2011 NFL Combine - Running Back Analysis
Ryan Williams, Mikel Leshoure, & Mark Ingram
It's a relatively soft year for running backs with plenty of question marks among the top prospects. Can Mark Ingram be the star he's expected to become? Can Mikel Leshoure be a special back right away? Can Ryan Williams regain his pre-injury form? CFN breaks down the positives and negatives, from a college perspective, of all the running backs invited to Indianapolis.
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Breaking Down the 2011
2010 NFL Combine Quick Looks & Post-Combine Rankings
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2010 NFL Combine Results
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SCROLL DOWN FOR FULLBACK RANKINGS
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama, 5-10, 215
Positives: A smart, tough runner with terrific acceleration and balance. Bounces off of tacklers. … A good enough receiver to get by and he doesn't need to come off the field on third downs. … Patient. He waits for the block, sees the hole, and then zips through it with an extra gear.
Negatives: Disappointing 2010 was more than just about an ankle injury. He was limited when he became a marked man. … The speed isn't there. More quick than fast, he'll grow into more of a barreling runner early on in his career. … He'll take plenty of shots. There could be a durability factor and he could have a short shelf life if he becomes the focal point of a team's offense.
2. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois, 6-0, 230
Positives: Powerful and tough with the ability to run inside and out. He's not afraid to take a shot, and he has the ability to be a true No. 1 back who can handle 20 carries a game. … One of the stronger backs in the draft. He's not going to be a scatback like most of the others in the class. … Nimble for his size. Worked extremely well in the Illinois spread and did a nice job of finishing off runs after getting through the hole.
Negatives: He's not Rashard Mendenhall. He's not nearly as fast. … While he's powerful, he doesn't get too many yards on his own. He needs to find the hole and get through it rather than over a defender. … There's a sense that he can do more. He was great over the final half of 2010 against some very, very bad run defenses.
3. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, 5-10, 205
Positives: Fast, quick, and zips. He needs just a little bit of room and he'll cut and fly. … Smooth as silk. Moves effortlessly can be a game-changer if he's not asked to be a workhorse. … A strong receiver prospect and will be used in a variety of ways.
Negatives: Not built to be a 20-carry back. He has to be a part of a rotation. … He won't bring any power at an NFL level. He'll have to be used on the outside. … Missed most of 2010 and has to prove he can last. He thinks he's a workhorse, but isn't.
4. Demarco Murray, Oklahoma, 6-0, 214
Positives: Extremely versatile. Can run, catch, return kicks, and do anything an offense needs him to do. … A pure scorer with a whopping 65 career total touchdowns. … A speed back in the size of a power runner. He finishes off runs extremely well and cuts like a smallish runner.
Negatives: Health. He has a lot of hard miles on him after overcoming a variety of injuries. … Short shelf life. He takes huge shots and doesn't get small enough to avoid them. … Might be more of a receiver and returner than a regular running back.
5. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State, 6-0, 225
Positives: Great size and did a great job of producing even though he was the target of every defensive gameplan. … Gets to the hole in a hurry. Quick for a big back and changes direction like a far smaller back. … A good receiver who could be far stronger a pass catcher when he gets more opportunities.
Negatives: Not powerful enough at his size. He's not going to pound it like he should for a 225-pound runner. … Quick, but not fast. He's not going to come up with any home runs. … Questions about handling an NFL playbook. Missed 2008 to work on his academics.
6. Shane Vereen, California, 5-10, 200
Positives: Fast. He's not Jahvid Best-fast and he's not as fast as other top Cal backs, but he can move. … Patient. A good running back who knows how to play the position. … A nose for the goal line. He scored 30 touchdowns over the last two seasons. … A nice receiver who can be used in a variety of ways.
Negatives: Not all that big. More thin and slippery than thick and powerful. … Not as smooth as he needs to be for a player of his size and quickness. … He has the potential to be a good complementary back, but hardly a No. 1.
7. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State, 5-7, 200
Positives: Cuts on a dime. Darts into a hole in a hiccup, and has the acceleration to burst for an extra yard. Very fast. … Ultra-productive when healthy. Was a surprisingly strong workhorse for his size. … Not afraid of contact. He'll take hits and will come back with another productive run.
