, 222 yards on 22 catches). He was responsible for 59.6% of the ground yardage attained by BSU in 2014 (team had 2,832), scoring 25 times for a team that ran for 36 touchdowns. Ajayi is a creative open field runner with that sudden burst of speed that allows him to immediately gain advantage through the rush lanes. He is an elusive cutback runner with precise plant-&-drive agility. He has the body control and lower body flexibility to stop and go with no wasted motion and is effective at utilizing head fakes and his hip wiggle to set up the opponent. His hip-shake and wiggle lets him change direction in an instant to run through the cutback lanes. He can cut on a dime and reach the corner, as he has the speed to go the distance. Look for Oakland and Minnesota to make a “run” at the tailback if he slips through to the third round.

COBB, David | Minnesota | TB | Sr | 05:10.7 | 220 | 4.58
Coming off a junior campaign that saw Cobb rush for 1,202 yards and seven touchdowns for a 5.1-yard average in 2013, he followed with 294 carries for 1,548 yards (5.3 ypc) and 13 scores, thus moving from the late rounds on most preseason draft boards to becoming a top three-round prospect. His 2,815 career rushing yards rank seventh all-time in program history and his 542 rushing attempts rank eighth. He has rushed for 100 yards in 13 games (Gophers are 9-4 in those games) and has rushed for 200 yards in two games (Gophers are 2-0). His 20 career rushing touchdowns rank tenth in school annals. Cobb has average initial quickness and timed speed, but it is his exceptional body control and balance in his running stride that really stands out. He keeps his pad level low to generate solid lower body power in attempts to break tackles. He builds to top acceleration and runs with a normal stride and has smooth change of direction agility, doing a good job of twisting and adjusting his body on the move. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed to pull away from the pile, but his balance and strength let him run over and through the initial tackle when he keeps his pads down. When he tends to get erect and high in his stance, he can be pushed back through the rush lane.

YELDON, T.J. | Alabama | TB | Jr | 06:01.2 | 218 | 4.46
Yeldon is expected to leave school for the NFL, more so by looking at the Tide depth chart than what his paycheck might be. As is the case with most Alabama players, there is usually a five-star recruit behind the starter waiting to step into the lineup. With 2013 ankle woes carrying over into the early stages of 2014 for the tailback, Derrick Harvey filled the rushing void to the tune of 895 yards and ten touchdowns this year, cutting into Yeldon’s touches, as he still managed to lead the team with 932 yards and ten scores on 184 attempts (5.1 ypc). In three seasons, he’s gained 3,275 yards rushing, fifth-best in school history, adding 46 catches out of the backfield. The fifth player in program history to have multiple 1,000- yard rushing seasons, Yeldon totaled 1,235 yards with 14 touchdowns last season. Like former Tide tailback Mark Ingram, Yeldon possesses good but not great speed to get to the edge. His best ability as an outside runner is his vision to identify opening holes. He has enough burst and power to run through tight areas and shows decisive cutting ability. He just doesn’t waste time looking for the “perfect” rush lane, but can make defenders miss in tight quarters with good lateral agility. Keep an eye on the situation in New Orleans, where Yeldon could be the replacement for another former Tide ball carrier, Mark Ingram, who is a free agent after 2014.

LANGFORD, Jeremy | Michigan State | TB | Sr | 06:00.0 | 205 | 4.45
While Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley are the consensus favorites to earn first round status from the tailback draft class, the rest of the field is a bit crowded, with Langford, Ajayi, Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah and Javorius Allen all vying to be the next back off the draft board. The Spartan ranks third in the Big Ten Conference with 19 touchdown runs this season, handling the ball 249 times for 1,360 yards (5.5 ypc) out of the backfield. Since moving from the secondary to tailback, he’s gained 2,805 yards with 37 touchdowns on 55 carries (5.1 ypc). Langford seemed primed for a breakout career as a ball carrier, having excelled as a cornerback and wide receiver earlier in his career. As a junior, he “snuck up” on the league leaders, pacing MSU in rushing yards (1,422), carries (292), total touchdowns (19), rushing touchdowns (18), scoring (114 points) and all-purpose yards (1,579), as he rushed for more than 100 yards in a school-record eight-straight games. He has that short, pitter-patter step style to slip through and avoid traffic, doing a great job of planting and redirecting on a dime. He is a very quick darter in space and has good success moving the chains, whether turning the corner or running between tackles. Langford is faster than “Speedy Gonzalez” when turning the corner, where the lethargic defender gets to see him execute his second and third gears, mostly from a distance. He also attacks the inside creases with tremendous explosion, getting to top speed in a hurry and appears faster than his verified speed. He gets a solid jump and some of the best movement on the ball than any other runner in this draft crop.

