Israel Abanikanda - RB - Pitt
Welcome to the rookie profile for Izzy Abanikanda. Israel Abanikanda was accomplished in both track and football in high school and has since become a breakout star in football, leading the ACC in rushing in 2022. He offers good size, burst, speed, power, and explosiveness, and has demonstrated a baseline skill set as a receiver, pass blocker, and kick returner. Overall, Abanikanda is an attractive prospect with the potential to develop into a starter and playmaker for his offense.
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 216 lbs
40-yard dash: DNP
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
*age is at the start of player’s rookie year
Israel Abanikanda had a relatively quiet freshman year for the Panthers in 2020, only appearing in seven games and rushing for just 95 yards on 28 attempts. However, he was able to score a touchdown and did not fumble the ball once. In the passing game, he caught only two receptions for 11 yards. But Izzy really came into his own in his sophomore year in 2021, playing in all 13 games for the Panthers. He was able to rush for an impressive 651 yards on 123 attempts, with an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns. Once again, he did not fumble the ball in any of his attempts. He also increased his productivity in the passing game, making 24 receptions for 197 yards.
In his junior year in 2022, Abanikanda’s performance reached another level. He appeared in 11 games for the Panthers and rushed for an elite 1,426 yards on 241 attempts, with an impressive average of 5.9 yards per carry, and scored a remarkable 20 touchdowns. However, he did have three fumbles, which is something he will need to work on. In the passing game, he made 12 receptions for 146 yards. He received first-team honors for All-America and All-ACC for his Junior season (2022).
Playing the running back position requires proper execution, but elite physical attributes can set running backs apart from the rest. Abanikanda, at 5’11” and 215 pounds, has a compact and dense frame with excellent natural leverage in contact situations. His instant acceleration and explosive mobility allow him to create distance in open spaces and escape from congested areas around the line of scrimmage. His long-track speed can destroy defenders in the open field, as well as squeezing out the most from tight gaps.
Abanikanda’s agility and twitch, combined with his quick feet and loose hips, allow him to employ varying stride lengths to confuse defenders. His lateral agility allows him to sidestep oncoming defenders in the backfield, and he can quickly reset his direction while setting up in the pocket. He possesses premier contact balance, allowing him to sneak through tight spots and use his hips to rotate through tackles and shake off weak tackle attempts.
Izzy has above-average vision and creative instincts inside the backfield, which has been immensely helpful when the offensive line misses a block or two. He can quickly process running lanes and hit them without hesitation, and he can plant and drive through open gaps.
Despite his impressive skillset, Abanikanda’s physical size may pose a challenge for him in the future. At just 5’11” and 215 pounds, his frame is fine for a running back but he won’t be able to act as a bruiser (which he liked to do from time to time at Pitt). Additionally, his route tree has been somewhat limited in the past, although he has shown the potential to expand it with more experience and coaching. While Abanikanda is willing to engage in pass protection, he tends to rely more on cut blocking rather than facing the blitz head-on. This is an area where he can improve with proper training and development. Despite these minor flaws, Abanikanda’s potential and skillset make him a promising prospect for any team looking for a talented running back.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 4/5
Despite his limitations, Abanikanda still possesses many qualities that could make him a valuable asset to a team. His quickness, agility, and ability to make defenders miss in tight spaces give him a chance to make an impact in the NFL. With these skills in mind, Abanikanda could be a solid value pick for a team in the 4th or 5th round of the draft. The Denver Broncos, in particular, could benefit from Abanikanda’s skill set as they wait for Javonte Williams to return from injury. Pairing Abanikanda with Samaje Perine, who excels at pass protection, would allow the Broncos to have a more complete running back room while Williams is out. Abanikanda could also contribute on special teams, making him a versatile option that could add depth to the Broncos’ roster. All in all, taking a chance on Abanikanda in the middle rounds of the draft could pay off in a big way for a team looking to bolster their running back depth without spending a 1st or 2nd round pick.
Post Draft Analysis
New York Jets - Round 5, Pick 8
As a new addition to the New York Jets, Israel “Izzy” Abanikanda has the potential to significantly enhance the already deep running backs room. Given the Jets’ offensive strategy centered on passing after the splashes they made over the last few months, Izzy’s impressive speed could introduce a dynamic dimension to their game. Particularly with the presence of talents like former MVP and Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers. With Breece Hall leading the pack but still coming back from injury, and no primary running back officially announced, Izzy is poised to claim a significant role, especially considering the injury history of both Carter and Hall. Abanikanda’s potential to make an immediate impact is substantial. Although he needs improvement in pass-catching, horizontal cuts, and pass protection, his inherent strength and speed give him an edge in the competition for snaps.
Entering the New York Jets’ team that uses an outside zone running scheme could indeed be beneficial for Israel “Izzy” Abanikanda, given his outstanding quickness and rapid acceleration. However, the presence of Breece Hall, once recovered from his ACL injury, might limit Izzy’s immediate fantasy impact. Izzy’s quest for the secondary running back role will be met with significant competition. He’ll need to outperform Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight, both of whom have previously shown considerable effectiveness. Insights into Izzy’s expected contributions are likely to become clearer as the Jets’ training camp progresses.
Nonetheless, Abanikanda’s inherent talents may not remain underutilized, and his potential to influence the game can’t be understated. Even if he doesn’t immediately assume a leading role, his unique speed might still earn him significant playing time. Despite being a fifth-round pick, lower than what some fantasy owners might have desired, his potential cannot be dismissed outright. Particularly if Hall’s recovery extends longer than expected, Izzy might step up to fill in the gap in the backfield. However, making definitive predictions about Abanikanda’s fantasy value remains a challenging task until more clarity emerges about these factors. He should be a later round pick in all formats, but a priority target for Breece Hall owners.
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Author: Rod A, Twitter
Image Credit: Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports