Putting together the Patriots Big Board: RB’s

Even though the RB position might not be a huge position of need, there may be just too much talent to pass up in this draft.

Even though the RB position might not be a huge position of need, there may be just too much talent to pass up in this draft.

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

I am back with another installment of my Big Board project.  This time we switch over to the offensive side of the ball and focus in on the running back position.  There is a lot of talent in this group and it has been a lot of fun to watch these players.  This was a position I struggled with, not so much in the evaluations, but trying to narrow down my board. I didn’t do a very good job of it either.  As I stated in my first big board posts, I am trying to come up with a board of around 75 players, and this would be a position I might have to go back and do some final editing to if I exceed my board by too much. Here are the guys that I liked on tape.

Current Roster: LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, James White, Dion Lewis, Tyler Gaffney, James Devlin(FB)

Position Need: Medium

Position Overview:

There are a lot of names on the current roster at running back for the Patriots.  The problem is, there is so much unknown with those names. I have never been a huge fan of Blount’s.  I think he dances too much in the backfield for a guy his size.  When he runs aggressive, he is a quality back.  Jonas Gray has shown some flashes, but then disappeared.  Bolden is what he is, a decent fill in and good special teamer.  James White and Tyler Gaffney are the youngsters with potential, but let’s not forget, they were both day 3 picks last year and Gaffney is coming off a knee injury. I will say that if the Patriots do not draft a running back, this is a good sign for those two and the progress or potential that they have shown the coaching staff.  Cadet and Lewis look like guys fighting for a chance to play that 3rd down/Shane Vereen role but could be cut just as easily.

Draftable Options:

Todd Gurley, Georgia (6’0″, 222 Lbs.) 1st round

I think enough has been written about Gurley.  We all know that he is a very special back that does everything well.  He has great size, speed, vision, and hands to be a player you build your offense around.  He is a three down back that opposing teams will have to game plan for.  He is coming off an ACL tear and has had some other injury issues that have kept him out of games, but when healthy, he will come into the NFL as already one of the best running backs.  I thought for a long time there was a legit chance he would be available at or near the Patriots pick, but that looks to be less likely now and Gurley would be one of the first names to come off my board because of availability.

Jay Ajayi, Boise State (5’11”, 221 Lbs.) 2nd/3rd round

see my report from earlier this year. http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2014/11/scouting-report-jay-ajayi-rb.html. I will say, I watched more of him after I wrote the article and thought he ran tougher than I first scouted and do think he could be a 3 down back at this point.

Duke Johnson, Miami (5’9″, 207 Lbs.) 3rd round

I really like Duke Johnson.  He is not the biggest, but he is put together well and while I don’t think he is a true 3 down back, I think he can be more than just a 3rd down back in the NFL.  He is explosive and decisive as a runner and he has excellent hands.  I think he could be a more explosive version of Shane Vereen and would excel in that role as well as a guy who could take additional snaps as a traditional running back.  He will need to improve on his pass protection, but he is willing.

Tevin Coleman, Indiana (5’11”, 206 Lbs.) 3rd round

see my report from earlier this year. http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2014/11/scouting-report-tevin-coleman-rb.html.  After Gurley, all these guys end up ranked very close together.  If Coleman can improve on his pass catching and pass protection, he could be elite.

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (5’8″, 205 Lbs.) 3rd round

once again, please check out my earlier scouting report on Abdullah.  http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2014/10/scouting-report-ameer-abdullah-rb-nebraska.html

David Cobb, Minnesota (5’10”, 207 Lbs.) 4th round

I see a lot of Steven Ridley in David Cobb’s game.  Cobb has nice balance, good bulk,  and vision.  He is a patient runner that fights for his yards and rarely gets knocked back.  He has very few negative plays and maximizes his opportunities on each carry.  Like Ridley, he does not have that breakaway speed or the dynamic movement skills to make bigger plays.  Cobb has some fumbling issues as well and while he caught some passes out of the backfield, it is not something to rely on as a strength.

