According to most pundits and scouts, it's a two-horse race for the draft's top running back between Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. However, floating right on the periphery of that elite tier is Ameer Abdullah, a smaller, immensely talented, hard-working running back out of Nebraska. Abdullah usually clocks in at any where from No. 3 to No. 7 on prospect rankings, typically pushed down for very real ball security issues. I went to the tape to see just what might be in store for Abdullah in his rookie season from a fantasy perspective.
» Great burst and acceleration
» Full arsenal of NFL-level moves
» Quick decision-maker
» Strong runner for his size
It was hard limiting Abdullah's strengths to just four in the above section, because he is an impressive runner on tape. Abdullah might be the fastest accelerator in the draft, even if he's not the fastest runner. He gets from 0-60 in a hurry when he's cutting upfield or breaking into the open.
Abdullah has the hallmarks of a complete back at the NFL level, based on his vision, patience and full arsenal of moves. Watching his savvy combination of moves in the open field is a thing of beauty, as defenders get spun around and are left tackling shadows. His feet are as quick as pistons, and his balance allows him to bounce of initial contact and gain countless extra yards. He also packs a pretty solid punch in his smaller frame, but won't go down as this draft's best power back for obvious reasons.
» Ball security is a concern
» I repeat, ball security is a concern
» Lacks top-end speed
» Smaller frame than typical backs
The biggest knock on Abdullah is his well-documented fumbling issue, as he had 13 fumbles over his career at Nebraska. He did improve in each year, greatly increasing his average number of touches between fumbles, but he'll definitely need to prove to NFL coaches that he can hang onto the football if he wants to see the field.
Abdullah's lack of top-end speed is disconcerting, as he was frequently caught from behind at Nebraska. However, he is a truly explosive athlete, and with his lightning quick acceleration and other attributes he can still be a difference-maker at the NFL level. Some scouts might shy away from his size, but with the recent success of other smaller backs (Justin Forsett, Giovani Bernard) I'm sure they'll find plenty to love about Abdullah.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Were the Jaguars able to add Abdullah to their current young corps of offensive playmakers, that Jacksonville offense would suddenly turn into one to watch in fantasy. The Ravens re-signed Justin Forsett, but it wouldn't hurt to bring in his eventual replacement and form a dangerous committee with Abdullah. Dallas is in need of a feature back, and while Abdullah doesn't quite have the typical "build," he could really make the most of the lanes that offensive line would open up in front of him.
Early fantasy draft projection
As long as Abdullah doesn't end up in his coach's doghouse for fumbling issues (or buried on a depth chart), he should make a splash in fantasy at some point in 2015. He has a unique and explosive combination of skills that should quickly translate to the pro game. He's definitely worth a pick in redrafts. How high will just depend on where he lands come draft day.