Throughout the 2018 NFL Draft process you’ll hear plenty of discussion about the top running backs. Whether it be Saquon Barkley or Derrius Guice, the debate will be based more on opinion and less about production or film. Both running backs are talented and, at this stage of the game, it’s all about who you want in your backfield and scheme.
Some teams will be more than willing to spend a top-10 pick on a running back, but what about the other teams? What about the Buffalo Bills, who now have six draft picks within the top 100 selections of the 2018 NFL Draft? Will they be willing to spend one of those picks on a running back? And if they do, which back should they consider?
In Kalamazoo, Michigan, there’s a new head coach. His name is Tim Lester, and he’s entering his first season as the Broncos’ head coach. He takes over for former head coach P.J. Fleck, who accepted a coaching job with the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the offseason. Even though the Western Michigan Broncos will wear new jerseys and have a new head coach, much of their roster will remain the same. One of the biggest names to circle on their depth chart is starting running back Jarvion Franklin.
Wearing the brown and gold is a 6’0″ tall running back who weighs just under 230 lbs. Jarvion Franklin is the most physical runner in the MAC Conference, and possibly all of college football. When he runs, you better have hit leg day. Otherwise, he will absolutely pummel you.
It’s easy to say that Jarvion Franklin has been overlooked the last two years. He came in as a freshman and absolutely dominated. Then, his workload got cut in half and his production dropped immensely. Last year, the physical back started looking like his old self, and the expectations for his senior season are high.
Why are the expectations high? The Broncos will be introducing a new signal caller, as Zach Terrell graduated and Corey Davis got drafted 5th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Franklin will return to an offense that desperately needs him to be a workhorse. Can he dominate the competition again?
Notice that on this play Franklin runs a wheel route. It’s not very common to see a back of his stature run up field this well and catch a pass. Mind you, the safety drops a shoulder right into his chest, but it doesn’t phase him. He displays great balance, toughness, and hands as he makes his way into the end zone. Catching the ball isn’t something he does better than anyone else, but he does it consistently enough to earn a positive grade.
Here’s another great display of balance by Franklin. His initial running lane closes, but he’s able to change direction and get up the sideline. It’s rare to see a player with this combination of power and quickness in the open field. Throughout this upcoming season he needs to do this more consistently.
This was a pretty simple play on 2nd-and-1 for the Broncos. It’s almost a guarantee that Franklin is going to get the ball in short yardage. Here’s the lower body strength that he possesses. If he can carry this over to the next level, then he could be dangerous in the red zone.
Something that will never make sense to me is how Franklin scores on this play. Despite his size he sneaks through the line of scrimmage and goes untouched. This is a great example of his vision and ability to not just follow his blockers, but also to create his own running lanes.
There aren’t any concerns with his size. He runs well for a back over 220 pounds, and he displays a great combination of power and speed. His vision when approaching the second level is underrated, and his overall strength is a huge plus. Carrying the football doesn’t seem to be an issue for him, as he holds it high and tight. It doesn’t show on the stat sheet, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Getting him one-on-one with a defensive back should lead to a positive result more often than not.
Despite being crazy productive at Western Michigan, there has to be concern about overall usage. There’s a lot of tread on his tires, and he could top 1,000 carries for his college career this season. Not having elite elusiveness is a concern, too, but he still moves well for a back of his size.
Fit with the Bills?
Never would I be opposed to the Bills taking a player like Guice or Barkley. However, there’s a strong likelihood that Jarvion Franklin could be available in the mid-rounds. If that’s the case, he should be on the Bills’ draft board.
Where does this leave LeSean McCoy?
I’m not saying they have to trade him, but there’s nothing wrong with going down the aisle with the shopping cart and browsing what’s available, especially when there’s going to be another talented running back class on the way. Even though I think he’d be a “poor man’s” David Johnson in the NFL, Jarvion Franklin would be a great fit on the Bills.
With Tyrod Taylor’s ability to run the zone read, options and triple options, having a player like Franklin would be very beneficial.
Often times, Western would run that play, and when Franklin got the ball he was effective. He lacks game-changing speed, but he can set the tone for the offense with his physical ability and would be a great addition in the red zone.