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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Iowa Hawkeyes RB Akrum Wadley

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: Iowa Hawkeyes RB Akrum Wadley
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

With each passing day, we grow closer and closer to the main event of the offseason… the 2018 NFL Draft. It's one of the more exciting events to take place until the official NFL season kicks off, but it sometimes feels like an eternity until the month of April finally comes around.

To pass the time, I've decided to share with you some of the prospects the Dallas Cowboys could possibly target with one of their 10 draft picks, and today I want to take a look at the running back position.

The Dallas Cowboys will without a doubt have Ezekiel Elliott handle the bulk of the workload in 2018. Rod Smith could slide into the main backup position behind Elliott. He performed well in 2017, but the Cowboys could use a running back with a different type of skill set, more of a change of pace/3rd-down RB.

Enter Akrum Wadley, former Iowa Hawkeye.

Below, I've provided a brief scouting report on Wadley's strengths and weaknesses as a RB prospect, and his potential fit with the Cowboys.

Continue to read below to learn more about Wadley and please don't hesitate to let me know what you think about him as a potential Cowboys draft target in the comment section located at the end of the article.


Senior Bowl Weigh-in

Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa | 5097, 188 lbs | 3/13/95 (21)

Measurements  Arm: 29 7/8 | Hand: 8 1/8 | Wing Span: 72 7/8


Strengths

Akrum Wadley

Iowa RB Akrum Wadley (Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

Akrum Wadley possesses premium athletic ability and is one of the more exciting running backs to watch in the entire 2018 draft class.

He should make a smooth transition into the NFL after playing in a pro-style offense at Iowa.

Wadley's superb footwork and elusiveness make it difficult for defenders to get a hand on him. He has good -- but not elite -- speed; more of a glider than a burner. He often creates a lot of yardage himself with his improv skills. He uses a devastating spin move, jump cut, and sidestep move to evade defenders, both in the backfield and in the open field.

He shows good vision and patience to allow his blocks to develop. He's an aggressive runner who runs behind his pads with good shoulder lean, which causes him to fall forward more times than not. He's effective running inside and out, and shows good functional strength, despite what his size would indicate.

Wadley is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield.

He has experience lining up in the slot and is difficult for linebackers to cover. He shows a wide catching radius and is easily able to contort his body to make difficult catches. He also provides added value in the return game as a kick returner.

Let's take a look at his elusiveness and how he's able to create yardage on his own.

Wadley's Elusiveness:

Akrum Wadley's elusiveness - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In the clip above, Akrum Wadley shows off why he is considered the most elusive running back in the 2018 draft class, and does it against one of the best defenses in the collegiate ranks last season.

Wadley makes several Buckeyes defenders look foolish and left grasping nothing but air on his way to pick up a large gain for a first down.

You can see how difficult he is for defenders to get a hand on, and how he uses his footwork to sidestep defenders to run through arm tackles. He doesn't really give defenders an easy target to hit and make a tackle.

Wadley's Pass Catching Ability:

Akrum Wadley catching ability - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The play above is personally one of my favorites that I saw when studying Wadley. There's so much that takes place in this one play, I don't know if I'll be able to break it all down for you properly.

The first thing you might notice is how Wadley has to pretty much do a complete 180 in order to catch the ball thrown behind him. Most times, that would kill the play right there, but he's able to gain his composure and get the screenplay back on track.

He once again shows off his elusiveness by sidestepping two defenders, while waiting for his blocks to develop downfield. He then lowers is shoulders to bounce off a would-be tackler to pick up the first down on a third-and-15 play.

On this one play, Wadley shows his pass catching ability, his elusiveness, vision, patience, and a little of his functional power for what ended up being a large gain.

Weaknesses

Akrum Wadley

Iowa RB Akrum Wadley

Akrum Wadley's size is his biggest weakness as a RB prospect. He has a slender frame, which probably won't support added bulk to become a more prototypical sized NFL running back. This will turn off some teams since he might just be a change of pace/3rd-down RB at the next level.

His lack of size also hurts him as a pass protector. He seems willing enough, but he has poor technique, which allows defenders to pretty much run over him. He prefers to cut block as a pass protector, but more times than not dives at the defenders ankles instead of keeping his eyes up and making solid contact.

His size will also hurt him in short yardage situations. He doesn't have the leg strength or power to pick up the dirty yards, instead usually relying on his elusiveness. He also needs to work on his route running in the passing game.

Let's take a look at Wadley as a pass protector.

Wadley in Pass Protection:

Akrum Wadley pass protection - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Akrum Wadley wasn't asked to stay in and pass protect much as a RB during his time in Iowa, but when he did, the results weren't pretty.

