Scouting Report: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
A nearly finished product
Ameer Abdullah is a running back out of Nebraska who we like quite a bit. He has the kind of game that holds up well to repeated exposures—the more you watch him, the more you’ll like him. He’s not a player who makes a lot of mistakes. He plays hard all the time. He’s blessed with intelligence and a strong work ethic and that’s very important in the modern NFL. This is especially true for a back with a broad skill set, and Ameer certainly has that.
Abdullah posted pretty serious rushing numbers while at Nebraska. His usage over four seasons was high enough that some may even see it as a red flag. True, only 88 college players have ever carried the ball more times than Abdullah did in his four college seasons. The positive spin is that only 44 players have ever run for more yardage. Think about that for a second. And, he did it in the Big Ten, which is not exactly a cupcake conference. He can play outside of the conference, too, as we saw at the 2015 Senior Bowl, where he earned MVP honors.
- Height - 5-8 3/4
- Weight - 199 lbs
- Hand Size - 8 5/8"
- Vertical Jump - 42.5"
- Broad Jump - 10'10"
- 40 - 4.60
- 3-Cone - 6.79
- 20 Yd Shuttle - 3.95
- 60 Yd Shuttle - 11.18
- Size - While he is certainly below optimum weight, he’s built low to the ground, which is a plus. If there is a red flag with Abdullah, it’s his size. It’s not a fatal flaw, because we’ve seen backs like Jamaal Charles, CJ Spiller, Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington make an impact and they are all similarly sized.
- Speed - Abdullah is fast though he didn't run very well at the combine. More than just fast, Abdullah has burst and he gets going very quickly. He’s less flashy than a young Reggie Bush, but he has some similar traits, like his ability to stop on a dime and then accelerate quickly to top speed.
- Agility - He can cut instantly and his wide base allows him to be more than a one-cut back. Having said that, don’t be fooled, this kid is all business with the rock. He wastes little time going east or west.
- Vision - We’re big fans of backs who see the field well and Abdullah certainly does. It’s that vision combined with the aforementioned speed and agility that makes this kid potentially special at the next level.
- Open field ability - Abdullah is obviously dangerous in the open field and as a return man on special teams. This gives him some enhaned value to NFL teams. You'll get a lot out of his roster spot.
- Style - This is a positive for a few reasons. We like his forward lean and the way he finishes for a smaller back. He’s also got the ability to keep his feet after contact, which is an issue for a lot of forward-leaning backs. Abdullah is always in-control and he protects himself well. He’s hard to get low on and it’s hard to get at his knees. He has outstanding awareness and uses a wide-base on most inside runs. Lastly, Abdullah is a patient runner, but also a very decisive runner once an opportunity presents itself.
- Pass protection - He has good and some less-than-good moments in this area. He’s definitely active and finds his man well, but he gives ground a little too easily against bigger defenders and can get pushed into the passer at times. Improvement in this area will be a big key for him at the next level, and I suspect he’ll get there because he has the ability and the work ethic. He shows an ability to cut block effectively and he shows plus effort.
- Receiving ability & routes - I think this is a big plus for Ameer though the stats don’t pop off the sheet. He has good hands and very good feet and it shows up when you watch his routes. He can get out of a break and he gets his head around well. He’s not necessarily ready-made, but he has a high ceiling as a receiver out of the backfield.
- Ball security - This is an area of concern, and Abdullah does have small hands, but the statistical trend is positive. He fumbled less and less as his career went on—losing only two his senior year, and that’s with plenty of volume (264 carries) as a runner. His technique is sound. He’s not reckless.
- Strength - For a small back, Abdullah exhibits excellent strength, and that's important when you consider that his opponents will only get bigger and stronger at the next level. It will be interesting to see what he benches at the combine.
- Production - If you like a back who puts up big numbers, then there’s plenty to get excited about. This guy ran for serious yardage and he did it consistently. He’s also got a nose for the goal line despite his lack of prototypical size.
Here are a few backs that I think of when watching Abdullah play.
- Lache Seastrunk
- Kevin Faulk
- Andre Ellington
- Ahmad Bradshaw
- Jamaal Charles
I see Ameer falling into this spectrum. If his size limits his ability to break tackles inside, he could end up being more of a Faulk than a Charles. Charles obviously represents Ameer’s ceiling, and an optimistic one at that. On paper, he’s a bit too small to be the next Bradshaw, who is usually listed around 215. But there is some deception there as Bradshaw was 198 pounds, just like Abdullah, when he went pro back in 2007.
The Bradshaw comparison is the one that really works for me because Abdullah has the ability to be a 3-down glue guy, just like the current Colt. In fact, if I could hand-pick a new home for him, it might be with the Colts, who could really use a long term backfield partner for Andrew Luck.
Ellington is another interesting comparison, but also a cautionary tale in that Andre has had issues staying healthy. Of course, Ellington’s injury history extends back to his college days while Abdullah has been relatively healthy, even with a substantial 4-year workload. In the end, Abdullah could be a healthier version of Ellington and that’s not bad at all.
The last name I’ll bring up is Lache Seastrunk, one of our upside backs from last year. We were all-at-once excited and concerned about Seastrunk when we broke down his tape. His film revealed undeniable talent, but it also revealed some obvious limitations. Those limitations hindered his rookie season. He ended up on the Titans’ practice squad rather than playing for Washington—the team that drafted him. The reason for bringing Seastrunk up here is that he’s a lot like Abdullah, but without those crucial glue skills.
- Pass protection
While Abdullah may be less exciting than Seastrunk, he’s almost as dangerous with the ball in his hands while being significantly better when the ball is not in his hands. Throw in the other attributes and you have a player with a bright future.
There’s really not much to dislike about Abdullah with the exception of his weight. It’s certainly fair to be concerned about him breaking tackles at the NFL level the way he did at the collegiate level. The degree to which he can do so will determine whether he’s a role player or a potential featured back. Having said that, whether he’s a featured back or not, we expect him have a significant NFL career because he does nearly everything you want a running back to do.
His skill as a receiver is important and even more important if your league uses PPR scoring. He’ll need to mature a bit in pass protection, but as I said earlier, we project that to happen. It’s reasonable to point out that Abdullah was misused in college as a high-volume back. He played for a team that is run-first to put it mildly. When defenses played Nebraska, they were not worried about the passing game. Stopping Ameer Abdullah was always job one. That is unlikely to be the case at the next level. I think it’s fair to speculate that this kid could be even more exciting as a secondary weapon for a pass-first team rather than being the primary weapon for a run-first team. If you get Ameer in space, he is a very dangerous ball-carrier.
I don’t want to go overboard here, but this kid reminds me a little bit of Russell Wilson in that the game seems to be moving in slow motion for him. I get the same feeling watching his tape that I had watching Wilson’s. Both players have that overt calmness that you rarely see, especially in younger athletes. As the late Stuart Scott used to say, he's cool as the other side of the pillow. I’d be surprised if this kid gets out of the third round on draft day and it would not surprise me at all if he went in the second if some team sees him as a perfect fit.
As I mentioned, his fantasy potential in PPR scoring is significant. He’s also very close to being game-ready, with pass protection being his most likely area of weakness as a rookie.
As I say with many of the college runners who we give NFL grades to, Abdullah is a location back—meaning that his fantasy value is heavily dependent on which NFL team he gets drafted by. We project him as a committee back who can be a lead back in the right situation. And, even if he’s in a committee, he could have significant PPR value.
I’ll update Abdullah’s fantasy value after the draft.
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