Running Backs Player Interest List

Here’s the next installment of Jake’s player interest list, with details of players the Jets have shown interest in, together with analysis. Next up: Running backs (including one fullback).

Jake Steinberg, TheJetsBlog.com

RB Dri Archer (Kent State) 5-8, 173, 4.26 40yd dash
Projection: 3-4 Description: The Jets brought Archer in for a visit after his electrifying Combine performance. Here’s Rob Rang of CBS Sports. “Great quickness and an explosive burst to leave defenders in his dust. Tough player who doesn’t shirk from physicality and ran in the box effectively throughout his record-breaking career. Versatile player who saw action at tailback, slotback, slot receiver and as both a kick and punt returner, potentially giving his NFL team a roster spot to use on another position due to his ability to play multiple roles. Operated frequently out of the slot, demonstrating burst off the line of scrimmage and out of his breaks to create separation. Catches the ball with his hands and secures it quickly, showing good toughness to hang on while absorbing a big hit. Oregon’s DeAnthony Thomas may have garnered most of the attention over the past three years as the nation’s most mesmerizing combination of speed and agility, but Archer – the first KSU player to earn a spot on the Walter Camp All-American team — wasn’t far behind. Like Thomas, Archer spent most of his career at running back with the Golden Arches but scouts are split as to where he’ll wind up in the NFL. He was invited to the Combine as a running back but given his slight frame and soft hands, it isn’t difficult to imagine him ultimately making the conversion to slot receiver, a position he played with increasing frequency as his record-breaking career at Kent State came to a close. Regardless of what position he winds up in the NFL, Archer is undoubtedly one of the nation’s elite playmakers. If not for an ankle injury suffered on the team’s first offensive series of the 2013 season, he may have shattered Kent State’s records for all-purpose yardage and scoring. Even with the injury, Archer was recognized with All-MAC honors as a receiver and kick returner, a year after a dominant 2012 campaign at running back. Archer leaves Kent State with 4,980 all-purpose yards and 40 career touchdowns.”

RB Carlton Koonce (Fordham) 5-7, 173, 4.65 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Koonce was invited to workout at the Local Pro Day on April 17th. The Sporting Network had this to say about Koonce: “[D]on’t let the 5-foot-8 size fool you, Koonce is a running back who does not avoid contact. In fact, he takes it on routinely by lowering his shoulder to gain a few more yards (he had six games with over 30 carries last season). His ability to spin out of tackles also is key to his success.”

RB LaDarius Perkins (Mississippi State) 5-7, 195, 4.44 40yd dash
Projection: 6-7 Description: The Jets met with Perkins at the East-West Shrine game. The following is NFL.com’s Player Profile of Perkins. “Played running back and defensive back as a Mississippi prep, rushing for 1,915 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior. Also was a track standout, earning state titles in both the 100 and 200 meters. Originally committed to Auburn before staying home to play for Mississippi State. After sitting out in 2009 as a redshirt, he played in 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2010 and rushed 101 times for 566 yards (5.6-yard average) and three touchdowns with nine receptions for 247 yards (27.4) and three touchdowns. Also was used on special teams, returning 14 kickoffs for 281 yards (20.0) and no touchdowns and one punt for 16 yards and no TDs. Backed up Colts RB Vick Ballard in 2011, when he played in 13 games and had 87 rushes for 422 yards (4.9) and two TDs and 13 catches for 59 yards and two TDs; also returned 16 kickoffs for 363 yards (22.7) and no TDs. Moved into the starting lineup in 2012 and had 205 rushes for 1,024 yards (5.0) and eight TDs; 19 catches for 160 yards and two TDs; and 16 kickoff returns for 325 yards (20.3) and no TDs in 12 starts. Crossed the goal line in each of his first seven starts and had four 100-yard efforts. His 1,509 all-purpose yards were the fifth-highest total in school history. Missed one game with an injured left quad. Sprained an ankle in the 2013 season opener and was hobbled by the injury all year, totaling 137 rushes for 542 yards and two TDs and 27 catches for 248 yards and three TDs in 12 starts. Missed one game due to the ankle injury. Concluded his college career ranking second in school history in all-purpose yards (4,253) and fifth in rushing (2,554). Team captain. Undersized, competitive, change-of-pace back who was bothered by an ankle injury as a senior, but offers enough of a balanced skill set, including good acceleration, to be a better pro than college player. Evaluators would benefit to revisit junior tape for best indication of his ability.”

