Tailback traits: Scouting Adrian Peterson, Le'Veon Bell and more


In advance of the 2015 season, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah draws on his evaluation experience in "Trait Eight" -- a series that identifies three key characteristics for eight high-profile players at various positions. Today's file covers running backs. Below, you'll find DJ's assessments of seven established rushing stars -- plus one rookie who's already turning heads in the preseason.

For more analysis on this topic, listen to the "2015 running back preview" edition of Daniel Jeremiah's Move The Sticks Podcast.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Three traits: Freak, explosive, powerful. "Freak" is one of the most overused terms in sports, but it's very appropriate with this guy. Human beings just aren't supposed to have this combination of size, speed, power and athleticism. Peterson and Calvin Johnson are two of the more rare players that I've ever evaluated.

Expectations for 2015: You'd temper expectations for a normal 30-year-old who just essentially missed an entire season, but of course, Peterson isn't a normal 30-year-old. I'm expecting around 1,500 rushing yards in 2015.

Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Three traits: Shake, dynamic, mismatch in space. He is so different than the player I studied at Michigan State. As a Spartan, Bell was a really good player, really versatile, but he was a heavier back. Now he's leaner, with more agility. And he's just so dynamic in his ability to make people miss. Bell also is a terror in the passing game; he could play receiver in the NFL. Antonio Brown, Bell's teammate, is the toughest cover at wide receiver in the NFL. Well, Bell is the toughest cover out of the backfield. Linebackers have no chance.

Expectations for 2015: He's going to miss the first two games due to suspension, but I won't be surprised if he's right in the thick of the MVP race in December. Bell just has so much ability, and really sets up everything that the Steelers do on offense.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

Three traits: Angry, strong, patient. I used "angry" for Dez Bryant in the receiver edition of Trait Eight, and Lynch is the exact same kind of player. Both play a passionate, aggressive, physical brand of football. That said, his patience and vision are highly underrated. Lynch certainly is not just a bull in a china shop -- he's a very instinctive runner.

Expectations for 2015: The offensive line is a bit of a concern in front of him, but I think Lynch is going to make those guys look better than they really are. Yes, he's knocking on the door of 30, but Lynch should age well. If you're a speed back and you lose a step, you're done. But his game is not predicated on speed -- it's vision, balance and power. Those attributes aren't going to suddenly disappear.

DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles

Three traits: Decisive, finisher, upright. Murray has a very distinct, upright running style, but he knows how to lower his shoulder when he gets toward contact. As we saw last season, when he led the NFL in rushing by nearly 500 yards, Murray has no problem lowering his pads and powering through defenders.

Expectations for 2015: There are a lot of mouths to feed in Philadelphia, with Murray flanked by Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles in the backfield, so I think his numbers will come down. But so will the wear and tear. Murray will be fresh for the stretch run -- which didn't seem to be the case last year, when he logged an absurd 449 touches in the regular season alone.

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

Three traits: Silky, elusive, lateral quickness. He's just so smooth, and his ability to change direction is ridiculous. When you watch tape on McCoy, there are missed tackles where defenders don't even get a finger on him -- they simply cannot touch him.

Expectations for 2015: With McCoy entering a new scheme in Buffalo, I imagine there will be an adjustment period during the first half of the season. But I think he'll find a groove and get rolling down the stretch. And I think the fact that McCoy has a mobile quarterback is going to help him -- the threat of Tyrod Taylor running the ball is going to hold the back-side defender pretty consistently.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

Three traits: Burst, north/south, home run hitter. There are guys who look fast on college tape, but then they kind of blend into the scenery when they hit the NFL level. Not the case with Charles, who looks just as fast on an NFL field as he did on a college field. He just has a different gear.

Expectations for 2015: The addition of Jeremy Maclin as a legit threat on the outside should take a little bit of pressure off Charles. Still, he remains the engine of this offense and will receive a whole lot of touches. I expect him to average 5 yards a carry -- half a first down! -- as he does every year.

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

Three traits: Smooth, vision, receiver hands. I remember watching him in college -- Forte rushed for 2,127 in his senior year at Tulane -- and he looked so effortless that you wondered how he was going to run in the NFL. Well, he's transitioned pretty darn well, I'd say. And what a weapon out of the backfield in the passing attack; Forte logged 102 catches last year, and he's absolutely fantastic in the screen game.

Expectations for 2015: I think he fits very well into the system of Adam Gase, the Bears' new offensive coordinator. Hopefully, Chicago can spell him a little bit more with some of the young backs, but I think this is going to be yet another big year for Forte. The Bears' offense is going to have to cover up a lot of deficiencies on the other side of the ball.

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions

Every game, all season

Three traits: Shifty, sudden, competitive. Just to be clear: I'm not saying Abdullah already belongs in the class of the established stars above. I just wanted to look at a new face. And while there are a number of enticing newbies in NFL backfields -- guys like Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and T.J. Yeldon -- nobody's been more impressive than Abdullah in the preseason. OK, now that that's out of the way ... Abdullah's one of those guys who makes me think of a bad habit in scouting: focusing on what a prospect can't do. Abdullah doesn't have ideal size and doesn't have home-run speed, but he does possess unbelievable quickness, instincts, toughness ... all the other traits you'd want.

Expectations for 2015: Detroit has a lot of backfield depth, but Abdullah's just too much of a weapon to not receive heavy burn immediately. Matthew Stafford has a comfort level with backs like this -- Jahvid Best and Reggie Bush spring to mind -- but Abdullah has a chance to be the best yet. If he does get the touches I anticipate, Abdullah's a legit Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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