Rookie Spotlight: Akrum Wadley, RB University of Iowa
Height: 5’ 11’’ (unofficial)
Weight: 195 lbs (unofficial)
Hands: (to be added)
Arm: (to be added)
Wing: (to be added)
40 yard dash: 4.46 (projected)
NFL Comparison: Bilal Powell
– quick first jump cut
– light on feet
– soft hands
– moves piles with churning legs and low pad level
– quick hip swivel
– nose for the end-zone
– may be too slight for 3-down work
– questionable blocking
Scouting Notes: Wadley is the definition of shifty, with quickly swiveling hips and a jump cut so sudden that it will make you think someone made a bad edit on the film tape. He keeps his feet moving at all times and tends to deflect contact rather than absorb it, which is a good skill for a back of smaller stature to possess. When Wadley does take contact, he rarely goes down on a first hit, as he keeps his pad level low and churns his legs through the pile so that he picks up extra yards most of the time. Wadley’s usefulness as a pass-catcher was on full display his last two years at Iowa, where he caught 36 and 28 balls in each of them. He’s got soft hands and is quick to turn up field and gain yardage – he always looks like he knows where he going with the ball.
At 195 lbs, Wadley is slight compared to a lot of other top-tier backs, and while he makes up for it with his low centered and powerful running style, that approach is less effective in his blocking. He often goes low for the block and throws himself at an opponent, which isn’t a productive way of keeping someone at bay for any length of time. That being said, Wadley was able to stay on the field often in the Big 10, where he hovered around the top 5 of most statistical categories for running backs and had double digit TDs in 2016(10) and 2017(10).
Fantasy Outlook: Right now is the perfect time for Wadley to enter the league, in a new look NFL where shifty, pass catching backs like Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey have paved the way for players of a similar ilk. Wadley is smaller than those guys, but he’s added muscle before, 10 pounds in his last season, and not lost a step. The big question is whether he can stay on the field for whole series. As is, he’s sub 200 pounds and lacks the adequate blocking skills you want out of a workhorse back. Still, Wadley has the evasiveness and pop to make his runs count – creating 45 missed tackles in 2016 alone. Wadley could thrive in a committee as the “lightning” to a complementary “thunder” back, and teams are likely to be impressed by the power he generates on his runs. We’ll get a better look at him at this year’s Senior Bowl.
“Wadley; An All-Time Great”
It was in the middle of the 2014 season when Akrum Wadley made his University of Iowa debut. It was a small sample size, but he showed glimpses of what his future held.
That first look came in his third career game against Northwestern that resulted in a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor. Fast forward to Nov. 24, 2017, and Wadley has cemented himself as an all-time running back at Iowa with one bowl game remaining in his collegiate career.
“Its big time,” Wadley said.
Wadley rushed for 159 yards and three scores as the Hawkeyes pummeled Nebraska on Saturday in their largest win in series history.
“It was fun,” Wadley said. “For the first time in a few weeks our offense was clicking on all cylinders. The line was pushing, the tight ends were blocking, and the wide receivers were going downfield and sacrificing their bodies.”
Wadley wiggled his way into the top-five in career rushing touchdowns (fourth) and total touchdowns (third) and he became the fourth running back in program history to accumulate back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
“That’s big time to me,” Wadley said. “I set my goals at the beginning of the season and one of my goals was to get over 1,000. I didn’t get as much as I wanted to, but to be back-to-back is big time for me.”
Wadley has been Nebraska’s kryptonite the past two seasons. After rushing for 105 yards on 11 carries last year at Kinnick Stadium in a 40-10 Iowa victory, Wadley became the third opposing player in the last 20 seasons to post 150 or more rushing yards and three scores inside Memorial Stadium.
Iowa has won three straight against Nebraska and now lead the Heroes Trophy series 4-3.
“We knew we were going to face some adversity and we knew we had to keep swinging and that’s what we did,” Wadley said.
Throughout his career, Wadley was honored by the Big Ten on six different occasions, including being tabbed as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after a four touchdown performance against Northwestern in 2015.
It was a game that shifted the course of Wadley’s career.
“That Northwestern game was a turning point in his career and he has played well ever since,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “We weren’t sure how it was going to turn out, but Akrum has ability.”
It was not easy process for Wadley, and with all things Iowa football, it was a process.
“The one thing about him is that he is a guy with good attitude who likes football,” Ferentz said. “It was a matter of him working on things day-by-day and week-by-week. He has been a big part of the success we’ve had the past couple years.”