Fourth Round, 125th Pick
In his senior season, UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin proved that you don't have to be big to put up big numbers out of the backfield. In a running back class without a marquee lock for the first round, Franklin could be one of the first three runners taken off the board.
What does Franklin have that will help him earn the "benjamins" on Sundays?
Franklin has the long speed to take the ball to the house. He also has the vision and elusiveness to get to the third level and bring that speed into play. Decisive cuts that cause Franklin to lose very little momentum/speed are a staple of his game, and that decisiveness also helps him break a lot of tackles for a smaller back.
Franklin is surprisingly powerful for a smaller back, with legs that never stop churning and a low pad level. He usually either makes the first tackler miss or breaks the attempt to bring him down. A terrific receiver out of the backfield, Franklin is light on his feet and dangerous in the open field.
Franklin is just not big enough to push the pile or bowl tacklers over. He is a weak pass-blocker and will get exploited if he is used in that role in the pros. This might limit him to be a committee back at the next level. He had fumbling problems in the past but seemed to get that under control in 2012.
With a compact 5'10", 205-pound build and good balance, Franklin gets a lot of yards after contact. His 4.49 40-yard speed is not world class, but it is good enough to hit "home runs." None of his leaps or agility numbers from the combine were tops among his peers, but Franklin's film tells a different story when it comes to quick, sharp movement that creates more production at the end of his runs.
You won't find anything in Franklin's bio to knock here. He is considered a high-character player with great citizenship for his team and community. He has done a lot of work in Los Angeles with nonprofits and seems to understand the power he has to do good as a prominent football player. Franklin is also durable and a hard worker. The team that takes him can feel good about the human being it added when Franklin is selected.
Franklin ran mostly out of the shotgun without a lead-blocking fullback. He is accustomed to generating a good burst from a standstill and getting downhill quickly after he initially stretches a defense laterally to find a hole.
Franklin sees holes and lanes developing and cuts upfield with urgency to hit them at speed. He is patient behind the line of scrimmage but decisive once he sees an opening. Franklin is not a dancer, whether it is initially after the handoff or in the open field. He is efficient and effective and should not be pigeonholed as a scatback or small back.
One half of this picture is good. Franklin has sure hands out of the backfield and excellent ball skills. On the other side, his blocking can be ugly. He has trouble finding a target and doesn't always take his opponent head on when he does locate them. Franklin isn't nearly active enough as a pass-blocker, and he often fails to initiate contact. His body type is also not cut out to take on a linebacker blitzing in the A gap.
Between the Tackles
Even though he lacks ideal size, Franklin is not afraid to slam the ball into a tight hole between the tackles. He is not usually prone to unnecessarily breaking runs outside, and he is disciplined about following his blocks. While it wouldn't be his best fit, Franklin could hang in a power-running scheme.
Franklin doesn't possess true phone-booth quicks, but he runs with a great sense of urgency and clarity and can make tacklers miss. Attempts to tackle him low are often eluded, and Franklin is excellent at processing and setting up tacklers at the second level when he is hitting the hole at the line of scrimmage. Franklin won't draw oohs and aahs with his elusiveness, but his combination of bounce in his legs and conviction in his running will still do the job.
There's only so much power a 205-pound back can generate, but Franklin still breaks more tackles than you would expect to see on film. He gets low, and his legs never go dead on contact. Just the opposite—Franklin's legs fire like pistons with the stubborn nature of a much bigger back. He will break arm tackles and sometimes even needs to be gang-tackled at the end of a run.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Franklin will probably be replaced in short yardage and some passing situations, especially early in his career. He projects as a strong 1A back on a zone-blocking running team, and he might be productive enough to become a primary back who gets 250-300 touches a season.