As a true freshman, Joseph Randle had at least one carry in each of Oklahoma State's 13 games (82 total for 452 yards and two touchdowns), adding 37 grabs for 427 yards in the passing game. In his sophomore campaign, he ran for 1,216 rushing yards and a ridiculous 24 touchdowns, earning second-team All-Big 12 laurels - all the while playing in the shadow of 2012 first-rounders Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.
Randle stepped out of their considerable shadows in 2012, leading the Big 12 conference in rushing with 1,417 yards on 274 carries (5.2) and 14 touchdowns, enough to earn him unanimous All-Big 12 First Team honors. And, like the other backs in whom the Cowboys have expressed interest, he demonstrated good receiving skills, with 28 catches for 224 yards. He leaves Stillwater with 3,085 career rushing yards.
Randle boasts a nice combination of power and wiggle. Randle has an upright running style, but he accelerates quickly, bursting through the hole and stay upright through contact; in 2012, after working to put a few more pounds on his frame, he added power to his game, lowering his pads more effectively, and getting more yardage after contact. Want a side-by-side comparison? Look at him in 2011, against Oklahoma and Baylor, and contrast that with 2012 footage, from contests against Arizona, Iowa State and Texas.
What about our scouts, you say? Funny you should ask; I've got them on the line, so to speak...
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 14th-rated RB; not in top 100
Competitiveness: A competitive and runner. Displays good determination in the red zone to hit pay dirt. Falls forward at the end of runs more often than not. Appears to take pride in pass pro. Protects feet well. Career fumble rate is adequate (1.01%) but he improved ball security in 2012 (.66%). Still can keep ball tighter to body especially when making cuts in the open field.
Vision/ Patience: A decisive but patient runner. Flashes a skip step in backfield to allow blockers a split second extra to get into position. Utilizes blocks well and does a nice job of resetting it vertically. Shows discipline to stay the course and take the positive yards as an inside runner. Has a good feel for over pursuing defenses to make the vertical cut as an outside runner. Decisive as a second level runner.
Agility/ Acceleration: Quick feet and flashes above-average lateral agility. Can consistently make penetrating defender miss in the backfield. Lateral quickness to make a defender miss in a confined area as an inside runner. Just average acceleration out of cuts though. Doesn't show great stop/start ability. Displays a solid short-area burst but does not have a 4th gear to out run pursuit and break off a big play.
Power/ Balance: Shows some savvy as a short-yardage runner. However, possesses a slim and linear lower half and runs with a narrow base. Limited power in lower body. Will lower pads upon contact but doesn't run with consistent pad level. Balance is average.
Passing Game: Area of strength and his best asset projecting to the next level. Shows awareness and a natural feel as a route runner. Sets up defenders with head-and-shoulders and has the burst to create separation out of cuts. Displays soft hands and can adjust. Scans the field well in protection and locates blitzers from the back seven. Lacks an elite anchor. However, squares up defenders and displays good pad level.
Intangibles: Comes from a healthy family background. A hard worker that has been accountable. Respectful to everyone involved in the Oklahoma State athletic department. Economics major.
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang): 4th-rated RB; 84th overall
Strengths: Very good speed and acceleration, not easy to catch from behind. Lowers his pads and tries to run over defenders, generating power from his fast momentum and running with purpose. Very good balance to bounce off defenders and pick up a lot of yards after contact, finishing each carry. Strong plant foot and lateral burst to accelerate quickly with springs in his legs. Looks to lower his pads and deliver hits with deceiving power and pop at the point of attack.
Leaner frame but cut with good muscle definition and has really dedicated himself in the weight room. Intense competitor and hard worker on and off the field. Finds the crease and gets north/south in a hurry. Very tough in pass protection to pick up the blitz and give up his body. Vocal leader and confident. Reliable receiver with 108 career receptions. Amassed 3,085 rushing yards the past three seasons with 43 total touchdowns.
Weaknesses: Leaner than ideal frame. Runs too upright at times and needs to show consistent pad level. Vision has improved but still has room to improve in this area, missing the run lanes at times. Run instincts are good, but still developing. Needs to improve his ball security to cut down the fumbles and keep his emotions in check.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 9th-rated RB; 133rd overall
Positives: Very good vision - anticipates the cutback and can sidestep tacklers in the open field (see Texas vs. Kenny Vaccaro). Good foot quickness. Fine overall muscularity - well-conditioned. Very good outlet receiver with soft hands. Alert in pass protection. Has a nose for the goal line.
Negatives: Has small hands and limited bulk strength. Is tight in the hips with a narrow lower body. Could stand to run with better pad level and body lean - too upright. Average acceleration - lacks top gear to pull away from the pack. Average creativity. Shut down vs. Kansas State.
Summary: Energetic, one-cut, north-south, downhill zone runner with a well-balanced skill set to contribute in multiple areas and contend for a top job.
National Football Post (Russ Lande): 4th-rated RB; 73rd overall
Strengths: His combination of size and speed are rare. He has an explosive step to allow him to burst through holes and get to the second level in a hurry to pick up big chunks of yards. He has the strength to break through arm tackles and then once in the open field he can run away from defenders. He shows a short lateral step to avoid tackles and immediately get up field. As a receiver he can be as equally dangerous and is a mismatch to all linebackers in the passing game.
Weaknesses: Even with his great strength he does tend to run very upright and is late when needing to lower his pad level especially in goal line and short yardage situations. This also allows defenders to gain the leverage needed to stop his momentum and drive him back. He will need to improve as a blocker to stay on balance which would make him more effective. Another area that he will need to clean up is hole recognition on cut backs, which needs to be quicker at the next level.
Summary: The Cowboys are much more known for their passing game, but in the last few years they have been equally good in the run game starting with Kendall Hunter and now Joseph Randle. Randle Burst onto the college football scene as a true freshman and immediately became a star. He has continued his great play the last two seasons as the featured back on some of the most potent offenses in college football. He is an explosive athlete that is dangerous anywhere on the field but is most effective in the open field where he can use his speed to run away from defenders. But he has also shown the ability and the willingness to play the tough game and grind out yards like the Kansas St game in 2012. Many backs with his skill set tend to shy away from contact where he will take it head on. He will need to drastically improve his pad level if he wants to be more effective scoring touchdowns or grinding out the hard runs in the NFL. The other are that needs work on is being quicker seeing holes open up so he can exploit them before the close up on him which will be much faster in the NFL. Overall Joseph Randle is ideally a second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but I would not be surprised if some team used a late first round pick on him. He can become the lead dog in any running back rotation and will make an immediate impact as a rookie.
Our panel rates Randle between the 73rd and the 133rd picks - and perhaps even later. That's a wide range; if they are to be believed, he could go anywhere from the early third to the sixth rounds. With so many other and, to my mind, more attractive options in the third round (Le'Veon Bell, Stepfan Taylor), I have a hard time imagining Randle will go there, so I'm going to slot him in the fourth round on my "little board."
As I noted in my assessment of Bell, the Cowboys are looking at one-cut, downhill runners. Randle fits the bill, and would be a nice third-day option to share carries with DeMarco Murray. That said, he is probably my least favorite of the running backs the Cowboys invited to Valley Ranch. I think its a foregone conclusion that Dallas will draft a running back this weekend. If it proves to be Randle, my fervent hope is that this is because they have found good value and/ or good players at positions of need and have thus waited to select their back.
If Randle is wearing the star in 2013, I'll be much happier if its because guys like Sheldon Richardson, Jon Cooper, Eric Reid, Sio Moore, or DeAndre Hopkins will be joining him at rookie minicamp.
Next up: Arkansas RB Knile Davis