After an impressive sophomore season where running back Joseph Randle was overshadowed by Oklahoma State teammates and 2012 first round picks Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, Randle became the focal point of the offense during his junior year. Randle responded with 1,641 total yards and 14 touchdowns and opted to declare for the NFL Draft. Randle enters the draft as a great candidate to be a change of pace back as well as a third down specialist who has the potential to develop into a featured back if he can continue to fill out his frame.
Randle brings an element of speed and explosiveness, but runs stronger than his size might suggest. He works to find a lane and when he does, whether inside or outside, he usually goes downhill as fast as he can and will try to overpower opponents. There are times when defensive backs are surprised and get run over as a result. Randle also has some agility and can flash some impressive jump cuts, but most of his moves are more subtle, slight changes of direction so he does not need to slow down during his carries. Randle runs with good body lean and ends up falling forward when he can get a running start. He is not afraid to run between the tackles or get tough yards when the situation calls for it, especially in short yardage situations and near the goal line. While Randle’s speed is not elite, it is definitely above average and he is able to run at full speed with bodies around him.
Although the routes the Oklahoma State offense had Randle run were unconventional, Randle demonstrates good, reliable hands as well as natural body control that allows him to be in position to make catches look easy. He is also a threat after the catch and has potential to be a bigger receiving threat at the next level.
Randle’s body type is currently one of a third down back, but he has the frame to add significant strength and possibly become a more complete player and featured back in the NFL. Randle is decently strong when he is able to get momentum, but when he teams are able to get him to go horizontally or before he is able to get going, he goes down too easily. Another 10-15lbs of good weight would also complement his running style. Occasionally, Randle’s patience becomes hesitation and he can appear to be dancing at times. This is not a glaring issue, but he leaves a few yards on the field when he is not decisive.
There is also an issue of ball security; Randle started out his career being reliable with the ball in his hands before running into an ugly stretch as a sophomore. He bounced back only losing one fumble his junior year but coaches do not like guys who fumble the football, so this is an area he will need to continue to focus on as the process moves forward.
When it comes to blocking, Randle is most comfortable when he can cut block his opponents, but he is a fish out of water when a clear target does not present himself. He has trouble holding his water when the play goes longer than average and somewhat panics choosing a target to block, sometimes throwing himself at someone is already engaged. He also needs to do a better job gaining some more ground between him and the quarterback before he throws blocks to avoid getting shoved into the quarterback and going to attack the block as opposed to standing in place and waiting for the block to come to him. He also needs to avoid only being able to cut block or he will be too predictable and easily avoided by any pass decent pass rusher in the NFL.
Another small adjustment Randle will need to make is going from a pure shotgun system to an offense working from under center. Going to Ace style formations should not be an issue but while Randle has experience running behind a lead blocker, it was not in an I-formation type look.
Randle will likely start out as a third down back and specialist, but has the potential to grow into a bigger role in the NFL. His combination of athleticism, speed, and ability as a receiver make him a great change up for teams searching for a good change of pace back. He could go as early as the 3rd round but is more likely to end up being picked in the 4th round. He resembles Mike Goodson as a prospect but could certainly have a different career arc in the league.