NFL Draft Preview 2015: RB Ameer Abdullah
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This fifth week, the focus is on running backs. Today's back is Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska.
Abdullah made a splash on the national stage this past season with his shifty running that makes tacklers miss. The Nebraska back averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored 19 TDs on the ground and added 3 more in the air. A Cornhuskers' team captain for the last two seasons, the 21-year old Alabama native broke 1,600 yards in both 2013 and 2014. Abdullah quickly became a household name early in the season from a run against McNeese State. With time dwindling in a tied game, Abdullah caught a 58-yard TD pass where he showed off his acrobatic elusiveness and exceptional acceleration.
As the above gif shows, Abdullah's main strength is being able to bounce off of tacklers and run through the resulting holes. Not many backs can avoid getting stopped when 3 different defenders are trying to wrap you up, but Abdullah makes it look easy. His open field speed bursts make him hard to catch once he gets free. It's also important to note that Abdullah has the clutch gene, as evidenced by that play. When his team needed him, Abdullah took matters into his own hands and made sure Nebraska won in regulation.
Simply put, Abdullah is small. At 5'9", 205 pounds the back is pretty small for what is typically seen in the NFL today. Most short backs are expected to be pass catchers and return specialists, as well as being elusive in the open field. Abdullah has no return experience, though his skill set could probably be utilized well for the return game. His pass catching is good, but his blocking is not up to par. He plays much bigger than his size, but that comes with limitations as he lacks the power that bigger backs have.
The Nebraska product considers himself "the best back in this class" and he certainly is in the conversation. His speed bursts and ability to find holes can help him succeed at the next level, regardless of his size. Given the right situation, I could see Abdullah getting a reasonable amount of snaps as a rookie, even filling in a starting role similar to what happened with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West last year in Cleveland. In one of the best all-around running back classes in a number of years, Abdullah may slip to the 2nd or 3rd round.
With the departure of long-time running back DeAngelo Williams, the Carolina Panthers need another guy across from Jonathon Stewart in the backfield. The Stewart/Williams committee in Carolina has been productive for the last few years, and at this stage in his career I don't think Stewart can be a feature back all by himself. Abdullah can replace much of what the Panthers will miss in Williams and Carolina will most likely be able to grab the Nebraska product in the late 2nd round.