RB DJ Adams (Portland State) 5-9, 213, 4.67, 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: The Jets spent a lot of time with Adams at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, SC. USA Today named his as a “super sleeper” saying “At 5-9 and 210 pounds with 4.57-second 40-yard dash speed, Adams is a compact and natural runner that is particularly strong in short-yardage situations. He’ll need to continue his development as a blocker and receiver on third down.”

RB Zurlon Tipton (Central Michigan) 6-0, 223, 4.72 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: Jets RB Coach Anthony Lynn was at Tipton’s Pro Day to work him out. Tony Pauline provides us with more. “Played in six games last season after undergoing ankle surgery. Posted 1492 yards on 252 carries with 19 scores as a junior in 2012. Limited to seven games because of injuries as a sophomore. Powerful straight-ahead runner who’s tough to stop when on his game. Patient, lets blocks develop, and displays the ability to slash inside defenders to pick up positive yardage. Strong, rarely brought down by a single defender, and a solid short-yardage runner. Displays vision, the ability to get around tackle, or pick up yardage off initial contact. Tipton flashed dominance on the college level and has the size and style to be the fourth man on the depth chart for a power-running offense or even as a West Coast fullback. He must show durability and improve the details of his position but at the very least offers practice squad potential.”

RB Darrin Reaves  (Alabama-Birmingham) 5-7, 209, 4.54 40yd dash
Projection: 4-5 Description: Anthony Lynn personally attended his Pro Day to check him out. Dane Brugler looks at what a team is getting should they pick up Reaves. “Sturdy, compact build with proportionate bulk throughout his frame. Balanced with a low center of gravity, keeping his feet through contact. Patient but doesn?t shy from contact, lowering his pads, following blocks and keeping his legs pumping. Quickly reads his blocks and adjusts with decisive, smooth lateral cuts. Good feet and feel at the line of scrimmage to find the hole and get north-south. Fluid lower body with loose hips. Runs determined and always falling forward with his finishing toughness. Good hands and focus to spear the ball away from his body. 77 career catches at UAB. Willing blocker and gives up his body in pass protection with strong field awareness to pick up extra blitzers. Consistent production the past two years, leading the team in rushing both seasons. A two-star RB recruit, Reaves chose UAB over Vanderbilt out of high school, deciding to stay close to home. He was part of a heavy RB-by-committee backfield as a true freshman in 2011 and emerged as the starter in 2012, recording career-bests with 215 carries for 1,037 yards and 13 scores (and 41 catches). Reaves produced similar numbers in 2013 and decided to leave school early for the NFL ? leaves UAB with 2,337 career rushing yards, third-best in school history. He is solidly-built and packs a punch at the point of attack with good vision and patience to allow blocks to develop, quickly getting through the line of scrimmage. Reaves was able to be productive despite sharing the workload with little talent around him. He lacks elite speed or explosive qualities, but he?s tough, balanced and has proven to be an every-down back.”

RB Damien Williams (Oklahoma) 5-11, 222, 4.45 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: Anthony Lynn was at Oklahoma’s Pro Day. Pauline again: “Junior-college transfer who posted 553 rushing yards and 7 TDs in nine games last season. Junior totals included a career-best 946 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs as well as 34 receptions. Well-sized runner with a versatile game. Quick footed, runs with good lean and displays a burst. Patient, finds the cutback lanes, and easily changes direction. Solid receiver out of the backfield. Helps the quarterback sell ball fakes and effective blocking. Williams did well in his role at Oklahoma, producing as a runner and receiver. He possesses the size, skill and athleticism to line up as a situational runner/third down back in the NFL.”

RB Roy Finch (Oklahoma) 5-6, 177, 4.52 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Anthony Lynn was at Oklahoma’s Pro Day to put him through drills. Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com had this to say: “As a part-time back as a freshman and sophomore, Finch was an exciting player to watch when the ball was in his hands. He combined for 1,003 rushing yards over his first two seasons in Norman, adding 44 catches and five touchdowns as a change-of-pace weapon for the Oklahoma offense. But Finch found himself in the coaches’ doghouse last season due to immaturity and effort issues and became an afterthought in the Sooners’ offensive attack, finishing his junior year with only seven carries. But after rededicating himself to the conditioning program and proving himself to be a more responsible teammate to the coaching staff, Finch re-emerged this past spring and is expected to have a more prominent role as a senior … He has explosive feet with excellent start/stop ability to easily redirect and elude defenders and run away from trouble. Finch has a smallish frame and isn’t the type of back who will power his way through contact, but he shows the coordination to keep his feet and create in tight spaces. He also adds value as a pass-catcher and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up among the team-leaders in catches in 2013. Although he’ll need to share the backfield with Williams and Millard, Finch is expected to receive at least 10-12 touches per game this fall and should get his chance to show off his exciting talent.”

