Summary: Nebraska has had a lot of great running backs come through the program, but none of them have produced as much for the Cornhuskers as Abdullah. Over the past three seasons, Abdullah was a force in the Big Ten and carried his team.
Abdullah averaged five yards per carry in 2012 for 1,137 yards with eight touchdowns. He caught 24 passes for 178 yards with two scores as well. Abdullah topped 100 yards in 11-of-13 games in 2013. The junior totaled 1,690 yards with an average of six yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
Abdullah stayed consistent in 2014 although he was slowed down late in the year by some nagging injuries. The senior averaged 6.1 yards per carry for 1,611 yards with 19 touchdowns. He had 22 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns, too. At the Senior Bowl, Abdullah had a quality week of practice before playing very well in the game and winning MVP honors.
Abdullah is undersized, but he is quick back who slashes through defenses. Even though Abdullah isn't all that large, he is tough and has shown the ability to handle a big work load. Abdullah has good vision, balance and acceleration to dart into the second level. He is elusive in the open field and can pick up some yards after contact.
Abdullah is also a good receiver and should be a nice third-down back in his NFL career. He may not have the size to total 300 carries for years on end, and he may not be as durable as a pro compared to how he was in college.
For the NFL, Abdullah has three-down starting ability in a passing-based offense that spreads out a defense. He isn't a back to pound up the middle against eight-man fronts. That would be a bad fit for him and make him less effective. Thus, Abdullah would be better off going to a team that has a franchise quarterback who causes defenses to keep their safeties deep. Abdullah will perform at his best when he has space to work with.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, Abdullah looks like he could go in the second or third round.
Player Comparison: LeSean McCoy. In terms of playing style, Abdullah is similar to McCoy in that they are both quick backs who can make plays in the passing game with their receiving ability. However, I don't think Abdullah will be as good as McCoy has been for Philadelphia. McCoy was a second-round pick, while Abdullah could go as high as the second round. Abdullah could be a poor man's version of McCoy in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Oakland, Atlanta, New Orleans San Diego, Miami, Indianapolis, Houston, Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit
There are a number of teams that could consider a running back on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft. Abdullah has three potential landing spots in the NFC North. The Packers drafted Johnathan Franklin to pair with Eddie Lacy, but Franklin's career ended early because of injury. Sources say that Green Bay really likes Abdullah, so he could interest the Packers on Day 2.
Minnesota will have to prepare for life without Adrian Peterson and could use a lead back to work with Teddy Bridgewater. The Lions need a back to replace the aging Reggie Bush, and Abdullah would be a good outlet receiver for Matthew Stafford. Abdullah fits in the mold of some other backs who Martin Mayhew has drafted.
In the AFC West, Abdullah could be the feature back for the Chargers. They need a more reliable and steady presence in the backfield. Oakland also will look to replace Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.
In the NFC South, the Saints may need a back if Mark Ingram isn't re-signed. Atlanta could consider a running back to pair with Devonta Freeman. Steven Jackson is nearing the end of his great career.
The Colts need to move on from Trent Richardson and admit that he's a sunk cost. Ahmad Bradshaw played well for Indianapolis, but he's aging. Indianapolis could use a feature back for Andrew Luck. Houston also needs a back to pair with Arian Foster and Alfred Blue. The Texans could use a runner who is capable of being a lead back with Foster's durability issues.
The Dolphins need a running back to pair with Lamar Miller. They don't have much behind him, and Abdullah would be a good fit in Joe Philbin's offense.