Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is a throwback to the past great Cornhusker running backs from the 90’s and earlier. The difference is that in many areas, Abdullah has surpassed the backs of Cornhuskers’ past as he sets marks both in his career achievements as well as varying season achievements. After contributing as a true freshman, Abdullah took over as the featured ball carrier, getting better and more productive each season of his collegiate career.
In the Cornerhusker’s offensive scheme, Abdullah is the feature back. They give him the ball early and often and when the ball is not going to Abdullah, they are faking it to him. While he has not been thrown a ton of passes, Abdullah is almost always running a route, whether it be out of the backfield or occasionally working from the slot. Nebraska has not asked Abdullah to block very much and almost exclusively as a option in the offense.
Vitals & Build
- Born June 13, 1993 (Will be 22 at the time of the 2015 NFL Draft, 23 as a rookie)
- 5’9″ 195lbs (Listed)
Abdullah is slightly undersized for the position but he is strong despite his overall lack of weight. His speed is good but can be overshadowed by his quickness, agility and outstanding body control and terrific feet. Abdullah does have the frame to continue adding weight and as long as he can do it while maintaining his athleticism, he has physical potential going to the next level.
Abdullah is a shifty, decisive runner that shows good burst, quickness and balance. He plays off of his blocks well, anticipates where plays are developing and has the vision to allow him to maximize his carries. Abdullah is a strong player but he is not someone who breaks many tackles. Aside from some arm tackles, Abdullah wins by making opponents miss and keeping opponents off balance so that he avoids taking huge hits. Opponents are concerned with corralling him rather than trying to make the big hit.
While Abdullah is not someone who is going to shed tacklers as a runner, he is good at ending his touches by driving forward and dragging tacklers with him. Abdullah is not an imposing back in terms of size but he is strong and does a great job of consistently getting behind his pads when he needs to get tough yardage, so he is able to get short yardage plays and score near the goal line.
Nevertheless, Abdullah stands out because of his low center of gravity and his feet. He is able to stop and start, maintain a high level of speed when putting his foot in the ground on cuts. Abdullah’s jump cuts also cover a good amount of ground and can get him out of trouble or sell running plays one way before redirecting them in another direction such as on counters to set up his blockers.
- Abdullah shows his ability to stick his foot in the ground, hesitate or make a move with the ability to accelerate quickly or maintain his speed. Both the hesitation and ability to change direction and keep his speed make it difficult, as illustrated here, for opponents not only to get a clean hit on him but even get to him.
- Abdullah shows his balance and feet here as he could easily go out of bounds here and take a nice gain, but he makes a move and pushes the play back into the middle of the field to maximize the gain.
Much of what Abdullah shows he can do in the Cornhuskers offense should be able to carry over into the NFL. He sees and anticipates the game well, uses and sets up blocks effectively and gets the most of his touches.
Route Running & Technique
Abdullah has experience running traditional running back routes, but he also has experience playing in the slot. From swings, wheels and routes that attack the middle of the field in addition to screens and finding space in the flat, Abdullah has experience doing a little of everything in that part of the game.
Abdullah does show some savvy in his route running, working to set up defenders and create space for himself. One example of Abdullah trying to create separation is with hestitation moves when he goes up the field. He does a nice job of keeping opponents honest with how he attacks them. It is a little surprising that they have not done more to take advantage of him in these situations but that may be something that comes when he gets to the next level.
Abdullah shows good coordination and is able to track and make catches with relative ease. Not only does he make the catches a team would expect, but he has had more than a few examples where he pulls in an off target pass and carries the play out as if nothing was wrong. He shows natural, soft hands and takes passes his direction in stride.
Abdullah does not have a ton of experience to this point playing passes he has not seen out of the quarterback’s hands, but that seems to be more on the team’s unwillingness to capitalize on that part of his game rather than his inability to do it. He catches most every pass like a pitch, making an almost seamless transition to ball carrier, allowing him to be a dangerous threat after the catch. Most of his experience as a pass catcher is on screens, but the skill set Abdullah displays suggests he could make plays out of the backfield or in space.
- Abdullah makes a great adjustment to catch the screen and is able to adjust physically and gain yardage down the field
To this point, it has largely been conceded that Abdullah cannot block. The Cornhuskers have not really asked him to block much, either giving him the ball or having him go out as a receiver. When Abdullah does block, it tends to be carrying out a play action fake or as a lead blocker and he will try to cut the opponent. If NFL teams are willing to take Abdullah with the understanding he is not going to block and they can scheme around that, it will not be a big issue initially.
Abdullah will have opportunities to prove he can be an effective pass blocker, but it may be something he has to develop and improve on over time. It is difficult to think that if Abdullah struggles in this area of his game, it will not have some impact on his draft stock.
Abdullah does have experience as a returner, most of which has been on kickoffs. He is a terrific space player, so he can be an effective player in this role. Abdullah has not returned a punt since his sophomore season, but he was productive in his opportunities there, so it may be something he can revisit in the NFL.
Abdullah has the ability to play as a traditional tail back and would be a great fit as part of a one-two punch, but he can also operate as a space player. His agility and speed makes him dangerous in the open field and he shows an understanding of how to run routes, the ability to catch and adjust to the ball well.
In some respects, Abdullah could actually have one of the easier transitions to the NFL because he is such a focal point in Nebraska’s offense. Being put into a situation where he is part of a viable passing game and teams are not keying their defense on him could enable him to make some big plays in the NFL.
Abdullah projects as a Day Three Pick simply because of the question marks when it comes to blocking. With the right fit, he could dramatically outperform his draft position but that issue is going to hurt him at least in the short run.
The clips were provided by DraftBreakdown.com