If you happened to read my last article, I provided my first stab as an (amateur) analyst at a 2014 NFL Mock Draft for the Miami Dolphins. In the article (which can be found here), I featured Florida State’s RB James Wilder Jr. as Miami’s 4th round selection. I believe if he is selected, he will bring some identity to the running back position and will eventually serve as Miami’s franchise back, someone who can carry the ball upwards of 20 times a game with success. Wilder Jr. is the type of back Miami has lacked since the days of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Let me first comment on Wilder Jr.’s size and athleticism. The guy is a complete monster. He is 6 foot 2, 229 pounds and looks even bigger than that on the field. On top of that, Wilder Jr. runs a 4.57 forty yard dash, which is actually quite good for a running back of his stature. I think he will improve that time at this year’s combine. He is rangy and looks like a freight train when he reaches full speed. He is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.
Wilder Jr. opted out of staying at Florida State for his senior year and will enter the 2014 draft as a junior. As a true freshman with the Seminoles, he played in 12 games and ran for 160 yards on 35 carries (avg of 4.6 yards/carry), while succeeding mostly on Special Teams. Before a shoulder injury sidelined him briefly in 2012 during his sophomore season, Wilder Jr. ran for 635 yards on 110 carries and had 11 TD’s. Last season he split carries with Devonte Freeman and Karlos Williams, yet still totaled 563 yards on 81 carries and 8 TD’s. Despite injuries and splitting time, Wilder Jr. produced impressive numbers on a National Championship college team. His ability to catch the ball (he had 19 receptions for 136 yards and two scores in 2012) and his ability to both run defenders over and make them miss in the open field is enticing. I think with some help, Wilder Jr. will become the full package and a weapon in the NFL.
So, why should the Miami Dolphins pursue Wilder Jr. and not one of the more coveted RB’s in the 2014 Draft?
I believe this question has more than one answer. First, Wilder Jr. should still be available in the middle to later rounds. He is currently the 12th ranked RB on the big boards, and most mock drafts have him going somewhere around 154 overall (4th-5th round). This means that Miami would not have to use one of their top picks to get an athletic and powerful running back, with arguably more potential than any other RB in the draft. I understand that Wilder Jr. does not have the same numbers as the other backs in the draft, and that is undoubtedly due to FSU’s depth at the position and his injuries during his career.
However, and this is the second part of the answer to the above question, Wilder Jr. makes up for what he lacks in numbers with his athleticism and potential. His freakishly athletic body and speed give him the tools necessary to survive. All he needs is the right fit, and what better fit is there than the Miami Dolphins, a team without a true leader at the RB position. Wilder Jr. could earn snaps as a rookie and after a year or two of growth would be ready to assume the role as Miami’s number one running back.
My hope is that the Miami Dolphins will use their higher picks to fill the glaring holes in their program. They need to fill the enormous hole that either Randy Starks or Paul Soliai will leave at DT (assuming Miami doesn’t fork out the money to keep both) and the O-Line should be priority number one for GM Dennis Hickey in this draft. But while the Dolphins are fixing their top needs, I hope they’ll keep an eye on Wilder Jr. in this draft. The ‘Fins may find that in round 4 or 5 Wilder Jr. is still available. My hope is that the Dolphins will take a chance on this powerful player, and that with time enjoy the success that he brings to this team.
I believe he is worth the shot.