Negatives: Forget about running inside on a regular basis. He was able to do it in college, but he doesn't have the bulk needed. … Durability. He stayed on the field last year and fought to play in 2009, but he has ankle issues. … Not a receiver. He's built like a third down back, but he isn't one.
8. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State, 5-7, 190
Positives: Pound-for-pound one of the toughest players in the draft. He handled the ball a whopping 939 times in three years. … Extremely quick on the outside and runs with far more power than anyone his size should. … A pure receiver. He can be a third down back tomorrow for any NFL offense.
Negatives: Tread on the tires. He might not have a long shelf life. … He might be a better NFL receiver than a runner. He might not see too many carries for anyone concerned about his size. … Very, very small. Strong and tough, but he doesn't look like an NFL back and lacks the raw speed to be a special game-changer.
9. Noel Devine, West Virginia, 5-7, 160
Positives: Peerless speed and quickness. If he's not the fastest back in the draft, he's in the team photo. … Arguably the best third down back in the draft with great hands and can be worked into a return role. … Makes things happen on his own. He'll be a burst to the outside for any team with a power back as the No. 1.
Negatives: Really, really small. He might be another Darren Sproles, but he'll be limited in what he can do. … Can he last? He was extremely durable in college, but there's a ton of tread on the tires with well over 800 career touches. … Forget about any power whatsoever. Strictly a role player.
10. Jordan Todman, Connecticut, 5-9, 195
Positives: Ultra-touch for his size. Managed to handle the ball almost 600 times over the last two seasons. … A pure baller. Battles hard on every carry and never takes a play off. … Zips into a hole in a heartbeat. Extremely quick and has great speed.
Negatives: Way too small. He's built like a cornerback and is way too wiry. He's purely a niche player. … Forget about breaking an NFL tackle. He's a willing pounder, but he doesn't have the bulk. … Needs to prove he can be a receiver and has to show he can block to become a productive third down back.
11. Bilal Powell, Louisville, 5-10, 204
Positives: Slippery. He doesn't go down with the first pop and seems to slide through the line for yards. … Took off under a new coaching staff who got him decent blocking. He might just be scratching the surface. … Will do whatever is needed. He'll make a team because of his ability to do a little of everything right.
Negatives: Not all that fast. He's not speedy enough to be a third down receiver and he isn't shifty in any way. … A tall runner who'll take too many kill shots, but isn't built to be a consistent inside power runner. … Won't make much happen on his own. Nothing flashy about his style.
12. John Clay, Wisconsin , 6-1, 250
Positives: Packs a wallop. A true power back who could be Brandon Jacobs-like in his ability to take the heart out of a run defense. … Surprising breakaway ability for his size and lack of speed. Great at fighting his way to get into the open field. … Terrific around the goal line. Could have a long career as a touchdown specialist.
Negatives: Can't stay healthy. Ankle and knee problems kept him reaching his potential. … Way, way too heavy. The 250 he's listed at will balloon up the second the workouts are over. Played throughout 2010 with a major spare tire. … Unreliable. He can't be counted on for a full 16 game season and will always be on the injury report.
13. Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech, 5-11, 223
Positives: Phenomenal power when he gets a head of steam. Packs a wallop to finish off runs. … Strong and big. He's a tall back with the size and toughness to handle a workload. …. Tough as nails. He'll stay in a lineup through bumps and bruises.
Negatives: Not fast. He looked faster than he is because of the Georgia Tech offense. … At almost six feet tall and with his upright style, he's going to get blasted. … Needs to prove he can be a regular receiver. He caught 25 passes at Louisville, but he didn't do much for the passing game at Tech.
14. Dion Lewis, Pitt, 5-8, 195
Positives: When he was on, there were few more productive backs in America. He exploded as a freshman and was great when he got his chances last year. … Very, very quick. A darting back who doesn't get knocked around. … Tough to see. A smallish back who gets lost behind his linemen, and then bursts into the open.
Negatives: He's not LeSean McCoy. … Not fast enough to be an NFL home run hitter and not big enough to be an inside runner. … Not necessarily a third down back, even though he's a decent receiver. … Forget about any sort of power. He's way, way too small to be anything more than a part of a rotation.