David Johnson, Northern Iowa (6’0″, 224 Lbs.) 4th round

Johnson is a big runner with NFL size.  Looks more like a linebacker than running back.  Powerful inside runner with good vision and anticipation.  Johnson will make defenders pay for trying to tackle him.  He likes to lower his shoulder and deliver the hit rather than be hit.  Johnson does run upright which leaves his chest open to take big hits.  He has amazing hands and will be a real threat as a pass catcher.  He could even play some H-back with his size and hands combination.  He tends to dance in the backfield trying to make a bigger play rather than taking what is available, which I do not like.  He has good straight line speed, but lacks agility to make cuts and keep his momentum going.

Mike Davis, South Carolina (5’9″, 217 Lbs.) 4th/5th round

Davis is a compact runner with good balance, vision,  and a nasty streak.  He takes on tacklers and punishes them, getting extra yardage in the process.  Not overly fast but keeps up his momentum in and out of cuts, making him faster and more difficult to bring down.  Davis has shown to be an above average option as a receiver with reliable hands and good route running.  His size at the next level could be an issue as he wore down as the season went on and dealt with injuries after getting the starting job.  His 2013 tape much more impressive than 2014 and there have been questions about his work ethic.

Jeremy Langford, Michigan State (5’11”, 208 Lbs.) 5th round

Langford is another hard nosed runner that fights for every yard and then some. Langford is not flashy and although he timed very well at the combine, does not play up to that speed. Langford is a stiff runner with very little lateral movement skills.  He is a reliable pass catcher, but not dynamic.  I think Langford can be a productive NFL running back, but won’t be flashy and won’t be someone other teams game plan for or fear.

Tyler Varga, Yale (5’10”, 222 Lbs.) 6th round

Don’t let anyone tell you Varga will be a full back in the NFL.  Varga is a rocked up runner that looks to punish defenders.  He plays at a 100 mph 100 percent of the time.  He is a gym rat with an impressive work habit.  He doesn’t have long speed to be a home run threat and is an average receiver.  Varga gives everything he has as a blocker, but is inconsistent and will need to learn better technique.  Varga is a try hard player that will out hustle and out work just about everyone.  He also has some value on special teams as well.

Malcolm Brown, Texas (5’11”, 224 Lbs.) 6th/7th round

It is players like Brown that make me love this running back draft class. Let’s say you miss out on Jay Ajayi, well guess what, you can get the same player (from a measureables standpoint) 4 or 5 rounds later in Brown.  Brown is a tough runner that is tough to bring down with just one defender.  One of his best qualities is his ball handling, with just one fumble in his career. Too me, it looks like he either thinks too much or doesn’t process very quickly because he dances too much in the backfield for my liking.  When he runs with more decisiveness, he is very good and if he is going to make it in the NFL, he has to do that consistently.

John Crockett, North Dakota State (5’11”, 217 Lbs.) 7th rounder

Crockett is another well built running back that runs with anger and like he has something to prove.  Not a dynamic pass catcher but improved over his career.  Crockett does run upright which leaves him open to the big hit.  His running style also leaves him with poor balance and too many times guys could take him down by swiping at his lower legs.  Very productive in college and a 4 time national champion, but he had a lot of carries in college and his shelf life in the NFL might be shorter than other because of it.  Crockett is a talker, but in a positive way and should be a good locker room presence.

Interesting UDFA’s:

Malcolm Agnew, Southern Illinois (5’8″, 205 Lbs.)

Terrell Watson, Azusa Pacific (6’0″, 239 Lbs.) almost gave him a draftable grade, but just not enough tape to go off of. That size and speed though are enticing.

Terrance Magee, LSU (5’8″, 213 Lbs.)

Michael Dyer, Louisville (5’8″, 218 Lbs.)

Kenny Hillard, LSU (5’11”, 226)

Thomas Rawls, Central Michigan (5’9″, 215 Lbs.)


Like I said earlier, this was a tough position to edit down. This class is loaded with talent, with guys like Buck Allen and Zach Zenner who didn’t even make my list but have draftable grades.  It will be interesting to see if, when, or who the Patriots take come draft time.