TE Brennan Clay (Oklahoma) 5-11, 202, 4.64 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Anthony Lynn was at Clay’s Pro Day. Pauline continues: “Started 11 games last season posting 957 yards and 6 TDs while adding 16 receptions. Junior totals included 550 rushing yards and 6 TDs when he started one game. Average-sized runner with solid vision. Displays the agility necessary to turn the corner, squeezes through the small openings of the defense, and plays with quickness. Patiently waits for blocks develop, runs with good lean, and easily changes direction without losing momentum. Clay was consistently productive throughout his Oklahoma career and his game took off last season. That being the case, he lacks the size, speed, and versatility to have any sort of impact at the next level.”

RB Julius (Trey) Watts III (Tulsa) 5-10, 195, 4.80, 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: The Jets sent an assistant coach to his Pro Day. Tony Pauline digs deeper. “Full-time starter two of the past three seasons. Lead Tulsa in rushing as well as receiving last season. Ground numbers included 1329 yards with 11 TDs while his pass catching totals included 46 receptions, 395 yards, and 1 touchdown. Underrated runner with a complete game. Displays outstanding vision, effectively finds the running lanes, and quickly gets through the hole. Patient, allows blocks to develop, and does a good job following them everywhere. Multi-cut runner who strings several moves together over the course of a single run and makes opponents miss. Solid receiver out of the backfield and extends to make catches away from his frame. Displays good eye-hand coordination. Has a burst, which he turns on in a single step and shows quickness in his all-around game. Plays bigger than his listed size. Entering the season, Watts was listed as a potential late-round pick but ha moved north on draft boards after a career year. He lacks great size and speed but his versatility as a runner and receiver project well as a third down back/situational back for the next level.”

RB Marion Grice (Arizona State) 6-0, 208, 4.68, 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: Grice held a personal pro day on Tuesday, April 8th and the Jets were one of 10 teams to scout him. Ryan Lownes gives us his scouting report. “Fairly elusive runner. Is able to make defenders miss in space and can make himself skinny in the hole. Excellent receiver out of the backfield. Has a wide catch radius and soft hands, plucking the ball outside his frame. Demonstrates vision and instincts, finding small creases in traffic and acting intuitively at times. Decisive north-south runner with a slashing style. Is surprisingly effective between the tackles. Good balance. Gains yards after contact, pinballing off would-be-tacklers. Shows decent burst and lateral agility, can hit the hole with some speed or release quickly from the backfield on passing plays. Versatile enough to be lined up in the slot or even split wide. Tough and resilient. He fights to stay on his feet, churning his legs and twisting forward. Runs good routes and gains yards after the catch. Is quick to turn upfield with the ball. Displays good body control as a receiver, showing the ability to make back-shoulder catches. Ball security stands out as a positive feature, as he did not put the ball on the ground much during his college career. Willing pass-blocker who handled that responsibility frequently while with the Sun Devils. Contributed on special teams as a kick returner, averaging 24.1 yards per return as a senior. Was very productive, a touchdown machine, during his time at Arizona State. One of college football’s most versatile performers over the last two years, Marion Grice proved to be a Swiss army knife capable of pitching in on offense and special teams. Though lacking elite speed or power, his north-south running style and ability to catch the ball set him apart from others in this class. He is sure to fall in the draft due to a late-season leg injury, but has the tools to become a valuable contributor in a backfield rotation.”

RB Roderick McDowell (Clemson) 5-9, 204, 4.70, 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Rex Ryan, general manager John Idzik and senior director of college scouting Terry Bradway attended McDowell’s Pro Day. Furthermore, I’m told Jets scout Jay Mandolesi flew to Clemson on April 24th to put McDowell through drills. Pauline breaks him down. “All-Conference selection as a senior when he posted a career-best 1025 yards rushing and 29 receptions. Resilient runner with limited size/speed for the next level. Shows great vision, effectively follows blocks, and keeps his feet moving on contact. Runs hard on the inside. Shows the ability to break arm tackles and pick up yardage off initial contact. Solid receiver and extends to make catches away from his frame. McDowell was an efficient back for Clemson who can make an NFL roster as a situational player.”

RB Senorise Perry (Louisville) 6-0, 206, 4.40, 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: John Idzik attended Louisville’s Pro Day. Pauline has the breakdown: “Smooth, fluid runner with poor measurables for the next level. Patient, slips tackles, and picks up positive yardage. Displays a burst of speed in a straight-line or laterally. Possesses the agility and quickness necessary to turn the corner. Patient, waits for blocks to develop, and keeps his feet moving on contact. Shows a burst through the hole and does a solid job blocking. Effective receiver out of the backfield. Perry was a solid college running back who did well in Louisville’s rotational system and projects as a situational player in the NFL.”

