NFL Draft Cheatsheet: RBsSaturday, April 12, 2014
Who is the most underrated?
I worried Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey would fall victim to his slow 40 time at the Combine, but it is nice to see the scouting community respecting functional speed over track speed and not dinging Carey too much for his poor showing. Unfortunately, it does disqualify him from this list.
The good news is it affords me the opportunity to talk about Tennessee RB Rajion Neal.
Neal is a one-cut runner that likes to get up field in a hurry. He runs with good pad level and knows how to finish runs. He also displays good feet and a smooth running style. There are rumors of Neal possessing exceptional speed, but I only see average speed and burst on tape. He can be caught from behind on occasion, but he certainly has enough juice to take it to the house.
Neal's real strength should come in the passing game. He has natural hands and has shown the ability to catch poorly thrown balls away from his frame. In fact, Neal made a catch against Georgia in 2012 so good I watched it four or five times just to make sure I had not mistaken Neal for a wide receiver.
At 5-11, 220, Neal has the look of a feature back in the NFL and can contribute in a number of ways. I literally have no idea why he is not better regarded by the draft community. He is at least on par with Bishop Sankey, but will cost a fraction of the price on draft day.
What small school prospects have big potential?
Towson RB Terrance West is the most heralded and has the most upside of the small school backs.
The first thing I noticed about West was how light he is on his feet for a big man. He has a pretty good jump cut and can link several moves together. He is not going to make a ton of people miss at the next level, but he should be able to adjust to penetration and take advantage of cutback lanes.
West also has great vision. He does a great job of reading blocks and is able to identify cutback lanes. West also shows patience, pressing the hole before bouncing the run outside.
West does have issues, however. He does not generate the power his size would suggest because of his poor pad level and a lack of leg drive after contact. He will need to work on that at the next level. He also needs to improve as a pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield.
In the right system, it is not outside the realm of possibility West could break out as early as 2014.
Georgia Southern RB Jerick McKinnon is another running back with a chance to make noise.
After playing as a triple-option quarterback as a junior, McKinnon burst onto the national scene with nine-carry, 125-yard performance in Georgia Southern’s upset win over Florida. He showed impressive speed and athleticism in that game, and backed up that tape by running a 4.41 40, posting a 40.5” vertical, and broad jumping 11 feet at the Combine.
McKinnon’s athleticism is not in question, but his ability as a runner still is. He has only been a “running back” for one season, and even then he very rarely lined up seven yards behind the line of scrimmage and took a handoff. Perhaps he will thrive in a more traditional role, but the reality is no one knows.
Either way, his athletic ability enough is worth a flier in Dynasty leagues.
Terrance West is the highest scoring fantasy rookie in 2014.
Fantasy success is much more tied to opportunity than anything else, so making this prediction before the draft is likely daft. Even so, West has the feel of a Zac Stacy or Alfred Morris. Get him in the right system, and he could shine right away.