BALTIMORE — It is no secret that Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsom has a fondness for prospects that come from the University of Alabama. Having gotten his start there, the Crimson Tide still runs deep in Newsome’s veins. The Ravens selected former Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosely with their top pick last year. Unless Amari Cooper somehow falls to pick number 26 (not likely), the Ravens will use their 2015 top draft pick on a player from another school. That’s not to say that an Alabama player won’t be an early pick for the Ravens.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon is surely a match for the Ravens. Yeldon was productive right from the start at Alabama. Initially he was the feature back at Alabama but he had to adapt a dual back system. He will have to do the same thing if he wants to play in the Ravens multiplayer system. One of the best features about Yeldon is his Ladainian Tomlinson like ability to score the football. Yeldon has a nose for the end zone. He has scored 11 or more touchdowns in each of his three college seasons.
Yeldon is well aware of what he brings to the table for an NFL team. He spoke about it at the Combine. “I have good vision, good cutting.” Yeldon continued; “I can catch the ball out of the back field. I can split out wide and catch the ball also.”
The system at Alabama was a good fit for Yeldon. He spoke about how it will be good to find an NFL home that presents a good fit for him. “We ran the zone at Alabama so I would fit in good with the zone teams.” Yeldon said. “It’s all about fitting into the right teams. I will work hard and succeed in my career. I’m sure that I can help out any team that selects me in the draft.”
Players that possess the versatility that Yeldon presents will get the opportunity to contribute early for whatever team that drafts them. Yeldon is a solid option out of the backfield for quarterbacks. Teams can create favorable match ups by getting him lined up against a linebacker.
Despite his 6-1, 226 pound frame, Yeldon is an outstanding third down back. He is perfect for a zone scheme because he has a true feel for when running lanes will open up. He is able to sense that and make the quick read that is necessary to squeeze through a gap and make a cut up field to the second level of the defense.
Yeldon may not have the nature explosiveness of a Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon but still gets his share of breakaway runs. He is also very good at making defenders miss thanks to his change of direction skills. He is a guy that runs very hard and often times pinballs off of would be tacklers.
The video below shows how Yeldon can be very effective when running the ball in the red zone. Alabama is playing West Virginia. Yeldon gets the ball at about the 14 yard line and presses the line of scrimmage as his offensive lineman block down to the right. Yeldon sees that a cutback lane is about to open up. He trusts what he sees and cuts it back into that crease. He gets to the second and quickly into the third level of the defense thanks to his instincts and ability to get a quick burst up field with one cut.
2015 Draft Spotlight: Alabama RB TJ Yeldon
Yeldon has the athletic ability to dive three yards for the score at the end of the run. Capping off a touchdown run with a dive into the end zone is yet another move reminiscent of Ladanian Tomlinson, one of the best red zone runners ever.
Yeldon has an upright running style that is a concern for some. They feel that it contributed to his problems with fumbling the ball. That is something that can be quickly fixed. It’s pretty simple, secure the football. There have been numerous backs that had a fumbling issue but corrected it.
As far as blitz pickup is concerned, it is merely another reason why Yeldon is a very fitting third down back. He is a willing blocker and often times, he looked for someone to block on passing plays.
Draft Projection: Late 2nd/Early 3rd
Why should the Ravens consider this prospect?
T.J. Yeldon is a very good fit for the Ravens. He spent three years at Alabama in a scheme that is very similar to what the Ravens will utilize. Yeldon saw success early in his college career and would be called upon to do so in the NFL. He is an all-purpose back that can catch the ball out of the backfield and block for his quarterback.
The Ravens also need another short yardage back. Yeldon brings the ability to grind out tough yards in crowds. He runs upright but packs a nice punch behind his pads and often times; he doesn’t go down after the first contact.
NFL Comparison: Ronnie Brown
Like Ronnie Brown, Yeldon has an upright running style. Brown and Yeldon seem to always lean forward when they are running. That forward lean helps them to run through contact. Both of these runners have long, lean bodies that make them look taller than they really are. Brown was also a good option in the passing game which is something that Yeldon can do very well also. Yeldon is actually a little more decisive and gets up field quicker than Brown.