Football

Rating the top running back prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) leaped into the end zone for a touchdown against Kentucky last season
Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) leaped into the end zone for a touchdown against Kentucky last season The Associated Press

1. Todd Gurley II, 6-1, 222, Georgia

Bio: Three-year starter who rushed 123 times for 911 yards and nine touchdowns in only six games in 2014. Also caught 12 passes for 57 yards and zero touchdowns. Turns 21 this year. Declared after his true junior season. Missed four games this season because of an NCAA rules violation. Suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on Nov. 15 that ended his season. Missed three games as a sophomore because of an ankle injury. 10-inch hands. Did not workout as he recovers from knee injury.

Evaluation: Flashes the traits of a very good one-cut, north-south runner. Possesses very good burst out of his cuts and reaches top speed quickly. Also has very good vision; can cut back and find daylight in a zone running scheme, but also has the size and physicality to win in a gap blocking scheme. Does not have elite breakaway speed as a running back but can still take it the distance, especially when he has a head of steam (i.e. kickoff returns). Has a little shake and can make guys miss in space but does not run through as many tackles in traffic as you’d think a man his size would. It’s not for a lack of effort, however; churns his legs and tries to finish his runs. Can be overpowered in pass protection but is a willing blocker who tries hard. Flashes promises as a receiver out of the backfield; catches the ball naturally. Will be a threat in the screen game. Has lost one fumble the last two seasons.

Grade: 7.0

2. Melvin Gordon III, 6-1, 215, Wisconsin

running backs
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (25) broke away from Nebraska’s Corey Cooper for a 62-yard touchdown run last season. Morry Gash The Associated Press

Bio: One-year starter who rushed 343 times for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns in 14 games in 2014. Also caught 19 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Declared after his redshirt junior season. Turns 22 this year. 9 3/4-inch hands. 4.52-second 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 126-inch broad jump. 7.04-second three-cone drill. 4.07-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.00-second 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Super-productive back with good bulk. Has good feet, burst through the hole and good timed speed but is more of a long glider when breaking away from the back. Needs to continue developing his vision but has experience in a zone-run scheme and is a great fit for a team that uses that. Doesn't run over people but can make a guy miss in space. Will need to develop his blocking and receiving but has the tools to do both adequately. Has lost seven fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.8

3. Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 221, Boise State

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 347 times for 1,823 yards and 28 touchdowns in 14 games in 2014. Also caught 50 passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns. Declared after his redshirt junior season. Turns 22 this year. 10-inch hands. 4.57-second 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 39-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 7.10-second three-cone drill. 4.10-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.10-second 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Has very good burst and explosiveness; also has the necessary size to carry the mail in the NFL. Has lots of experience and production as a runner and receiver and projects as a three-down back. Tough, competitive runner who breaks tackles and plays with a chip. Has good vision — sees the cutback lane. Looks natural as a route runner and receiver. Is a mostly willing blocker. Suffered a major knee injury four years ago. Has lost seven fumbles the last two seasons. Was arrested as a freshman in 2011 for petty theft of sweatpants from Walmart. Pled guilty.

Grade: 6.6

4. Ameer Abdullah, 5-9, 205, Nebraska

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who rushed 264 times for 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 22 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Turns 22 this year. 8 5/8-inch hands. 4.60-second 40-yard dash. 24 bench reps. 42.5-inch vertical. 130-inch broad jump. 6.79-second three-cone drill. 3.95-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.18-second 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is a decisive runner with good quickness, speed and cutback ability and would be a very nice fit for a zone-running scheme. Has some shake to him; can juke a defender in 1-on-1 situations and shows great burst out of his cuts. Runs hard — keeps his legs churning and is always moving forward. Needs to concentrate more on taking care of the ball — has 23 career fumbles. Shows the ability to run away from the pack. Initial quickness on the snap of the ball is good, and he accelerates quickly once he has the ball. Has very fluid hips; can change directions and not lose speed when bouncing runs outside. Has very good vision; often picks the correct gaps to run through. Has upside as a receiver; shows the ability to adjust to difficult balls and is quick enough to win 1-on-1 routes. Is a willing blocker but needs to work on his technique in pass pro before he can play in a three-down role in the NFL. Has experience as a runner.

Grade: 6.5

Story: Ameer Abdullah is serious about his craft, just like his favorite running back

5. Tevin Coleman, 5-11, 206, Indiana

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 270 times for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Also caught 25 passes for 141 yards and zero touchdowns. Declared after his true junior season. Turns 22 this year. 8 5/8-inch hands. 4.39-second 40-yard dash. 22 bench reps. Coming off foot surgery and did not perform jumps or shuttles.