FOWLER, Jalston (TB) | Alabama | FB | rSr | 06:00.3 | 254 | 4.79
With a busload of five-star tailbacks annually recruited by Nick Saban and staff, Fowler had to find his niche another way – sacrificing carries for explosive lead blocks and an occasional reception or two for a touchdown. On most college teams, Fowler would likely be the featured back, but the move to fullback has him sitting as the “king of the hill” at the position, having no peers when it comes to widening rush lanes from that spot. He’s had only 113 carries for the Tide, but boasts a 6.5-yard average with five touchdowns. As a receiver, he’s scored seven times behind 17 catches. Even with that small amount of chances to tote the ball, several scouts liken him to former Steelers great Jerome Bettis. Calling him the “potential steal” of the draft by The NFL Draft Report, Fowler has outstanding size and impressive quickness for his position. He has a thick, yet athletic physique with a muscular and defined upper body. In brief chances as a ball carrier, he shows superb agility and balance with his pick-&-slide and the change of direction and hip flexibility to easily redirect to the cutback lanes. He has impressive acceleration into the second level and unlike most big backs, do not label him as a one-cut runner, as he is capable of eluding or running through tackles.

ARTIS-PAYNE, Cameron | Auburn | TB | Sr | 05:09.5 | 213 | 4.58
The well-traveled ball carrier spent time at Milford Academy before heading to Allan Hancock CC after leaving Harrisburg High. He led the team with 1,364 yards and 18 touchdowns on 229 carries (5.96 ypc) as a freshman in 2011. As a sophomore, the All-American was named junior college’s Offensive Player of the Year, toting the ball 261 times for 2,048 yards (7.85 ypc) and 25 scores.

Artis-Payne transferred to Auburn in 2013, but only earned one starting Assignment. He piled up 610 yards (6.29 ypc) on 91 tries, reaching the end zone six times for the Tigers. He emerged as an All-SEC performer in 2014, joining Tre Mason, Bo Jackson, Rudi Johnson and Cam Newton as the only rushers in Auburn history to post a 1,400-yard season. He led the league with 1,608 yards on 303 attempts (5.31 ypc), adding 13 touchdowns while also pulling in a career-high 13 passes for 147 yards.

Artis-Payne not only shows explosion off the snap, he’s a shifty runner inside a downhill player’s body. He shows great balance running around corners and can get positive yards as he surges ahead running between the tackles. He has the extra gear to break long runs, whether when heading upfield on a straight line run or when taking the ball and weaving up field. The senior knows how to power it up the gut. He does a nice job of keeping his pads down at initial contact and has the leg drive to run over second level defenders. His lower leg drive lets him “thump it up” when having to move the pile, showing the body control to easily stiff arm without having to rebuild his acceleration after the hit.

Artis-Payne hits the holes with good force. He stays at a low pad level and knows how to lower a shoulder to push the defender out when going up the crease. He shows a good stiff arm and upper body power to beat arm tackles and shows good ball security heading up the gut. He demonstrates good balance, shifty pick-&-slide ability and shows no hesitation locating cutbacks. What separates him from common runners is that he knows how to pick his way through trash (uses his hands well to fend off low tackles at the feet). He also runs behind his pads with above average power.

JOHNSON, David | Northern Iowa | TB | rSr | 06:01.0 | 229 | 4.57
The first player in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards three times during a career, the multi-talented Panther is also just the third UNI athlete to gain at least 1,000 yards rushing and another 1,000 yards receiving during a career. He is one of the FCS players to amass 4,000 yards on the ground (4,687), carrying 866 times (5.41 ypc) with 49 scores, as he also pulled in 141 tosses for 1,734 yards (12.3 ypc) and 13 touchdowns. He finished second among active players with 6,919 all-purpose yards, as he averaged 36.5 yards with a score on 12 kickoff returns.