15. Stevan Ridley, LSU, 5-11, 230
Positives: A terrific power runner who produced at a high level against top competition last year. … A workhorse who's always moving forward. He always brings the lumber. … Physical enough to be a blocker, an inside runner, and a strong back to take time off the clock.
Negatives: No speed. He's never, ever going to hit a home run at the next level. … No wiggle. He'll run well when the blocking is solid, but he won't make anything happen on his own. … Not a NFL receiver in any way.
16. Jamie Harper, Clemson, 6-0, 230
Positives: A big, strong, powerful back with terrific upside. He could be just scratching the surface. … Quicker than his size might make him look. He's surprisingly good at getting into a hole with a nice burst. … A willing player who'll do anything needed.
Negatives: Needs to show he can handle a full-time workload. Sort of a late-blooming prospect. … Not quite powerful enough for a player of his size and strength. He should be more of a blaster than he is. … He might need the right offense. He's not necessarily a workhorse back and might need to be in a zone scheme.
17. Derrick Locke, Kentucky, 5-8, 186
Positives: Ultra-quick and one of the faster backs in the draft. A true blazer who could be a dangerous receiver and a devastating change-of-pace runner. … Productive when healthy. He was one of the best all-around offensive players in the SEC when he was able to get on the field. … Nice hands. Could be a whale of a third down back.
Negatives: Way too banged up. He took a beating and suffered several major injuries with concerns about his knees. … No power whatsoever. He's not going to break any NFL tackles. … Forget about him being a blocker.
18. Evan Royster, Penn State, 6-0, 218
Positives: Even though he's the Penn State all-time leading rusher, there's a chance he could be scratching the surface. He didn't get great blocking over the course of his long career. … A good inside runner who'll do whatever is needed. He wants to be great. … Nice size with room to get bigger and stronger. He could end up being more of a powerful back with time in an NFL weight room.
Negatives: Not a productive enough goal line runner for his size. He only ran for 29 touchdowns on 686 career carries. … Nothing special about his game. He's not nearly powerful enough for a player of his size. … Slow. There won't be any breakaway runs and there isn't much wiggle in his game.
19. Darren Evans, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 220
Positives: When he was 100% healthy, he was a tough, powerful runner who managed to always produce. … A tough pounder who has just enough wiggle to slide through the interior. … Better hands than he showed in college. He could be a surprising receiver.
Negatives: SLOWWWWW. The torn ACL before the 2009 season didn't help. … He might be purely an inside power runner. He's not going to zip in and out of traffic and will end up being a straight-line runner. … He doesn't do anything special at an NFL level. He'll stick on a team, but he'll have to be a special teamer early on.
20. Delone Carter, Syracuse, 5-9, 225
Positives: A workhorse over the last two seasons with over 500 touches, he proved he could handle being the entire offense. … Tough for his size. Can work inside and seems to like to take a pounding. … A player. He runs like he likes playing football and he can be used for ten carries a game to soften up a defense.
Negatives: Not fast. He's not going to pull away from anyone. … While he's thick and strong, he's not all that big he doesn't get small. He'll take some big shots. … Some durability issues after missing the 2007 season with a hip injury. With his running style, he has a short shelf life.
21. Roy Helu, Jr., Nebraska, 5-11, 216
Positives: Owns a great mix of size and speed. Is built to handle running inside, and has the breakaway speed to take it deep. … Has the tools and the skills. He'll have some coaching staff wondering how he can be cut. … Streaky. When he was on for the Huskers, he was unstoppable.
Negatives: Inconsistent and struggled to fight through injuries. Needed to be 100% to produce at a high level. … Isn't powerful enough for a big back. He's more of a finesse runner. … He'll look the part in drills, but it doesn't always translate to the field.
22. Da'Rel Scott, Maryland, 5-11, 205
Positives: Extremely speed with good size. He'll wow the scouts in workouts and will be used as a key special teamer and a possible receiver. … Tough. Not a finesse back despite his great speed and his game. … A gamebreaker. As long as a team is only looking for him to handle the ball a few times a game, he could bring a huge payoff.
Negatives: Major injury problems. He has been banged up and missed way too much time. Forget about counting on him for a full season. … Will break hearts with fumbles. He could get whacked in a camp if he starts putting it on the ground. … Purely a part of a rotation. He only has a few NFL 20-carry games in him if he gets the chance.
