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2010 NFL Combine - Running Back Analysis
Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews
Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 4, 2010


It was an interesting Combine for the running backs with the speedsters flying, and Fresno State's Ryan Mathews proving to be the best combination of talent, size, and speed. Check out the post-Combine quick looks, rankings, and analysis of all the running backs invited to Indy.

2010 NFL Post-Combine

Running Back Rankings


2010 NFL Combine Quick Looks & Post-Combine Rankings

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2010 NFL Combine Results
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- DEs | DTs | ILBs | OLBs | Ss | CBs 

- 2010 NFL Combine - Offensive Winners  
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- 2010 NFL Combine - Defensive Losers 

1. Ryan Mathews, Fresno State 6-0, 218
Post-Combine Skinny: The big question mark was whether or not the football speed translated to workout speed, or vice versa, and if he's really as fast as he appeared. One 4.45 later, the 218 pounder has made himself one of the top three running backs in the mix and could be the first one off the board if someone wants a bigger back than C.J. Spiller or Jahvid Best.
Pre-Combine Rank: 3
Positives: A home run hitter who’s gone with a lane to blow through. … Give him a cut-back lane and it’s a sure-thing five yards. … Ultra-productive when on the field. Was the best of a great lot of recent Fresno State backs.
Negatives: Durability. Forget about having him for a full season. … Needs technique work and will take way too many big shots. … More fast than quick and isn’t much of a blocker for his size.

2. C.J. Spiller, Clemson 5-11, 196
Post-Combine Skinny: He gave everyone exactly what they were looking for showing explosion, quickness, and raw speed with a 4.37 40 that more than proved he could be the game-breaker to be on the top of most draft boards. His workout doesn't have anything to do with his durability questions, but he helped himself and ensured a spot in the top 15, if not much higher.
Pre-Combine Rank: 2
Positives: Ultra-productive all-around playmaker. A game-changer who took the Tigers on his shoulders. … An elite kick returner and a strong receiver. … A home-run hitter. If he’s not a No. 1 back, he’ll be a devastating No. 2.
Negatives: Durability. He won’t last 16 games. He won’t even be close. … While he warmed up to Clemson, he was close to bailing early on when things got tough. … Not a power runner at an NFL level.

3. Jahvid Best, California 5-10, 199
Post-Combine Skinny: Everyone knew he was going to be fast, but a 4.35 proved that he's the home-run bolt of lightning that could be a game-changer. He was tremendously quick in the agility drills, and most importantly considering his bad neck injury, was was strong with 18 reps on the bench. Someone will be ecstatic to get him in the first round.
Pre-Combine Rank: 4
Positives: Electrifying with an extra gear when he has a sniff of the goal line. … A home-run hitter who can strike from anywhere on the field. … An excellent running back with NFL-ready skills. He doesn’t need a lot of work.
Negatives: Durability. He can’t take a pounding for long stretches and will have to be a part of a rushing tandem. … No power whatsoever at the NFL level. … Forget about pass protection. Minimal blocking ability.

4. Montario Hardesty, Tennessee 6-0, 225
Post-Combine Skinny: There will be more than a few teams ticked off that the sleeper of the RB class did such a great job in Indy. Considering his size, a 4.49 40 is fantastic and he was as quick as anyone in the shuttle and cone drills. The 10'4" broad jump tied for the best of the RBs. Basically, if you liked him before, he's a must-have now.
Pre-Combine Rank: 7
Positives: An underappreciated collegiate runner who carried a bad Tennessee offense. … Nice power and good fight. Will work for the every yard. … Decent enough quickness to get slip through the line.
Negatives: Not enough speed. He’s not going to break off many big runs, if any. … Not a special runner in any way. He earns what he gets but won’t be pretty doing it. … Too physical to not be a better blocker.

5. Toby Gerhart, Stanford 6-0, 231
Post-Combine Skinny: Strangely enough considering what a hot player he was at the end of the year, few were talking about him and there was little buzz. However, he had a great Combine running an excellent 4.53, considering he's over 230 pounds, was strong, explosive, and looked the part of an NFL running back. Considering all the scatbacks and smallish specialist types, Gerhart proved he has the raw skills and could be the workhorse missing from this draft.
Pre-Combine Rank: 5
Positives: Ultra-productive. Produced even with all 11 defenders keying on him. … A power runner who won’t go down with just one hit. … A better receiver than he gets credit for.
Negatives: No breakaway speed. He’s not going to bounce too many runs against NFL defenders. … Might have a short NFL shelf life. The tread will wear thin on the tires in a big hurry. … He’ll need to play behind a good line to give him a lane.

6. Ben Tate, Auburn 5-11, 220
Post-Combine Skinny: Phenomenal. At 220 pounds he tore off a 4.43, came up with a defensive tackle-like 26 reps, and was the quickest back in the class in the shuttle drill and tied for the broad jump lead with a 10'4" Not a workout warrior, he's a real player who happened to work out REALLY well.
Pre-Combine Rank: 9
Positives: A strong runner who makes things happen with decent power. … Good speed for a runner whose game is based on being physical. … No one in the secondary wants to see him coming.
Negatives: Never quite found the right fit at Auburn. He was good, but not special. … Considering his style, he dances a bit too much. Needs to be more decisive. … There isn’t any one thing that makes him stand out at an NFL level.

7. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
5-11, 229
Post-Combine Skinny: Not a disaster, but close. He ran a mediocre 4.59 and only lifted 15 reps. Worse yet, he struggled with the passing drills, didn't look as smooth as he needed to, and wasn't the must-have back he could've been with a great Combine. He went from being a fringe top 15 pick to a back-of-the-pack second rounder.
Pre-Combine Rank: 1
Positives: Near-perfect combination of size and speed with the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. … Nice pop. While not a bruiser, he’s tough to bring down and will hit. … It won’t take as much tweaking as many might believe to adjust from the triple-option to a pro-style.
Negatives: Never asked to pass protect and wasn’t used much as a receiver. … The numbers were way skewed because of the offensive style. … Not necessarily quick in a shake-and-bake way. Needs a lane to cut through.

8. LeGarrette Blount, Oregon 6-1, 241
Post-Combine Skinny: He did his job by going out of his way to point out that he has changed and that the Boise State incident has changed him for the positive. Basically, he nailed it on the one big thing he needed to do well at: his interview. Everything else was gravy since no one sees him as anything more than a devastating thumper, and that what he should be at 241 pounds and with great quickness in the shuttle.
Pre-Combine Rank: 10
Positives: Tremendous power. Brings a truckload of hitting ability when he squares up one-on-one. … A devastating goal line runner. Could have a long career as a specialist if he doesn’t turn into a regular back. ... Surprisingly quick. He’s not just a straight-ahead power runner. … Handled himself almost perfectly after the ugly Boise State incident.
Negatives: The Boise State incident. Anger issues will follow him his entire career. … Major character questions, and not just because of the punch. Does he want to work for it? … Short shelf life. He’s the type of runner who won’t last long.

9. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State 6-1, 233
Post-Combine Skinny:  The pre-Combine knock was that he didn't have any straight line speed, and he proved it with a 4.65. However, he showed explosion with a 40" vertical and a 10'1" broad jump. He's big and looked the part of a thumper.
Pre-Combine Rank: 8
Positives: The only positive on an occasionally miserable MSU offense. Produced when everyone was focused on stopping him. … Ultra-tough. Won’t go down with just one tackler. … Quick for his size and power. More elusive than he gets credit for.
Negatives: Little speed. He’s not going to bust off many big dashes. … There’s little bounce. He’s a between-the-tackles runner. … Character and concentration concerns. Lacks focus.

10. James Starks, Buffalo 6-2, 218
Post-Combine Skinny: Off the radar after missing last year with a shoulder injury, he came up with a strong Combine running a 4.5 40 at 218 pounds. It would've been nicer if he had lifted more than 15 reps to prove the shoulder is 100%, but that's not that big a deal. He worked out well enough to warrant a top 100 pick.
Pre-Combine Rank: 13
Positives: Ultra-productive despite playing on a bad team. Terrific combination of size and speed. … A powerful back with a good nose for the goal line. Gets the hard yards. … Good enough speed to turn good runs into great ones.
Negatives: His shoulder. He was supposed to come up with a big 2009 season but missed the year with a shoulder injury. … There’s little wiggle. He’s not going to make many miss. … While he always produced, he was at his best in the MAC. He still has to prove himself against top-shelf competition.

11. Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss
5-9, 172
Post-Combine Skinny: A nightmare. He was supposed to show off his quickness and his explosiveness, and while he cut well and looked strong on the bench with an impressive 20 reps, none of it mattered after his 4.58 40. He was supposed to be a poor man's Chris Johnson, but the sun dial timed 40 should make him a stock tumbler.
Pre-Combine Rank: 6
Positives: A game-changer with flash speed. It’s over when he gets into the open field. … Multi-skilled. Can be lined up wide, used as a receiver, and can line up under center in a Wildcat formation. … A player. He wants the ball in his hands in crunch time.
Negatives: Was treated like a delicate flower. Was limited by the coaching staff to make sure he didn’t get hurt. … Way small. No power whatsoever and can’t be a workhorse in any way. … He’s not Chris Johnson. He’s not Chris Johnson. He’s NOT Chris Johnson.

12. Joe McKnight, USC 5-11, 198
Post-Combine Skinny: Had a good day, but was hardly special enough to move the needle too much. He didn't turn into a blazer for his size, but the 4.47 wasn't bad and he ran well in the drills. If anything, his stock stayed at a dead even.
Pre-Combine Rank: 11
Positives: Flashy. Quick with the ball in his hands with the ability to make any defender miss. … Slippery. He gets by defenders who don’t wrap up. … Unexpected power. Isn’t afraid of contact.
Negatives: Disappointing USC career. He was supposed to be another Reggie Bush and wasn’t close. … Not an inside runner and can’t be a workhorse. … There will be times when he disappears completely. Major bust potential.