Evaluation: Super productive in 2014. Ran some Wildcat. Has very good initial burst and burst out of his cuts. Speed guy who isn't going to break many tackles but has solid vision on inside and outside runs — one-cut runner who sees the hole and goes. Has some breakaway juice — can run away from the pack. Shows some promise as a pass catcher. Technique and awareness in pass protection needs to improve. Level of competition is a concern. Has lost four fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.5

6. Javorius “Buck” Allen, 6-0, 221, Southern California

Javorius “Buck” Allen
Southern California running back Javorius Allen leaped into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against Nebraska during the 2014 Holiday Bowl. Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 276 times for 1,489 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 41 passes for 458 yards and one touchdown. Turns 24 this year. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.53-second 40-yard dash. 11 bench reps. 35.5-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 6.96-second three-cone drill. 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Has experience in a West Coast offense and is comfortable and productive as a runner and receiver. Doesn't break a ton of tackles but has good vision as a runner. Has burst and quick hips with a little wiggle. Long speed is adequate. Gives effort as a blocker. Has lost four fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.4

7. Mike Davis, 5-9, 217, South Carolina

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 199 times for 982 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 32 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Turned 22 this year. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.61-second 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 34-inch vertical. 116-inch broad jump. 7.00-second three-cone drill. 4.18-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Stocky back with good quickness, initial burst and surprising feet. Has a feel for running; can sidestep defenders and make them miss with subtle moves. Can be difficult to corral. Understands how to set up defenders. Runs hard. Flashes decent hands and route running ability — good production in this area the last two years. Willing blocker who gives effort. Has a chance to be a three-down player if he can stay healthy — was hampered by nagging injuries for most of 2014. Has lost five fumbles the last two years.

Grade: 6.3

8. David Johnson, 6-1, 224, Northern Iowa

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who rushed 287 times for 1,625 yards and 17 touchdowns in 14 games in 2014. Also caught 38 passes for 536 yards and two touchdowns. Turns 24 this year. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.50-second 40-yard dash. 25 bench reps. 41.5-inch vertical. 127-inch broad jump. 6.82-second three-cone drill. 4.27-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Workout warrior who flashes big-play ability as a runner and receiver. Is a natural receiver who shows plus hands and promise as a route runner with intriguing run-after-the-catch ability. Big body who can carry the mail. Has good burst out of his cuts for his size but runs with an upright style that will expose him to hits. Has breakaway speed. Doesn't run over guys and doesn't have a ton of shake. Vision is okay, but it needs to develop. Upright runner who will expose himself to big hits. Willing blocker with the size to do it.

Grade: 6.3

9. T.J. Yeldon, 6-1, 226, Alabama

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 194 times for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 15 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown. Declared after his true junior season. Turns 22 this year. 9-inch hands. 4.61-second 40-yard dash. 22 bench reps. 36-inch vertical. 117-inch broad jump. 7.19-second three-cone drill. 4.22-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Tall, upright runner with good all-around skills. Has decent vision and patience; can set up blocks. Burst is okay; needs a bit to get a full head of steam. Straight-ahead back who doesn't mess around but doesn't necessarily run through guys, either. Potential three-down back with the size to block, though he needs refinement there. Might be an optimal fit for a gap-blocking team but could fit in a zone-run scheme, too. Has lost five fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.3

10. Duke Johnson, Jr., 5-9, 207, Miami, Fla.

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 242 times for 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 38 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns. Declared after his true junior season. Turns 22 this year. 9 1/4-inch hands. 4.54-second 40-yard dash. 18 bench reps. 33.5-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 6.88-second three-cone drill. 4.16-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is short and has durability concerns; has dealt with migraines, a broken ankle in 2013 and multiple injuries. Still, is an explosive player who is equally dangerous on the perimeter as a runner and receiver. Classic South Florida back with good vision, competitiveness and toughness. Won't run over anybody — relies on moves to make people miss. Lack of size could cause problems in pass pro. Projects as an interesting change-of-pace back in the West Coast offense. Has experience returning kicks. Has lost six fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.3

11. David Cobb, 5-11, 229, Minnesota

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 314 times for 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 16 passes for 162 yards and zero touchdowns. Turns 22 this year. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.81-second 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 38.5-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 7.01-second three-cone drill. 4.55-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Super-productive big back who can carry the mail. Didn't test great. Timed speed is subpar — won't run away from anybody — but his play speed is better, and he's got an above-average initial burst. Straight-ahead back whose balance is average; occasionally falls when trying to change directions but runs hard, slips tackles and has good vision. Shows some comfort as a receiver but isn't a natural. Has some nifty feet. Mostly willing blocker who lacks anchor strength. Has lost six fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.3

12. Jeremy Langford, 6-0, 208, Michigan State

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 276 times for 1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 11 passes for 62 yards and zero touchdowns. Turns 24 this year. 8 3/4-inch hands. 4.42-second 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 34.5-inch vertical. 118-inch broad jump. 7.22-second three-cone drill. 4.32-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Super-productive, durable back who can carry the load. Is a big guy who runs hard, has good vision and is a patient runner. Has good timed speed; shows up when he gets a head of steam. Receiving production fell off as a senior but has shown some promise in this area. Willing blocker.