35 Responses to “Putting together the Patriots Big Board: RB’s”

  1. semblar says:

    ‘David Johnson, Northern Iowa (6’0″, 224 Lbs.) 4th round
    Johnson is a big runner with NFL size. Looks more like a linebacker than running back. Powerful inside runner with good vision and anticipation.”

    Your commentary is solid except for this entry. Johnson is a superb receiver, but despite his powerful build he is a substandard runner between the tackles. With his exceptional pass-catching skill, if he really were a “powerful inside runner” he would be projected much higher than round four.

  2. Out west says:

    Lots of good backs in draft Trey Williams, Josh Robinson the other Malcolm Robinson from Texas .

    • MM-II says:

      Pretty much this. Although I think the kid from Texas is Malcolm BROWN, isn’t he?

      Looking at the RB roster, yeah, maybe the Pats could use a couple upgrades, but probably not all that MUCH of an upgrade, considering how they’ve handled the RB position within the offensive scheme since Maroney, and considering that their ground game typically ends up somewhere between 10th and 15th in the league. Apparently, they feels that’s as much as they need to do.

      I think the Pats would take Gurley at #32 if he fell that far – or Bud Dupree or Andrus Peat, or Landon Collins, for that matter (I think they might rework the offense a bit for a guy like Gurley). But Gurley or any of those others falling to #32 seems about as likely as me staying awake through a Matthew McConaughey car commercial.

      Beyond Gurley, I’m not really seeing any of the RBs typically projected into the 2nd-round as providing huge advantages to the Pats above the guys projected to go in the 3rd-round and later. A guy from the 2nd-round may (or may not) be more “talented” (whatever that means), but he also might simply be overkill for what the Pats typically do.

      Projected 2nd-rounders Coleman and Duke Johnson have very good YPAs and averaged a couple catches/game and seem to have some return chops, but neither hangs onto the ball stunningly well, fumbling once per 77 touches and 91 touches, respectively. Abdullah is still the worst at one fumble every 41 touches.

      Langford, maybe going in the 3rd, averaged less than a catch/game, but has very good ball security (once every 123 touches). Then again, Javorius Allen and David (TD Machine) Johnson, both bigger guys at 6’1″/220+, averaged 2 and 3 catches per game, respectively, and their fumble rates are about the same as the “better” 2nd-rounders. Mike Davis is about the same as these last two, only shorter at 5’9″.

      Out of the possible 4th/5th-rounders, Malcolm Brown is the same size as Ridley, didn’t catch much (though still way more than Ridley did in college), but only fumbled once every 227 touches. Magee and Artis-Payne didn’t catch much either, but both had pretty decent YPA and very good ball security (125 and 136 touches, respectively).

      Even some of the late-round/UDFA types like Dominique Brown, Corey Grant, Crockett and Zenner had superior fumble rates (116 to 172 touches). Brown caught as many passes/game as Abdullah and had four times as many touches (159)/fumble. Zenner seems almost like Danny Woodhead in Ridely’s body. Over 6500 rushing yards, 69 total TDs, a couple catches/game and only fumbled once every 136 touches (1200+ touches in 52 games over four years).

      So, almost any of these later guys could maybe bump the overall effectiveness of the Pats’ RB corps up a notch or two, especially if the Pats actually are transitioning away from the ZBS to more of a man/power run-blocking scheme (which would probably benefit, Gray, White, Blount and Gaffney, too).

      Maybe none of these guys would make the ground game any more frequently “exciting” than it as been, but I don’t really care.

  3. Dan Sullivan says:

    Patriots Mock Draft
    From Cleveland pick 12 Patriots select Brandon Scherff OT/G Iowa
    1 To Cleveland
    2 Carl Davis DL Iowa
    3 To Cleveland
    3 Paul Dawson LB TCU
    4 Javorius Allen RB USC
    4 Marcus Rush OLB Michigan St.
    6 Erick Dargan SS Oregon
    7 John Crockett RB North Dakota St.
    7 Geremy Davis WR Connecticut

    • Ryan says:

      I love Brandon Scherff but I doubt that the Browns would move agree to move down 20 spots in the first round for pick #96.

