It’s been well-documented that one of the top goals for the Lions heading into the 2015 draft was to improve the run game, which ranked 28th in the league last season. After improving the interior of the offensive line in the first round, the Lions nabbed a highly productive running back in Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah in the second. Much has been made about Abdullah’s impressive college production (career 4588 rushing yards, 39 rushing touchdowns with a 5.6 YPC) and there is an abundance of impressive highlight reels.
But did the Lions get good value? And what does Abdullah really bring to the offense? Let’s take a closer look at this year’s second round selection through the lens of an NFL scout to find out.
After evaluating three games (Miami, Michigan State, USC) on a snap-by-snap basis, I gave Abdullah a 6.8 grade (mid second round).
Here’s an excerpt from his scouting report:
Ameer Abdullah, RB – Nebraska
Height: 5090 Weight: 205 40 Time: 4.60
Top shelf quickness, agility and body control – does not have to gear down when making sharp cuts, allowing him to pick and slide his way through traffic on inside runs. Two stepper with rare stop and start acceleration. Natural run instincts with the ability to create when play breaks down. Good vision – sees the hole and explodes through the crease. Plays faster than timed speed – able to beat defenders to the perimeter on outside runs. Physical – runs angry, finishes hard and fights to pick up tough yards after contact. Consistently runs with good pad level and body lean. Soft, reliable hands as a pass catcher. Willing blocker in pass protection. High character grades: strong work ethic, smart, durable and tough.
Lacks ideal size. Struggles pushing the pile on inside runs due to lack of bulk. Cannot sustain blocks in pass protection due to lack of length. Will need to work at being a more patient runner – has a tendency to run up on the backs of his blockers at times. Ball security is an issue (13 fumbles over four years).
Abdullah first caught my eye when I watched him live in 2012 versus Michigan State. An uknown sophomore at the time, I could immediately see his potential as a game-changer as he racked up 110 yards in the match-up. Abdullah’s short area explosiveness and lateral agility are rare, even by NFL standards. In addition to the qualities that allow him to excel purely from a running back standpoint (vision, rare acceleration/burst, speed, quickness, agility), it’s his ability in space that makes him such a valuable commodity to an NFL team. His excetional pass-catching skills and run instincts allow a creative offensive coordinator the ability to move him around the field where he can create huge mismatch problems. When you add in his ability to contribute as an effective kick/punt returner, you’re able to get a lot of snaps for a player who is a threat to break a big play every time he touches the ball. Certainly he has size limitations and would best be utilized in a platooon situation, but I wouldn’t rule out his ability to contribute as a feature back. There are numerous examples of players with similar stature who have proven they can carry the load. Game-changer who can contribute immediately as a dynamic sub-package option and on special teams, with the ability to start and carry the load for a team down the line.
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