Scouting: T.J. Yeldon – RB, Alabama
HT/WT: 6’1”/226 lbs.
Expected draft pick: Third round
Running back, Bernard Pierce, is the latest in a slew of bone-head acts that keep earning the Ravens negative press, as he was arrested for DUI following St. Patrick’s Night. The Ravens wasted little time in releasing Pierce from the final year of his contract, and thus clearing up another $660K in salary cap space. As we know, the Ravens recently brought back Justin Forsett on a three year deal worth $9M. With the release of Pierce, that leaves Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro coming off a foot injury that landed him on IR late in 2014, and fourth stringer Fitzgerald Toussaint as the RBs on the roster. I fully expect the Ravens to draft a RB in May’s NFL draft, but re-signing Forsett doesn’t make it an immediate need. They can wait until the later rounds. Which is one of the reasons we’ll take a look at projected third rounder, T.J. Yeldon. The other reason…Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama guys.
(Discuss this possible Ravens draft target on our message board.)
Yeldon shared time with Eddie Lacy as a true freshman at Alabama. In his first two seasons he averaged better than 6.0 yards per carry, and that number dipped slightly in his junior season down to 5.0 YPC. For his career, Yeldon averaged 6.14 yards per touch, and scored 39 TDs in three seasons. NFL.com analyst, Bucky Brooks, tweeted recently that some NFL evaluators compare Yeldon’s skill set and playing style to that of Le’Veon Bell. If a carbon copy of last year’s top overall running back can be had in the third round of the draft, sign me up. Let’s go to the tape.
I love to look at player in his toughest test of the year to see how they measure up. The biggest games to see how they rise to the occasion. The rivalry game to see if they reach down for that little extra, if they carry that extra swagger when facing a team they badly want to beat. Alabama vs. Auburn. The Iron Bowl is just that. Here well see Yeldon express good vision and the ability to shift laterally through the traffic and come out on the other side. The important thing is how he keeps his feet moving the whole time. He’s able to move his team into the redzone.
Another look at the vision. He cuts back the right way behind his blocker rather than into the defender. Yeldon could have bounced this outside where he likely is forced out of bounds. He could have cut left and tried to muscle his way, or run past the defender to get to the pylon, but likely to be tackled. He chooses option three, the right one, great patience to let his defender come in there as he shifts behind him, and it’s practically a walk in score.
Here against West Virginia in the season opener, Yeldon sees the hole and bursts through. Even when cutting he still is moving forward. A trait I like. No dancing. Looking at the previous clips, this tells me that T.J. Yeldon can decipher when he needs to be patient and let the play develop, and when he needs to attack the hole because it could close in an instant. A decision that has to made without hesitation.
Usually I show some clips of negative plays, or red flags that a prospect shows. But in the case of Yeldon, there aren’t many, if any at all. Not even so much as a huge negative yardage play, or a blatant missed block that got his quarterback killed. All I can say is there is one skill he lacks, and that would be the stiff arm. He uses a lot of his agility and quickness to elude tacklers. But he isn’t going to shove a defender to the turf, nor lower his shoulder on run someone over.
– Patience and vision
– 3rd down receiving option
– Decent pass blocker
– Quicker than his 4.61 40-time suggests
– Faced high level talent
– Not powerful enough to run guys over
– Won’t break many tackles
Overall: Yeldon is a back that plays within himself. He is better suited at using his agility to make would be tacklers miss, rather than lowering his shoulder to go through someone. He realizes that, and will play to his strengths rather than be someone his is not…Which is perfectly fine. One question maybe how much of his success is attributed to his ability, and how much of it is the offensive line play at Alabama that turns it’s running backs into professionals year in and year out. Eddie Lacy looks strong. Trent Richardson, not so much. Reports are starting to surface suggesting that T.J. Yeldon is undervalued by draft scouts. I’m starting to get on board with that notion, and would think a 3rd round pick could be a steal.
For the Ravens, Justin Forsett isn’t going to be a 300 carry a year back. It’s not his style. Bringing in Yeldon would be good competition for Taliaferro to see who would share the load with Forsett. Despite the solid year in the running game, question marks still arise such as: How much will Forsett have in the tank this year as he turns 29 years old, and just earned a much larger workload than he ever has? There is room for regression from Forsett, no? How will Taliferro rebound from injury? Will the injury bug linger with him? Is Taliaferro ready for an increased role in the NFL?
All questions the Ravens will have to ask themselves before they decide how important it is to fill a need at RB, and how good of a prospect they need to target.