T.J. Yeldon was an impressive workhorse running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015, but is he simply not fast enough to be a 1000-yard back?
If you take a look over at NFL.com, they’re doing an interesting piece on the prototypical players and performances from the NFL Scouting Combine, specifically looking at players from the past 10 years. One of their “mind-blowing facts” does not inspire confidence in what T.J. Yeldon can do for the Jaguars in his career:
"Since 2003, 18 running backs have run the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds-or-faster. Of those, seven have recorded at least one 1,000-yard rushing season (Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Lamar Miller, and Joseph Addai). In that same span, 53 running backs have run the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds-or-slower. Of those, zero have recorded at least one 1,000-yard rushing season."
The concern here is that Yeldon ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine. Draft analyst Mike Mayock noted that Yeldon’s biggest concern is his speed, but he hasn’t played up to full speed because he plays through injuries. Whether true or not, the weight of history may be holding Yeldon back here. Slower running backs don’t make 1000-yard rushers, apparently.
While Yeldon is not in the 4.75 seconds-or-slower category, his 4.61 certainly wasn’t blazing fast. If only 39 percent of running backs with a 4.40 or faster have managed to become 1000-yard rushers, the percentage of slower backs has got to be lower, no matter what tier they fall in.
Yeldon was on pace for 987 yards in his rookie season, but was thrown off by injury, only managing to compete in 12 contests. All that matters in the NFL are results, however, and even if he had managed to compete in all 16 contests, there’s no guarantee that he would break 1000 yards.
Granted, T.J. Yeldon showed everything that a team needs from a workhorse back. He’s strong, he’s shifty, he’s able to take punishment. Yeldon can deliver. If any running back is going to make become a 1000 yard rusher that didn’t manage a sub-4.40 40, it’ll be Yeldon.
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It’s crazy to think that no slow(ish) running back from the combine has broken 1000 yards since 2003. Yeldon isn’t among the slowest, but he definitely needs to prove that slower backs can become 1000 yard rushers. I think he’ll make it.