With so much focus on finding a stable of running backs that can add up to the contributions of an all-around franchise back, Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle is an intriguing option. Randle has the potential to be a feature back in the future if he can continue adding strength to his frame, but he can be an effective contributor as a change of pace back and receiver out of the backfield. Randle was extremely productive in his two years for the Cowboys and opted to declare for the NFL Draft as an underclassman.
The issues that could hurt Randle going forward include ball security issues which he improved as a junior but needs to continue focusing on as he goes to the NFL as well as his blocking, but he offers teams a good amount of potential. Randle likes to use power and drop his shoulder into opposing defenders and with more weight; his body will be more suited to his running style.
Randle is in a competitive class for running backs as well as the depth overall and while he definitely possesses a skill set NFL teams can use, they will likely be able to get it at a great value for them on the third day of the draft, likely in the fourth or fifth round.
Joseph Randle: The Vitals
School: Oklahoma State
As a true freshman, Randle came onto the scene as a guy who did anything to contribute for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He ran for 453 yards, had 427 yards receiving, and had another 282 yards on kick returns with 3 total touchdowns playing behind Kendall Hunter. When Hunter moved onto the NFL, Randle took over the starting job as a sophomore and had a great year. The combination of Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, and Randle put up a ton of points for the Cowboys. Randle contributed 1,216 yards rushing, 266 yards receiving, and an incredible 26 touchdowns.
After Blackmon and Weeden left for the NFL, both being selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Randle became the featured weapon in the Oklahoma State attack. He answered the bell with 1,417 rushing yards, 224 receiving yards, and another 14 touchdowns before opting to declare for the NFL Draft.
Randle brings an element of speed and explosiveness, but runs stronger than his size might suggest. He works to find a lane and when he does, whether inside or outside, he usually goes downhill as fast as he can and will try to overpower opponents. There are times when defensive backs are surprised and get run over as a result. Randle also has some agility and can flash some impressive jump cuts, but most of his moves are more subtle, slight changes of direction so he does not need to slow down during his carries. Randle runs with good body lean and ends up falling forward when he can get a running start. He is not afraid to run between the tackles or get tough yards when the situation calls for it, especially in short yardage situations and near the goal line. While Randle’s speed is not elite, it is definitely above average and he is able to run at full speed with bodies around him.
Although the routes the Oklahoma State offense had Randle run were unconventional, Randle demonstrates good, reliable hands as well as natural body control that allows him to be in position to make catches look easy. He is also a threat after the catch and has potential to be a bigger receiving threat at the next level.
Randle’s body type is currently one of a third down back, but he has the frame to add significant strength and possibly become a more complete player and featured back in the NFL. Randle is decently strong when he is able to get momentum, but when he teams are able to get him to go horizontally or before he is able to get going, he goes down too easily. Another 10-15lbs of good weight would also complement his running style. Occasionally, Randle’s patience becomes hesitation and he can appear to be dancing at times. This is not a glaring issue, but he leaves a few yards on the field when he is not decisive.
There is also an issue of ball security; Randle started out his career being reliable with the ball in his hands before running into an ugly stretch as a sophomore. He bounced back only losing one fumble his junior year but coaches do not like guys who fumble the football, so this is an area he will need to continue to focus on as the process moves forward.
When it comes to blocking, Randle is most comfortable when he can cut block his opponents, but he is a fish out of water when a clear target does not present himself. He has trouble holding his water when the play goes longer than average and somewhat panics choosing a target to block, sometimes throwing himself at someone is already engaged. He also needs to do a better job gaining some more ground between him and the quarterback before he throws blocks to avoid getting shoved into the quarterback and going to attack the block as opposed to standing in place and waiting for the block to come to him. He also needs to avoid only being able to cut block or he will be too predictable and easily avoided by any pass decent pass rusher in the NFL.
Another small adjustment Randle will need to make is going from a pure shotgun system to an offense working from under center. Going to Ace style formations should not be an issue but while Randle has experience running behind a lead blocker, it was not in an I-formation type look.
Potential Landing Spots
The Tampa Bay Buccanneers are a team that really values the running back position and likes to have versatile contributors. Doug Martin had a tremendous rookie year and will look to continue building upon it but adding another guy that can help them as a runner and receiver out of the backfield is never a bad thing.
Green Bay has not really put a lot of importance on finding a true runner and while they did show interest in Stephan Jackson before he ultimately signed with the Atlanta Falcons. When the Packers do take running backs, they do value someone who can catch the ball out of the backfield and Randle would fit well within the Packer offensive scheme.
The Washington Redskins are going to take a running back at some point in the draft as Mike Shanahan always seems to go that route and assemble a nice stable of backs. The Redskins appear to have struck gold with Alfred Morris but could use a complement that gives Robert Griffin III a receiving option out of the backfield. If they continue to run the read option looks they showed last year, Randle could be a nice fit there.
While the Cincinnati Bengals are likely to attack this area of need earlier in the draft, if they hit other areas, they could come back and take Randle to complement BenJarvus Green-Ellis,
who is virtually non-existent in the passing game. Randle could give them a receiver out of the backfield as well as someone who can be an effective change up to what Green-Ellis brings. It is also not out of the question the Bengals could add multiple running backs in this draft to make a real investment in running the football.
Fourth-Fifth Round: It is possible that a team will grab Randle as early as the third round, but he is more likely to be picked on the early part of the third day of the draft, likely in the fourth or fifth round.
Randle’s game is similar to that of Mike Goodson from when he came out of Texas A&M. Then, of the Big XII, Goodson was a big framed running back like Randle with speed to kill opponents. Carolina brought in Goodson to be a home run threat and a development project in a very crowded backfield. Randle could be brought into a similar situation but while he could end up as the third back, he is more likely to end up as a second and a change of pace option that can make catches out of the backfield