The 2016 NFL Draft has running backs of all shapes and sizes. The real question to ask is, can they play well at the next level? A wise, old Jedi named Yoda once questioned “judge me not by my size, do you?” I ask the same of my readers when considering former Illinois back Josh Ferguson. After reviewing his senior highlight reel, his 2014 games against Western Kentucky and Ohio State, along with his East/West Shrine game, there are many skills and attributes he brings to the next level.
RB-Josh Ferguson, Illinois 5′ 9″ 198 lbs.
Cons: His lack of size jumps out at you. This was a factor in college since he never rushed over 800 yards in a season during his five-year career. When faced with goal line situations, Illinois would occasionally line him up with two lead blockers and the back would either need to go high or low to get into the end zone. I don’t see him being a short yardage option at the next level, especially since Ferguson can be almost too patient when waiting for a hole to open. When the offensive line allows immediate penetration, the runner has a bad habit of trying to run to the corner store, which results in negative plays. He isn’t the most durable guy either, missing three games to a shoulder injury this past season.
Pros: The way he plays reminds me a lot of Detroit’s Theo Riddick. The back is fast and athletic with amazing balance and toughness. He uses good vision to read his linemen’s blocks, gets small in the hole, and shows good pad level attacking the defense. Ferguson starts and stops without slowing down, showing great lateral agility, and exploits cut back lanes. It’s with ease that the runner sets up defenders with stiff-arms, shoulder shakes, spins, jump cuts, and hurdles to burst through towards the open field.
Ferguson is a great receiving threat (caught 168 passes in his college career). Not only is he adept at burning opposing teams with screens, but the young back runs a devastating wheel route that allows him to streak down the sidelines, sometimes untouched. The play maker catches the ball in stride, shields defenders from the ball, and comes down with contested passes. His loose hips and explosiveness make it difficult to tackle him once he hits full stride. This athlete was an effective kick returner averaging 18.1 yards, which could help him see the field early.
Overall thoughts: Ferguson has the talents to become a three down NFL starter, but I doubt that gets handed to him on a silver platter. This back might be forced to grind it out as a third down back or returner to start his career. Don’t let that discount him especially in dynasty leagues that have taxi squads or leagues that reward return yardage. I have Ferguson in my top fifteen backs and if he can stay healthy, the young back might exceed those expectations.
Thanks for reading.
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