After two seasons as a rotational running back, Akrum Wadley spent two seasons as the teams primary back, and earned himself some draft notoriety. He ran for 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons with over 1,000 yards and 6.4 and 4.4 yards per carry respectively. With the issues surrounding Le’Veon Bell, is Wadley a mid-round pick at running back the Pittsburgh Steelers should be looking at?
School: Iowa Hawkeyes
When you look up elusive in the dictionary, they show a .gif of Akrum Wadley doing one of his many analog stick type moves.
He has that hard jab step that completely freezes the entire defense as he changes directions on a dime.
The quick jumps, sudden movements and ability to change speeds or maintain speed while shifting is what is going to translate to the NFL level.
He throws in a spin move, a variation of other jukes, turns and step backs to make his lane easier to navigate. It is like Rocky chasing the chicken around it’s pen trying to get Wadley to the ground.
Wadley brings the balance to face contact and keep his feet. He is going to be able to bounce off of tackles and tip toe the sideline for the extra yards.
For how creative he is as a mover, his vision overall as a running back is very boom-bust. You find yourself watching him run into the backs of lineup all of the time.
On the play below, he is not looking into the second level. The safety, a Wyoming safety, is ready for Wadley and following his every move, then he is swooping in to close off his running lane. Meanwhile it leaves Wadley running right into traffic. If the Wyoming safety can read him this easily, he will have an issue translating.
Again, Wadley does not have the presence of the tackle next to him moving towards him. He has to feel where he has space a runner behind the line of scrimmage. Instead, he is running into backs.
There are holes on the play below. However, he is not seeing where the second level defenders are.
His vision helps illustrate that most of his wow plays and elusiveness could be situations he put himself in in the first place. Being able to find what is given instead of running into the backs of lineman is what he will have to do to translate his skills.
Wadley also has to watch his ball protection. While he was able to get into the open field on the play below, he is running with the ball in his right hand. This results in the ball being out and landing in the playing surface when he is hit. This is basic stuff that Wadley is struggling with.
The vision, and lack of nuance in the little things make him tough to project as an impact player in the NFL.
Pro Comparison- Theo Riddick as a runner
Wadley is not a complete wash as a wide receiver, but the comparison of Wadley to Riddick has to be looked at as a runner only. Riddick is a former wide receiver, and that is a reason why he is a relied on asset in the NFL. Wadley has yet to see real attention or use in the passing game.
However, as a runner, Riddick has a similar style as Wadley. It is all based on the elusiveness of shifting and moving in anyway possible to get into the second level. With his running level similar to that of a former wide receiver, his best bet may be trying to perfect those wide receivers skills. He is going to need to be able to catch the ball in space to avoid his running issues early on.
Fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers
A lot of the highlights and some of the accolades of Wadley is the Big Ten are going to push Wadley up a lot of draft boards. However, power and precision are Big Ten traits. Speed and elusiveness stand out in other conferences. It will interesting to see how Wadley tests at the combine and how that impacts his draft stock. As for the Steelers, they will need to see the wide receiver aspect of Riddick to take a chance on a prospect like Wadley. It seems unlikely they would be taking a chance on this type of runner.