Summary: The 2018 NFL Draft is strong at the running back position, and one of the good value picks for Day 2 or the mid-rounds is Iowa's Wadley. Late in the 2016 season, team sources told WalterFootball.com that Wadley was really impressing them. The junior averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2016 for 1,081 yards with 10 touchdowns. He also contributed as a receiver with 36 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Those sources thought Wadley had second-day potential if he had decided to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, but Wadley returned for his senior year.
Wadley averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2017 for 1,109 yards with 10 touchdowns. He also had 28 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns. The senior had a huge performance to almost lead Iowa to an upset of Penn State. Against Ohio State's loaded defense full of NFL talent, Wadley totaled 148 combined yards on 20 carries and three receptions. In his senior season, he was excellent as a receiver, plus he flashed as a kick returner.
Wadley is a natural runner with good instincts, vision, balance, and phenomenal elusiveness. He is superb in the open field at juking defenders, dodging tackles, spinning away and exploding downfield for more yards. With his ability to make defenders miss, Wadley helps his offense line a lot, and they don't have to be perfect because he can eliminate tacklers on his own. Wadley is not a power back, but he can get physical with defensive backs at the second level and finish runs well. In the NFL, Wadley won't be a workhorse to constantly pound the ball between the tackles. He also probably won't be a short-yardage or goal-line back.
As a receiving back for the NFL, Wadley is dangerous. He is a quick receiver who runs good routes and has soft hands. Wadley is a threat to rip up coverage in the underneath part of the field. He is a mismatch weapon against linebackers and safeties. With his versatility, Wadley can run routes from a variety of places.
The one big drawback to Wadley is being undersized for the NFL. At under 190 pounds, he doesn't have the bulk to take on 20-25 carries a game and serve as a bell-cow back. Wadley will need to be paired with another back to split carries, but Wadley will also be a good contributor as a receiver. Given his talent and his size, Wadley looks like a mid-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Duke Johnson. In the NFL, I could see Wadley being a back similar to Johnson. Both are speedy, shifty backs who hurt defenses with their quickness as runners and receivers. Johnson was a third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and Wadley could go in the same range.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland, Detroit, San Francisco and Indianapolis
There are a lot of teams that could consider taking Samuels on the second day or in the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns could move on from Isaiah Crowell and would need another back in their offense. Wadley could make sense for one of their second-day picks.
In the Big Apple, the Giants could use a feature back for their offense, and Wadley would give them a backfield receiving weapon they haven't had. The Jets also will have to replace Matt Forte before long, and Wadley's receiving ability would make him a perfect replacement for Forte. Wadley could be a nice complement to Bilal Powell.
Oakland badly needs more consistency from its rushing offense. Predictably, Marshawn Lynch was a disappointment after coming out of retirement. The Raiders need a true feature back to go with Derek Carr. Wadley's receiving ability would be a great fit for Jon Gruden.
Similarly, the Colts could use a running back of the future to pair with Andrew Luck and bring a more steady rushing attack to their offense.
For years now, the Lions have had one-dimensional offense with one of the worst rushing attacks in the league. Detroit needs a true No. 1 back to bring some balance to its offense. Considering what the Lions have in Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah, Wadley might not be a good fit for that organization.
San Francisco could use a receiving back for Kyle Shanahan's offense. That is the kind of back Shanahan likes and prefers. Wadley would be a nice fit for the 49ers.