In the clip above you see one of the rare occasions Wadley is asked to stay in and pass protect. To his credit, he identifies the right blitzer, but his effort and technique leave a lot to be desired. You would like to see him be more of an aggressor here and sink his hips while squaring up to the defender in the situation. That way the blitzer has to run through him at least.

Instead, he waits for the defender to get to him and then feebly throws a shoulder in an attempt to slow him down. This will absolutely have to be cleaned up if he plans on playing anytime soon in the NFL.

Right now, he is a liability as a pass protector.

Wadley in Short Yardage:

Akrum Wadley short yardage - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As you can see in the clip above, Wadley will struggle in short yardage situations in the NFL due to his size. He does have some functional strength, but defensive lineman are going to outweigh him by about 100 pounds.

To his credit though, he made the right read on this play and had a chance to pick up the first down. But, he's just not going to be able to run through many defenders, or drag them for extra yards in the short yardage situations.

He's willing, but his lack of power and bulk will hurt him in this area at the next level.

Summary

Akrum Wadley wearing the #25 jersey is fitting, because he has a lot of the same traits as some others who have donned that jersey in the NFL. His skill set is a lot like Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and even Reggie Bush. All three of those running backs have found success in the NFL, and there's no reason Wadley can't follow their career path as well.

Wadley's highlight reel in college full of jukes, cuts, and missed tackles proved just how elusive/explosive he can be, and the Dallas Cowboys offense could definitely use more of that.

Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith are both bigger backs with similar playing styles, but Wadley would be a nice change of pace from those two and could catch opposing defenses off guard once inserted into the lineup.

He could become that receiving type RB the Cowboys have missed since the departure of Lance Dunbar.

He will, of course, have to improve in pass protection in order to become the third-down back, but with better coaching and improved technique, he could become a difference maker. His ability to make a difference in the running and passing game could make him a dangerous weapon.

Plus, he provides added value in the return game, which could come in handy in 2018 if Ryan Switzer becomes more involved on offense.

All in all, he could be just what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for to provide more depth at the RB position. But, he is likely going to be a Day-2 selection in the draft, and that might be higher than the Cowboys want to take a RB.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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NFL Draft

Which Top 10 EDGE Defenders Could Slide to the Dallas Cowboys?

Brian Martin

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Top 10 EDGE Defenders: Which Prospects Could Fall to the Dallas Cowboys?

Regardless of what happens with Robert Quinn, the Dallas Cowboys should still be in the market for an EDGE defender in the 2019 NFL Draft. Like quarterback and left tackle, pass rushers are held at a premium in the NFL for a reason. They are hard to come by and expensive to keep, as we all know.

There's a lot of unknown surrounding the future of the Dallas Cowboys defensive end position. Tyrone Crawford is entering the last year of his contract, Dorance Armstrong is pretty much an unknown, and no one knows what to make of Randy Gregory's future. Then there's this whole contract situation with DeMarcus Lawrence. I think you would agree there's a lot of uncertainty at the DE position.

Keeping all of that in mind, it certainly makes sense the Dallas Cowboys could be in play to draft one of the EDGE defenders with their first selection in the second-round of the 2019 NFL Draft. That's why today I decided to share with you my Top 10 rankings in the hopes that one of them will slide right into the lap of the Cowboys at 58.

Here's my Top 10 EDGE rankings:

  1. Nick Bosa, Ohio State
  2. Brian Burns, Florida State
  3. Josh Allen, Kentucky
  4. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
  5. Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
  6. Chase Winovich, Michigan
  7. Jachai Polite, Florida
  8. Christian Miller, Alabama
  9. Ben Banogu, TCU
  10. L.J. Collier, TCU

You may or may not have noticed, but Rashan Gary and Charles Omenihu didn't make the cut for my Top 10 EDGE defenders. That's because I project them as defensive tackles in the NFL, although they could play a hybrid DE/DT role similar to what Tyrone Crawford plays with the Dallas Cowboys. You of course may disagree, but that's my take away after watching their film.

Now that we've settled why some of the names may have been omitted in my Top 10 EDGE rankings, we can get back to which of these prospects could slide to the Dallas Cowboys when they are on the clock in the second-round with the 58th overall selection.

I think we can all agree that the Top 5 will all be drafted well before the Cowboys have a chance at them. But, starting with Chase Winovich, I think each one of the next five could slide all the way to 58 with a little luck.

Of the next group of five, Winovich is probably the safest pick of the bunch. He is someone the Cowboys could plug and play as a rookie and pretty much know exactly what they're going to get. Because of that though, he's also the most likely to be gone before Dallas has a chance at him.

Jachai Polite unfortunately completely bombed at the NFL Combine, which is why he could still be in play for the Cowboys. He doesn't exactly fit the criteria (size/length) Dallas typically looks for in their DEs, but his talent is undeniable. He falls into that category of risk/reward, much like Randy Gregory in 2015.

