When Justin Crawford arrived in West Virginia, he was working at Taco Bell to make ends meet. Now, the star running back is headed to the NFL draft. What do analysts think of Crawford, and how high could he go?
Who is Justin Crawford?
Justin Crawford is taking his swing at the NFL draft after two productive seasons in Morgantown. Originally recruited from junior college to fill in the spot vacated when Wendell Smallwood declared for the NFL draft in 2016, Crawford wound up topping 1,000 rushing yards in both his seasons as a Mountaineer.
Crawford was expected to be a second option to Rushel Shell as a junior in 2016, but led the team with 1,184 yards despite battling nagging injuries. He followed that up with 1,061 yards in 2017 before skipping the team’s bowl game to prepare for the draft.
From the first time he stepped onto the field for West Virginia, Crawford was a playmaker. He turned the most heads on one night in 2016 when he rushed for 331 yards against Oklahoma.
What do scouts think?
Despite his productive career for the Mountaineers, analysts haven’t been high on Crawford throughout the draft process. Although most agree he has the athleticism and quickness to play in the NFL, there are concerns about his size, physicality and vision.
According to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein:
Crawford is a slightly built slasher whose lack of vision, decisiveness and play strength will make a journey to an NFL roster difficult. While Crawford does have the athletic traits to be more elusive, he lacks that second level creativity to set himself apart from other runners. Crawford may have to flash as a return man or on special teams coverage if he wants to make a team.”
Zierlein gives the 5-foot-11, 199-pound Crawford an overall score of 4.85 on a scale of 7 — meaning he should be in an NFL training camp, but giving him less than a 50/50 shot of making an NFL roster.
Other sources are higher on Crawford. According to CBS Sports:
“Multiple-cut runner with a real spring in his step through the line of scrimmage and at the second level. Has trouble running through arm tackles or hitting the home run. Flashes of excellent athleticism could get him drafted.”
The consensus on Crawford is he has a lot of the pure playmaking tools to contribute, but his lack of size and struggles running between the tackles could mean that his ceiling is as a change-of-pace back. He’ll need to find other ways to contribute early on if he wants to stick in the NFL.
Where might he go?
Star safety Kyzir White is the only West Virginia player who is a lock to get drafted this weekend. The rest of the Mountaineers in the 2018 draft class are hanging on and hoping, and Crawford is no exception. CBS ranks Crawford as its No. 18 running back and the No. 189 overall player, putting him in range of being a Day 3 draft pick.
However, other outlets don’t expect Crawford to hear his name called. NFL.com ranks Crawford as their no. 43 running back — out of 44 running backs profiled. Pro Football Focus has an even lower ranking for Crawford, listing him No. 65 at his position.
Start looking for Crawford later on Day 3, where a team enamored with his burst could take a flier on him. If not, he’ll likely be one of the first running backs signed as an undrafted free agent.