Who's The Better RB Prospect: James Wilder Jr. Or Storm Johnson?
By Bill Lund
Every week leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, we will focus on one specific position. This week, the spotlight is on RBs.
The position of running back has taken a back seat with the NFL's evolution to offenses that feature passing attacks rather than a ground game. Teams are finding quality backs in the later rounds (Alfred Morris, 6th round, 2012) or even after the draft (LeGarrette Blount, an undrafted free agent). Even a top-flight back like Eddie Lacy was only drafted in the 2nd round in 2013.
The college game has been able to produce a number of talented NFL-caliber backs, so teams use their early picks on game-breaking receivers or pass rushers, feeling a good RB will be available in the middle or late rounds. This year, with a record number of underclassmen entering the draft, the market is stocked full of talented backs. Two of the most talented backs are Storm Johnson from UCF and James Wilder Jr. from Florida State.
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Johnson is a good-sized back (6-foot, 215 pounds). He has decent speed, good quickness and solid agility. His numbers may not be elite, but he utilizes speed to break off chunks of yardage, has the ability to make a guy miss, and runs with a low pad level to break tackles. His play reminds me of Montee Ball, but with less wear and tear coming out of college. Johnson shows good vision and patience in allowing his blocks to develop. He would fit a zone scheme where he can use his one-cut ability to hit a crease.
If Johnson lacks anything, it is in pass protection and his pass catching ability. Johnson tends to be a body catcher and does not adjust to balls well in the air.
Athletically and talent-wise, Storm Johnson has the tools be a starting back in the NFL. With a flooded talent pool, Johnson will likely be a mid-round selection. I would not be surprised he if he sneaks into the 3rd round.
James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
Wilder comes from NFL pedigree. His father was a long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout. Wilder is power back, with great size (6-2, 229) His style of play is similar to that of Adrian Peterson. Wilder is a downhill runner who can move a pile, and he has good agility in the hole to make a guy miss. He shows decent speed, but it is not his strong suit. Wilder is a grinder, capable of moving the chains. He has adequate vision, shows light and nimble feet, and is able to accelerate quickly out of cuts.
The more I watch him play, the more I love his skill set and feel he is NFL ready. He has shown good hands in the passing game, though he did not have a lot of catches during his career.
Wilder’s biggest flaw may be impatience in his reads. He also plays reckless and has had ball security issues. Any team drafting him in the mid rounds will get a potential workhorse.
Who is the better draft prospect?
As much as I like Johnson, I really love Wilder. I feel he is undervalued by scouts, and since he was part of a running back by committee for the Seminoles, a bit under the radar. He runs angry, and if his biggest issue is ball protection, then that is something that can be corrected. His combination of speed, power and agility are a bit better that Johnson's, though Johnson does have better vision of blocking schemes. Each has NFL starter potential, but Wilder should have the best chance to follow in his father's footsteps.