      They make bad decisions on draft day but this would be a whole new level of stupid.

    • Russell says:

      The Aprox. value of the Patriots 1st (#32) is about 590, thier 2nd (#64) 275, 3d (#96)124. Clevelands 1st (#12) value is 1200, thier other 1st (#19) is valued at 885.
      So for the Patriots to trade up, #18….. is about as high as they can go for thier 1st,2nd, and 3d.
      I think BB trade’s back, 1st (#32) aprox. value 590, to K.C. for thier 2nd (#49) aprox.value 410 and 3d (#80) aprox. value 185.

  4. acm says:

    @Mike Gerken

    Has Cobb lost weight? I remember him logging in at mid to high 220s at the Combine and possibly even his pro-day too.

  5. acm says:

    Don’t think Gurley and Ajayi fit the Pats’ need at the position from a value/availability perspective. Gurley should be long gone before 32 and Ajayi would be a reach there and even at 64, if he falls there at all.

    IMO, best fit from Pats perspective at the RB position would be Duke and david Johnson, David Cobb and Mike Davis – they are all versatile RBs, useful in both the running game as well as the passing.
    I also like Langford for his patient running style. Reminds me quite a bit of a lesser Matt Forte or LeVeon Bell. He needs to bulk up a bit to be a 3 down back though and I think any potential interest by the Pats may have taken a hit after their signing of Travaris Cadet.

    From the later-rounders, I like Varga and Brown but there is a reason why they are expected to fall, imo, and Pats already have enough “numbers” talent at RB. If a RB is to be added in the draft, it should be a more “sure-fire” type of player with long-term planning in mind.

  6. J H TARBORO says:

    At LSU pro day Patriots RB coach Ivan Fears worked out 4 backs, RB Terrance Magee,Kenny Hillard, and 2 FBs Conor Neighbors and former LSU FB JC ” Wrecking Ball” Copeland . The Patriots seem to be looking for that shorter, power style back with wiggle that can do it all. Personally i would grab Terrance Magee as a late rounder or UDFA and also package it with FB JC Copeland, who is a UDFA from last years class. Copeland is 5’11 260lbs, down from his usual 275lbs. and one of my favorites from last year. I would bring them both to camp, besides FB James Devlin needs some competition in camp.

    • Ryan says:

      Hopefully they’re looking beyond competition for James Develin. I’d love to see what anyone BUT Legarrette Blunt (oops spelled it wrong) could do in a power running role for us. Blount is either slow or just runs like it and doesn’t seem like a dynamic player at all. If you throw in his weed problems, which the NFL has shown a willingness to heavily punish, he really doesn’t make sense long-term.

    • carlo strada says:

      FB position can definitely be upgraded in the draft. Wondering if Mycole Pruitt at 6´2 and 250 could also be seen as a potential fit here in order to get more dynamic at the FB/HB position. Him coming out from the backfield for short passes could cast serious mismatches on opposing LB

      • steve earle says:

        I’m pretty well pleased with Devlin at FB because he fits all phases of what a good FB needs to be able to do including catch out of the backfield though if a better prospect could be found it goes without saying an upgrade is always possible I just don’t know who that would be.

        • J H TARBORO says:

          Steve E. i have someone in mind, Mackey award winner TE/H-back Nick O’leary- Florida St. He’s a solid blocker with great hands as a pass catcher and would be an unaccounted weapon on offense, who would expect a FB to kill you! Unaccounted weapon!!!

    • steve earle says:

      I like your approach to the RB question. One puzzling thing. I thought Copland was last years FB, am I wrong or is this a different Copland?

      • J H TARBORO says:

        The same Copeland from last year, Dallas picked him up as an UDFA and was cut and he went the FXFL for the remainder of last season.

    • carlo strada says:

      Agreed. O leary could be nasty at FB

  7. jim r says:

    Malcom Brown will be a steal

    • steve earle says:

      Brown will go in the mid 1st rd. If by some chance he slides to #32 grab him by all means.

