2015 Senior Bowl Grades: Running Backs

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Jan 24, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad running back David Johnson of Northern Iowa (7) runs in tot the end zone to score a touchdown against the North squad in the first quarter of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

David Johnson (Northern Iowa) 

Senior Bowl Stats: 10 rush attempts (49 rushing yards, one touchdown), one catch (19 receiving yards) 

Playing at small school Northern Iowa, David Johnson’s three straight 1,000 yard seasons and strong season for UNI helped earn him a Senior Bowl invite. Johnson was one of the best running backs at the FCS level this past season, taking a route that now Cleveland Browns running back Terrance West took last season in dominating in the second division of college football on the road to earning the attention of scouts during the predraft process.

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Upsetting eventual FCS Champions in North Dakota State during the regular season, Johnson’s speed and running ability mixed with catching skills that have drawn comparisons to Charles Sims. Those receiving abilities were on display when his UNI team nearly upset Iowa during his senior season where the running back put up 200 receiving yards in the 31-23 loss.

At the Senior Bowl, Johnson was only able to showcase his receiving skills once on his lone reception that was broken off for a 19 yard game, but for a player who was there to prove himself against NCAA talent much like Team North star performer Tyler Varga the UNI star accomplished his goal. With unsure expectations, a near fifty yard game on ten attempts and one touchdown with a long carry of 19 yards will satisfy the scouts who are intrigued with the talents of an overlooked prospect who after getting missed in recruiting made the most of his situation at the FCS level.

Like Varga the Scouting Combine will be crucial for Johnson as putting up good numbers before the draft to show NFL athleticism is the next step after a strong year in the FCS and an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in order to guarantee a draft selection in Chicago. Able to catch and run while looking like one of the best athletes in the FCS this past season, Johnson should be able to do well enough in the rest of the draft process to make his week at the Senior Bowl a springboard to entering the league as a 2015 Draft selection.

Like all of these running backs, Johnson will be hoping to be a model for the Senior Bowl experience, an opportunity for graduating players to showcase their talents before scouts begin to judge their tape and performance during Scouting Combine physical tests in order to increase their draft stock. Some performing better than others, all of the running backs this past weekend showed that the 2015 running back class is loaded for general managers looking for value in the later rounds. If scouts can pick the right prospect, there will be more than enough steals to bolster running back depth charts in Chicago.