I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska - 5'9, 205 - Senior
As I have said all week, this is a deep RB draft in quality. Many believe there are between 6-10 runners who could all be starting RB caliber players in the NFL. Now, surely, that is generous and in 5 years we might actually have a nice laugh at those stories about the 2015 draft, but today I offer up another prospect that gives you plenty to like.
Ameer Abdullah does not fit your mode of today's RB who is 6'0 or 6'1. Like Duke Johnson, we have to go back a decade to remember a time where short running backs were not taboo, and you could invest in a player that is 5'8 without getting people questioning whether you were nuts. Abdullah has played in 53 games and has touched the ball 886 times at Nebraska on offense, with even more touches in the return game. Just to clarify what that means, nobody has touched the ball more at a major conference school in the last 4 years than Abdullah. So, if you think he isn't durable, you might want to keep that in mind. For his report, we examined the Michigan State, Illinois, and USC games.
What I liked: The play above is not from any of the games we broke down, but rather that moment in the early season where he won the McNeese State game by himself and saved his coach's job for about 3 more months. It demonstrates where we should begin. In the open field, he is as quick and slippery as they come with hips and feet that leave defenders grasping at air. He is so quick and can turn on the jets in tight spaces and slam on the brakes in a way that will make you see some of his predecessors in the league that also may have been smaller types. But, he is not just an edge changeup guy. He runs the ball hard between the tackles and never looks hesitant. Keep in mind that he had very little help at QB while in Lincoln, so stacked boxes and teams trying to eliminate his threat were routine, but he just kept racking up production of the highest order. He pass protects quite well for a smaller guy and he takes guys on whether he has the ball or not. He totally grasps the zone blocking concepts and what an effective zone runner must do well. He was a total workhorse and a team leader. He also is known as one of the best kids in college football.
What I did not like: There is a reason he is not considered at the top of this RB class and that will always go back to his ball security. With 24 fumbles in 4 seasons (but nearly 900 touches), this is something that is going to be a major concern, especially for the team in Dallas who has dealt with fumbles recently. It seems that he has improved in this regard, but just know that this will be his most major knock. His hand size is certainly an issue here, as well (small hands, more fumbles). Otherwise, it is tough to say he is as effective between the tackles as some of the others - but part of that is watching his OL try to get things done against Michigan State and USC while they stacked the box. He is never going to be the world's best pass protector, but he seems willing to try it with all of his might.
Summary: When I see him, I see plenty of Warrick Dunn. Dunn was almost 20 pounds lighter, but a 1st round pick who was small and tough to catch and ran for over 10,000 yards in the NFL. An all-purpose threat who gives you everything he has to help you win. I love his spirit and his determination and the fact that he told Auburn and Alabama that he wasn't a defensive back. He dominated at the NFL Combine - which demonstrates his superior athletic traits - but, I am much more worried about what he did on Saturdays for the last 4 seasons. And when you measure that, you come away thinking that he will be a real player at the next level. I know he does not fit all of the molds that we make for these guys and I know he has to protect the football, but I am a huge believer in trusting your eyes, and when it comes to guys who go between the mid-2nd and 3rd rounds, I will happily pound the table for Abdullah if I need a RB.