Johnson has started 34-of-49 games for the Panthers, earning five starting assignments while gaining 822 yards on 179 runs with nine scores and pulling in 33 balls for 422 yards and three touchdowns during his debut in 2011. He tallied 1,021 yards on 178 attempts that included 13 touchdowns, completing a pass for a 36-yard score and making 32 catches for 383 yards and five more touchdowns in 2012.

A consensus All-American as a junior and senior, Johnson rushed 222 times for 1,291 yards (5.82 ypc) and 10 touch-downs, ranking third on the team with 38 receptions for 393 yards and four scores in 2013. He closed out his career with 438 yards and a touchdown on 12 kickoff returns (36.5 avg), 536 yards and two scores on 38 catches and 287 carries for 1,553 yards (5.41 ypc) and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2014.

Johnson possesses a fine blend of power and size to carry the brunt of the rushing load. He may lack explosive speed, but he is quick out of his stance, building acceleration nicely to get past the line of scrimmage. He is not the type of back that will try to elude the defender in the open, but has the raw power to easily break arm tackles. He makes sharp cuts and shows good vision for the cutback lanes and has the lower body strength to move the pile.

The thing you see on film is the way he consistently bounces off tackles, thanks to his thick upper body frame and thrust off the snap. He keeps his feet on the move and has a decent burst to clear trash. His balance and foot quickness, along with loose hips, lets him consistently redirect on the move. He is a durable athlete who has never missed game action due to injuries.

While used mostly on short area routes, Johnson has the natural hands and extension to get to the ball outside his frame and at its high point. You would hope that the offense would let him line up wide for a few plays, as he is good to come out of his breaks and makes sharp open field cuts. He has ease of movement extending for the ball and shows no flinch competing for the pass in a crowd. He keeps his feet on the move and does a nice job of adjusting to the ball in flight.

%WILLIAMS, Karlos | Florida State | TB | Sr | 06:01.0 | 226 | 4.42
Any success that FSU has running the ball was supposed to come from this extremely talented and very versatile blue chip product, but as the 2014 season wound down, minor injuries and off-field issues saw Williams give way to Dalvin Cook (1,008 yards rushing with eight scores). The senior still scored 11 times on 150 carries for 689 yards and caught 29 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown, but teams seem to be cautious about embracing this talent, as he was under investigation during the summer after a Tallahassee man claimed Williams set him up for a drug robbery. There are reports that campus police “squashed” several traffic-relation incidents and then in late October, police investigated an incident of domestic violence by the player. He also missed late season action with a concussion.

Despite not starting in 2013, he gained 730 yards (8.0 ypc) with 11 touchdowns as a tailback, averaging 7.9 yards as a receiver and 17.6 yards as a kickoff returner. As a safety in 2012, he recorded 32 tackles with a key interception. He has impressive strength, outstanding balance and quickness with that uncanny vision and awareness to quickly find the holes. He has the hip snap to easily change direction and shift gears, generating a sudden burst out of his cuts. His body control lets him pick his way through trash and he keeps his feet after contact. He is very effective at making the initial tackler miss and at anticipating the opponent’s moves (gained 71% of his yardage after initial contact).

Williams has a lot of “old school” in him, as he runs over his feet with good base and balance. He sets up his blocks well, has above average field vision and displays a natural feel for the running lanes. He can find the hole in an instant and will cutback fluidly, showing a nice bounce in his step. He has that instinctive feel and vision to spot even the slightest of crease and unlike a lot of young backs, has the patience of a veteran when it comes to following his blocks. He hits it up hard between the tackles and is an above average pick-&-slide runner with great body lean. He can cut on a dime when he locates the hole and has good vision and burst through the inside, generating a good surge to move the pile.

