As the NFL Draft rapidly approaches, let’s take a look at one of the more valuable players of the Chip Kelly era at UCLA and where he might best fit in the NFL.
Demetric Felton: NFL Draft Prospect Overview
Felton was an incredibly productive and valuable player during his time with the UCLA Bruins. He spent all four of his college years at UCLA, and with a chance to forego his senior year and declare for the draft after the 2019 season, he instead chose to finish his time with the Bruins and will likely see his draft stock rise because of it.
Felton has played both RB and WR for UCLA–largely dependent on where he was needed at the time–and largely succeeded at both. During his sophomore year, he was mainly a receiver. During his junior year, he was productive in both roles. And during his senior year, he took over for Joshua Kelley as UCLA’s new bell cow. It was a role he excelled in, and UCLA likely would not have been as good last year if they didn’t have Felton to rely on. He averaged over 10 yards per reception during his sophomore and junior years, and he averaged over 5 yards per carry on the ground last year. He finishes his UCLA career with over 2,000 scrimmage yards, 6.2 yards per play, and 15 touchdowns. He also returned kicks.
Overall, Felton was a tough and tenacious runner as well as a valuable receiver with big-time YAC ability. He comes into the draft just under 5’9” and weighing 189 pounds. That may be a little small for him to have the success in the NFL that he did running the football in college. But as a hybrid player with multiple skillsets, he could be very effective in the right role in the right system.
Versatility is the name of the game for Felton. He can play running back, catch passes out of the backfield, and perhaps even be effective as a slot receiver, in addition to returning kicks. It’s the type of role we have seen for Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara, coincidentally, both players that Felton admires.
Though he’s certainly capable of making guys miss, I don’t view Felton as a pure “shifty” guy like Darren Sproles. I’m also not convinced he has quite the route-running tree of guys like Alvin Kamara or Le’Veon Bell. But as a role player and movable chess piece or a third-down back, he definitely can succeed. It will be up to whoever coaches him to take advantage of his skillset and put him in the best position to succeed.
Best Team Fits
Theoretically, a guy like Felton would benefit any team. Most teams would benefit from the addition of a versatile pass-catching back. But in looking for possible fits, I’m interested in teams that run creative passing games that utilize running backs, in addition to teams that aren’t already too loaded at the running back (or slot) position.
New England Patriots
The Pats simplified their passing game a lot without Tom Brady. They’re much more conservative, less multiple, and more interested in starting with the run game. Even so, they’ve always been reliant on pass-catching backs for about as long as I can remember. Plus, they love their slot receivers. James White has filled the pass-catching role as of recent, but he’s currently a free agent. And Julian Edelman is getting older and has had trouble staying healthy. A weapon like Felton could be very appealing to the Pats and could absolutely be an asset in Josh McDaniels’ offense.
They need upgrades at running back, and they need weapons for Tua. They will likely incorporate spread and RPO concepts into the offense to make things easier for him, and we know that Felton could work with that. As a short route runner who excels after the catch, it’s a perfect fit for Tua’s ball-distributor style.
Here’s a team that probably runs one of the most college-style offenses in the NFL. They love hybrid players and they love spreading it out and throwing it short. Felton fits in that role.
They’re 3 deep at WR, but their top 2 guys tend to get hurt. Plus, Matt Ryan could use some easier throws, and Arthur Smith’s scheme is going to elevate whoever plays RB.
Los Angeles Rams
Another zone running scheme, and a creative offensive coach that likes guys that run after the catch. The RB room is a bit crowded, but Felton is more of a receiver than those other guys. I could also see Felton taking over the Cooper Kupp role if the latter gets hurt.
A team that likes to work out of the shotgun and play with multiple wide receivers on the field, and a coach with a west coast background. They have Allen Robinson and they have tight ends, but they’re thin after that.
They need better players at RB and WR to spark what was otherwise a really uncreative offense last year. They need more talent alongside JuJu.
A system that relies on west coast passing and YAC, and a new QB that has tended to do so in the past as well.
No, they don’t throw to their backs too much. But with Corey Davis leaving, he could be either a slot guy or a third-down guy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brady likes to throw to backs. Leonard Fournette may be going. And what Brady wants, Brady gets.