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There is nothing more elusive than what are Alabama backs chances at the next level.  Many reports state that the Crimson Tide beats the daylight out of their players with overly tough, physical tjyeldpractices leaving them more subject to injury in later years.  Do we look at first round bust, Trent Richardson and current Raider, for proof of this theory, or should we consider the Packers Eddie Lacy who appears to have adjusted well to the NFL?  I say we take both backs’ experiences and throw in TJ Yeldon’s game tape to get a full picture.  After reviewing four of his games against Auburn, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma, here are the skills that he brings to the NFL.

RB TJ Yeldon, Alabama 6’ 1” 226 lbs.

Cons:  The first thing that jumped out on tape was his explosion declined from 2013 to 2014.  It looks like the excessive college touches/hard practices, etc. took their toll on him. The back is an upright runner that has stiffer hips than I expected.  Yeldon doesn’t have a lot of wiggle and cannot create separation on his own.  His offensive line is responsible for a solid part of his production and the runner might be too patient waiting for holes to develop.  He needs to make quicker decisions, lower his pads, and run through defenders; instead of letting the defense dictate his approach.  As a receiver, the back lets the ball too much into his body instead of catches it cleanly and in stride. 

Pros: The runner has bouncy feet, moving well laterally with a combination of stutter steps, jump cuts and spin moves.  Yeldon sees the entire field well and does a good job following his blockers to daylight.  He has a good center of gravity, significant lower body strength, and always manages to fall forward for extra yardage. Near the goal line, the runner can find a sliver to exploit and use his second effort to get in the end zone.

When the offense got the back is out in the open, he showed tremendous burst and made defenders miss.  Yeldon has a strong upper body that he uses to swat players out of his way, stiff-arms defenders, and protects the pigskin well.  The NFL team that gets to feature him on counters, while finding ways to get him in space will be quite happy with the back.  The runner steps up in pass protection, squares up and lowers his shoulders to attack pass rushers in the pocket. He has good striking hands that slow the blitzers down quite a bit which will guarantee his third down presence on the field.

Overall thoughts:  Yeldon is a solid pro prospect, but is not elite in any way.  If he ended up behind a strong offensive line like Dallas, he could be a great one cut and go runner.  I have a feeling that he will be a running back by committee back specializing more on third and passing down situations much like Shane Vereen got used by New England.

 

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