Colts running back Jordan Wilkins is impressing in training camp. See why Matt Waldman’s RSP was high on Wilkins’ skill as a ballcarrier before the NFL Draft.
Jordan Wilkins, Ole Miss (6-1, 216)
Depth of Talent Score: 76 = Contributor: Starter execution in a limited role; diminishing returns beyond that scope.
If strictly measuring the core attributes of a ball carrier’s vision, balance, agility, and acceleration, Wilkins is a top- 10 runner with starter upside. If he can develop the rest of the skills that come with the job of running back, his opportunity to make good on that promise will rise dramatically.
Wilkins is a smooth runner with a gliding gate. He knows how to press a crease and manipulate a defense on zone and gap plays. He spots and executes cutbacks that even good NFL prospects don’t usually recognize. At the same time, he’ll make some logical but questionable backdoor cuts that maybe sometimes a little too risky.
Wilkins’ gliding gate is a deceptive tool in his arsenal. He understands how to vary his pace and stride length upon the approach of the line or a defender. When it’s time to make the cut, his movements are much quicker and that pace change freezes his opponents or catches them unprepared.
Wilkins beats a lot of defensive ends, linebackers, and cornerbacks with his pacing—especially working the edges of the line of scrimmage. He’s good at dipping inside or outside a defensive back trying to contain the edge, stepping away from their shot at the last moment and winning the open flat. He also uses this pacing to finish off defensive backs in pursuit, slowing down to set up a winnable angle and driving his pads into the opponent to knock the man to the ground.
Because of this almost languid gait, Wilkins’ spins, stutters, and jukes frequently make defenders miss. He can even hurdle when the situation arises. Combined with his skill for using his blocks wisely in the open field, and Wilkins earns a lot of chunk plays that belie his 4.71-second 40-yard speed. He may lack long speed, but Wilkins is an explosive short-area athlete and skilled at seeing and setting up angles that get him into open space. This includes penetration into the backfield. Wilkins can drop his weight and make sharp jump cuts to avoid defensive tackles.
When forced to play a physical game, Wilkins has the size and technique to win there, too. He finishes plays with good pad level and he’s strong enough to stalemate direct contact from defensive tackles at the line of scrimmage until reinforcements arrive to push him forward.
Wilkins bounces off high and low hits from defensive backs shooting through the crease. He also spins off contact from first- and second-level defenders. His stiff-arm is strong enough to shed the reach and wrap attempts of defensive backs, linebackers, and defensive linemen.
Wilkins has tape where he’s using his stiff-arm to shed linemen multiple times in one half. It’s a good demonstration of a back with a strong feel for angles. Whether it’s in the open field or the backfield, he slides off hits with agile footwork, pad level and a stiff-arm.
Wilkins is also a promising pass catcher who catches the ball with his hands. However, he must learn tou se the appropriate hands technique on passes above his chest. He often uses an underhand technique that limits his range and efficiency.
Once he reaches the open field, Wilkins’ quickness and pacing fools defensive backs into bad angles. He does a good job of working back to the football. But, at this point, he drops the more difficult targets because of his hand position and focus. With additional work, he should become a competent option on all varieties of outlet passes and screens.
Wilkins carries the ball loose at the elbow but uses the appropriate arm. His efficiency rate is a solidly in the starter tier—1 per 157 touches.
Although it’s his lack of speed that will keep teams from investing a pick during the first two days of the draft, it’s Wilkins’ poor pass protection that could make him an undrafted free agent.
The issue is effort. Unless there’s clear evidence, I normally don’t judge effort from a player. In this case, there’s enough evidence that Wilkins doesn’t give his best as a blocker.
I’ve seen Wilkins miss stand-up blocks off the edge that got his quarterback sacked because he didn’t square, punch, and move his feet with the opponent—only dropping his head and leaning as the defender easily worked past. On the next play, Wilkins will encounter the same type of assignment and execute exactly as he should have on the play before.
It’s a clear sign that Wilkins knows what to do but doesn’t consistently do it. He also lets blitzing defenders through, though he had a clean angle to initiate contact. There’s also not enough explosion with his effort as a cut blocker—leaning into the contact without violence.
If Wilkins decides that his Sunday pay is enough to be a dedicated pass protector, he has the talent to become a productive NFL running back. If not, he’ll be an impressive fourth-quarter producer for a few different teams for the next 2-3 preseasons.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Monitor news about Wilkins as a possible late-round pick or priority waiver wire addition if drafted. If signed to a team and a clear path to compete for playing time develops, add him.
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