Scouting Report: TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Another fine back from 'Bama
Today we bring you another running back who you need to know about. After watching an abundance of film on this year’s Alabama running back, TJ Yeldon, I am ready to sign off on him as a strong NFL prospect and a desirable fantasy asset. Yeldon has a lot of what NFL teams are looking for. He fits the suit, but he’s far from a Johnny Bravo talent. This guy can play football, and that’s to be expected when you’re coming out of Alabama. The Tide has really pumped out some RB talent lately and they play big boy football in the SEC.
I think a lot of NFL teams will be looking at Yeldon’s film and thinking twice about going early on the likes of Gordon and Gurley. You really have to feel for the modern day running back. They are under-compensated and exist in such abundance that their pay rates are unlikely to change any time soon.
Yeldon’s usage at Alabama is a complex pill to digest. His career carry totals (576) are higher than some names you may know.
- Eddie Lacy - 355
- Mark Ingram - 572
- Trent Richardson - 540
Yeldon is obviously proven in terms of game experience, but some may make a fuss about him splitting time as a senior. A few things on that. First of all, was it a problem that Eddie Lacy shared time almost evenly with Yeldon back in 2012? And, have you seen Derek Henry play? To me, Yeldon sharing time is a long term blessing, same as it was for Lacy. As we’ve learned over the years, it’s as much the mileage as it is the age. Fred Jackson is a good case study in this area. Jackson’s never had the monster workloads and he’s lasted a long time at a high level of play.
- Height - 6’1”
- Weight - 226
- Hands - 9”
- 40 - 4.61
- Bench - 22 reps
- 3-Cone - 7.19
- 20 Yd Shuttle - 4.22
- Vertical Jump - 36”
- Broad Jump - 9’9”
Yeldon did not have a great combine, but he didn’t do much damage either. The weigh-in was probably the high point, but his vertical showed where some of his explosiveness comes from. His 40 time undersells his speed in our view. He’s under 4.60 in pads based on what we see on film. The three cone was slow and that’s probably the one thing that should concern scouts. The thing is, on film, he’s agile and especially so when you consider that he’s a 226 pounder.
In his combine media session, Yeldon expressed confidence in his ability to run in a zone scheme and declared himself 100 percent healthy. He also said that Alabama head coach Nick Saban prepared him well for the NFL. “Coming from Saban, he’s been an NFL coach and he kind of brings it to the University of Alabama. His style, how he prepares us, gets us ready for the NFL.”
- Size - He’s a big back at 226 pounds and he’s on the tall side, which has its pluses and minuses.
- Speed - As I said, we think he plays a bit faster than his timed speed. In fact, he was reportedly closer to 4.50 at Alabama’s pro day, though no official times were released. He’s got more burst than most backs his size, and even if he is a true 4.61, you can get it down at that speed when you are a large back. One interesting angle here is that he ran six pounds lighter at his pro day. It’s possible that we end up looking at a 4.52 220 back versus a 4.62 226 pounder.
- Burst - While his speed was mediocre at the combine, there’s no denying Yeldon’s burst on film. He can explode through holes and knock second level defenders over.
- Feet - This is a calling card for Yeldon. It’s where he really wins as a back. He’s a short-strider with ultra quick feet. 226 pounders don’t usually come with light feet, but that’s what you get with Yeldon This is where his success as an inside runner comes from. He can make quick adjustments and he keeps his feet moving through contact.
- Vision - TJ has good vision and he gets downhill quickly once he sees what he wants. He strikes me as a back who could thrive in most running systems. At times he’ll throttle down in the open field and try to shake defenders rather than using his bulk, but it’s more the exception than the rule.
- Running style - Yeldon is a multi-cut back who runs with a distinct forward lean but doesn’t always drop his pads. It’s a fairly original running style and it might be a bit problematic if he was a small back, but at 220 plus pounds it gives him some advantages. Style-wise, he looks a little different than the typical running back and that might be scaring some folks off. We’re not very concerned about it. And, just to be clear, Yeldon does demonstrate good form in short yardage and goal line situations and will stay low behind his pads. He’ll vary his approach according to the situation.
- Receiving ability - He wasn’t used all that much as a receiver, but he looks pretty good when he’s called upon. He can make catches from various angles. He’s got decent hips and is not a back who needs to face-up to the QB to catch the ball. Yeldon has plenty of room to grow here and his height is a plus.
- Pass protection - Here’s the million dollar question for me. I’m not impressed with him in protection. He shows some effort and gets a decent cut block here and there, but he won’t be a big time NFL back without improvement in this area. He’s more than athletic enough to get the job done, so I’m optimistic. This is one place where the weak three cone time could hurt his stock.
- Ball security - This is most definitely an area of concern, but the good news is that he fumbled only twice (losing one) in 2014. That’s a big step forward from five (four lost) in 2013. His technique is not troubling, so we’re optimistic on this front.
- Production - Yeldon’s stats are certainly puffed up due to playing at Alabama, but he was a highly successful back and scored 39 times in his three seasons.
As I mentioned earlier, Yeldon has an original running style. The back who Yeldon most reminds me of is Ryan Mathews, though it’s an imperfect comparison. Yeldon’s not quite as fast but he’s a better receiver out of the backfield. Perhaps the key difference is that Yeldon has shown an ability to play through nicks and bruises while Mathews has durability issues tracing all the way back to his days at Fresno State.
Like most backs, Yeldon’s initial fantasy appeal is highly dependent on where he goes to play pro ball. He could take over a backfield if he lands in the right spot, but there aren’t that many teams with wide-open backfields. Therefore, the thing to know is this: TJ Yeldon can play at the next level and he has a nice fantasy ceiling because of his three-down skill set.
Yeldon is a player to know about because he’s underrated in a lot of circles. He could be the kind of back who slips in rookie drafts. If he does, you really want to pounce because he’s got as much upside as most of the backs in this class.
More 2015 Scouting Reports:
- Post Draft Rookie RB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft TE Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft QB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft RB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft WR Rankings
- 2017 Pre Combine Rankings
- Postseason Cheatsheets
- Tight End Rankings Week 17
- Wide Receiver Rankings Week 17
- Running Back Rankings Week 17