We take a break from the UCLA-recruiting-heavy coverage to look at another entity in which young players with promise are picked to excel at the next level. In this case, we look at the UCLA football team and check out some of the UCLA football players with 2013 NFL draft aspirations, and more importantly, seniors who are likely to get drafted. (This is something that’s much-needed, because UCLA didn’t produce any NFL draftees in 2012).
The first 2013 NFL draft profile? UCLA senior running back Johnathan Franklin.
First a look at his stats:
Those are some solid stats considering the UCLA offense has been pretty damn mediocre lately (read: since forever). The drop in production in Franklin’s junior year are likely a result of the crap-ass pistol offense that ex-head honcho Rick Neuheisel implemented last season. Although it meant a more run-heavy offense, it made the offense slow and way too predictable. Also consider that Derrick Coleman broke out in his final year at UCLA and doubled his carries (as well as his number of rushing touchdowns).
So a number of factors contribute to his decline in production (mainly, less chances to produce) but his yards-per-carry is up significantly, which is pretty damn impressive, all things considered.
Last year, though, he wasn’t perfect. In fact, he seemed pretty damn raw. He didn’t exactly display full development in his vision and, as our boy at NFL Mocks noted, he doesn’t run between the tackles like an elite RB should. He also isn’t utilized as he can be in the flat in the passing game, but it’s not as if UCLA has had competent QBs to get Franklin the ball without just handing it off to him.
That said, 2012 spring practice told a totally different story.
Because it was clear that Franklin is one of the best players on this UCLA football team, which is as damn close to unpredictable as you can get (they are literally either a 9-win team or a 4-win team). Franklin ran between tackles like he couldn’t during the UCLA Spring Game and during spring practice. He managed to use his shiftiness a hell of a lot better than he had in previous years and he broke off big runs with ease. The dude was the explosive running back that you’d expect him to be at this stage in his collegiate career, and this is a result of maximizing his potential by utilizing an eclectic offense that Noel Mazzone likes to implement.
As we’ve stated before, this dude can — and, to our eyes, will — be the Pac-12′s leading rusher. The offense is going to be spread out like hell, giving Franklin more breathing room to utilize his shiftiness and west-to-east moves, while the offensive line should be much improved, compared to last year’s shitty debacle (I’m redundant, like UCLA’s offense).
Franklin, in our eyes, is one of the top running backs in the nation, and one that constantly flies under the radar because UCLA football has been awful. If he improves, as we expect him to, he’s going to be a second round pick at the lowest, and a late first round pick at the highest.