The Vegas Archives: 2018 NFL Draft Running Backs

Considering this is my first piece of literature for the Raider Ramble, it would be apropos to introduce myself and the format in which my content will enter your brain. My content will be taking the form of what I have dubbed, “The VEGAS Archives”. Basically, I came up with a cheeky acronym to sort players and other ideas by using the letters for the new home of the Raiders. It was indeed on the nose. The letters stand for the following:

V= Value
E= Enigma
A= Anderson
S= Stud

When I get to each section I will give a brief description of what defines that group. Normally I would focus on one individual for each group, but this draft has a few positions with some immense depth and running back is one of them. Due to that, I will be highlighting two players in each spot. The idea here is not to do an in-depth breakdown, but rather to highlight some pros and cons for players I find most interesting and help you the reader feel more prepared for draft day. That’s enough about me, let us dive in head first.

The Value Guys

Simply put, these are generally guys round four or later that have enough upside to significantly outplay their draft projection.

Josh Adams, ND
6’2″, 225 pounds
37 games
480 rushes, 3201 rush yds, 20 rush TD’s
41 rec, 336 rec yards, 2 rec TD’s

Everyone loves a big physical rusher that looks great coming off the bus, runs tall, but can also get low and smash through the filth around the line of scrimmage. Notre Dame put together one heck of a rushing attack and at the core of that attack was captain Josh Adams.

If you are a team utilizing a significant amount of zone blocking concepts and looking for a downhill runner that has a feel for the shotgun, Adams is your man. In many respects, Adams is a more physical version of Latavius Murray that can get lower and does not go down on every first contact below his knees. Being a long strider means he takes time to get to full speed, but when he does in the open field, he’s gone. Adams also comes with a pretty nice jump cut. What Adams lacks in field vision he makes up for in sheer umph.

Projection: Round 4

Jarvion Franklin, WMU
6’0″, 225 pounds
52 games
942 carries, 4867 rush yds, 52 rush TD’s
61 rec, 670 rec yards, 4 rec TD’s

Hulk smash. Hulk smash. Hulk smash. That is the best way to describe Jarvion Franklin. Pure and simple, this is a thick man with a surprisingly low center of gravity for as tall as he is. With upper legs like tree trunks, he does remind me of Maurice Jones-Drew, just half a foot taller.

What I found most impressive was his relatively soft hands and a couple of nice routes flexed out as a wide receiver. Along with some wiggle to his game, his tape is a fun watch. Questions will definitely arise due to his lack of big-time competition and his overall lack of long speed. What is most concerning to me is his total number of carries in college. There are examples in recent memory of players with heavy college loads having a couple of quality years though he remained healthy throughout his college career. We could see another Tyrone Wheatley here or Michael Bush.

Projection: Round 5

The Enigma Guys

Lots of times, these players are coming off an injury and have question marks. Occasionally this section will include players who may not have a defined position and project as a “jack of all trades” type.

Royce Freeman, Oregon
5’11”, 231 pounds
51 games
947 carries, 5621 rush yds, 60 TD’s
79 rec, 814 rec yds, 4 rec TD’s

Sadly for Royce and everyone watching the Ducks, injuries really tore up his last season and yet he still produced an absurd amount of yards and touchdowns. Of course, it is easy to produce to at an absurd level when you go ten yards before contact on half of your runs. That is not a literal stat, but when you watch this run game there are times when nobody is near him. There is a serious talent to love though. The combination of his size and the jump cuts he will pull off is impressive.

One thing I noticed with Royce is that he got a significant amount of runs with pulling blockers in front of him. Although most, if not all, of these runs were from the shotgun, he definitely has the look of a guy who is best hitting a designated hole with blunt force trauma. His height does make it difficult for him to get low at times, which makes him look like he is taking punishment rather than laying the wood on defenders.

Projection: Round 4

Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

6’2″, 235 pounds
31 games
267 carries, 1512 rush yds, 20 rush TD’s
21 rec, 131 rec yards

Who knows Bo? Serious question. Watching Alabama is notably similar to watching 1970’s NFL, and the stable of backs that is produced there is usually unreal. Due to the amount of talent, we have a much smaller sample size for the players we are looking at in the upcoming draft. Can Bo handle the load? He has very few miles on his treads, but he has also always been a part of a multi-headed monster. Regardless of the role he sees early in his career, Bo is an angry runner and every time he lowers a shoulder to take on a blocker, I would slightly cringe.

This is a guy who seems to have the physical ingredients to be one heck of a running back, but we simply have never had a chance to see if he can be the focal point for a run game. Luckily for Bo, we have seen guys like Arian Foster go from a similar spot in college to an All-Pro.

Projection: Round 4

The GIF Guys

One phenomenon I have noticed on Twitter is the heavy-handed use of GIF’s for highlights that go viral and it seems many scouting assumptions are based on these. Labelling someone a “GIF” is not a bad thing, but it does come with a bit of healthy skepticism.

Rashaad Penny, SDSU
5’11”, 220 pounds
51 games
488 carries, 3656 rush yds, 38 rush TD’s
42 rec, 479 rec yds, 6 rec TD’s

I will apologize upfront to all of the Rashaad Penny fans out there in Raider Nation for what I am about to do.