RB Devonta Freeman (Florida State) 5-8, 206, 4.51, 40yd dash
Projection: 3-4 Description: Rex Ryan and John Idzik were both at his Pro Day on March 18th. Let’s hear from Dane Brugler. “Compactly built and has worked hard to fill out his frame. Quick-footed with strong plant-and-go burst to change directions, accelerating to top speed quickly. Fluid ankles to make sharp cuts and make defenders miss in space with his start/stop quickness. Runs with balance and a low center of gravity to stay on his feet after contact. Lowers his pads and powers forward or bounces off tacklers and keeps his legs churning. Delivers hits and won’t leave yards on the field, running much more physical, tough and determined than he looks. Excellent job following his blocks and slicing through the defense with controlled lateral burst. Good effort and toughness in pass protection with aggressive hands and quick feet to mirror and was also used quite a bit as a lead blocker in Florida State’s offense. Reliable pass catcher. Durable and didn’t miss any time due to injury in college. Productive three seasons in Tallahassee, setting career-bests as the leading rusher for the Seminoles National Title team in 2013.  A four-star running back recruit out of high school, Freeman quickly established himself as one of the top backs on the roster once he arrived at Florida State, leading the Seminoles in rush attempts each of the last three seasons. He set career-bests as a junior in 2013 with 173 carries for 1,016 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, becoming the first Florida State 1,000-yard rusher since 1996 (Warrick Dunn). Freeman is built low to the ground and runs even lower with forward lean and finishing toughness, making it easy to love his energy and determination. He is dangerous in space with his quick, coordinated footwork and strong acceleration out of his cuts to be effective inside or outside, showing a terrific mix of quickness and pop. Freeman is has some Ahmad Bradshaw to him and can be a three-down player with his ability in pass protection and as a receiver.”

RB Jeremy Hill (LSU) 6-1, 233, 4.59, 40yd dash
Projection: 3-4 Description: Rex Ryan and John Idzik attended his pro day. Lownes once more: “Very good balance, a big back that gains yards after contact. Has a strong lower body and simply bounces off of would-be tacklers. A downhill, north-south runner with excellent power. Difficult to stop when he has a full head of steam. Is a runaway train that barrels through defenders. Capable receiver out of the backfield. Demonstrates soft hands and solid route-running ability. Drives his legs and displays the ability to push the pile. Has a tendency to fall forward. Flashes a jump cut, stiff arm and spin move to help him separate from defenders, can be slippery. Appears to be a decent athlete. Although he usually shows buildup speed rather than explosive burst, he eats up chunks of yardage with long strides. At his best when running decisively. Hits the hole hard with a lot of momentum. Excellent size at roughly 6’2”, 235 pounds. Defenders struggle to wrap him up in space. Very productive in only two seasons at LSU. Finished his career with 28 rushing touchdowns and set an SEC record with 6.9 yards per carry as a sophomore. Great ball security. Had 371 touches in college and fumbled only once. Has been durable to this point and does not have much wear on his tires. Young player with fairly high upside and fresh legs.  A frustrating prospect to evaluate, Jeremy Hill flashes the talent necessary to be a feature running back in the NFL, but had the luxury of playing behind a physical offensive line that opened huge holes. Just a redshirt sophomore, he may have been better served staying in school and continuing to mature. Although he is coming off a big season, character concerns could have an impact on his draft stock. He will need a strong organization to draft him in May, but has a chance to develop into a solid contributor.”

RB George Atkinson III (Notre Dame) 6-1, 218, 4.40, 40yd dash
Projection: 7-UDFA Description: Jets took the trip to South Bend to attend his Pro Day. Possesses an impressive combination of size and speed. When he locates the hole, Atkinson has the burst to explode through it and break away from the defense. Subtle changes of direction to avoid defenders in the open field and sets up his blocks well. Reliable kick returner with a history of big plays in big games. Expected to impress during workouts. Spent a year with Notre Dame’s track team and has good timed speed. Atkinson signed with Notre Dame as a highly touted prep player and wowed initially, returning two kicks for touchdowns (vs. Michigan State, USC) as a true freshman but fell out of a favor as his collegiate career went on and elected to enter the 2014 draft after a disappointing junior season. Atkinson started the season listed as Notre Dame’s starting back, but finished second in yards and carries with 555 yards on 93 attempts. In total, Atkinson produced 3,144 all-purpose yardage on the strength of 2,136 career kick return yards. He saw his carries diminish as the season wore on and freshman Tarean Folston got more carries. Coach Brian Kelly said Atkinson didn’t consistently run tough enough. Atkinson was suspended from playing in the Pinstripe Bowl for violating an unspecified team rule. He tweeted he was suspended for texting friends and family during a team meal. His father, former Oakland Raiders’ standout George Atkinson, Jr. said neither the suspension nor the crowded backfield played roles in his son’s decision. “The time was just right to make that move,” he said.

