2015 NFL Draft Prospects (QB, RB Edition)

The 2015 NFL Draft projects to be plentiful with quality running backs and quarterbacks, but I wanted to delve deeper into this group than the usual suspects of: Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Todd Gurley. I think an abundance writers have been penned many superlative articles about the top Heisman Trophy candidates and quite frankly I find anointing players as “can’t miss” usually leads a draft analyst down the primrose path. My list includes Heisman hopefuls, likely first round picks, and small college studs that will be fighting for an opportunity to compete at the combine, in February.
Ameer Abdullah RB Sr. Nebraska 5’9 195
Abdullah, an Alabama native, spurned SEC schools that recruited him as a corner because he believed in his ability to run the football. It would appear that Abdullah knows best and the gamble to go to Nebraska has paid off. With the running back position being devalued in the NFL (none taken in the first round in 2014) it is imperative that a player offers more than just running the ball. Ameer Abdullah has showcased his great return skills and hands during his career in Lincoln. He is a capable blocker despite his diminutive size and has excellent hands, (50 receptions last two years) vision, and breakaway speed. I think with most teams employing a two running back system, coupled with his incredible return skills, Ameer Abdullah projects anywhere from the 2nd-4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Jeremy Langford RB Sr. Michigan State 6’0 205
Jeremy Langford has enjoyed a nice career at MSU and starts this season on the Doak Walker watch list. Last season Langford enjoyed a banner campaign for the Rose Bowl Champions; he had 1422 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 28 receptions and 18 touchdowns. While Langford needs to learn to be patient in letting his blocks develop (it’s not speed TO the hole but speed THROUGH the hole) sometimes he runs straight into the pile; he’s a great blocker, makes one cut and goes downhill. He runs with great body lean and always moves the pile while falling forward. Langford is the type of running back that projects as a mid round pick but could easily rush for 1,000 yards multiple times and have a stellar NFL career.
David Johnson RB Sr. Northern Iowa 6’1 215
If I were to predict one running back currently in college to usurp Marshawn Lynch and become next “Beastmode” David Johnson would be the guy. Johnson runs the ball with a violent thudding style where he is the aggressor not the would be tackler. Johnson is a workhorse for the Panthers, amassing 3,129 yards, 103 receptions, and 44 TD’s; during his career at Northern Iowa. Johnson begins 2014 on the Walter Payton watch list (FCS Heisman) and like Langford could be another mid round selection that contributes mightily during his rookie year.
Trayion Durham RB/FB Sr. Kent State 6’1 248
I would be remiss if I didn’t include one fullback prospect on my list, even as the evolution of the Spread Offense has made the position a bit of an anomaly. While at Kent State, Durham hasn’t been the typical battering ram type of Moose Johnston traditional fullback (2755 yards and 24 TD’s) he projects as one in the NFL. He is much more than just a lead blocker on the blast however. He and Dri Archer (3rd round 97th pick Steelers) combined in 2013 to be one of the most prolific tandems in the country. Durham has some wiggle and it is a matter of which team drafts him and how they choose to utilize him that will ultimately decide his professional fate. Whether he gets designated as a big back like a Jerome Bettis or a fullback really doesn’t matter. I expect Durham to enjoy a lengthy career in the league.
Bret Hundley QB Jr. UCLA 6’3 227
Hundley was the first five star QB prospect (Scout.com) to ever sign with the Bruins. Last season Hundley had a completion percentage of 67.2 and threw for 24 TD’s with 9 Ints.
The UCLA signal caller possesses all the tangible physical metrics that would seemingly guarantee him NFL success. Athleticism, arm strength, and size are all features Hundley has an abundance of. In 2014 Hundley will need to show more poise and confidence working through his progressions. During the NFL evaluation process next spring it’ll be vital for Hundley to demonstrate that he can effectively read defenses, like he will have to do at the next level. UCLA’s offense is almost exclusively shotgun so he will have to showcase good footwork and technique from under center. With that being said, I fervently expect Hundley to be a 1st-2nd round pick in 2015 and with a transcendent year Hundley could very easily vault ahead of Winston and Mariota and find himself at the very top of the draft. If Hundley struggles, it would behoove him to come back to school and he will be at the very top of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Sean Mannion QB Sr. Oregon State 6’5 220
Mannion is the definition of a pure pocket passer, in the mold of a Drew Bledsoe. He displays a cannon arm and has nice touch on his intermediate passes. When he’s under fire he tends to fade in the pocket instead of stepping up to get better velocity on his throw. His mobility is limited but he has the arm to make all the throws in the NFL. In 2013 Mannion threw for a PAC 12 record 4,662 yards and OSU record 37 TDs. Right now I’d put Mannion in the 3rd to 4th round range but with the caveat that he could quickly develop into a franchise QB.
Kevin Rodgers QB Sr. Henderson State 6’3 215
There isn’t a quarterback playing in college currently that has had a more prolific career than Kevin Rodgers. Rodgers has put up back to back 4,000 yard passing seasons in Henderson State’s vaunted Scorched Earth Offense and lead the Reddies to the D2 playoffs the past two seasons. Rodgers football cognition is off the charts. He is able to process and decipher coverages on the fly with relative ease. He displays surprising velocity and throws an accurate ball. The 2013 Great American Conference Player of the Year and Harlon Hill Finalist (D2 Heisman) is now on the NFL radar and will look for a spot in a post season all star game to ascend up NFL draft boards; much like Jimmy Garrapolo (Eastern Illinois, 2nd round Patriots) did this year.
Whether they play “big time” college football or at a small school the NFL doesn’t discriminate if you can play. Whether you play in the SEC or NAIA all college players dream of a chance to play in the league. These players have all had remarkable collegiate careers and look to build on their past successes and become just another rookie in 2015. With a healthy and productive 2014, I expect all seven of these players to hear their name called at the 2015 NFL Draft. Look for my prospects column throughout the season, as well as my picks column. Follow me on twitter: @purebredwarrior to stay up on all things cool.

Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State
Kevin Rodgers, Henderson State

Bret Hundley, UCLA
Bret Hundley, UCLA