The hype that surrounds former UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin has been gaining steam recently, just a few days before the NFL Draft on Thursday, April 25th. According to NFL.com and other sources, Franklin is considered to be ahead of former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the minds of some teams. It’s hard not to get excited about the 5’11”, 198 LB running back’s potential considering some of the work he’s done at the NFL Scouting Combine and UCLA’s pro day. Franklin turned in a 40 yard dash time of 4.49 seconds at the Combine that ranked fourth among running backs. Franklin also tied for first in the 60 yard shuttle with a time of 11.33 seconds. An impressive senior season for Franklin saw him gather over 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, including a career best 6.1 YPC (yards per carry) that led Franklin to UCLA’s all-time leading rusher.
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Franklin may have a relatively lean frame for an NFL running back, but that frame is what gives him some of the most valuable assets in the game, including speed and agility. He has the ability to sneak through holes and make people miss, especially in the open field, which illuminates another one of Franklin’s strengths in his pass-catching. Â He caught 33 balls for 323 yards and a pair of touchdowns – not bad numbers for PPR scoring formats. In summary, Franklin’s biggest strengths are his speed, agility, and pass-catching.
He may have speed, but Franklin doesn’t possess breakaway speed. As mentioned earlier, he has a fairly light frame for an NFL running back so, although he can make some people miss in the open field, he’s easier to bring down between the tackles. His size may also cause problems in pass protection although he did improve in that area later on at UCLA. In summary, Franklin’s biggest weaknesses are his relatively small frame which may make for easy tackling, especially when he’s not in the open field.
Franklin probably won’t have much of an impact on fantasy squads for at least a couple of seasons, but the potential is obvious especially in PPR scoring format leagues. In a perfect world, Franklin could become another CJ Spiller or Jahvid Best (without the concussion problems), although Spiller and Best both have better speed. The comparison is valid, though. They have almost the exact same physique, they’re both versatile, and they’re both PPR studs. It’s something to think about.
Rumors of Chris Ivory to the Jets are gaining momentum, but if that falls through I see the Jets as one of the top candidates for Franklin. His receiving abilities would make him a good fit for the Broncos’ offensive scheme. Another team that makes sense for Franklin is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rashard Mendenhall left for Arizona and Jonathan Dwyer has had his moments, but isn’t a featured back. The Packers are also in need of a running back but probably aren’t spending their 26th overall selection on Franklin. They do, however, have the 55th overall pick, but the Steelers sit seven spots ahead of them at the 48th overall pick. Franklin may not be taken in the first round, but I think he goes sooner than a lot of people are expecting.