David Fluellen is looking to become the first Toledo running back selected in the NFL Draft since Chester Taylor was picked by the Minnesota Vikings in 2002. Fluellen would be the first Rocket selected since 2008 when UT saw two players (John Greco, and Jalen Parmele) chosen in the draft.
Fluellen was a first team All-American in high school, and showed interest from several schools, before signing with Toledo. The 5-11, 224 pound running back saw limited action as a freshman at Toledo, recording 224 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries, and four games with a knee injury. As a sophomore Fluellen was third on the team in rushing with 493 yards.
Poised for a breakout season in 2012, Fluellen posted his best numbers as a junior. His 1,498 rushing yards ranks fifth all-time at UT. He was one of ten running back chosen as a finalist for the Doak Walk award, and was a first-team All MAC selection, and ranked eighth in the nation with 124.8 yards per game. Fluellen missed his final regular season game vs Akron and left the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl after just six carries.
As a senior Fluellen entered the season as the clear cut top running back option on the depth chart and was a Doak Walker Award candidate. He also landed on the Maxwell Award watch list, given annually to the nation's top player. But again, Fluellen couldn't manage to play an entire season, missing three games due to injury, and leaving early in another. His final season numbers were impressive even with the injuries. Fluellen had 1,121 yards rushing with 10 touchdown runs. He added 22 receptions for 222 yards. His career at Toledo finished with 561 carries for 3,336 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns.
Fluellen had an average day at the NFL Combine. He did the three-cone drill in 6.90 seconds, did 16 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, posted a 38 inch vertical jump, and finally his 40-yard-dash time of 4.66 and 4.69 did not make him stand out from the class, nor did it compare to players at the position within his own conference. Dri Archer took the cake, and stole the show, leaving players such as Fluellen in the dust. Literally.
Fluellen currently projects as a late round pick or priority free agent signing. He ranks 24th out of 210 Draft eligible running backs, and 323rd of 2,882 total players entered in the draft. The running back is versatile, both in the run and passing game, but will need to refine his pass blocking skills to stick as a third down back in the NFL. His good hands make him a receiving threat, and his strength gives him good power to break tackles, but his lack of speed, and breakaway ability limit the potential he has at the next level.
Fluellen had over 600 total touches in his UT career, and when you combine that with his injury history, teams may shy away from taking a look in May. In total 18 NFL teams attended his Pro Day, but the Indianapolis Colts seemed to have the closest eye on him. Running backs coach David Walker was in attendance for the Colts.
If teams don't hold Fluellen's injury history against him, they may use the fact that he touched the ball so many times in college as ammunition to wait until after draft day to make contact. While healthy Fluellen was a work horse, but took a beating for the Rockets. I don't expect to hear Fluellen's name called on draft night, but with hard work and perseverance he could end up helping a NFL team in some capacity down the road.