      • MM-II says:

        Ummm… lol. I think he’s referring to the -RB- Malcolm Brown, not the DT, but also from Texas. The RB Malcolm Brown is being projected as a 4th-6th round guy.

        I wonder if that’s ever happened in the draft before – two guys with the same name from the same school?

  8. AM says:

    Absolutely love David Johnson at the end of the third round or into the fourth. Very rare to see a bigger back be such a good receiver, which is a staple of the team’s offense.

  9. Ryan says:

    I definitely agree with you about Blount, Mike. He takes ages to get out of the backfield and unless the opponent’s d-line is horrible he puts up about 3 yards per carry. He runs hard and is good at the goal line but I hope that we can pick up or develop a back who can provide a close range presence and something else.

  10. Ryan says:

    Apparently the Patriots have met with WR Nelson Agholor. I don’t think that we should go WR in the first round, but if we could work out a trade back and pick Agholor up close to pick 40 that would work well. The Pats could trade picks 32 and 96 to the Giants for picks 41 and 73, also moving up in the third to give the Patriots a shot at a falling second-round talent. Here’s what the mock would look like:

    Pick 41: WR Nelson Agholor
    Pick 64: CB Alex Carter
    Pick 73: OG Tre Jackson
    Pick 97: OLB Lorenzo Mauldin
    Pick 101: DT Gabe Wright
    Pick 131: CB D’Joun Smith
    Pick 177: OG/T Sean Hickey
    Pick 219: DT Tyeler Davison
    Pick 253: ILB Trey DePriest

  11. Russell says:

    I’m looking at trade partners for the Patriots 1st pick. Kanas City IMO is the best bet, to want #32 and trade #49 and #80 for it. K.C. 1st pick is at #18, they have #98 Comp. in the 3d round, so trading with the Patriots for #32 still alows K.C. a 3d round pick #98. (loseing #80)
    K.C. needs OL help #18, and a WR, and I think they take WR Strong,or Green-Beckham, with the #32 pick.
    The Patriots can benifit from this deal, drafting CB Eric Rowe, or OL Laken Tomlinson at #49 and still have #64. And Add a 3d #80 to #96 #97 for key prospects, AND have #101 from the Tampa trade.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      That would be a nice idea, we need to manipulate the board to get what we want, also i mentioned Seattle picking at 63, their 1st in this draft, it was mentioned they would like to get in the 1st round, they have 11 or 12 picks.

  12. Russell says:

    I don’t see the Patriots drafting a RB , and Gurley and Gordon will be gone. IF they do David Johnson is the guy because of his ability to play in the slot at 6’1″ 220lbs. he is a fine reciever, and a good RB. I like Jalston Fowler as does J H Tarboro , big back in the early 6th round ?

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      I agree Russell. I mocked Fowler in the very late rounds months ago. I believe the only RB the Pats should select in any round prior to the fifth (due to other looming needs along the offensive line and within the defensive secondary) is T. Gurley.

      • steve earle says:

        Agree completely Dan. To many fans get dazzled by the idea of some big name star type and forget how many basic needs our team has at o-line, d-line and CB. Without good players in those spots the “star” can’t be effective or the team succeed.

  13. J H TARBORO says:

    Tevin Coleman just had his personal pro day, he ran the 40yd in front of scouts, some scouts had high 4.3s- low 4.4. He did really well catching and in positional drills, and met with the Patriots earlier this week. They’re 5 underrated backs ( Terrance Magee, Zach Zenner, Terrell Watson- Coached by HOF Jackie Slater( Patriots Matthew Slater’s father) Kenny Hillard, and FB Jalston Fowler. Fowler was worked out by the Patriots, Nick Sabin and the Alabama coaching staff raves about this kid as a do it all type of player that can line up as a lone ball carrier with good feet and hands, and at 5’10 254lbs. don’t be suprised if you see him to us in the late rounds. The list above with the Patriots depth chart at RB, will be auditions, nobody is lock for the position, including L. Blount!

    • Wackey says:

      Veery astute. “: having or showing an ability to notice and understand things clearly : mentally sharp or clever”

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