Editor’s Note: This is the first article from one of our new Member Corner writers, Raymond Garvin. Follow Raymond on Twitter
This year’s crop of running backs does not boast the hype of 2018’s class, but one thing you can take to the bank is there will be undrafted free agents who end up finding the field in 2019. The same way NFL franchises seek to find the next late-round or undrafted gem; dynasty owners should be doing the same for their teams. Keep these players in mind as you prepare for your rookie drafts. They may not be your priority waiver adds, but they should be on your watch-list radar as mini-camps, organized team activities and training camps begin. Please understand I am not telling you that these players are going to become fantasy superstars, let alone make the team, but they are players with the talent profile who could contribute if given the right opportunity. Neither of the players listed below are currently being drafted in dynasty startup drafts or rookie drafts.
Xavier Turner, RB Tarleton State University
Over the past two seasons, Turner has racked up impressive stats while playing in one of the tougher conferences in Division II; the Lone Star Conference, which is home to the 2017 National Champions. He continued to pile onto an impressive senior season by turning heads with a solid pro day. Let’s take a look at his numbers.
(Stats from Tarleton State athletic website.)
In 25 career games, the big-bodied runner racked up 2,234 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns while chipping in 35 receptions for 178 yards and one touchdown. As a senior the offense ran though him, literally. His drastic drop in receptions from his junior season is very alarming; but there are reasons not to panic. The team was a run-centric offense and was third in Division II in rushing yards per game, while coming in at eighty-eighth in passing yards per game. The Tarleton Texans had four runners rush for over 500 yards in 2018, and two over 1,000 rushing yards. In comparison, in 2017 they only had one player rush for over 400 yards on the season; you guessed it, Xavier Turner. He was leaned on early and often as the center piece of that offense and accounted for 34% of the team’s rushing yards, 33% of the total carries and 50% of the rushing touchdowns.
Pro Day Results
Tuner is a powerful back with prototypical size and strength as evidenced by his bench press reps. His 40-yard dash times would have placed him tenth and twelfth respectfully had he been invited to the combine. His agility times were not horrible, but also not impressive. His 3-cone would have tied him with Michigan State RB, L.J. Scott, and his short shuttle would have come in right on par with Trayveon Williams from Texas A&M University. His abysmal 9’3″ broad jump is what’s most concerning to me and his lack of elite explosion is clear on film.
https://t.co/ocWInZytZ6 (From Xavier’s Twitter Account)
Turner is a thick between-the-tackles grinder. I do not believe he has the elusiveness to ever become a featured NFL bell-cow back, as evidenced by his lack of explosiveness, and a below average agility times. However, he does show an ability to break tackles, win with power and outstanding balance. His nose for the end zone inside the five-yard line is undeniable. Turner rarely goes down on first contact. He does not look like he’s moving as fast as is 40-yard dash time reflects but has decent enough burst and can accelerate to the second level. His running style reminds me of a more compact Gus Edwards; and if you can find that on your waiver wire for free while nobody else is paying attention, capitalize.
At a position that can change at a moment’s notice, where your third running back can instantly become your number one, Turner has early-down potential. Monitor the beat writers for the team he is either drafted or signed by. Do not spend money on him post rookie draft, instead add him to your watch list, and follow his transition to the pros throughout the summer.
Darwin Thompson, RB Utah State University
Thompson is a player I am very excited about. Upon first glance, his running style immediately reminded me Jerick McKinnon. Do not let his small stature deter you. He is much more than a one-dimensional satellite back; he is built like a mack truck (go look the shirtless picture of him from pro day.) He possesses explosiveness, agility and the break-away speed to pull away from defenders once he gets to the second level. I’ve seen some comparisons to Tarik Cohen, but I think he’s a more capable runner than him, although not as dynamic in the passing game.
Thompson only played one season at Utah State, but made sure every touch counted. He was able to rack up yards both as a runner and pass catcher, while showing some of his game changing play-making ability that allowed him to become a junior college All-American. His reception totals and yards per carry show that he has the requisite skill-set that NFL teams covet.
In his lone season as the starter, he accounted for 32% of his teams carries, 37% of the rushing yards and 43% of the rushing touchdowns. Not bad for a back sharing the load with another 800 plus yard ball carrier. His best statistical game came against San Jose State University, but there were glaring red flags in that game film. Thompson offers very little in pass protection and does not break many tackles when contacted behind the line of scrimmage. Far too often I see him going down on first contact before he gets his momentum going. These are a few reasons why he won’t be an every down back.
Pro Day Results
Thompson was not a combine invitee, but he showed that he would have been one of the most explosive athletes at the running back position had he been in attendance. For dynasty owners this is a good thing because he would be on everyone’s radar heading into rookie draft season. His 40 time would have tied him for third, bench press – second, vertical jump – third, and his broad jump would have tied him for fifth amongst the running back position.
Thompson’s film backs his athletic testing numbers. He is an above-average athlete, that is explosive and powerful. He has the speed, agility, power and showed an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. There are however legitimate concerns because of his size, lack of production and level of competition.
(Chart provided by profootballfocus.com.)
Despite lacking ideal size, once he gets in the open field, his power allows him to force miss tackles at a very respectable rate. Another positive about his one season of work, is that his best days should be ahead of him. Thompson does not profile as your traditional bell cow running back at the next level but he is someone that should carve out a role rather quickly as a change-of-pace back with some early-down upside if given the opportunity over the summer.
Thompson’s strong pro day has put him in a position to be drafted earlier than initially thought. If that happens we should start to see his ADP rise. There’s a place for him in the NFL and I will aggressively target him late in rookie drafts or during the first run of waivers post drafts. Pay close attention to him this month as he should start to garner some late-round attention.