The NFL Draft officially starts Thursday but former UConn running back Jordan Todman probably won't hear his name called until sometime Friday night. That's because a few years ago the league, in an effort to squeeze every ounce of revenue out of the offseason's biggest spectacle, moved the draft from its historical weekend slot to Thursday-Saturday, with the first three rounds airing in primetime Thursday and Friday night.
Whatever the day, Todman will be drafted. The only questions are where and by which team. Todman left UConn after a junior season that included 1,695 rushing yards, 14 TDs, and Big East Player of the Year honors. At 5-9, 203 pounds, he isn't a prototypical between-the-tackles NFL running back. But then again, in recent seasons the NFL running back has morphed from Jerome Bettis-type bruisers to scatback do-a-bit-of-everything players like Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles.
And NFL teams, more and more, are going to running back by committees. It lessens the wear and tear on players and it makes the offense more versatile. And Todman, if anything, is that. But because this is football, where first impressions often linger, even if unfairly, Todman knows that he has much to prove to those who are unimpressed with his size.
"It's just another doubt, 'too small, not fast enough, you're not strong enough to run between the tackles'," Todman said, according to the Hartford Courant. "You're a competitor. You want to prove them wrong. I feel like nowadays in the NFL you see guys that are 5-8, 5-10, 205, 200 pounds, 195 and being successful. They're out there proving guys wrong who said they wouldn't be successful at the next level never mind college."
That's exactly how Todman should be thinking about it. The NFL is littered with running backs who are similar in stature and weight and have been very successful. According to Football Outsiders, included among the running backs with the highest total value in 2010 were Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy, Felix Jones, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Rice.
The takeaway: in today's NFL, big doesn't necessarily mean better.
Then there's this, from ESPN.com: looking at speed score, a metric that accounts for speed and weight, offers insight into how well a college running back can be expected to perform in the NFL. Topping this year's list is Auburn RB Mario Fannin (he's 231 pounds and ran a 4.38 40). This doesn't mean he should be the first back drafted, just that he may be more valuable than teams originally thought. No. 6 on the speed score list? Todman, ahead of Mark Ingram and Mikel Leshoure, the top two RBs in the draft.
"It's something...you grow up, you hear it and you know the doubts are out there," Todman said. "But you continue to work hard in the weight room for yourself but to prove them wrong where it's like. 'well wait a minute, he's not too small. Maybe he's better than we thought'."
And Todman begins that journey in a few days.