Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DMN Print: Top Running Backs

If there was ever a year to need a running back, 2015 is pretty high on the list. As we devalue the position in free agency, it remains a vital component to any winning offense to find a young, durable and capable threat who can run, catch and pick up that odd blitzer in an important spot. We are pretty stacked in the top 100 this year with interesting prospects:
Spotlight player
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin 
He played in an offense that ran run the ball first and foremost, employed a ton of zone blocking and required a runner who understood what Bill Callahan teaches about planting that foot and being decisive and hitting the hole. Honestly, the ties between the Wisconsin running game and what the Cowboys have evolved into recently are uncanny. The difference is that Wisconsin had poor quarterback play during Gordon's time in Madison, meaning he never was able to run against a light box or demonstrate his skills in pass protection or catching the ball.
Gordon routinely shows his turbo boost, and it is that home run ability, where he can outrun defenders that makes him a first-round talent. That burst stretches a defense to overcommit to outside angles, which allow for wider lanes inside. He is a workhorse but never loses his explosiveness and decisiveness. He finishes his runs and games with great conviction. He had 631 carries with an absurd 7.8 yards per, which is the best combination of workload and production that we have seen in the college game over the last 20 years. To accomplish that without the aid of a respectable passing game over his three years at Wisconsin should only add to his ledger.
He has question marks: His fumble rate in 2014 was an issue. He had only 22 career receptions in a running offense, and for that reason, we haven't seen him in blitz pickup too much. But, overall, he fits the Cowboys like a hand in a glove and is ready to plug and play.
The best 
Todd Gurley, Georgia 
Coming off an ACL injury, Gurley won't be ready for training camp. But he is just unreal with his size, disposition, relentless effort, and track-star speed. But more than anything, he is one of those rare "every play may be a touchdown" running backs who is great when he has space. He's also able to make guys miss, and almost no defender can pull off the task of catching him and bringing him down. Gurley is the type of back who doesn't come around very often and will not be caught from behind.
David Johnson, Northern Iowa
Johnson is a big runner, yet might be the best receiver in this group (he was a receiver in high school). He had more than 30 receptions in four seasons in college. Nobody else in this group had more than one reception per season. With 6,416 career yards from scrimmage, Johnson's productivity running and receiving is hard to top. He tested very well athletically, but may slip under the radar for being from a smaller school.
Best of Texas 
Jay Ajayi, Boise State
This Dallas-area product looks like a starter from day one. He can pass protect, receive, and run inside or outside. He looks the part of a legitimate NFL starter who will compete to be the third running back taken. He has a competitive level that is admirable and contagious. Ajayi is a high-quality player, but news about the longterm health of his knee cartilage is knocking him down before the draft for some. This might make Ajayi a bargain for a team willing to risk how his knee will look in five years.
Bob Sturm's Top 10
Rk., playerCollege40 timeNotable
1. Todd GurleyGeorgia6-02224.52Best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson
2. Melvin GordonWisconsin6-02154.52Zone scheme burner nice fit for Dallas
3. Duke JohnsonMiami5-92074.48Ultra competitive, small, but impressive
4. Tevin ColemanIndiana5-112064.44Home run hitting outside runner
5. Jay AjayiBoise State6-02214.57Plano product has knee concerns
6. Ameer AbdullahNebraska5-82054.53Game breaker, full of fight
7. David JohnsonNorthern Iowa6-02244.5Many skills, even returns kicks
8. T.J. YeldonAlabama6-12264.522013 Yeldon is great, lost explosion in 2014
9. David CobbMinnesota5-112294.81Solid, but 40-time is a concern
10. Javorius AllenUSC6-02214.53Versatile and solid, can do plenty

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