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T.J. Yeldon, NFL combine breakdown

More work was provided for offensive linemen and tight ends, as Friday witnessed both groups showcase speed in the 40-yard dash. Saturday will give NFL fans what they want, a chance to see all offensive skill players on the field. Much attention will be direct toward quarterbacks and wide receivers, but this year’s draft class is special at the running back position.

Former Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon was 60 percent healthy in the 2015 Sugar Bowl, but said he’s 100 percent now and is ready to prove his worth at the combine. Yeldon was nothing short of consistent in his three years in Tuscaloosa. He totaled 979 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.0 yards per carry in 2014. Yeldon accounted for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career.

He has all the physical tools as a runner, but Yeldon is an underrated receiver. He displays soft hands catching passes out of the backfield. Yeldon recorded 46 catches for 494 yards and two touchdowns in his tenure. Crimson Tide fans will remember his 28-yard, game-winning touchdown reception against LSU in 2012.

Ball security is the lone weakness in Yeldon’s game. He has size, vision, speed, power and patience as a runner. Yeldon excels at using his cutbacks wisely. Protecting the ball is what he needs to improve on. Yeldon’s fumbles at Alabama all came during critical moments in games. He’s a balanced back, but being a complete back comes with ball security.

Yeldon has met with four NFL teams so far. Jacksonville, Seattle, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh all are intrigued with Yeldon’s physicality, talents and knowledge of the game.

Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley II, Mike Davis and Ameer Abdullah are Yeldon’s biggest competition.

Many NFL analysts have Gordon as the first running back selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. He registered 2,587 yards and 28 touchdowns on 7.5 yards per carry in 2014 with Wisconsin. The former Badger has 4,915 yards and 45 touchdowns for his career. Wisconsin’s lack of a passing game hurt Gordon in the receptions department. He totaled 19 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

Gurley was a man child as a freshman, but battled injuries in his sophomore and junior seasons. He collected 911 yards and nine touchdowns on 7.4 yards per carry in 2014. Gurley put in 3,285 yards and 36 touchdowns in his three seasons at Georgia. 2013 was his finest season as a receiver. He caught 37 passes for 441 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore.

Special teams is where it gets interesting for Gurley. He was a dynamic return specialist in 2014, prior to a knee injury. Gurley returned four kicks for 179 yards, including a 100-yard return for a touchdown against Clemson.

Davis had a quiet, yet productive career at South Carolina. He ended 2014 with 982 yards and nine touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry. Davis totaled 2,420 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career as a Gamecock. South Carolina used Davis more as a receiver in the last two seasons. He recorded 720 yards and two touchdowns on 66 catches in 2013-14.

Like Gordon, Ameer Abdullah carried the Big Ten Conference on his back, before Ohio State took over. The former Nebraska running back accounted for 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2014. He’s rushed for 4,588 yards and 39 touchdowns in his tenure at Lincoln, Neb.

Abdullah caught 72 passes for 679 yards and seven touchdowns combined in 2012 and 2014. He, like Gurley, is dangerous as a return specialist. Abdullah returned 26 kicks for 763 yards and a touchdown in 2011.

Cameron Artis-Payne, Duke Johnson, Jeremy Langford, Terrence Magee and others look to improve their draft stocks Saturday. Here is a list breaking down the draft projections of some running backs, according to CBS Sports.

Running Backs in 2015 NFL Draft (CBS Sports)
Name College Projected Round
Melvin Gordon Wisconsin 1st
Todd Gurley Georgia 1st
T.J. Yeldon Alabama 2nd-3rd
Ameer Abdullah Nebraska 2nd
Mike Davis South Carolina 2nd-3rd
Cameron-Artis Payne Auburn 4th
Terrence Magee LSU 4th-5th
Duke Johnson Miami (FL) 2nd
Jeremy Langford Michigan State 3rd-4th
Tevin Coleman Indiana 2nd
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