The Los Angeles Rams had representatives at the college stomping grounds of Aaron Donald the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, March 29. And already, one electric and speedy running back who’s drawn comparisons to Super Bowl 57 winner Isiah Pacheco got a chance to chat with the Rams.
Per Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network, the Rams met with Isreal “Izzy” Abanikanda before his Pro Day, which was also before he put on a show in front of NFL personnel at Pitt’s showcase.
“Pitt RB Izzy Abanikanda met with the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals yesterday evening, per source,” Fowler posted.
Fowler added how the 5-foot-10, 216-pounder electrified spectators with his workout including blazing the 40-yard dash unofficially in 4.3 seconds.
“Fresh off an outstanding Pro Day this morning where he jumped 41″ in the vertical, 10’8″ in the broad, and ran mid 4.3s(u) in the 40, he’s had himself an excellent 24 hours,” Fowler shared.
‘Izzy’ Was Empire State Prep Standout & Gold Medalist
Though he played collegiately in the Steel City, “Izzy” emerged as an Empire State standout during his prep career — winning the 2019-2020 New York Gatorade Player of the Year. The Brooklyn native was also a two-time Gold medal winner in the New York Mayor’s Cup race.
That speed followed him to Pitt — where he became an Associated Press Third Team All-American and 1,400-yard back.
In his final collegiate campaign, Abanikanda dashed his way to 1,431 yards and crossed the end zone 20 times (tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead). He additionally averaged an impressive six yards per carry for the Panthers. He delivered nine games of 100 yards or more — and that included the 320 he delivered against Virginia Tech on October 8. That game additionally saw Abanikanda score an astonishing six touchdowns.
His playing style and electric running earned him comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco, by NFL.com draft expert Lance Zierlein.
‘Izzy’ Did His Damage Through This Scheme
Abanikanda destroyed defenses in Pitt’s zone scheme — which featured him following the lead of guards and tackles on pull blocks as well as hitting opponents on misdirection runs.
Regardless, Abanikanda shows trust in letting his fullback and guard set up their blocks by taking his time into the hole…but then plays “catch me if you can” from there:
In watching him more closely, Abanikanda appears to be fastest the moment he reaches the second level of the defense — perfect for offenses who want a back who can stretch the field.
Another aspect of Abanikanda’s game that should win over teams like the Rams? He’s an angle eraser, meaning when defenders think they have the proper attack angle on him, he erases it easily off his twitchy second gear.
Abanikanda, however, wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game. And that includes blitz pickups against linebackers. He had trouble keeping rushers in front of him when being called to protect the passer. He also doesn’t have much film as a receiver with only one game that saw him catch three passes. This is a Rams offense that often calls for backs to protect Matthew Stafford and have them as a check down option in the event Stafford or any Rams QB doesn’t have someone downfield they can throw to.
Because Abanikanda isn’t considered a complete back, he falls into the category of being a potential day three find. Perfect for the Rams if he’s available by the fourth round. But with the lack of depth in the RB room outside of Cam Akers, perhaps Sean McVay and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur can be convinced to add some 4.3 speed in the backfield especially after Abanikanda’s epic Pro Day performance.