#JONES, Matthew | Florida | TB | Jr | 06:01.1 | 226 | 4.58
2013 was a season that Jones would just soon forget. He missed part of August camp while recovering from a viral infection, and then suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. LSU, ending his campaign after just five games. He did finish third on the team with 339 yards on 79 carries (4.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. As the Gators hoped to rebuild in 2014, they were counting on Jones being the 1,000-yard rusher they envisioned when they recruited him. While the ball carrier did not disappoint, he was one of the few highlights during a season that saw massive coaching and administration changes after the season. He carried the ball 166 times, leading the Gators with 817 yards (4.9 ypc) and six touchdowns, adding another score via 11 receptions this year.

When healthy, Jones gets into the holes with good urgency and has the low center of gravity to run at a proper pad level when taking plays to the outside. He is better served as a one-cut runner, but he demonstrates adequate lateral agility and slide to redirect. He has good open field acceleration and the body flexibility to extend and pluck the ball outside his frame. In 2014, his low center of gravity and quick feet allowed him to drive hard in attempts to turn the corner and reach top acceleration while attacking the second level. He has good initial quickness and a burst coming out of his stance. He is quick out of his plant and hits the perimeter with good balance.

For a player of his size and muscular build, you would expect him to be more physical in attempts to break tackles. He can avoid tacklers turning the corner with his speed, but does not have the leg drive to consistently break tackles when running in tight quarters. He runs at a better pad level turning the corner and can run through arm tackles there, but when he has to take the ball up the middle, he lacks the strength to bleed extra yardage. He just needs to drop his shoulder and hit it up with more power to gain additional yardage upon initial contact.

BROWN, Malcolm | Texas | TB | Sr | 05:11.4 | 230 | 4.59
Even though he shared rushing duties with Johnathan Gray the last two seasons, Brown led the team with 904 yards and nine touchdowns on 214 carries (4.2 ypc) and pulled in 17 passes for 195 yards and two more scores in 2013. As a senior, he again paced the Longhorns, rushing 183 times for 708 yards (3.9 ypc) and six touchdowns. He also had 16 catches coming out of the backfield.

Brown has decent initial quickness and timed speed, but it is his body control and balance in his running stride that really stands out. He keeps his pad level low to generate solid lower body power in attempts to break tackles. He builds to top acceleration and runs with a normal stride. He has adequate change of direction agility and does a good job of twisting and adjusting his body on the move.

Brown shows a good start off the ball, but is not sudden in his movements. He’s more of a glider than a player who attacks the holes instantly. He has a good short burst through the hole, but only average acceleration and long speed. He will rely more on power to gain yardage after initial contact rather than utilizing his hip swerve and wiggle to elude.

He runs over his feet with good base and balance. He sets up his blocks well, has above average field vision and displays a natural feel for the running lanes. He has good vision and burst through the inside, generating a good surge to move the pile. He is more nimble than elusive, preferring to use his pile moving ability to gain additional yardage.

He runs downhill, but has just average speed to get the corner turned (more of a north-south runner). He has some jitterbug moves and shows shifty hips, but is more of a pile mover than one who will elude.

BROWN, Dominique | Louisville | TB | rSr | 06:01.5 | 232 | 4.60
The 2014 season was one that Brown would just as soon forget. Enticed by the coaching staff to return to school after he was seriously considering entering the 2014 draft, Brown was soon relegated to third-string duties in the early stages of the ‘14 schedule. He finished third on the team with 96 carries for 378 yards (3.9 ypc) and four touchdowns through 13 appearances, as he was also on the receiving end of seven tosses for 85 yards. Brown had started the second half of 2013 after Michael Dyer’s “meltdown” and led the team with 825 yards and eight scores on 163 carries (5.1 ypc), adding another touchdown while averaging 9.5 yards on 24 catches. The former quarterback recruit had been converted to tailback during the course of his sophomore season, picking up 533 yards with four scores on 140 runs (3.8 ypc) during the second part of the 2012 schedule.

Brown has a very thick, muscled frame with broad shoulders, tight hips, good bubble, thick thighs and calves. For a player of his size, he shows good foot agility and balance. He takes short, pitter-patter steps and demonstrates the loose hips to change direction and come out of his breaks with an explosive up field burst. He is crisp planting and driving in his route cuts and has the feel for the crease and vision to locate the cutback lane. He is a capable receiver that excels on swings and screens, and the team has lined him wide on occasion.

Brown is a hard-nosed runner who lacks elite top-end speed to separate from the defense, but has exceptional balance to keep his feet while generating the strength needed to break tackles. He can easily move the pile and has the burst to get into the second level, staying balanced to gain ground in space. He is more of a one-speed runner who relies on his strength, balance and body lean to gain valid yardage after initial contact.

Brown is very capable of anticipating gaps in the defense. He has good vision running through holes and developed a good feel for the cutback lanes. He keeps his pad level low in order to recover after contact and push forward for extra yardage. He has above average power and leg strength to break tackles, demonstrating in 2013 that he can bull over the defender and square his shoulders upon contact. He has a good feel running up the crease and the body control to make lateral cuts. He is best suited as an inside runner due to his power game and natural balance.

Despite a lack of speed, Brown frequently slips through the line to break tackles for big gains up the middle (27 runs between 10-19 yards in 2013). He has the lower body strength and balance to bounce off tackles and punish his opponents. He shows strength throughout his run to bounce off the initial contact and generates a strong stiff-arm as he runs with authority and fights hard for extra yardage.

JOYER, Kyle Hunter | Florida | FB | Sr | 05:10.7 | 242 | 4.73
It’s a little strange that a player with just 23 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns, along with six catches for 29 yards and a score through 50 games would be considered a draft prospect, but Joyer’s blocking and special teams ability have organizations looking for a physical blocker to consider him worthy of late round draft attention. Rated the best fullback in the country coming out of high school, after very limited offensive contributions over his first three seasons, the senior was something of a revelation at the “B” (motion tight end) position, showing good hands, even on intermediate routes. However, Joyer sustained a minor knee injury in the spring game and while he appeared in 12 games in 2014, his only production came as a blocker, outside of fielding three short kicks for 19 yards in returns.

As a freshman, he provided the key blocks that saw UF score on two 99-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns, as he made his debut memorable, scoring on his first career rushing attempt, vs. UAB. He finished with 82 yards on 18 runs that included two scores in 2011. He started three times as a sophomore, but gained just one yards on two carries, adding 17 yards on four catches. Last season, he tallied 18 yards on three attempts and 12 yards on two catches while starting seven times in 2013.

Joyer has the agility and balance to get through the holes and widen the rush lane in a hurry. He has the flexibility and short area burst to change direction in an instant. He is just an adequate ball carrier, but compensates with very good power to drive through defenders. He runs with a strong lower body power base and shows the natural hands and pass catching ability to adjust to the ball in flight. He has the field vision and awareness to take good blocking angles in the open field. His natural strength is on par with any offensive lineman on the team.

Joyer shows solid balance and body control as a blocker, staying low in his pads while keeping his legs churning to create space. He does a nice job of uncoiling on contact. He has a compact running style finish with good balance, but is not the type that has the hip snap to elude low tackles (can get tripped up and needs to do a better job of lifting his feet through trash), as he won’t fool an opponent by ping-ponging off tackles much.

This is a tough, hard-nosed blocker who will face up and collision. When he gets a bit narrow in his stance, he will lose his explosion and his legs stop on contact, but overall, he can adjust to the moving target. He is a good contact seeker who is quick to pick up the blitz. He may not have elusiveness, but when attacking the rush lanes, he stays low in his pads and squares his shoulders to break arm tackles. He does a fine job of slowing down and stalk-blocking when working in space and has more than enough power to rock defenders back on their heels. In pass protection, he can maul or finesse his opponent, as he does a good job of adjusting and making blocks vs. second level defenders. With his base power and explosion, he shows good kick-out ability and technique taking on the edge rushers and blitzers.

MAGEE, Terrence | Louisiana State | TB | rJr | 05:09.0 | 217 | 4.55
Magee has suited up for 40 games in Baton Rouge, yet until the 2014 Auburn game, he was never given the opportunity to show what he could produce as a starter. He’s averaged 5.88 yards (226 carries for 1,330 yards) as a ball carrier, scoring 12 times on the ground. He’s also proven to be an efficient receiver out of the backfield, snatching 24 balls for 227 yards, in addition to averaging 31.33 yards in limited chances as a kickoff returner.