When I watch Penny, I cannot shake the eerie feeling that I am watching Darren McFadden 2.0, which to me is mostly negative. First, Penny is grease lightning fast. Like a bullet covered in Crisco and then fired fast. He is also a very upright runner and against better competition, this will mean he will be tackled low before he gets a head of steam, causing him to be tripped up. That said, the SDSU offense used many pro looks and run concepts, while occasionally getting very creative lining Penny up as a wide receiver.

My biggest concern is that he relied too heavily on his speed and that athleticism produced the yards, not other intangibles the position relies on for longevity. The added bonus of kick off returns is nice, but ultimately not that meaningful.

Projection: Round 2-3

Ronald Jones, USC
6’0″, 200 pounds
40 games
591 carries, 3619 rush yds, 39 rush TD’s
32 rec, 302 rec yds, 3 rec TD’s

Let us take a quick flashback in the annals of movie history to 1979 and the cultural classic, Rocky II. There is a scene where Rocky’s trainer, Mickey, is holding a chicken and he makes Rocky catch the chicken to get quicker. Well, that scene is what Pac-12 defenses looked like trying to catch Ronald “The Rocky Chicken” Jones.

Unlike Penny whom I am skeptical of, Jones is in this group simply because his tape is fun to watch. I love the fact that he always keeps his shoulders pointed downhill regardless of what he is doing to avoid defenders, and his jump cut is wicked. His awareness of arms around the ball is significant and he did a solid job at protecting the ball in mayhem. There is a worry in some circles that he may be too small to be a feature back, I do not agree. My biggest complaint with Jones is his tendency to get downhill too fast and leave himself without any backdoors to get away from downfield traffic. Overall, that is a pretty petty concern.

Projection: Round 1

The Anderson Guys

As the name may suggest, these are my favorite players at the position. Why they are my favorite can be many reasons, but these are the guys I would advocate for, especially considering relative value.

Sony Michel, UG
5’11”, 215 pounds
47 games
590 carries, 3613 rush yds, 33 rush TD’s
64 rec, 621 rec yds, 6 rec TD’s

Napoleon Kaufman. When I see Sony run the ball, I see balance. Whether it’s his build, his size/speed ratio, or his ability to stay on his feet, this guy reeks of balance. That is one of the most important assets that I look for in a running back. A balanced running back can do damage to a defense in a variety of ways and is significantly harder to stop than a back who ultimately limits what an offense can do with them in the game. Part of the incredible balance of his game is a strong stiff arm and an ability to start and stop to rival any prospect.

I normally am not a huge fan of upright runners, but because Sony is filled out in his lower body and does not sport a pair of chicken legs, he can run through arm tackles and take on defenders from any angle. All of this being said, because the Raiders can likely grab him in round two, Sony is also a tremendous value.

Projection: Round 2

Akrum Wadley, Iowa
5’11”, 191 pounds
39 games
536 carries, 2872 rush yds, 28 rush TD’s
71 rec, 761 rec yds, 7 rec TD’s

This should be a curveball for many people, but this is my favorite running back in this draft. Yes, value does play a role in that statement, but as a talent, this was the guy that I enjoyed the most watching.

The resemblance to LeSean McCoy was apparent from the first play I saw. The way he jumps, spins, and cuts through traffic, his change of direction, the low center of gravity, and the way his legs are always churning for extra yards after contact, completely blew me away. To add to all of that, he has fantastic hands and ran routes as a wide receiver. There is a play where he catches an out route after lining up in the backfield, accelerates to top speed in a half second and toasts the pursuing linebacker. For a team looking to build itself around west coast principles and run/pass balance, this is the perfect type of back. Yes, he can afford to add a couple of pounds, but McCoy weighed in at 198 pounds at his combine.

Projection: Round 2-3

The Stud Guys

This final group, are the guys who, irrespective of anything else, are studs and will produce regardless of scheme. That does not always make them my personal favorites, but they are definitely guys I would love to have. I am not including Saquon Barkley.

Derrius Guice, LSU
5’11”, 218 pounds
35 games
471 carries, 3074 rush yds, 29 rush TD’s
32 rec, 250 rec yds, 3 rec TD’s

One underappreciated aspect of the draft process is the learning done by teams in regards to a player’s background and motivations. Derrius Guice is one of those guys with an incredible story and that may not seem like much, but guys who are motivated even beyond the love of the game may push themselves to levels that other prospects simply cannot reach. After seeing a television report that his father was murdered, Derrius promised his father that he would attend LSU and make it to the NFL. He has achieved that goal with phenomenal physical abilities, a balanced run style, and run cuts that will break ankles. This guy’s a stud and he is extremely easy to root for.

Projection: Round 1

Nick Chubb, UG
5’10”, 225 pounds
47 games
758 carries, 4769 rush yds, 44 rush TD’s
31 rec, 361 rec yds, 4 rec TD’s

Almost every column I have ever written will have a theme flowing through it. This one is no different and the theme in this piece is to relate several players to past running backs. I will wrap this up with one more. Eddie George.

Watch Nick Chubb’s feet when he runs. He uses quick, choppy steps to keep his legs churning. It is reminiscent of watching someone in low gear ride uphill on a bike, but then suddenly Chubb will break through the muck and mire, and poof! He’s gone. Pair this with a fast acceleration rate and a tendency to run behind his pads like a freight train, and you have a recipe for a stud at running back. The coup de grace with Chubb is it always seems to take two guys to bring him down. That is a bad, bad man.

Projection: Round 2


*Follow me on Twitter @holistic_pickle and catch the debate podcast Speak Up!

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