Senior Bowl Primer: Running Backs

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Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
5'9", 190 lbs
Abdullah is one of the better-known of the Senior Bowl's accepted invites, but also one who will find more and more criticism coming his way as the draft approaches. It's hard for shorter running backs to get respect in the draft, despite six of the ten leading rushers in 2014 being under six-feet tall, two of whom--Justin Forsett and Frank Gore--are 5'8" and 5'9", respectively. If there's one signature skill of Abdullah's that scouts will take notice of, it will likely be his ability to resist tackles and hits, despite his size. Yes, Abdullah has that breakaway speed that everybody expects upon sight, but his balance and body coordination are next-level. There will continue to be questions about the games this season in which he disappeared, particularly against the NFL-quality defensive lines of Michigan State and Wisconsin, but GMs and scouts will ultimately believe what they want, and Abdullah is as big of a name as any for a team to draft to make a splash.

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Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
6'1", 208 lbs
Jeremy Langford is probably a player we would probably be talking about more if Big Ten football was any fun to watch, but let's amend that right now. Langford is the definition of consistency, rushing for 100+ yards in each of his final ten games, as well as racking up 18 touchdowns in his final seven games. Langford gets it done on a regular basis in a pro-style offense against pro-caliber players; there's nothing for GMs not to like (though they'll likely want to see him put on a few more pounds of muscle). He runs with no hesitation and no fear, identifying holes in the line early and smoothly exploiting them. He'll never likely get tagged with the "playmaker" label, but he also never gets into the kind of position that requires him to juke and spin his way out of situations. There's no flash because the flash simply isn't needed. He's just damn good.

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David Cobb, Minnesota
5'11", 229 lbs
Cobb's numbers are similar to those of Abdullah: either he shows up or he doesn't, but when he does, he destroys everything in his path. Also like Abdullah, Cobb is able to take hits and keep runs alive with his finesse, but unlike the aforementioned Nebraska tailback, Cobb can also dish out quite a bit of power with his NFL-ready body. Not to go all armchair Kiper on ya, but I see a lot of Marshawn Lynch in Cobb: he'll either juke the defender out of his shoes or he'll simply bowl them over. Cobb also has a boisterous personality to match his play style, and was frequently leading chants in Minnesota's pregame huddles. Cobb's stock will rise as we get closer to the combine, but there will be questions about how high his ceiling is given his lack of raw athleticism.

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Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
5'11", 210 lbs
Artis-Payne is a good running back, but lacks any kind of real signature traits that would set him apart from the rest of the running backs trying to get noticed. It's not a sin to be a good, balanced back, but it's honestly hard to say he's one of the top ten running backs in the draft, depending on who declares. What can he offer a team that literally hundreds of other running backs can't? He'll likely be a mid-round pick based on the fact that he's a good running back from the SEC, but beyond that reason, I can't see why you'd imagine him being your running back of the future.

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David Johnson, Northern Iowa
6'1", 215 lbs
Finally some FCS love up in here! Johnson is magnificent at finding the hole, smoothly gliding through, then hitting the jets with his breakaway speed. Much like Langford, he's a very confident runner who doesn't panic or try for flash when encountered with an opposing force. What sets him apart from the rest of this group, though, is his receiving ability, catching at least 30 passes in each of his past four seasons, racking up over 500 yards this past year. In a league always looking for that next dual-threat running/receiving back, Johnson could find himself becoming a hot commodity very soon after this game.