Josh Adams: From Heisman Hopeful to Mid-Round Sleeper

I have a thing for Notre Dame running backs, what can I say? Josh Adams is one of the many gifted running backs in the abundantly talented 2018 draft class that looks to reload fantasy rosters and the NFL with young fresh talent. He was seven yards from setting the single-season rushing record for the Fighting Irish. While not as flashy as some of the other names in 2018, Adams is a jack of all trades that can be a solid every down player in the NFL despite his recent snub from the NFL scouting combine.

Who is Josh Adams?

Adams should measure in at the combine around 6’1” and 225-ish pounds. He suffered a torn ACL his junior year of high school, but in his sophomore and senior seasons he totaled 53 rushing touchdowns and 3,647 rushing yards. While at Notre Dame, he received substantial work in his freshman and sophomore seasons before taking over in his junior year. According to Frank Vitovitch of Adams is considered a leader on and off the field, taking charge of the team in the locker room, weight room and at practice.

At the request of a few different folks on fantasy Twitter, I decided to take a look at Adams on the available clips I could find. I watched several different games from 2016 to 2017, and I took away the following impression: If injuries hadn’t limited Adams in 2017, he could have been in the running for the Heisman. Adams started the season off hot posting averages of 146.1 yards per game and a whopping 9 Yards Per Carry. Over his last four games, that plummeted to an abysmal 54.5 yards per game averaging only 3.7 yards per carry.

What Adams Does Well

As a receiver out of the backfield, Adams appears to be a natural. He shows good hands when catching the ball and securing it in before running. Adams is much faster than a back his size gets credit for; he has an extra gear that he uses to take advantage of his defenders who take poor angles on him. With his size, he has a brutal stiff arm that he utilizes to keep defenders off of him and aids in the battle for extra yards. Adams keeps his feet moving after initial contact, and has the power to fight for extra yardage in short down and distance situations. He’s a very good downhill runner and uses size and speed to make one cut and get to the second level. He doesn’t dance and hesitate behind the line of scrimmage and leans forward to fight for extra yards. A very willing blocker, either in the run game or pass protection, he needs to clean up his technique but shows the desire to protect the quarterback.

According to ProFootballFocus advanced stats and their Elusive Rating, which looks at missed tackles either from jukes or trucking a defender and yards gained after contact, Josh Adams was 2ND overall in Elusive Rating in the 2018 Draft Class, behind only Rashaad Penny. While not elite at any given attribute, Adams shows incredible versatility. His tape shows him to be a very smooth running back. A tough part of evaluating Adams in 2017 is trying to determine how much the Notre Dame offensive line plays into his success- especially running behind stud guard Quenton Nelson. His line was regarded as one of the better run blocking O-lines in college football last year.

Where Adams could Improve

Adams is not a quick-twitch athlete and lacks that lateral quickness, which limits his ability to create more than what his line creates. He does have the acceleration to get to the 2ND level in college, but the defenders in the NFL will be able to close on him. He misses cut back lanes from time to time, and that makes me question his vision, but he does a good job at setting up and following his blockers. 

Adams is solid but not elite level talent. Depending on his landing spot, he could be a big-time contributor in year one. Luke Easterling recently did a Mock Draft on Draft Wire that had Josh Adams going in round 4 to the Oakland Raiders. Keep an eye on Adams and don’t let him fall too far on draft day.


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