On January 1, Josh Adams will look to power Notre Dame’s lethal rushing attack against the LSU Tigers in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. LSU has won six of their last seven games and boast the 26th-most-efficient run defense according to S&P+.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is hoping the 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back will return for his senior season, but if he does declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, does he have what it takes to be in serious consideration for the early rounds?
THE EARLY YEARS
In 29 career games at Central Bucks South High School in Warrington, PA, Adams was a wildly productive RB, totaling 4,445 yards rushing and 71 total TDs. On the varsity team as a sophomore, Adams rushed for 2,089 yards and 28 TDs, both career highs. Questions about competition level are always worth considering with high school statistics, but it’s worth noting that Adams emerged at such a young age, with such a high level of production.
Adams was a well-regarded recruit, earning four-star status from 247 Sports as the 26th-ranked RB in the Class of 2015. Earning a relatively small number of scholarship offers, he enrolled at Notre Dame in June of 2015. As a freshman, Adams battled both C.J. Prosise and DeShone Kizer for carries, finishing second on the team in yards rushing (838) and third in TDs (6).
Referencing non-QB Dominator Rating (nQBDR) — a metric devised by Matthew Freedman which excludes all QB rushing production before finding a RB’s market share — Adams finished his first season with a 0.37. Not bad for a true freshman.
2016 AND BEYOND
With Prosise leaving early for the NFL, Adams assumed the lead back role in 2016, leading the team in rushing yards with 933 while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. His TD total decreased slightly, but he did improve as a pass catcher with 21 receptions. Adams finished the season strong against Virginia Tech and USC with 100 and 180 yards rushing respectively.
Adams carried this momentum into 2017 with five games of at least 150 yards rushing in the first eight outings of the season. Despite struggling in three of his final four games, Adams still finished the regular season with 1,386 yards rushing, the third-highest single season total in Notre Dame history. While Adams improved his raw statistical production in each season, his nQBDR across his career still leaves much to be desired.
Just because Adams doesn’t have elite production metrics doesn’t mean he can’t succeed in the NFL. But the fact that never handled more than 56 percent of his team’s non-QB rushing production in any season should be taken into consideration during the evaluation process.
In a talented and crowded 2018 RB class, and with a sputtering finish to his season, you might expect that Josh Adams would be lost in the draft conversation. CBS Sports, however, has Adams ranked as the 70th overall prospect and the ninth RB in the class. He has prototypical NFL size for an RB, as well as some pretty intriguing statistical achievements:
- One of 18 players since 2000 to finish a career with at least 3,000 rushing yards while averaging at least 6.5 yards per carry. Others in this cohort include Melvin Gordon, Reggie Bush, Ezekiel Elliott, Marshawn Lynch, and Dalvin Cook.
- Has eight games with at least 15 carries while averaging 7 yards per carry, tied for sixth most among all players since 2000.
- Has proven to be effective when given a true workhorse role, averaging 131 yards rushing per game in 14 career games with at least 15 carries.
As a probable late-round draft pick, it’s unlikely Adams becomes any NFL team’s lead RB in 2018. But if he can run well at the combine — pairing his size with requisite speed — he could become a very intriguing late-round dart throw for both dynasty and reality purposes.