Nov 2, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Alabama State Hornets running back Isaiah Crowell (1) runs the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL may be developing into a passing league, but don’t let that make you think that the running back is becoming extinct. Both members of the Super Bowl the passed two years have had thousand yard, showing the importance of having a threat in the backfield. This running back class has a ton of depth and has talent to fit many different schemes and for a lot of teams, it will come down to schematic preference to determine who tops the board.
- Isaiah Crowell (Alabama State): The former freshman star at Georgia may have fallen out of the national picture after being booted from the program due to gun charges, but his talent has not ceased. Crowell is an incredibly strong hard runner and has plenty of speed at the top end. He has shown good vision and will never give up on a run. He may need to overcome questions about his character, but his talent is undeniable.
- Carlos Hyde (Ohio State): At first sight, Hyde looks like a power back, and a very good one at that. Look closer and you see a player who shows a lot of wiggle and can move well laterally. He tends to hesitate a bit at the line of scrimmage, but when he hits the hole, he is an intimidating back.
- Bishop Sankey (Washington): Some may accuse Sankey of being “average” physically, but when he steps on the field he is anything but. He is a great runner with great vision, change of direction ability and leg drive. He has a great ability to make guys miss in space but is willing to put a defender on his butt. Not only is he a great runner, he is one of the best receiving threats in this class at the position.
- Charles Sims (WVU): Speaking of receiving threats, Sims is the receiving back in this class. He has an uncanny ability to track the ball and has soft hands. As a runner, while having an unconventional style, he has very good vision and moves very fluidly. He needs to be a bit more aggressive behind the line of scrimmage, but he is going to make his money as a receiver. A back for the modern offense.
- Antonio Andrews (WKU): Andrews may not blow anyone away with speed or acceleration, but he has what is important for a runner. He has great vision, seeing and hitting even the smallest windows, and he does not give up on a run. He is a very good receiver and can pass block, making him an asset on every down. Ball security is the biggest issue with him, but I think it is something that will improve.
- Lache Seastrunk (Baylor): Seastrunk demonstrated a great deal of speed and lateral agility at Baylor that made a lot of defenders look silly. I can see it being replicated in the NFL, but have serious questions about his vision. Lache has a chaotic running style that makes him hard to defend against, but also hard to block for. That, combined for his want for a big play that could lead to a big loss, make me worry about him. A true boom or bust player from down to down and someone who needs to prove ability as a receiver.
- Davonte Freeman (FSU): Freeman is a great athlete and when he gets out into space, his speed and agility make him a home run hitter. He also has the ability to make a big impact in the passing game as he does a great job in turning and running with the ball. He needs to improve in seeing the play better, but he has early impact potential as a third down back and could develop into a very good player.
- Terrance West (Towson): West spent his last year dominating the FCS and wracking up over 2,500 rushing yards. I don’t care what level you’re playing at, that is insane production. West wins with great vision and is a very strong runner. He displays great lower body strength and consistently shakes tackles. He may not be a game breaker in the NFL, but he has bell cow potential.
- James Wilder (FSU): Wilder had to split snaps with two other very good running backs, but he is a talent of his own. He is an incredibly strong and aggressive runner. He literally seeks out contact. It is a question of how well that style works in the NFL, especially with a high running style like Wilder’s, but I think he can be a very impacting player in the NFL. Old school running back.
- Zurlon Tipton (CMU): Tipton started the year very high in my rankings, but an injury saw other players over take him while he couldn’t continue to show the ability I liked so much. He got healthy and came back strong towards the end of the season though. He has great vision and is a hard runner. He also has a very good second gear. If he falls into the right situation, he could be very productive.