Leading up to the NFL Draft April 27, Liz Loza and Brad Evans will examine the field and exploit weaknesses as they address questions regarding this year’s most talked-about talents. Today’s “Three-Point Stance” focus: Leftover running backs.
Due to his disturbing past, Joe Mixon would never be considered a model citizen. Still, there are a number of teams that will take their chances based on his stellar talents. Why is the Oklahoma product worth the enormous risk?
Liz – A true three down back, “Magic Mixon” can do it all. Whether he’s busting up the gut or catching balls out of the backfield this 6-foot-one-inch and 228 pound specimen gets it done. Employing a nasty stiff arm and smashing defenders like a wrecking ball, Mixon is both patient and relentless. Additionally well versed in pass protection, the Sooner has, in my opinion, the most complete athletic profile of any running back in this year’s draft class.
Brad – What Mixon did in the past is inexcusable. The video documented incident at Oklahoma combined with new allegations he abused a woman in high school – they were later recanted – suggest he’s a ticking time bomb. In this somewhat more unaccepting NFL era, he’s an enhanced risk. It’s no wonder why some teams, like the New England Patriots, have erased him from draft boards.
From a talent perspective Mixon is as advertised, a three-down package who possesses few weaknesses. He showcases textbook size, break-tackle toughness, vision and tenacity. Last year with the Sooners he notched 3.75 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle on 25.4 percent of his touches. His nimbleness is highly impressive for a guy his build. Based purely on skill, he’s third behind Fournette and McCaffrey, and I might be underselling him.
You’re an RB-needy team. Wear the GM hat for a moment: Who would you rather draft Alvin Kamara or D’Onta Foreman?
Liz – KAMARA. Foreman’s size in tandem with his lateral agility is certainly, well, formidable. But I dig Kamara’s three-down potential more. The Tennessee product is elusive, slithering past and through defenders, always playing with a chip on his shoulder. He finds yards after contact where there shouldn’t be any, switching gears and navigating the different levels of the field. He’s additionally adept in the passing game, having been deployed via the slot and outside.
Yahoo’s own Eric Edholm likened the explosive talent to Frank Gore. Personally, I see some Lamar Miller in Kamara’s game. He’s a versatile talent with a few red flags (history of knee injuries and some character concerns), but enough upside to warrant the risk. Noting his receiving abilities, there’s a solid chance Kamara averages 16-18 touches per contest, especially if he lands with a team like the Eagles.
Brad – FOREMAN. Undoubtedly, Kamara is the more versatile rusher, but it’s hard to deny the efficiency and productivity Foreman exhibited in college. Functioning as Texas’ steer, he rolled up over 2,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. His 6.2 yards per carry, 3.5 yards after contact per attempt, 64 forced missed tackles achieved last year also jump off the screen. The man is capable of stepping in and handling a rigorous workload right away.
For a RB Foreman’s stature (6-feet, 233 pounds), many instantly compare him to LeGarrette Blount, a misnomer. He’s more finesse than power, a running back with tremendous lateral agility, vision and shocking speed (4.45 40-yard). Yes, people will point to his minimal use as a pass catcher, but he displayed sticky hands at Texas’ Pro Day. If Foreman can learn to lower his shoulder and fully utilize his size, he could develop into DeMarco Murray. Don’t sleep on him.
Bears rusher Jordan Howard was the steal of the NFL Draft, fantasy exercises too, in 2015. Dig deeper, what projected Round 3 or later RB could crack starting lineups this fall?
Liz – JAMAAL WILLIAMS. At 6-feet tall and 212 pounds, the Cali native possesses NFL size. He’s a decisive runner who puts one foot in the grass and goes. Plus vision and an effective stiff arm add to the prospect’s tackle-breaking ability. He also does an excellent job taking care of the football, tallying just two fumbles on nearly 370 touches over the last two seasons.
Unfortunately, the Cougar underwhelmed at the Combine, deflating any draft stock he had coming out of the 2016 season (and a flashy 5TD effort vs. Toledo). Lacking measurable athletic upside, top-speed, and experience as a receiver hurt Williams’ chances of landing a starting position and making an immediate impact.
As we saw with Howard, however, the running back position is volatile and opportunities come at a moment’s notice. BYU’s leading rusher may not be a metrics community darling, but his tape shows promise… he just needs a shot.
Brad – SAMAJE PERINE. Overshadowed by Mixon at Oklahoma, Perine is a 5-foot-11, 233-pound weeble-wobble who some have compared to Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s a rolling barrel between the tackles (career 3.5 YAC/att) who’s very physical though only occasionally flashy. He won’t leave defenders in the dust (4.65 40-yard), but his stout frame is constructed to shoulder burdensome workloads.
After Perine set the NCAA single-game rushing record in 2014 (427 yards and 5 TDs vs. Kansas), his production dwindled in the twilight of his college career. Still, he’s a fascinating probable mid-rounder who could quickly rise up a depth chart, especially if employed by a power-running team.