2013 NFL Draft - The Running Backs

Posted Apr 11, 2013

From a college football perspective, the analysis of the top running back prospects.

2013 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Running Backs - Top 5

By Pete Fiutak
Follow Us ... @ColFootballNews 

- 2012 NFL Running Back Rankings - No. 6-25
- 2013 NFL Quarterback Rankings

2014 Top RB Prospects
1. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (Jr.)
2. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon (Jr.)
3. Todd Gurley, Georgia (Soph.)*
4. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (Soph.) *
5. Duke Johnson, Miami (Soph.)*
6. James White, Wisconsin
7. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona (Jr.)
8. Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State (Jr.)
9. James Wilder, Florida State (Jr.)
10. Malcolm Brown, Texas (Jr.)
11. Dri Archer, Kent State
12. Michael Dyer, Arkansas Baptist (Jr)
13. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech (Soph.)*
14. Silas Redd, USC
15. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State

*Not eligible for NFL until 2015
This Class Is … better. While everyone likes to point to how good Alfred Morris was last year for Washington, he was a sixth-rounder, meaning he was a guess and the Redskins got lucky.

Trent Richardson is certainly a keeper — though Cleveland paid a lot to get him — and Doug Martin was a fantastic find for Tampa Bay, but the 2013 class is deeper and has more potential overall.

Considering the utter mediocrity of the 2011 class (Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, Shane Vereen), the disappointments in 2010 (Ryan Mathews, Jahvid Best, Dexter McCluster) and 2009 (Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Beanie Wells — but LeSean McCoy was taken in the second round), this class looks fantastic by comparison — it's deeper and has more good prospects late. But lately, outside of a Morris or Arian Foster aberration, the rule has been move on if you can't find a running back worthy of being picked in the top 60.

Eddie Lacy will almost certainly make it a third straight season an Alabama star is the first running back off the board, but there are more than enough intriguing prospects to assume that several from 10 on down will be contributors.

Can Marcus Lattimore return from his horrendous knee injury? Will Knile Davis play up to his tools and potential? Can the speedsters like Kenjon Barner, Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington be more than just specialists?

Yes, going after a No. 1 running back is no longer a necessity in the platoon age, but this season, teams are going to be judged by the backs they passed on. There will be plenty of second guessing.

The Best Value Pick Will Be … Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Most Underrated … Cierre Wood, Notre Dame
Most Overrated … Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is … Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook

1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Jr., 5 feet 11, 231 pounds
With size, speed and moves, it's all there with the total package to be a true No. 1 running back who can be the lead dog for someone's ground attack. With the right frame, the right physique and the feet to go along with his size, he's a durable playmaker who avoids big hits with a killer spin move and zips and darts like a much smaller player. Like all Alabama backs, he gets after it when it comes to pass protection — you can't play for Nick Saban if you can't hit.

Thanks to Eddie Lacy, Alabama once again has one of the most prized running backs in the draft.

But can he hold up? Even with his moves, he'll take big shots when defenders load up to stop him. While he single-handedly knocked Manti Te'o out of the top 15 in the BCS Championship Game, for the most part he's not going to be able to weave and dart like that against top NFL defenders who don't whiff.

Working behind an elite offensive line helped him. There are durability concerns, and he doesn't have a large body of work to go off. Still, he's the best runner in the draft and the only one who appears ready to be a franchise back.
CFN Projection: First Round

2. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State: Jr., 6-1, 230
A great all-around runner with uncommon moves for a player of his size, Bell is able to do a little of everything right with the quickness to glide around defenders when needed and the bulk to occasionally get physical. He's not necessarily a power runner who'll blow up defenders — he'll mostly use his bulk to bounce off people.

He had a few problems with defenses that didn't worry a lick about the struggling MSU passing game last season, and his running style should get him beaten up in a big hurry. As long as he can stay in one piece, however, he can do it all as a three-down big back.

While he looks the part, he's an inconsistent blocker who'll make a big one here and there, but he is more of a receiver on third downs than a hitter. Even with the concerns, he's a true No. 1 running back who can carry an offense. Considering his style and workload last season, he should be fresh for the next few years.
CFN Projection: Second Round

Does Montee Ball have the durability to be a productive NFL running back?

3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin: Sr., 5-10, 214
Ultraproductive with extreme quickness, great hands and peerless cutback ability, Ball is a fast back who needs just a sliver of daylight to pop through and rip off big yards. Slippery and also a pinball, he's an elite goal-line runner who has a natural ability to weave his way through the line to get forward. He is patient, instinctive and tough, great at waiting for that last possible second before bouncing through, and he can bounce up after taking the big shot.

But how long can he last? With 924 career carries and 59 catches, the clock is ticking on how many big shots he can take. He's not a power back in any way and won't bowl over anyone, and he's going to need to be a part of a rotation, but he should be terrific for three years before hitting the wall.
CFN Projection: Second Round

4. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina: Jr., 5-8, 202
A do-it-all back who can be used as a productive returner, a good receiver and a tough all-around runner. Smallish and without lightning speed, he's more of a short-range runner than a home run hitter, but he's a pure football player who can be productive whenever the lights are on.
2012 CFN Prospect Rankings & Breakdowns
- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs
- Cs | OTs | OGs | DTs
- ILBs | OLBs | CBs | Ss

2011 CFN Prospect Rankings & Breakdowns
- QBs | RBs | FBs | WRs
- TEs | OTs | OGs | Cs 
- OLBs | ILBs | DTs | DEs
- CBs | Ss  

2010 CFN Position Rankings & Analysis

- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs
- Cs | OTs | OGs | DEs
- DTs | ILBs | OLBs
- Ss | CBs

But, as with Ball, can he hold up? He suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in 2012 and was battered, beaten and bruised with lots of different problems. It'll be asking too much of him to be an every-down, workhorse back, but that doesn't need to be his role. If he's part of a rotation, he could be fantastic as a pass catcher on third downs and utilized as a do-it-all playmaker. While he might not do any one thing at the highest of levels, he'll be very good at everything.
CFN Projection: Second Round

5. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State: Jr., 6-0, 204
Extremely slippery, he's able to weave and work his way through the line with the ability to find a sliver of daylight, make a cut and go. While he's not a blazer, he's quick enough to get by and he plays smaller than his size — a positive — when he needs to find a way to get a key yard.

He's not going to barrel over anyone and he'll take a few too many big shots, but he can be used for the passing game and could be a fantasy superstar around the goal line. He'll need blocking and he isn't going to bust out big dashes, but he can be an ultra-reliable feature back who handles the ball 20 times a game.
CFN Projection: Third Round

- 2013 NFL Running Back Rankings - No. 6-25