If you don’t know who Jordan Wilkins is, you’re about to find out.
The rookie running back out of Ole Miss was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The landing spot could not have been better for a young back trying to prove himself, as Indianapolis does not have a clear cut starter even as the preseason is underway.
Indianapolis has a deep group of running backs right now, but none of them have separated from the pack. Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson and Christine Michael are all competing for snaps, while the team also drafted two rookies in the draft – Nyheim Hines in the fourth round and Wilkins in the fifth.
Predicting which one of these guys gets the first crack at the starting gig is truly impossible. But we know that none of them have the tools to be an effective every down back. Even Hines, who runs a 4.38 40-yard dash and was drafted ahead of Wilkins, simply doesn’t have the size to be a between the tackles runner at 5’9 and 197 lbs.
Enter Wilkins, who stands at 6’1 and roughly 215 lbs. He is much more capable of taking the punishment of running through the defensive line on a consistent basis. While it’s true that the top prospects are typically handed the reigns regardless of the level of competition on the team, in Wilkins’ case, it’s more a matter of luck than anything else. He was “lucky” enough to be drafted by a team that lacks a true running back that can carry a full workload. Following the departure of Frank Gore, the Colts need someone who can help sustain drives with his legs, and keep Indy’s defense on the sidelines. Despite entering his age-35 season, Gore was still highly productive last year with the Colts, combining for about 1,200 total yards from scrimmage. Replacing him will not be easy, but Indy has brought together some very intriguing prospects.
Ultimately, Wilkins appears to be the one who is best set up to take over as the full time starter at some point this season. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 at Ole Miss, when he rushed for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry. He also improved in the passing game, recording 26 catches for 241 yards and another score. The Colts hope his strong season can carry over to the NFL, where he will try and help Andrew Luck and the offense in any way possible.
Look for Wilkins to take over the starting job sooner rather than later. Word out of training camp seems to indicate that he is playing at a very high level, and that coaches and teammates appear to be gaining more respect for the young guy. If that’s true, Wilkins could be a true sleeper this season at the running back position. Stranger things have happened in the NFL.