2011 Combine Buzz - Where Are The RBs?
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Posted Feb 22, 2011

The buzz around the 2011 NFL Combine - Where are the running backs?

2011 NFL Combine Buzz

Where Are All The Running Backs?

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2011 Pre-Combine Buzz
- The Luckless quarterback class
- Cam Newton is expected to do it all
- The star defensive tackles
- All the North Carolina talent and what they'll do
- Where have all the good running backs gone?
- The lousy tight end class
- The 40 star speedster will be ...
- The three players everyone will be talking about
- The offensive tackle pecking order
- The strongest position is ...
- Da'Quan Bowers' knee
- Breaking Down the 2011 NFL Combine

2011 NFL Combine Invites & Draft Projection
- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OG/Cs | OTs
- DEs | DTs | LBs | Ss | CBs | Ps & Ks 

As young men start to parade in their underwear in front of old guys with notepads, here are ten things that all the NFL types are talking about before the fun and merriment of the Combine in Indianapolis kicks in this weekend.

Where are the running backs?

Running backs are now a dime a dozen and they're all interchangeable. Ask any fantasy football player who hit the jackpot with Arian Foster or got a big year out of Mike Tolbert how important it is for an NFL team to have a highly drafted running back. Ask Green Bay with rookie James Starks, who was drafted in the sixth round, or New Orleans with its backfield rotation in 2009, or any of the New England Super Bowl winners how important it is to invest heavily in a running back.

There will always be a demand for the special, Adrian Peterson-like talents, but the NFL is completely and totally about the quarterbacks now and the running backs are just along for the ride. It's a buyer's market, and there's no reason to spend a high draft pick on a runner when a Foster, a Chris Johnson, or a Michael Turner can be snapped up at a good value outside of the first round. Of course, it's too early to judge the first round picks of C.J. Spiller by Buffalo (at the nine), Ryan Mathews by San Diego (12) or Jahvid Best of Detroit (30), but when LeGarrette Blount could go from being undrafted to fantastic, and Starks could be the lead runner on a Super Bowl winner, it's hard to justify the investment to take a running back in the first round.

This year's crop of running backs is generally unremarkable, but it's full of extremely good filler players who can be had around the third round and can do just as much for a season or three as any high-priced first rounder. Mark Ingram is the only sure-thing first round talent because of his pass catching ability, his running skills, and his workhorse talent. He's the type of running back and offense can be designed around, and while there are other extremely talented backs in this draft, they're mostly going to be part of the puzzle.

That's why the key to the Combine for most of the backs will be the pass catching drills. A good 40 time is always nice, and looking the part in cone and shuttle drills doesn't hurt, but for any of the non-Ingram backs to improve their stock, they need to look like they can catch the ball on a regular basis while also showing off enough strength in the weight room to become a blocker.

Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter, coming off a great Senior Bowl week, and Illinois' Mikel LeShoure are going to be featured NFL backs, but they need to show some pizzazz to have a shot at the first round. A great workout could put them in the top 30, while struggles in any way could mean a quick tumble. Hunter and LeShoure aren't elite prospects, and it'll be tough to justify a high pick if they don't come up with something special.

Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams needs to come out clean in the medical exams, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas has to rip off a great 40 to generate the buzz needed to be a top 40 pick, and Oregon States' Jacquizz Rodgers, UConn's Jordan Todman, and Pitt's Dion Lewis have to be phenomenally quick and athletic to make up for their lack of size.