If you've read any of my previous work, you know that I may big a fan of Christian Miller. He is one of my "pet cats" in this year's draft class and would be a great fit with the Cowboys. Unlike Polite, he fits Dallas' DE type to a "T". The only concern with him is his injury history, but I'd be ecstatic if he's the selection at 58.

That brings us to the two TCU EDGE defenders. A lot of people have L.J. Collier ahead of Ben Banogu, but I personally like the latter better. Regardless of how I have them ranked though, either one of them would be a good fit with the Cowboys. Fortunately, Dallas should know all about them since they played right down the road in college.

Which of these EDGE defenders would you like to see the Dallas Cowboys?



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Virginia Safety Juan Thornhill

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: Virginia Safety Juan Thornhill

NAME: Juan Thornhill

POSITION: Safety

SCHOOL: Virginia

CONFERENCE: ACC

CLASS: Senior

JERSEY: No. 21

RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star

HT: 6'1"

WT: 195

D.O.B.: N/A

Tackles Tackles Tackles Tackles Tackles Def Int Def Int Def Int Def Int Def Int Fumbles Fumbles Fumbles Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
2015 Virginia ACC FR S 2 2 0 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016 Virginia ACC SO S 11 30 15 45 3.0 1.0 3 32 10.7 0 7 0 1
*2017 Virginia ACC JR S 12 47 16 63 4.5 0.5 4 4 1.0 0 12 0 0
*2018 Virginia ACC SR S 13 62 36 98 4.5 0.0 6 141 23.5 0 7 0 0
Career Virginia 141 67 208 12.0 1.5 13 177 13.6 0 26 0 1

Highlights:

Juan Thornhill Highlights || Draft Sleeper 🤫 Virginia Cavaliers Safety ᴴᴰ

Welcome to HIGHLIGHT CREATOR! If you love College Football and Basketball, make sure you hit the SUBSCRIBE button! ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬­▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ Want to watch more highlights? Gotcha covered https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fx3SsbCG5M&list=PLQgqd2iV_cWdraEMrjyF1jgpsavuo83V- 2019 NFL PROSPECTS https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQgqd2iV_cWdkLyfO6gXsscPTJdntKW2i BASKETBALL VIDEOS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3EUXeU9z7E&list=PLQgqd2iV_cWdxRGSMOjJmjNRwTugjg0B6 VIDEOS I'VE FILMED https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQgqd2iV_cWfRZqFzkuypzSzoTNdWJNa6 Hey everybody - name's Luke.

Pros:

Juan Thornhill possesses an intriguing skill set that should get him on the field early as a rookie. He projects best as a free safety in the NFL, but his background as a cornerback could cause teams to give him a look there as well. He is a capable of starting at either position, which should only add to his value.

Thornhill shows good range on film and seems to always be in the hip pocket of receivers on vertical shots down the field. Does well in coverage underneath as well. Gets into position to take away lanes. At his best in zone coverage. Has really good instincts and understanding of route concepts. Ball hawk. Has the mentality that he's the one being targeted on throws and out fights the receiver for the ball.

Possesses good athleticism to make open field tackles. Takes good angles in pursuit and is well-balanced when arriving at the ballcarrier. Has some pop through his pads, but is more of a cut down tackler. Can quickly close the distance and will drive through a runner's legs to finish. Will fight through contact in the box and shows a good stout anchor at the top of route stems.

Cons:

Juan Thornhill has good, but not elite range and his lack of burst could limit the system he plays in. Because of this he might not be suited to play the single high/deep safety position on a team that plays a lot of Cover-1. This could make him more of a scheme reliant free safety in the NFL.

Shows a little tightness through his hips. This makes him a little slow when opening up and transitioning to deep throws. His ball hawking mentality can sometimes get him in trouble. Needs to show a better understanding of when that is acceptable, because he can hang himself out to dry sometimes. Can be fooled with play-action and bait routes. Needs to show more discipline.

Inconsistent as a tackler. Has a tendency to drop his head and go to low when trying to make a tackle. Needs to improve his aiming point and technique. Needs to also improve attacking blocks near the line of scrimmage. Doesn't necessarily have a slight frame, but could stand to add some more strength/muscle. It could help him when working in the box.

Cowboys Fit:

Juan Thornhill's skill set and versatility to fill several roles in the Dallas Cowboys secondary could be too intriguing to pass up, especially if you add in his ball-hawking ability. In Kris Richard's defense, he could probably start at either safety or cornerback as a rookie. He has the desired height, length, and athleticism Richard desires in his defensive backs, and has played both positions during his time at Virginia. He could continue to do so with the Cowboys.

