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From Prospect To Pro: Comparing Henry Josey To Reggie Bush

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Henry Josey is as elusive as running backs come, versatile in his ability to make defenders miss and take any play all the way to the end zone. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.
Henry Josey is as elusive as running backs come, versatile in his ability to make defenders miss and take any play all the way to the end zone. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

In the offseason leading up to the NFL Draft, we always see hundreds of players critiqued to the fullest, picked apart in every aspect of their game, their character judged based upon their personal life. It’s only natural that, despite this process, there are prospects who still slip through the cracks and are selected lower than they are worth.

Sometimes, prospects aren’t selected at all, and they become primetime players. Look at Victor Cruz, undrafted in 2010. We see it every year -- prospects who are drafted late and considered “sleepers” or “steals.”

I am going to tell you now about the most underrated player, hands down, in the 2014 Draft.

In 2011, Henry Josey rushed for 1,168 yards on 145 carries, an average of 8.1 yards a rush, and 9 TDs. On Nov. 12, 2011, he was carted off the field against Texas due to a severe left knee injury. He tore several ligaments and tendons, and it was uncertain whether he’d ever play again.

On Aug. 31, 2013, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound Josey returned to college football for the first time in almost two years, and in the third quarter against Murray State, he ran as fast as he ever has, 68 yards for a TD. He’s one of the fastest runners in the nation, and when he stops dead in his tracks and fakes out defenders only to start up again at full speed, he looks an awful lot like former USC halfback, Reggie Bush.

Through eight games this season, Josey is showing no signs of his past knee injury, with 98 attempts for 573 yards and 8 TDs. He’s an up-the-middle sprint running back, but,like Reggie Bush, he’s elusive and excels when bouncing to the outside and speeding along the sidelines. Josey hasn’t had many chances at screens and quick passes in Missouri’s offense, full of good wideouts. But his great stop-start speed is ideal for screens and pitches behind the line of scrimmage.

We’ve seen many runners who were speed demons fail before with lack of vision. That’s where Josey separates himself from every other speedy, third-down back.

Bush wasn’t a great runner in his first few NFL seasons, though he was a good third-down receiver out of the backfield. Only recently has he been able to hone his skills as a north-south runner while maintaining his elusive cuts and hurricane-like spins. Josey’s vision while running between the tackles in 2013 is close to as good as Bush’s up-the-field sight.

In 2011, Josey looked like 2005 USC Reggie Bush. In 2013, Josey looks like a three-down, NFL running back. He could use some work on his pass protection but with the ball in space, there aren't even a handful of guys who compare to him in college football. Josey protects the ball well when its tucked under his arm and when he breaks a tackle and gets some space, he's off to the races every time.

Josey isn’t just a feel-good story, a comeback player with a chance at the big time. Before his injury in 2011, he was considered one of the best backs in the nation. I can remember seeing his injury on television and feeling horrible for a prospect I knew would be a top NFL back.

I know that in 2014, if he declares for the draft, he will be a thrill to watch on Sundays. But don’t expect him to be selected in the first two days. You may see him go in the fifth, maybe sixth round, and it won’t matter because when healthy, he’s one of the best pure runners of the last 10 years.

In a couple of years, Henry Josey will be recognized as the sleeper running back pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.