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Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon

Apr 6, 2015, 1:33 PM EDT


The NFL Draft is just over three weeks away and I’ll continue researching the prospects throughout the lead-up to the draft. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.

T.J. Yeldon
Running back


What they’re saying:

Strengths: Has good size with room on his frame to add more bulk. Exceptional hips and foot quickness, using both to weave and dart through the trash between tackles. Quick, decisive reads on zone plays. Has ankle flexion to dip, one-cut and burst through second level and into the third. Creative runner showing innate feel for running lanes. Anticipates creases that are developing and makes himself skinny to squeeze through. Effortless lateral movement.

Weaknesses: Upright runner in space, opening himself and the ball up to big hits. Pad level too high at point of collision. Mediocre power for size. Doesn’t push the pile and won’t run through many tackles. Pass protection lacking. Throws shoulder at pass rusher rather than squaring up and taking on with good posture. Tends to bounce and juke a little too long at the second level.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: With the departure of Roy Helu in free agency, the Redskins are looking for someone to fill his roles as third down back and as Alfred Morris’ relief back. They could look at options that are currently on the roster for one or both roles or they could look to the draft. Yeldon could fill both roles and bring some pop to the offense.

He does not have breakaway speed (4.61 in the 40 at the combine) and although he has pretty good size (6-1, 226 lb. with a frame that could take on some addition weight) he isn’t a power runner. But Yeldon is quick and has good running instincts and that could make him a successful NFL back.

One AFC executive said that he’d take Yeldon over Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, who could go in the first round. That exec thinks that Gordon is “just a runner” and Yeldon brings more to the table.

Potential issues: There is disagreement over whether Yeldon can handle duties as a workhorse back or if he is just going to be a career third down back and fill in. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports takes the latter point of view.

Can the Redskins afford to spend a third-round pick on a relief back? If they are going to put that much value on the position shouldn’t they get someone who can carry the load if Morris gets injured or if he should end up departing as a free agent after the season?

There are some fundamental issues that coaching would have to correct. Yeldon would have to learn to hang onto the ball better. He put the ball on the ground 10 times in 576 career carries. And as noted above, he needs to improve his pass protection, as do most running backs coming out of college.

Bottom line: We don’t know if McCloughan is in line with that AFC executive who is very high on Yeldon or if he believes that Yeldon is a limited back as Brugler does. If he takes him in the third round, though, the organization probably believes that Yeldon is more of a complete back, or can become one with some coaching.

The Redskins have not drafted a running back anywhere higher than the fourth round since they took Ladell Betts in the second in 2002. When he was with the 49ers, McCloughan took two running backs in the third round. One of them, Frank Gore in 2005, worked out very well. The other one he took in 2009 and Glen Coffee lasted just one year in the NFL.

It’s interesting to note that McCloughan took Coffee, who also went to Alabama, after Gore had racked up over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, just as Morris has. That doesn’t mean that he will do the same thing again and draft another alum of the Crimson Tide in Yeldon. But if he does he needs to be confident that Yeldon will work out better than Coffee did.

In his own words

Yeldon on how well he is prepared for the NFL:

Coming from Saban, he’s been an NFL coach and he kind of brings it to the University of Alabama. His style as far as how he prepares us gets us ready for the NFL . . . I have good vision, good cutting ability. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can split out wide and catch the ball. It just depends on how somebody wants to use me in their offense.

Previously in Draft Countdown:

  1. renhoekk2 - Apr 6, 2015 at 5:05 PM

    Hoping we have something better planned with the first 5 picks. If we trade down and add extra picks than sure take a RB in rds 3-5.

  2. bangkokben - Apr 6, 2015 at 7:54 PM

    Always take a running back somewhere. Fans of the ‘skins thought we were set with Helu and Royster after their rookie years and we picked up Morris.

  3. deepball1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    Did I miss something Mr. Tandler??

    You said “shouldn’t they get someone who can carry the load if Morris gets injured or if he should end up departing as a free agent after the season”.

    I thought that was the whole purpose of Silas Redd having made the team last year. Redd is a similar heavy duty back to Morris. Your questions would have been more apt if you had questioned a replacement for Chris Thompson in case HE gets injured.

    • Rich Tandler - Apr 7, 2015 at 11:32 AM

      Silas Redd made the team last year because he was one of the best 53 players. There is no long-term commitment to him, no reason that a draft pick should not be brought in to compete with Redd. I like Redd but he has done nothing to give the coaching staff full confidence that he could be a No. 1 back, either in the short or long term.

      So, no, I don’t think you missed anything.

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