Many will focus on the fact that there is a significant chance there will not be a running back selected in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, but part of the reason for that is due to the incredible amount of depth in this year’s class. The difference between the best and someone that can be had in the second or third round is not all that substantial, so some teams will wait enabling backs to fall. The fact remains there will be substantial impact from this year’s group of running backs, but what makes it interesting is how many specialist type backs that could be impact players but may not do it on a full time basis. There are a few that can be work horse type backs but some of the more specialized players might be better overall at the next level. So with that said, here are this year’s top 10 running backs.
1.) Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Bernard offers the true all around running back that has a good mix of speed, power, and agility. The two traits that stand out are his elite balance and vision and those combined with a good mix of everything else, he could be a fantastic back in the NFL. And while every team will not let him do it, he is a threat as a punt returner as well.
2. Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Lacy is the best power back in the draft and knows how to lower his shoulder and run people over while having the feet to find running lanes and keep defenses honest. For the most part, Lacy uses his agility and great feet to find holes to run through while keeping his shoulders square to the line. He is vulnerable from the side and behind but he can run opponents down like grass going north and south. He is a fantastic fit for teams that line it up and dare the opponent to stop them.
3.) Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
If not for the knee injuries, Lattimore is the best back in the draft. Nevertheless, he offers a great deal of talent for the team willing to wait on him to get healthy. No one is better when it comes to getting behind their pads and maximizing their power. Lattimore also has really long legs so his side steps and jump cuts cover a great deal of distance making him an elusive back as well as a powerful one. The most underrated part of Lattimore’s game is as a receiver where he can be a huge asset for a team and only increases his viability as an offensive player.
4.) Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Franklin is the most well rounded, most complete back in this draft and a coaching clinic on tape. His technique, understanding and instincts for the position are remarkable and the only thing holding Franklin back from being ranked higher is the fact that he just needs to get a little more bulk. He has the ability to be the best back in the draft and if he can continue adding strength, he well could be. He is a fantastic runner as well as a viable weapon as a receiver and a good blocker.
5.) Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
If people watch him in shorts, they come away unimpressed. On the field, Taylor is a great back who has a great sense for reading and reacting to blocks. He takes pride in blocking and punishes the opponent and can be a receiver. Many look at his 40 time, but on the field, when he finds an open running lane, he takes it all the way.
6.) Andre Ellington, Clemson
The performance in the 40 time at the combine is still mystery. Ellington is a home run hitter in the Chris Johnson mold. Some criticize him for not having patience but Ellington wants to be at the second level before opponent even realizes it is a running play. If the hole is there, Ellington may take it all the way and he looks faster because he never stops going forward. His cuts and moves rarely ever stop his forward progress so he is always gaining yards. Ellington is best served in a 2-back system but he could be a big time playmaker.
7.) Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Bell has the ability to be ranked higher but he suffers from an identity crisis on occasion. There are times when he is a big back who wishes he was a small one and instead of lowering his shoulder and picking up extra yards, he will fall in love with trying to make guys miss and end up dancing too much. His quickness is an asset but should work off of his power; not the other way around. Bell is an impressive receiver as he was a receiver before he moving to running back. If he can accept and maximize what he does well, he can be the player many thought would be a first round pick this year.
8.) Christine Michael, Texas A&M
In terms of raw ability, Michael may be the best this draft has to offer. He has incredible physical tools, is an explosive player and has power. He has tremendous ability, but terrible luck with injuries have never allowed him to get all that many carries in his career and he has not proven to be a work horse back. There are also some minor character concerns. Still, he is a gamble that could pay off in a big way if the bad luck with injuries is behind him.
9.) Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Barner is not just a running back but a threat as a weapon, because he could find himself playing in the slot as a receiver as well as returning kicks. His speed, agility, and explosiveness are impressive and he is a fantastic chance of pace type player that allows a creative offensive coordinator to find ways to get him touches and let him make plays. He could become a utility player and a threat like Reggie Bush was in his time with the Saints.
10.) Montee Ball, Wisconsin
The ranking that will likely be met with the most criticism, Ball is a reliable yardage eating type back that is not likely to break big plays, but he is not likely to lose yardage either. He is more of a traditional clock eating back that was seen in the 80’s and 90’s. He comes into the league with a large amount of mileage on him, but he could be a great value for a team looking to compete right away and just needs a reliable player right now. Ball projects to be like a Rudi Johnson or BenJarvus Green-Ellis type back that will compile numbers over the course of the year.
Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football Andre Ellington Christine Michael Clemson Tigers Football Eddie Lacy Giovani Bernard Johnathan Franklin Kenjon Barner Le'veon Bell Marcus Lattimore Michigan State Spartans Football Montee Ball NFL NFL Draft 2013 North Carolina Tarheels Football Oregon Ducks Football Running Backs South Carolina Gamecocks Football Stanford Cardinal Football Stepfan Taylor Texas A&M Aggies Football UCLA Bruins Football Wisconsin Badgers Football