40 Time: 4.49
Hand: 9 3/8″
Projected Draft Position: 2nd – Early 3rd
After redshirting his freshman season at UCLA, Johnathan Franklin played in 13 games in 2009 and started eight of them.
Franklin came along well in his sophomore season, rushing for 1,127 yards and eight touchdowns.
He would then go on to rush for 976 yards as a junior, and breakout as a senior last season with 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Due to his hard work and development over his five years at UCLA, Franklin has positioned himself as one of the top running back prospects in this year’s class.
Franklin operates with active feet at the line — getting to the hole quickly, yet demonstrating good patience when picking his spots. Although he’s a very good vertical runner, Franklin likes to bounce most runs and then get up field. He’s clearly most comfortable working outside the hashes.
Fortunately, Franklin’s “bounce” isn’t the type of horizontal style that decreases a back’s chances of gaining yards. Franklin is a smooth runner that can turn the corner seamlessly, and he has a great burst that helps to make guys miss at any level of the defense.
Once in space, Franklin is hard to catch. He doesn’t necessarily have elite speed, but there’s plenty to work with. Not to mention, he’s a shifty athlete with good hips, giving him an advantage in one-on-one situations.
While running between the tackles may not be his bread and butter, Franklin can still be effective by way of hard running and a combination of vision and good discipline at the line. It’s not that he can’t run up the gut, but that his frame doesn’t work to his advantage and he’s not one to break tackles amongst much larger defenders.
That said, Franklin is a homerun threat. If he can get to space and through the first level, he’s a nightmare from there on out. He has the acceleration to break away and the elusiveness to stay upright in order to rip off big gains.
And because of his ability in the open-field, Franklin’s development as a pass-catcher will be critical at the next level.
Since correcting some ball security issues over the past two seasons and seeing an increase in receptions over the course of his time at UCLA, Franklin projects as a decent receiver out of the backfield. With solid coaching and more looks, Franklin has the potential to become a legitimate threat.
Without a doubt, the biggest knock on Franklin is his size, or lack thereof.
Although he’s surprisingly thick in his lower body, Franklin weighed in at just 196 pounds at his Pro Day last month. He also doesn’t have the upper body strength that most teams covet, which again raises questions as to whether Franklin can be an every-down back, or just a third-down guy. And, like most running back prospects, Franklin needs to improve in pass protection.
Because of his toughness, vision, motor and ability to break a play wide-open, Franklin has all the tools to be a lead back. He may not have the physical attirbutes to make him a workhorse like Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster, but there’s no reason to doubt he can handle 240 carries in a season and fit very well in the right offense.
If he can add some upper body strength and prove himself as a pass-catcher, Franklin could flourish in a read-option offense. He enjoys working with space, he gets north-and-south in a flash and sneaking out of the backfield to bring in catches and work with the field in front of him can really pay off.
Look for Franklin to go somewhere in the second round to a team that believes he can be the second piece of an efficient backfield tandem.