Magee had to adjust to life as a running back after the prep quarterback arrived on campus in 2011. As a true fresh-man, he toted the pigskin 27 times for 133 yards and a touchdown in five games. He transitioned back and forth from tailback to wide receiver during the 2012 campaign, but had just one catch to show for nine appearances.

Back to tailback in 2013, he finished second on the team with 626 yards and eight touchdowns on 86 attempts, an impressive 7.28 yards per carry. He also contributed 49 yards on six catches, 49 yards on two kickoff returns and recorded three tackles in thirteen games as a reserve. He again ranked second on the team in 2014, carrying 112 times for 571 yards (5.1 ypc) and three touchdowns, placing third on the squad with 17 receptions for 171 yards.

Magee runs hard and fights for yards after contact, but appears to lack ideal lower body strength and is going to have problems pushing the pile in short-yardage situations. He does an adequate job of setting up blockers and flashes the ability to exploit cutback lanes, but needs to be more patient at times, as he doesn’t always let blockers get into sound position. He is quick enough to turn the corner, but lacks elite top-end speed and isn’t going to break as many long runs at the NFL level. He also shows adequate balance and can bounce off arm tackles. The Tiger ball carrier lacks prototypical elusiveness but flashes the ability to make the first defender miss.

In the passing game, Magee is quick enough to separate from man coverage, as he catches the ball well and is fluid turning up field, but he isn’t going to be much of a homerun threat at the NFL level. He’s a wiling pass blocker that will not hesitate to step up and flashes the ability to hold ground. As the 2014 progressed, he started becoming a more instinctive runner with good vision, which helped him find the hole and burst through it. There is no question that he adds value as a receiver, as he has good hands catching the ball out of the backfield. He looks comfortable plucking the ball away from his body and as the 2014 season was winding down, his improved strength helped him to run through arm tackles to gain yards after contact.

MURPHY, Marcus | Missouri (WR/RET) | TB | rSr | 05:08.0 | 189 | 4.52
It took Murphy until his fifth season in Columbia before the Missouri tailback would start a game, but the multi-talented Tiger finished his senior campaign by leading the Southeastern Conference with 1,921 all-purpose yards, scoring as a ball carrier, receiver, kickoff returner and a punt returner. He ranked second on the team with 924 yards and four touchdowns on 177 carries (5.16 ypc), adding 212 yards and a score on 28 receptions. The SEC Special Teams Player of the Year and finalist for the Paul Hornung Award (nation’s most versatile player), returned two of his 17 kickoffs for touchdowns (29.65-yard average) and averaged 10.41 yards on 27 punts that included another score.

Murphy had made his college debut in 2010, averaging 19.8 yards on 24 kickoff returns, as the reserve tailback scored twice on 22 carries for 181 yards. He missed the 2011 season after he sustained a shoulder injury prior to the opening of August camp. He returned to rush 46 times for a 5.46-yard average, scoring once as a ball carrier, another time on a kickoff return (19 for 458 yards) and three times on 27 punt returns for 374 yards in 2012. He finished third on the team with 601 yards on 92 carries, second with nine touchdowns, and averaged 22.19 yards on 27 kickoff returns while pulling down 11 balls for 79 yards and a touchdown as a junior.

Murphy runs with suddenness and raw power, as he can just as easily elude or run through tacklers. He has the balance and quickness to avoid on the move and incredible acceleration in the open field. His extremely quick feet lets him get in and out of his cuts with no wasted steps and he also shows excellent lateral movement, along with the explosion running down the sidelines. The Tiger has the low center of gravity to navigate and find daylight with his inside runs, uncommon for a back with his size. His instincts with the ball in his hands show in his creativity, as he is always looking to see where holes and lanes are going before they open.

Murphy shows great balance and can get extra yards on contact. He lowers his pads and shifts gears instantly to avoid the trash and is very effective changing direction. He has the speed and acceleration, along with a nice array of hip and head fakes to rock defenders up on their heels. He reads and anticipates well, especially when taking the ball around the corner and easily beats the opponent to the edge. He is a “make you miss” type past the second level, showing great stamina to take the sphere long distances. He has proven that he has the speed, vision and cutting ability to take the ball “to the house” as a kickoff returner. He runs with very good hip snap and has the vision to spot the crease and burst through it. He is a valid candidate to continue as a returner at the next level.

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