Seven running backs could go off the board by the middle of the third round, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay said Monday during a conference call with reporters.
McShay was speaking as the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine came to a close. The first round of the draft is scheduled for April 30. He answered a question about who the Vikings might take in the first round and who they might target at running back and linebacker in later rounds.
"Running back is a very deep group, didn't work out all that well, compared to what I thought they would," McShay said. "Right now, I've got seven guys with grades that belong in the first two-and-a-half rounds.
"Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin and Todd Gurley could be first-rounders," McShay continued, "but then there's Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Indiana's Tevin Coleman, Miami's Duke Johnson, Boise State's Jay Ajayi and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon.
McShay said Abdullah is "kind of a jitterbug, make you miss in tight spaces, and I think he runs angry. He's undersized but he runs hard and can catch the ball pretty well. I think he's the third best running back in this draft."
McShay said Coleman, who only competed in the bench press at the combine, "is a little more straight-line guy, but has some speed and power."
He said he was surprised that Johnson, described as "extremely explosive" didn't run faster than his time of 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash and might not be an "every-down back."
"Ajayi is more of an every-down back and has been dinged up a little bit, but catches the ball really well," McShay said. "T.J. Yeldon is very explosive on a straight line, and also has excellent lateral agility. He doesn't have elite top-end speed, but in the first 20 yards is pretty explosive. It's a very deep class of running backs."
As for the Vikings options in the first round, McShay mentioned a possible reunion of Teddy Bridgewater and receiver DeVante Parker, that's been projected by some draft prognosticators.
Parker was limited to seven games in 2014, but averaged 19.9 yards a catch (855 yards on 43 receptions). He caught 55 passes for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 with Bridgewater at QB.
McShay said Parker, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White as having a chance to go, "possibly in the top 10, certainly in the top 15."
The off-the-line linebackers group is pretty deep, "compared to some years," McShay said.
Denzel Perryman out of Miami, Benardrick McKinney out of Mississippi State and Eric Kendricks out of UCLA all have grades in the second round from McShay, who also mentioned Clemson's Stephone Anthony as a player who could go off the board early in the third round.
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