CJ Verdell Scouting Profile
Verdell was a 3-star recruit out of Mater Dei Catholic in Chula Vista, CA. He had 15 offers from schools, consisting mostly of Pac-12 and West Coast schools. He chose Oregon on National Signing Day and enrolled in July/2017. As a senior at Mater Dei, he rushed for an impressive 2,399 yards on 262 rushes, and 36 touchdowns.
Verdell has a combined 2,238 career rushing yards in two seasons at Oregon. He was an All Pac-12 selection(2nd team) and ranked 2nd in the Pac-12 with 1,220 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. He took home the Pac-12 championship game MVP, after running for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns against Utah. After it was announced in the summer that the Pac-12 would not play a season in 2020, that decision was re-evaluated and changed on October 3rd, when Pac-12 officials agreed that a seven game season will be played. So, we will get to see how much Verdell has improved from 2019 to add to his stats below.
Verdell was fun to watch. The first thing that stood out were his vision and burst. He blends that vision/burst with his ability to stay under control with his footwork and allows the hole to develop before finding his burst and hitting the open hole hard. His size allows him to fit into the narrowest of creases and slip through a quickly-closing hole. He's a cutback runner who excels in a zone running scheme but might get smothered in more power-running and short-yardage situations. However, he has speed to get the edge and is at his best when he's out in space. Verdell showed good contact balance and ability to evade tackles at the second level. He's not as fast as a guy like Chuba, but has the breakaway speed to take it to the house.
Overall Grade and Film Breakdown
(Note: all scores/ratings are based on personal opinion)
Verdell blends good vision with patience and burst. He can make defenders miss at the second level and showed some good lower body strength to run through arm tackles. He also understands hand usage, using his stiff arm to either swipe away defenders arm tackles or extend his arm into the helmet of a defender. He has above-average speed and can turn a long gain into a touchdown. He displays solid contact balance and good footwork, running with patience and staying under control behind the line of scrimmage. He plays fast at 5'9, 210 and showed that he can produce when his number is called at the goal line. Overall, Verdell has a great skillset that will translate to the next level.
Verdell clearly struggled in pass protection and will have to develop in a big way if he wants to be considered a three-down back. It will be important that he pays attention to the details in pass protection, as he would allow the defender to gain leverage underneath his shoulder pads. His feet were also constantly moving as he positioned into his pass set, which would cause him to be off balance. But the good thing is, that can all be coached with film and repetition. I also did not see a lot of Verdell catching the football. He was asked to run the ball a lot for the Ducks, but he is athletic enough to have plays designed to get the ball in his hands through the air. Lastly, Verdell can get bottled up in short-yardage situations. He's not the power back you want in the game on 3rd & 1.
Speed: Verdell received a 93 speed score. It was easy to see on tape that he has the ability to outrun defenders. His speed will certainly be a weapon at the next level.
Watch these two plays above that highlight Verdell's breakaway speed. The first one is against Utah, where he runs through a tackle to stay on his feet; and then it is a foot race to the end zone for a touchdown. He has about a 2-3 foot lead on the defender, who can't catch up from behind. The second one is against Washington State on a well-blocked play, where Verdell goes untouched. The point is, if you give this young man room to run, he can break open a game.
Vision/Patience: I gave Verdell a 94 vision score. Verdell often showed good patience and hit the open hole with burst and anticipation. He also stays under control with good footwork as the play develops.
Here's a good example of Verdell's vision and patience. This play is designed to hit at the B gap, but there's good penetration from the defensive lineman and Verdell finds the cutback lane using his patient running and the result is a touchdown.
Contact Balance: Verdell received a 92 balance score. He can evade arm tackles and create yards on his own. Despite being a bit on the smaller side, he seems to play big. He can break tackles and use his spin move to bounce off defenders and pick up extra yardage.
Here's two plays against Utah that shows his good balance. The first one is his spin move I mentioned, that has become common with running backs. Being able to spin out of a tackle and keep moving forward. Verdell does it very well in the clip on the left, followed by the second one that shows his athleticism and his ability to maintain his feet through first contact.
Elusiveness: Verdell was given a 93 elusiveness score. Verdell can make defenders miss and also understands misdirection to disrupt the angle of the defender in the open field.
Watch in this clip how Verdell swipes the arm of the defensive lineman to avoid the tackle and then eludes the defender, outrunning his angle and beats the safety to the corner before being pushed out of bounds.
I think Verdell projects as a team's RB1 at the next level. I can see him being a draft-riser next February and March and will probably go between rounds 1-3. Depending on his situation, and where he is drafted to, Verdell can be an immediate contributor and carry the load for an NFL offense. As previously mentioned though, he will have to improve his pass protection and catching skills, if he wants to be considered a three-down back. But he can absolutely step in as a two-down back immediately and trusted along the goal line.
Out of the running backs I have studied thus far(Etienne, Harris, Gainwell, Verdell), I have Verdell ranked as my rookie RB4, but it can easily be RB3 come draft time due to him having 2020 tape, unlike Gainwell. Verdell will be a mid to late first round pick in non-superflex drafts and probably a late-round pick(say between 7-10) in superflex drafts. If you need an RB, and he's the best player available, don't hesitate to take him. I believe he can develop into a solid dynasty asset and has the chance to rise in value as his career progresses.