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Cowboys Draft Target: Iowa Hawkeyes RB Akrum Wadley

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

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

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

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

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.

What do you think?

Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

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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