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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.

NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?

Kevin Brady

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2018 NFL Combine: 3 LBs Who Impressed
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.

But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.

Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.

Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.

First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.

On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.

Cowboys Land Small School WR In Latest PFF Mock Draft

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 1: DUPLICATE***Colorado State Rams wide receiver Michael Gallup (4) picks up a few yards after catch as Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Isaiah Oliver (26) comes in for the tackle during the first quarter on September 1, 2017 in Denver, Colorado at Sports Authority Field. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post)

What about the rest of the class?

Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.

After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.

How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.


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NFL Draft

Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?

One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.

Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.

But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.

Cowboys en Español: Dallas Selecciona a Vander Esch, ¿Quién Sigue?

Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.

Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.

Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.

One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.

In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.

Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?

Dallas Cowboys Add Depth on Day 3, Building Future with Young Starters 1

Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.

The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.

Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.

Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.

For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.

Tell me what you think about "Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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NFL Draft

Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
Loren Orr / Getty Images

A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.

Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.

Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.

Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.

But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.

Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.

Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.

Drew Davison on Twitter

The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.

With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.

What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?

For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.

But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.

 "If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft. 

For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.

At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.

The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.

Tell me what you think about "Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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