23. Damien Berry, Miami, 5-11, 212
Positives: Could be a big surprise because of his power and his strength. Could be someone's victory cigar as the type of back who can close out games with tough runs. … A good blocker and a willing special teamer. He'll fill a variety of roles. … Never, ever puts the ball on the ground.
Negatives: Not wiggle and little burst. … He doesn't have enough pop to be anything more than a power runner. He can't be used on the outside. … No hard cutting ability. He'll be a one-trick runner who'll go straight ahead and will need blocks to produce.
24. Vai Taua, Nevada, 5-10, 211
Positives: Ultra-productive, he's the type of back who could be tremendously productive in the right system. He could be Arian Foster in a Houston Texan attack. … Physical and tough when fighting through tacklers. Won't always go down with one shot. … Doesn't make mistakes. Almost never fumbles and always seemed to make the right cut.
Negatives: Not zippy enough for his style of play, and he's not powerful enough to be a pure power back. … The speed might not be there once he pounds through a hole. … While he has good hands, he has to prove he can be a receiver.
25. Johnny White, North Carolina, 5-10, 200
Positives: Very quick and very tough. Isn't afraid to pound the ball and never shies away from contact. … Nice hands. Could find a role as more of a receiver than a runner. … Will do what's needed. Might make a team on pure want-to.
Negatives: Sort of a wiry build that looks more like a wide receiver. … Doesn't have great speed and doesn't have an elite burst. … Is willing to run with power, but isn't very good at it.
1. Anthony Sherman, Connecticut, 5-10, 244
Positives: Went from being a good prospect to the top fullback with off-season workouts. He lit up everyone at the East-West Shrine Game. … A strong producer who doesn't get pushed around. He was one of the main reasons Jordan Todman was so terrific. … Well respected. Names the team captain twice.
Negatives: Sort of a stumpy body. He's not an athlete and he won't be a top receiver. He'll be in for one thing and one thing only: run blocking. … And special teams. He could be a regular on special teams, but he won't be a star. … He's not a runner with just 17 carries in 51 career games and never ran for a score.
2. Owen Marecic, Stanford, 6-1, 244
Positives: Part fullback, part linebacker, all football player, he's going to be a fan favorite. … A goal line possibility. He scored seven times on just 23 carries. … Tough as nails and a phenomenal, willing blocker.
Negatives: Forget about being a ball-carrier. He'll never get the ball outside of the goal line. … Has to prove he can be a receiver and can be used in a variety of ways. … It'll be tempting to use him as a linebacker, but he's an average defensive prospect.
3. Stanley Havili, USC, 6-0, 230
Positives: A top receiver who's a natural when the ball comes his way. He caught 116 passes at USC. … A good runner when he got his chance averaging six yards per carry. … Possibly the best athlete among the fullbacks. He can actually be used as a big tailback from time to time.
Negatives: He's not going to beat anyone up. He's not a big, blasting blocker and will have to be in the right system. … Needs an NFL weight room and needs to get bigger. … Not powerful enough of a runner considering his size and position.
4. Henry Hynoski, Pitt, 6-2, 260
Positives: HUGE. A big, tough, beat-him-up blocker who'll be a great bodyguard for a smallish runner. … Good enough receiving skills to be a tight end or an H-back. Extremely versatile. … Will do everything. He wants to be a good football player and will work at it.
Negatives: Not really a runner. He's not going to be a ball-carrier and will only see the rock as a receiver. … Not a goal line runner in college with just one rushing touchdown. … Not athletic enough to be a top-shelf H-back. He'll be good at a lot of things, but he won't be great at anything but blocking for the ground game.
5. Shaun Chapas, Georgia, 6-2, 236
Positives: A good athlete who can get out on the edge and make a big block, and he could be a nice receiver with a little bit of time. … A good special teamer who can fill a variety of roles. … A willing blocker who doesn't make mistakes and is always going full tilt.
Negatives: A nice blocker, but not a blaster. He's not going to open up any huge holes. … Not really a goal line back. He's not a runner with any sort of NFL ball-carrying ability. … A finesse fullback who won't be for everyone.