Normally, I wouldn't bother doing a fanpost about a RB like McLaughlin, because based on how draft boards rank him, he has somewhere between a 0% to 0.1% chance of getting drafted. Might not even be an UDFA, he might only be a tryout invite. I'm not going to spend a great deal of time on him, because I see him as an UDFA.
Despite not even appearing on many boards, McLaughlin is listed on ESPN's board. Plus, he's the type of underdog that is easy to root for. Many of the top draft picks are former 4 and 5 star recruits, players who were anointed as NFL prospects before they ever played a single down of college football. Not this guy. McLaughlin was never supposed to be remotely close to the draft radar screen when he was coming out of high school. Almost no one thought he could play RB even at the Division II level.
Do you know who is the all time NCAA leading rusher for all divisions? Not Barry Sanders. Not Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams or Danny Woodhead. Not that Mount Union guy (Nate Kmic). It is Jaleel McLaughlin.
When McLaughlin was in middle school, his mom lost her job. The family at one point was homeless, living out of a Ford Focus. A multi-sport star in high school, his recruiting interest came primarily from D2 schools who wanted him to play defensive back. He ended up going to Notre Dame College. No, not ND in South Bend. NDC is in Ohio. In 2 seasons at NDC, he averaged 169.2 rushing yards per game. After transferring to Youngstown State, he proved that he could also produce at the FCS level. Can he continue to prove his doubters wrong and earn an NFL roster spot?
Name: Jaleel McLaughlin, turns 23 years old in September.
School: Youngstown State, transfer from Notre Dame College. Studied environmental science at NDC.
Size: Listed 5'9'' tall, 183 pounds. ESPN has him at 195 pounds. Based on numbers from the Hula Bowl, Sports Illustrated has him at 5'7 3/4'' tall, 187 pounds, 8 5/8'' hands, 30 3/8'' arms, 72.5'' wingspan, 4.50 sec (40 time).
Track, basketball and football star in high school. Notre Dame College was the only school recruiting him to play RB.
2018 (frosh): 378-2,421-18 rushing, 12-79-1 receiving
2019: 345-2,316-30 rushing, 10-64-3 receiving
Returned kickoffs at NDC, 22 KR attempts at that school.
Transferred to YSU, had covid, impacting his first season there.
2020: 134-697-5 (5.2 ave), 5-24 receiving, had 7 kickoff returns.
2021: 175-1,139-12 (6.5 ave), 20-176 receiving
2022: 227-1,588-13 (7.0 ave), 19-300-2 receiving
Per Foxsports, only had 1 fumble over his last 2 seasons at YSU. Team captain at YSU. Listed at 175 pounds in 2021.
The Niners, Browns and Bears have reportedly shown interest in scouting him.
Son of Mike Tomczak was one of his teammates at YSU, playing WR.
ESPN 336th overall (UDFA)
Drafttek not ranked among 32 RBs
Draftcountdown 152nd RB. No, not the 152nd prospect, the 152nd best RB.
NFLDB not ranked among 44 RBs.
Reputation for having a legendary work ethic. Even at Hula Bowl came out early for practices. Has positive personality in interviews, team oriented, not selfish. Confident with a "can do" mentality. Good intangibles to be a pro.
Good vision. Sets up LBs to bait them out of position or help the OL block them. Anticipates the hole and hits it timely. One of my favorite runs I saw was a 6 yard gain. He baits the LB into the B gap outside of the guard, but anticipates the cutback between the C and G double team block before it actually opens, and cuts towards it, squeezing through a small opening, then as the safety comes up in support he meets the defender with low pad level and dives forward, adding an additional yard and both protecting the ball and protecting his body from contact.
Has a direct and downhill style. No messing around or dancing in the backfield. Vision and good initial burst allows him to hit holes in timely manner with momentum and optimal speed.
Runs with low pad level.
Quick feet. Can be slippery. Uses spin move at 2nd level to break tackles. Hurdled a defender.
Used as a 3 down RB in college.
Emotional, fiery competitiveness on field.
Even though I have a few questions about his ball security technique, his fumble rate was very low. With a bit more attention to detail, he could be one of those players who almost never fumbles, despite being a very small guy.
No extra gear in open field. Gets chased down and can be caught from behind or angled out of bounds.
Not explosive in space if he's forced to run wide.
He is the size of a small scat back, but his running style is more of a grinder. He lacks the necessary elusiveness for a small RB. Doesn't have an electric jump cut. Had chance to beat CB containing the edge 1 vs 1 when he bounced outside, but instead of making a quick 2nd jump cut, he just put his head down and plowed forward. His style works if the OL opens up holes, but if defenders fill the gaps, he doesn't have great "make you miss" ability.
No power or size to drive through tackle attempts or push the pile forward. Can be knocked off balance by an arm tackle. Limited value in GL and short yardage situations.
Lacks tempo and urgency releasing into routes out of the backfield. I didn't see him make any catches on actual routes in the tape I watched, they only threw him the ball on screen passes.
Needs to improve his awareness in pass protection. Slow to identify danger and be in position to help. Failed to recognize cross dog blitz and didn't pick up the 2nd linebacker. Too small to effectively block.
Played in RPO based scheme at YSU with shotgun snaps.
Doesn't cover the ball up with 2 hands in traffic. Inconsistent transferring ball to proper hand.
Very limited special teams value if you don't use him as a kick returner.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
UDFA. Ronnie Rivers (UDFA 2022, Fresno State, Arizona Cardinals)
I wouldn't draft this player and I think it could be tough for him to make a regular roster as a rookie. Both Arizona and Seattle waived Rivers before the Rams picked him up. McLaughlin's limited elusiveness and lack of speed will limit his ceiling in the NFL. He needs to show more as a receiver, because he doesn't have enough early down skills.
If there's one thing working in his favor, it is his work ethic and attitude. Some guys have talent and they waste it, because they aren't focused and dedicated. Some guys have marginal talent, but somehow stick around, because the coaches trust them to learn their assignments and do things the right way on the field.
The odds are heavily stacked against Jaleel McLaughlin at the NFL level, but that's nothing new, he's always been doubted as a football player, but look where he is today, the all time NCAA leading rusher. Write him off at your own peril.