The Alliance of American Football was fun while it lasted, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Controlling owner Tom Dundon shut down the upstart league following Week Eight’s action, prematurely ending the AAF’s inaugural season. Still, several AAF running backs put enough on tape to ensure that they’ll earn another shot in the NFL.
AAF Running Backs Who Earned Another NFL Opportunity
Orlando Apollos running back D’Ernest Johnson was probably the best running back in the startup league and should find his way into an NFL training camp. Starting alongside De’Veon Smith, Johnson finished his abbreviated season with 372 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 64 carries. His 5.8 yards-per-carry was the best in the league among players with 15 or more attempts.
While Johnson’s work on the ground was impressive, his pass-catching ability will bring him into the NFL. Johnson was one of the most dangerous running backs out of the backfield, finishing the year with 22 receptions for 220 yards and one touchdown. His 22 receptions were the second-best for a running back and his 220 yards were the most in the league among running backs. Johnson looked like a true diamond in the rough and could even start the 2019 season on an active roster.
Arizona Hotshots running back Jhurell Pressley finished the year with the most rushing yards in the league. Running behind an adequate offensive line, Pressley ended his season with 431 yards and one touchdown on 96 attempts, good for 4.5 yards-per-carry. He isn’t able to match Johnson’s explosiveness, but Pressley has earned the right to compete for a roster spot.
Pressley was about as consistent as one could hope during his eight weeks of action. The former NFL journeyman recorded over 4.0 yards-per-carry in six of his eight games and even broke the 100-yard mark in Week Four against the Atlanta Legends. Pressley has been with five NFL organizations but was never given a chance to showcase his talent. Now that he has some impressive tape, perhaps he’ll earn a legitimate chance at his next stop.
Yet another member of the Orlando Apollos backfield did enough to earn an NFL look. While he wasn’t quite as good as Johnson, Smith was too good for head coach Steve Spurrier to keep off the field. Serving as the thunder to Johnson’s lighting, the Michigan product finished the season with 75 carries for 345 yards and six touchdowns. He didn’t bring much to the passing game but showed an ability to move the chains and convert the difficult, short-yardage plays.
Arizona Hotshots running back Tim Cook wasn’t the most consistent runner by any means, but he put enough on tape to convince an NFL team to give him a shot. The Oregon State product finished his season with 274 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 56 carries to go along with 11 yards and a touchdown on two receptions.
Cook was a hot-and-cold runner throughout the 2018 season, as evidenced by his game logs. In three of his eight games, Cook recorded 5.5 yards-per-carry or better. However, in three other games, Cook recorded less than 3.3 yards-per-carry. He probably won’t make it on a final roster, but he’s earned the right to fight for a job.
Former third overall pick Trent Richardson was a complete enigma during his lone season in the AAF. Despite finishing the season with the fourth-most rushing yards in the league, Richardson averaged a measly 2.9 yards-per-attempt. However, Richardson also led the league with 11 rushing touchdowns and added 31 receptions for 205 yards.
Richardson will never be a feature back and he’ll never be able to shed the “bust” label. However, the former Cleveland Brown could make a decent short-yardage back in the NFL. Based on what he showed in the AAF, Richardson would probably be a serviceable weapon if utilized in goal line and short-yardage situations.
Embed from Getty Images