Comparing college prospects to established NFL veterans is a slippery, but necessary, slope. I’m not a fan of player comps, but sometimes it’s the best way to illustrate what a player does well.
In the case of Iowa running back Akrum Wadley, his game screams comparisons to Buffalo Bills starter LeSean McCoy.
Coincidentally, Wadley wears the same number — No. 25 — as McCoy. It’s entirely possible my subconscious was searching the Rolodex of No. 25’s in the NFL when McCoy’s name jumped out at me. It’s more likely, however, that Wadley’s moves-on-moves did the trick.
Standing an unofficial 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, Wadley has a similar frame to McCoy, who checked in at 5-foot-10, 198 pounds at the NFL Combine during his draft year.
Both runners have a slippery, hard-to-tackle style that showcases stop-and-start quickness and layers of open-field moves that make would-be tacklers flail at air. They’re also deceptively powerful on contact, something that’s not usually the case for runners under 200 pounds.
Wadley has McCoy-like juice, too, especially when turning the corner and outrunning defenders to paydirt. McCoy ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at his pro day, a time that Wadley will come close to this draft season.
McCoy’s final season at Pitt — 2008 — was a productive one and proved he can carry the load as a feature running back. He toted the rock 308 times for 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry along the way. He silenced any critic who thought he was too small to be an every-down starter.
Wadley needs to do the same in 2017. He carried the ball 168 times in 2016, which is about what’s expected from a running back who will be a part-time player in the NFL. He needs to prove he can handle a heavier workload, something that unfortunately is outside of his control.
It’s possible that Wadley isn’t capable of a McCoy-like volume of touches, and that’s OK. Not many running backs are.
If Wadley can match 2016’s per-touch production this season, combined with an uptick in carries, his stat line will be among the best of all running backs in college football. And like McCoy, he could find himself settling in nicely as a second-round pick.