Israel “Izzy” Abanikanda Draft Profile
Pre-draft scouting and evaluation is all about projecting, and with that some guys are harder to project than others. For a player like University of Pittsburgh running back, Izzy Abanikanda, it is an easy projection. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Abanikanda was a three-star prospect coming out of high school and was one of the bigger recruits in the North East. At Pitt, Abanikanda broke all sorts of school and ACC records. His most notable performance was against Virginia Tech in the middle of his junior season. In this game, he rushed for 320 yards which topped Tony Dorsett’s school record that lasted for 47 years. Abanikanda also rushed for six touchdowns which tied an ACC record for most rushing touchdowns in a single game that has been in place since 1981. At Pitt, Abanikanda was in a perfect scheme that fit his style of running. In the NFL, I believe that Abanikanda will be a two-down back that thrives in an outside zone scheme.
There is an old cliché that you can’t teach speed, and Izzy Abanikanda is living proof of that. He is one of the fastest prospects in this year’s draft; he has excellent long speed and very good burst and acceleration. His vision pairs up nicely with his speed. He is a one cut runner that does a very good job at hitting the hole on outside runs. One of the most exciting parts of his game is his ability to run right off his blocker’s butts. This allows him to find narrow holes and squeeze between defenders. In the pass game, he is explosive after the catch and has good effort in pass protection. Abanikanda’s speed alone is what is going to get him an opportunity to play often and early.
While Abanikanda’s speed is what is going to get him on the field, his power (or lack thereof) is what’s going to prevent him from staying on the field. Abanikanda struggles with breaking tackles and picking up yards after contact. In the scouting world, it is always important to emphasize the distinction between speed and quickness. While Abanikanda has excellent speed, his quickness is border-line average. He does a good job at starting lateral and then turning downhill, but he looks tight when having to go side-to-side. The immobility when changing directions laterally prevents him from being able to bend the corner effectively. On third down, he struggles in short-yardage situations, his hands are inconsistent as a receiver, and isn’t strong enough to hold his own in pass protection. There is an excitement for what Abanikanda is capable of, but his limitations can be deleterious to his offense.
It is easy for teams to drool all over Abanikanda’s speed. That is something that every team has an affinity for and it makes sense, it is something that cannot be coached. Abanikanda’s limited strength and ability to help on passing downs may prevent him from seeing the field. With that being said, he has shown that he is capable of contributing on special teams as as kick returner. I think he would be a good change of pace guy for a team that has a physical, between the tackles runner. I believe Abanikanda can come in for guys like Derrick Henry and Najee Harris and be effective as a home-run hitter. The speed and burst, but lack of strength reminds me of Bears RB Darrynton Evans. Due to his limitations, I would have a hard time drafting him before day three, but his abilities make him a potential early day three option.
Play Strength + Toughness: 8/12
Long Speed + Lateral Speed: 9/10
Feet + Change of Direction: 7/10
Quickness + Open Field: 7.25/10
Burst + Acceleration: 7.25/8
Receiving Ability: 4.5/6
Athletic Ability: 3.75/5
Final Rating: 78
Pro Comparison: Darrynton Evans
Draft Projection: 4th - 5th Round Pick
Draft Grade: Late 4th Round Pick - Early 5th Round Pick
Team Fits: Dolphins, Titans, Steelers