RB Dominique Williams (Wagner) 5-9, 205, 4.68, 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: Williams was at the Jets facility for their local workouts on April 17th. They also attended his Pro Day. Pauline gives us much more on the small-school prospect. “Three-year starter who lead Wagner in rushing since his sophomore campaign. Hard charging and versatile runner with marginal size and speed for the next level. Displays the agility necessary to turn the corner, keeps his feet moving on contact, and runs hard. Plays with excellent balance, body control and falls forward when tackled. Multi-cut runner who sets defenders then makes them miss. Keeps his head on a swivel in pass protection, picks up blitzes, and does a solid job with his blocking assignments. Williams is an average-sized runner with minimal speed but a prospect who does the little things well. His ability to pick up yardage carrying the ball as well as handle assignments as a blocker could help him find a roster spot as a fourth running back.”

RB James White (Wisconsin) 5-9, 204, 4.57, 40yd dash
Projection: 4-5 Description: The Jets were at his Pro Day. Bryan Perez of FirstRoundGrade has much more. “While most of the focus in the NFL Draft community has been on Melvin Gordon, the RS Sophomore running back for the Wisconsin Badgers, his running mate James White is a solid prospect who has a chance to rise up the draft board this Spring. White isn’t a stranger to being the “other” guy in his team’s backfield.  Prior to Melvin Gordon exploding on the scene, White played second fiddle to Montee Ball, the 2nd round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2013.  Even in high school, White shared time with Giovani Bernard, the Bengals second round pick last year. Even though White has never been the “headline” back, his production and skill set warrants attention.  His career at Wisconsin has been a productive one, culminating with a nice senior season that saw him run the ball 209 times for 1,337 yards and 13 TDs (6.4 ypc.)  He was also productive in the passing game, hauling in 37 receptions for 292 yards and 2 scores.  For his career, White carried the ball 631 times for 3,908 yards (6.2 ypc) and an impressive 45 TDs.  His 69 career receptions will add to his value as well. James White is a short but compact prospect…While he doesn’t present with the physical makeup of an every down back, he’s not “small”…Possesses very good feet, showing the ability to get to full speed in a hurry; a two-stepper…Good vision; finds the hole and hits it quickly…Displays good burst and can get through the hole in a hurry…Has enough long speed to take it to the house…Maintains his balance through contact…A coordinated athlete who is able to secure the reception and make a play after the catch…While not a powerful runner, White is able to slither through the line on inside running plays, displaying a low center of gravity and good pad level that helps him maximize yardage…On outside running plays, White possesses good vision and and understanding of cutback lanes; possesses enough juice to make a move and get upfield quickly. While strong for his size, White does not project as a consistent inside runner in the NFL…Will struggle to break tackles versus NFL defenders…Has never been “the guy” on any level; questionable whether he can shoulder a full-time workload…Running style of a bigger man; doesn’t have a whole lot of “make you miss” in his game. On the next level, James White projects as a depth player who is capable of giving a featured back a breather.  White will produce in the NFL; there’s no doubt about that.  But his skill set has been maximized by being part of a RBBC for, virtually, his entire playing career.  While not as explosive as players like Bernard (Bengals) and Ellington (Cardinals), White could find himself in a similar role at some point as a rotational runner that carves out a niche in an offense.”

FB Mike LaGrone (Idaho) 6-2, 263, 4.68, 40yd dash
Projection: UDFA Description: The Jets attended LaGrone’s Pro Day and came away extremely impressed. They’ve been in contact with him ever since. I would not be shocked at all if they bring him into camp to compete with Tommy Bohanon. Here’s Brugler. “A hybrid H-back type, LaGrone had only 16 catches as a senior and wasn’t an integral part of the passing offense, but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the run game.”

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Analysis: We heard earlier in the offseason that the Jets were looking to add two running backs this offseason. Whether that’s changed because Chris Johnson is a higher profile addition than they were anticipating remains to be seen, but there is still uncertainty over Mike Goodson’s situation, so they probably need at least one more body. The option of re-signing John Griffin to put into the mix hasn’t been completely ruled out yet from what we hear, but the Jets seem to have set themselves up to make a value pick if the opportunity presents itself.