Grade: 6.2

13. Akeem Hunt, 5-10, 183, Purdue

Bio: Two-year starter who rushed 173 times for 949 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Also caught 48 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Turned 22 this year. 9 3/4-inch hands. 4.4-second 40-yard dash. 37-inch vertical. 122-inch broad jump. 6.71-second three-cone drill. 4.11-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Very productive football player on a bad team. Has plenty of experience as a runner and receiver — lines up out wide on occasion. Possesses very good initial burst. Has good burst out of his cuts and gets upfield quickly when he sees the hole. Lacks the strength to run over people but has good feet and is nifty enough to make guys miss. Limited tape available online but should be able to help a someone out on special teams as a kick returner (which he did in 2013 and 2012) or as a third-down back.

Grade: 6.1

14. Josh Robinson, 5-8, 217, Mississippi State

Bio: One-year starter who rushed 190 times for 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Also caught 28 passes for 370 yards and one touchdown. Declared after his redshirt junior season. Turns 23 this year. 10 1/8-inch hands. 4.70-second 40-yard dash. 21 bench reps. 32-inch vertical. 113-inch broad jump.

Evaluation: Is short but thickly built with good bulk. Has very good vision and short-area burst. Initial burst is good, too. Tough runner who fights for extra yards. Isn't going to run away from anybody. Has experience as a receiver. Willing blocker with some upside as a short-yardage ballcarrier.

Grade: 6.1

15. Matt Jones, 6-2, 231, Florida

Bio: One-year starter who rushed 166 times for 817 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games in 2014. Declared after his junior season. Also caught 11 passes for 65 yards and one touchdown. 8 5/8-inch hands. 4.61-second 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 31.5-inch vertical. 112-inch broad jump. 4.20-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Big back who runs very hard and keeps his legs moving. One-cut guy who runs with an attitude. One-speed guy; isn't going to run away from the pack but has some wiggle. Needs to continue to develop his vision. Body catcher with limited production as a receiver. Gives effort as a blocker. Potential short-yardage guy.

Grade: 6.1

16. Marcus Murphy, 5-8, 193, Missouri

Bio: One-year starter who rushed 177 times for 924 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games in 2014. Also caught 28 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown. Turns 24 this year. 8 5/8-inch hands. 4.61-second 40-yard dash. 11 bench reps. 29-inch vertical. 109-inch broad jump. 4.40-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Like of size and bulk will likely keep him from being an every-down running back but has upside as a returner, where he shined in college (seven touchdowns) and as a jack-of-all-trades type weapons as a runner and receiver. Played speed is better than his timed speed. Is quick and instinctive as a returner. Has been productive throughout his college career. Has lost three fumbles the last two seasons.

Grade: 6.1

17. John Crockett, 6-0, 217, North Dakota State

Bio: One-year starter who rushed 190 times for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games in 2014. Also caught six passes for 34 yards and zero touchdowns. Turned 23 this year. 9 3/4-inch hands. 4.62-second 40-yard dash. 15 bench reps. 40-inch vertical. 125-inch broad jump. 7.15-second three-cone drill. 4.25-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Productive starter with good size and very good burst through the line. Balance is solid — can plant his feet in the ground and go. Vision is solid but doesn't break a ton of tackles. Level of competition is a concern. Is underpowered as a blocker and gives good effort. Lacks experience as a receiver. Competitive, emotional player who is into it.

Grade: 6.0

18. Trey Williams, 5-7, 195, Texas A&M

Bio: Rushed 81 times for 560 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Also caught 16 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. Declared after his true junior season. Turns 23 this year. 8 1.4-inch hands. 4.49-second 40-yard dash. 18 bench reps. 33.5-inch vertical. 119-inch broad jump. 6.84-second three-cone drill. 4.12-second 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Lacks height and size but has legitimate athleticism; possesses an explosive initial burst with nifty feet and good long speed. Can plant his foot into the ground and explode upfield. Has experience as a kick returner. Limited tape available of him online but might offer upside on special teams and as a change-of-pace, all-purpose back.

Grade: 6.0

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TerezPaylor.

GRADING SCALE

7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick

7.0: 11-20

6.9: 21-32

6.8: Top half of the second

6.7: Bottom half of the second

6.6: Top half of the third

6.5: Bottom half of the third

6.4: Fourth round pick

6.3: Fifth-round pick

6.2: Sixth-round pick

6.1: Seventh-round pick

6.0: Priority free agent

NOTE: All rankings are based on a combination of extensive personal film study, interviews conducted with draft analysts and information gleaned from NFL Network draft broadcasts. Evaluations are cross-checked with multiple draft resources. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to NFL.com. Grades are assigned based on where The Star believes the Chiefs should take each player, based on their needs and scheme fit.

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