Father, George, was a two-time All-Pro defensive back in the NFL from 1968-1979 for Oakland and Denver. His twin brother, Josh, is a cornerback for Notre Dame. The California prep rushed 172 times for 1,669 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2010, seeing action at running back, wide receiver and defensive back. Also was a track standout, finishing third in the state in the 100-meter finals in '09 (10.66). Saw action in all 13 games for Notre Dame as a freshman in '11, returning 35 kickoffs for a school-record 915 yards and two touchdowns (26.1-yard average) while rushing nine times for 27 yards (3.0) and two touchdowns. In the spring of '12, he ran indoor and outdoor track, placing third in the 200-meter finals at the Big East Indoor Championships (21.47). Also ran 10.36 in a qualifying round 100-meter dash, the second-fastest clocking ever for a Notre Dame track runner (Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, 10.34 in 1991). In the fall, he played in 12 games for the Irish (four starts) and rushed 51-361-5 (7.1) and had kickoff returns of 22-441-0 (20.0). Missed the Oklahoma game with flu-like symptoms. Appeared in 12 games (four starts) in '13, carrying 93-555-3 (6.0) with kickoff returns of 31-780-0 (25.2). Had an 80-yard touchdown run Sept. 28 against Oklahoma, the longest run from scrimmage for a Notre Dame player since 2000. Was suspended from the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers for violating team rules (he claimed via Twitter that he was caught texting during a team meal, but no official reason was given; he subsequently deleted that tweet). Concluded his Notre Dame career as the school's all-time leader in kickoff returns (88) and kickoff-return yards (2,136).
Outstanding timed speed -- has been clocked below 10.4 seconds in the 100 meters. Has kickoff-return experience and returned two for scores as a freshman. Can take it the distance when he gets in the clear. Has plenty of tread on his tires having carried just 153 times at Notre Dame. Has NFL bloodlines.
Has an upright, linear running style -- exposes himself to some violent hits. Does not convert speed to power. Gears down to cut. Struggles to create on his own. Limited elusiveness and tackle-breaking ability -- too often grounded by the first tackler or ankle tackles. Crude eyes and instincts. Head-scratching career production. Has underachiever traits. Competitiveness and coachability need to be examined.
A pedigreed, height-weight-speed prospect who slipped down the depth chart as a junior, Atkinson made a premature jump to the NFL knowing he likely would have been behind underclassmen had he returned as a senior. Is not a natural running back, but has raw tools to warrant consideration as a developmental, one-cut slasher. Better tester than football player. Solid combine numbers.