As a pure safety prospect, he would pair nicely with Xavier Woods, giving Dallas two athletic and rangy safeties on the backend of their defense. He can play deep or in the slot against mismatch tight ends. He's solid around the line of scrimmage as well, but needs to clean up his attack point as a tackler in order to become more consistent. No matter how you slice it though, he's an upgrade over Jeff Heath. For the Cowboys to secure his services, they would likely have to take him 58 overall with their second-round draft pick.



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska RB Devine Ozigbo

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska RB Divine Ozigbo

NAME: Devine Ozigbo

POSITION: Running Back

SCHOOL: Nebraska

CONFERENCE: Big Ten

CLASS: Senior

JERSEY: No. 22

RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star

HT: 6'0"

WT: 220

D.O.B.: 10/2/1996

Rushing Rushing Rushing Rushing Receiving Receiving Receiving Receiving Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2015 Nebraska Big Ten FR RB 8 38 209 5.5 1 5 62 12.4 0 43 271 6.3 1
*2016 Nebraska Big Ten SO RB 9 97 412 4.2 5 5 100 20.0 0 102 512 5.0 5
2017 Nebraska Big Ten JR RB 10 129 493 3.8 3 16 123 7.7 0 145 616 4.2 3
2018 Nebraska Big Ten SR RB 12 155 1082 7.0 12 23 203 8.8 0 178 1285 7.2 12
Career Nebraska 419 2196 5.2 21 49 488 10.0 0 468 2684 5.7 21

Highlights:

Devine Ozigbo 2018 ULTIMATE Highlights!!

By the end of the season, Ozigbo had rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. He became Nebraska's first 1,000-yard rusher since Ameer Abdullah in 2014. He also ended with an average of 6.98 yards per carry, which put him at fourth in the Big Ten among players with at least 100 carries.

Pros:

Devine Ozigbo looks the part of a prototypical NFL running back. He has a well muscled/thick frame, with a strong lower half. He is a physical runner capable of playing in a power/gap or zone blocking scheme, but probably projects best as a zone runner. Has the skill set to be a three-down player, with starting potential. Low tread on the tires, only 419 career carries at Nebraska.

Ozigbo runs with good patients on film, "slow to, fast through", which gives his lineman time to secure their blocks. Runs with good power and leg drive, but also has nimble feet with the elite ankle flexion that allows him to make quick lateral cuts to evade defenders. Finisher in short yardage situations. Shows good vision. Waits for defenders to commit to their run fits before hitting the cutback lane. Has surprising burst and elusiveness for a RB his size.

Can be a threat in the passing game both out of the backfield and split out wide. Has shown the ability to run basic route stems when split out wide. Is a solid hands catcher and has shown he can catch passes thrown outside his frame. Quickly goes from receiver to runner and is surprisingly elusive in the open field. His size helps him in pass protection. He has a strong punch and long arms to keep defenders at bay, but also understands how to absorb contact.

Cons:

One-year wonder? The lack of production at Nebraska might be the biggest concern about Devine Ozigbo as a running back prospect. He had to finally transform his body in 2018 to get on the field, but found success once that happened. Can he maintain that kind of discipline in the NFL? There are also concerns about his long speed.

As a runner, Ozigbo may be only a zone runner in the NFL. Might be scheme dependent. There are times on film where he struggles with his vision, especially when there are multiple offensive lineman pulling. Will also struggle with his reads at time. Better when his reads are clearly defined pre-snap. Takes time to hit top speed and it looks lackadaisical at times. Might take time to adjust to the speed of the game at the next level.

In the passing game he has struggled with passes thrown at a high velocity. Has double caught, bubbled, and dropped a number of high velocity passes. This could be an issue, because he doesn't have the softest hands to begin with. Needs to clean up his technique in pass protection. Will telegraph cut blocks, allowing defenders to easily avoid and pressure the quarterback. Could stand to become a better route runner to be more of a factor when split out wide as a receiver.

Cowboys Fit:

Devine Ozigbo is reportedly one of the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visitors, suggesting the former Cornhuskers running back is already on their radar. He would immediately become the RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott as a rookie and give the Cowboys a formidable one-two punch to wear down opposing defenses. He possesses an intriguing skill set, but isn't the change of pace/got back many have wanted to complement Zeke in the running game.

Ozigbo is a physical runner with a surprisingly nimble feet and flexibility for a RB his size. At Nebraska, he was at his best one running inside zone plays, which just so happens to be a staple in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme. He is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and a solid pass protector. Overall, he has a three-down back and someone who could help lighten the load on Zeke's shoulders. He could be a steal for the Cowboys on Day 3, which is where he's projected to be drafted.



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