In the last few years, Alabama has produced several running backs who have had mixed results at the NFL level. Mark Ingram appears to be coming into his own after a slow start to his career. Eddie Lacy has been a star almost since the beginning. And Trent Richardson, well .... we're still waiting. Enter T.J. Yeldon, the latest entry from the Crimson Tide backfield. I took a look at some of his game tape to see which of these three backs' careers his might one day resemble.
» Good size, could add bulk
» Decisive with good vision
» Shifty at the line of scrimmage
» Willing and physical pass-blocker
It's fun to watch Yeldon at the line of scrimmage, where he's adept at finding the hole and weaving his way through traffic. His quickness and agility are readily apparent in the first level of defenders. That isn't to say that Yeldon dances in the backfield. He's quick to identify the hole and hit it.
At 6-foot-1, he's the same height as as some of the other top prospects in this draft class but his frame suggests that he could still add bulk. That could help with his pass protection skills. Yeldon is definitely willing to stand in and block oncoming rushers, but could benefit from getting a little stronger in that department.
» Upright and exposed as a runner
» Struggled with ball security in college
» Lacks breakaway speed
» Not much involved as pass-catcher
While Yeldon measures at the same height as players like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, he looks much taller on tape because of a very upright running style. It's something that could expose him to plenty of extra hits at the next level. Such an exposed rushing style could also make him more likely to be stripped of the football -- not a good thing for a player who occasionally had fumbling issues at Alabama.
Yeldon is more quick than fast. He can frequently get into the second level, but he's not likely to win a lot of footraces to the end zone. While the Crimson Tide didn't seem to hesitate to leave Yeldon on the field for passing downs, they rarely looked his way with the football. In his final season in Tuscaloosa, Yeldon caught just 15 passes. It remains to be seen if an NFL team will employ him in its aerial attack.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Yeldon's immediate future projects as a rotational player, who will likely be relied on to spell a team's primary running back. That is a needed role on a Cardinals team that saw Andre Ellington break down in 2014. Similarly, the Chargers could be in the market for someone to take some pressure off Branden Oliver. Even though Rex Ryan has taken "ground-n-pound" with him to Buffalo, the Jets are lacking a true workhorse back, which could allow Yeldon a chance to compete for touches with Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley.
Early fantasy draft projection
Yeldon is good (but not great) in a lot of areas, which means he isn't likely to be viewed as an NFL starter early in his career, unlike the previous trio of Crimson Tide backs. However, that doesn't mean he won't see the field in his rookie campaign. At this point, Yeldon has more value in dynasty leagues than in standard re-drafts. But if you're feeling frisky, there are worse options you could choose as a late-round flier.