Over the past few years, NFL teams have backed off on their willingness to take a running back with a first round pick unless that player is truly special. In some years, this running back class would have had three or four first rounders; but instead, a surefire top five talent (Alabama's Trent Richardson) is rumored by some to fall into the bottom of the first round.
Teams with a running back-by-committee system in place are more willing to wait until later rounds to find value at the RB position, filling other needs early. This year's RB class has one of the best prospects since Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden came into the league.
Trent Richardson, Alabama, 5'9", 228 lbs
Richardson is the only true workhorse back in this draft. He is fast, quick, powerful, can catch, and can block on passing plays. He has the ability and willingness to run between the tackles or to bounce outside and hit the edge. Richardson is a little shorter than than the ideal, which makes his abilities that much more impressive. Some naysayers point to his one good year as a negative, but Richardson spent his first two years at Alabama backing up Heisman winner Mark Ingram.
Draft projection: #4 overall to the Cleveland Browns
Doug Martin, Boise State, 5'9", 223 lbs
Martin has been rising up draft boards lately, having once been the fifth ranked back; but now he has been found moving up to #2. Martin is not flashy and isn't an elite talent in any one category, but is considered a jack-of-all-trades, showing good skills in most. Martin does have good pass catch ability, despite having small hands. Some scouts wonder if his numbers in college were inflated because of inferior opposition, further brought into question by Martin's less than impressive game against Georgia last season.
Draft projection: Early 2nd round
Lamar Miller, Miami (FL), 5'11", 212 lbs
Miller has the speed to make big impact plays, though he could get faster if he polishes his technique. Miller is better right now running outside of the tackles and needs to improve his run power and ability to shed blockers and get yards on his own. Miller is still raw in most aspects and needs to develop to see his true potential. Injury history also has a negative impact on his draft stock.
Draft projection: 2nd round
Lamichael James, Oregon, 5'8", 194 lbs
James might be the biggest home-run threat in this group. He is fast and quick and reminds some of New Orleans' Darren Sproles, his lack of height hurts his stock. While speed is his biggest asset, run power and pass blocking are severely lacking. James will start out as a special teams and situational player, and may never be an every down back.
Draft projection: 2nd round
David Wilson, Virginia Tech, 5'9", 206 lbs
Wilson is at his best in the open field where he can make tacklers miss. Sometimes he lacks polished running skills between the tackles and is sometimes impatient behind blockers and tries to force the ball where there's no yards available. Wilson has a problem with protecting the ball, often holding it loosely trying to gain the extra yard.
Draft projection: Late 2nd round
Other RB's to keep an eye on: In order of rank/projected draft position;
Chris Polk, Washington, 5'10", 215 lbs
Edwin Baker, Michigan State, 5'8, 204 lbs
Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State, 5'9", 200 lbs
Bernard Pierce, Temple, 6'0", 218 lbs
Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati, 5'10", 197 lbs
Photo Credit: John Korduner / Icon SMI
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