The 2015 NFL Draft is still about a year away, but after enduring arguably the craziest draft season we’ve ever seen, it really isn’t out of the norm to start seriously discussing next year’s top prospects.
That’s especially going to be the case at the running back position, where we might actually have to think about some first round options due to such a stacked class. Many will float T.J. Yeldon or Todd Gurley as the locked and loaded top running back in the 2015 draft, but Melvin Gordon deserves consideration for the crown, as well.
While we’ll figure that all out after another season of college football, for now we have to give Gordon a shot. It’s early, but let’s take a second to break down Gordon and the other top backs for next year:
1. Melvin Gordon – Wisconsin
The pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Melvin Gordon may have played second fiddle to James White’s senior circuit in 2013, but it was clear that Melvin Gordon was the true, budding star. After racking up 1,600 yards from the second string, Gordon could have bolted for the NFL and been one of the highest drafted running backs a year ago.
He instead chose to stick around Madison in hopes of landing in the first round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gordon has blazing speed and excellent tackle-shedding ability to pair with his surprisingly big frame. Provided he can stay healthy, he will be a star in the NFL. The only aspect of his game that needs work is his receiving ability, but the rest of his skill-set is so tremendous that the passing game shouldn’t hold him back. With Wisconsin’s O-Line, Gordon has a legitimate chance to break the single season-rushing record in 2014.
2. Todd Gurley – Georgia
Gurley is a bruising runner with great acceleration and solid catching ability. He will be the focal point of the Bulldogs as they make their way through the SEC in 2014, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll easily rival Melvin Gordon for the top back (or top player) in the country. Staying healthy has been a tough task, however, as he’s entering the spring with leg issues already.
3. T.J. Yeldon – Alabama
Surprise! Alabama has a top running back! Yeldon ran for more than 1,200 yards as a sophomore in 2013, and caught 18 passes to boot. Alabama backs have a history of disappointing in the pros, as they tend to be products of Alabama’s great offensive line and system, but Yeldon is hoping to follow more in the mold of Eddie Lacy than, say, Mark Ingram. Yeldon’s speed is just one of many reasons that Alabama is on another level than other SEC teams, and if he can pack on more size, he’ll be a monster in the NFL. Like Gordon and Gurley, he’s absolutely in the mix for the top running back spot in 2015.
4. Mike Davis – South Carolina
Davis is a powerful runner that plows through tacklers as if his 5’ 9”, 215 lb body were like a miniature Ron Dayne. He uses his compact size to explode through the line, whether a hole exists or not. Davis had seven 100+ yard rushing games in 2013, and was a model of consistency for the Gamecocks. He has good balance and routinely beats defenses whose only focus is to stop him. He’ll likely find himself picked somewhere in rounds two or three next year.
5. Duke Johnson – Miami
Small and fast, Johnson is a prototypical Miami back. He’s known for his threat on special teams as much as his skill as a back. He has a solid receiving game. Johnson is a playmaker with the ability to break any game wide open, which is something 32 NFL teams covet. Whether or not Johnson can handle a bigger load at the next level could be the deciding factor between being an early round pick, or one that follows in the footsteps of former Hurricane Lamar Miller. If that’s the case, the talented Johnson could be more of a third or fourth round option in 2015.
Honorable Mention #1: Javorious Allen – USC
This Trojan back emerged as a budding star in the second half of USC’s season last year. He compiled more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2013, on nearly six yards per carry and 22 receptions. If USC can get going in the right direction, Allen will have every opportunity to shine and prove himself to be a valuable NFL pick.
Honorable Mention #2: Tra Carson – Texas A&M
Tra Carson is a talented back that’s been waiting for an opportunity his entire college career. He’s hoping to become the Matt Cassel of running backs, only with better NFL results. After spending time as a backup in a loaded Oregon offense, Carson transferred to A&M, where he rarely saw the sun from behind Johnny Football’s shadow. He should get his opportunity to be a feature back this season, but he’ll need to make some serious waves to convince scouts that he’ll be an impact player in the NFL.
*Photo Credit – Steve Schar via Flickr.