Junior - Running Back - 5’10”, 210 lbs. - Chula Vista, California
In 2017 as a true freshman, CJ Verdell redshirted as Royce Freeman led the backfield for Oregon. Fast-forward to 2018 and Verdell led the Ducks in rushing with 202 carries for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 315 receiving yards made him the only Power 5 player in the nation with 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving.
2019 might have been his most rewarding season, finishing as a Rose Bowl champion and Pac-12 Championship game MVP. Verdell’s 1,220 yards made him the third Duck in program history to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman and a sophomore. Entering year three he will once again be relied upon for the 200 carries he averages per year. An inexperienced quarterback will need a supportive run game and Verdell will likely be the focal point of Oregon’s offense.
NFL Player Comparison : Maurice Jones-Drew
Landing Spot: Oakland Raiders - 3rd Round
Verdell will likely enter the 2021 NFL Draft as a top-5 prospect at the halfback position. The comparison to arguably the best running back, or perhaps player, to ever put on a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform might be a bit drastic, but Verdell has rushed for nearly identical yards per attempt in his sophomore season. Averaging 6.2 YPA mirroring MJD’s 6.3 YPA in each of their second years, respectively.
He might lack some of MJD’s premiere talent and top-end speed, as it’s unlikely Verdell would run a faster time than MJD’s combine 40 time of 4.39, but both backs possess a quick burst through the line of scrimmage and good side-to-side mobility. Verdell lacks break-away speed at the second level, however, he maintains a low pad level and is able to break tackles for additional yardage at the point of contact.
Your average mock draft has Verdell falling between the 3rd and 4th round. As the running back position continues to saturate in the NFL, teams like the Oakland Raiders will need other ball-carriers to take meaningful snaps behind their bell-cow. With Oakland trending as a potential playoff team in 2020, Verdell early in the third round makes sense for both sides. Coming into the league there is going to be an adjustment period for the back and carrying the ball behind a young established ball-carrier like Josh Jacobs will help Verdell’s development.