David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
Day One Contributors
Like the previous tier, this group will provide value if given snaps in every game. Unlike the previous group, I don’t really see long-term starters here. Plenty of backs have had long, productive careers as part of running back by committee backfields, so there’s no shame in it. These are players that are either limited athletically (Peaked in college), limited in their usage, or have flaws glaring enough that it would be tough to trust them with a large workload.
David Cobb, Minnesota
David Cobb was a running back I really wanted to like more than I ended up. Like some of those I rated higher, Cobb is good at pretty much everything, but he didn’t really stand out to me in a positive way in any area. He came across as just kind of okay. That isn’t a bad thing, you can surely use a guy like that, but you’re not going to find value in an earlier round with that.
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Yeldon has had some early round hype on and off throughout the draft process, but going back to his tape I saw the same guy I saw the first time through. No player in this draft runs more upright than T.J. Yeldon, which ends up being a negative if you’re a bigger back (6’1″, 226 lbs). Yeldon ranked near or below average in every measurable area as well, so his athleticism doesn’t exactly get the heart pumping. Still, as the second man in a committee he could find plenty of work and contribute to a backfield that has a number one guy already established.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
Billed as a plus athlete at Auburn, Cameron Artis-Payne stood out to me as a guy that could contribute to any backfield right away. Unfortunately, it was only his rushing that stood out as he was unable to contribute in the receiving game or as a blocker in pass protection. CAP should find a role on a team that needs someone to reliably tote the rock, but his lack of versatility may have some viewing him as a ‘dime a dozen’ kind of back. There’s more than enough there to get him drafted in the later rounds, but he’s probably not going to be more than a 2 or 3 in a committee.
Mike Davis, South Carolina
With better than average agility, you’d expect Mike Davis to pop out on tape more than he does. He usually left me disappointed watching his tape, making me wish I had seen more. The potential is there to be a valuable part of a backfield, but the lack of speed or a second gear is going to limit how teams view his potential. His versatility in the passing game will keep him on many teams’ boards, however, and someone will take a flier on a kid that can play any down.
Matt Jones, Florida
One of the bigger running backs in this draft, clocking in at 6’2″ and 232 lbs., Jones has just enough athleticism to entice teams into bringing him in for a look. For his power back size, Jones showed a surprising lack of that trait too often for me to rate him higher than this. Even though he doesn’t play to his size, he’s big enough and strong enough that you can generally look past it since he’s still got plenty of skills to move the chains as a bruiser.
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Karlos Williams, Florida State
One of the best jobbers in the 2015 NFL Draft, Karlos Williams can do it all. Granted, he doesn’t do much of anything well enough to be considered a bell cow, or even a bruiser or 3rd down back. In fact, finding his role is going to be the toughest part of whomever picks Williams up in the later rounds. The good news is, he’s going to do whatever you ask of him. Too stiff to use his speed well and not strong enough to use his size, you end up with a guy that can take some carries and move some chains, but you’ll be looking for a different number one if yours went down, rather than moving him up.
Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
Drawing comps to Maurice Jones-Drew can never be a bad thing, and it’s pretty obvious where those comparisons come from. Robinson is a wrecking ball when he gets moving and can make life miserable for any poor defensive back that happens to take him on in the open field. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, or even really okay speed, but you’re doing it wrong if you think he’s going to be that kind of back. Robinson knows how to make people pay, and that’s what he’s going to do when he gets the football. His role is going to be extremely limited, however, and he probably won’t get more than a handful of carries a game.
Malcom Brown, Texas
I had the pleasure of watching Malcom Brown wreck shop in high school. In fact, when I first began writing about football, Brown was the first player I was excited to watch transition from HS to college to the pros. Unfortunately, college didn’t go as well as he had hoped as Brown was hit with injuries early and was unable to work his way back into the lineup. He still measured well, putting up some great shuttle and 3 cone times for a back of his size, but a below average 40 will turn off many teams. Brown has the surest hands of the 2015 NFL Draft in terms of securing the football (fumbled every 619 touches), however, and that will keep him in the draft conversation and keep him working. A team like the Lions that has been plagued with fumbles or someone like the Patriots who value sure hands will likely jump on him in the mid to late rounds.