13. Chris Brown, Oklahoma 5-10, 210
Post-Combine Skinny: Fine, nothing special. The knock was the lack of raw skills for a player of his size, and that showed up with just 16 reps, a mediocre 4.58 in the 40, and showing little in the drills. He didn't stand out in any way.
Pre-Combine Rank: 12
Positives: A talented runner who always produced. … The type of back who doesn’t become a featured runner but turns in a nice career as a key complementary back. … Makes the most out of what he has.
Negatives: Doesn’t have the raw skills. He doesn’t have the size or the speed to become special. … He’ll try to bring the power, but he won’t have any at an NFL level. … Produced behind a special offensive line with great players around him.

14. Curtis Steele, Memphis
Not Invited To The Combine

15.Charles Scott, LSU 5-11, 238
Post-Combine Skinny: He was what everyone expected. A big, strong back, he ran a slow 4.67 and wasn't all that quick. He's going to be a part of a system and could be a pounder for ten carries a game, but he didn't do anything in Indy to make him a featured back.
Pre-Combine Rank: 15
Positives: Very strong, very tough back who can be used as a battering ram. … A more than willing blocker. He’s fine in pass protection and could even be used as a fullback in certain situations. … Great motor. A try-hard type.
Negatives: Not a special runner. There’s little wiggle to his style. … There’s not a great burst. He’s not going to break off many big runs. … Coming off a broken collarbone. He’s going to have problems staying healthy with the way he runs.

16. Lonyae Miller, Fresno State 5-11, 221
Post-Combine Skinny: Did he step out of the shadow of Ryan Mathews? A little bit. With good size, he has an intriguing skill set and he showed off with a terrific workout. The 4.53 40 was fine, and he looked even better with 26 reps and a ten-foot broad jump. He's worth a longer look.
Pre-Combine Rank: 16
Positives: Great when he got his chance playing behind Ryan Mathews. … Great blend of size and speed with a strong burst. … Looks the part. Is a natural runner who’ll fit in perfectly as a complementary back.
Negatives: Not nearly physical enough for his size. … Won’t block. He’ll have to learn how to hit in a hurry to play a big role. … Needs to get lower. He’s open to too many big shots.

17. Javarris James, Miami 6-0, 212
Post-Combine Skinny: He didn't do anything to make him a star, but he had a nice Combine with a 4.53 40 and 21 reps on the bench. He was quick through the drills and looked the part, but there was nothing he did to make anyone change any preconceived notions.
Pre-Combine Rank: 17
Positives: Excellent at cutting back when he finds the hole. When he has an opening he gets into the secondary in a hurry. … Slippery. Finds a way to work for more with a quick cut. … A baller. He’ll make himself into a player doing whatever he has to.
Negatives: Not a natural running back and doesn’t set up his blockers well enough. … Not enough power. He needs a hole to produce. … Didn’t always produce up to his talent or potential.

18. Keiland Williams, LSU 5-11, 223
Post-Combine Skinny: He didn't work out, but he's on the radar of several teams with late draft picks, like Chicago. He has the size and the athleticism isn't the question, but he's still nothing more right now than a late-round flier.
Pre-Combine Rank: 18
Positives: Looks like the prototype. He has the size, the speed, and all the tools to be exactly what you’d look for. … Can work inside or out. He has the combination of quickness and power to do both. … Good hitter. Not afraid of contact.
Negatives: Wasn’t able to do much or play up to his skills. Always overshadowed and never stood out. … Not a receiver and won’t be used as a third down back. … Not decisive enough. He has to find a hole and make something out of it.

19. Andre Anderson, Tulane
Not Invited To The Combine

20. Andre Dixon, Connecticut 6-1, 205
Post-Combine Skinny: He showed off excellent quickness in the shuttle and 60-yard drills, but he's not big enough or beefy enough to overcome a 4.64 40. He's more of a tape guy than a workout warrior, and he'll need to fit a specific system. He needed to be faster.
Pre-Combine Rank: 20
Positives: Excellent size and runs strong. … Not a lot of tread on the tires. Has sleeper potential. … High motor. Will do what’s needed to succeed.
Negatives: Not a power back at an NFL level. … Off-the-field issues getting suspended a few times including a drunk driving arrest. … Not a speed back. He’s not going to explode through a hole.

21. Brandon Minor, Michigan 6-0, 214
Post-Combine Skinny: Considered a late-round pick coming into the Combine, he did nothing to change that. He didn't work out but he measured relatively big.
Pre-Combine Rank: 22
Positives: Excellent athlete who has the raw skills to be good. … Excellent wheels and functional football speed. … He has the mix. He’s big, strong, fast, and when he’s on, very good.
Negatives: A disappointment in college. A very good player at times, he never became a superstar. … Durability questions after getting hurt late and suffering a torn rotator cuff. … He might have to make a splash on special teams to stick. He’ll never be a workhorse runner.

22. MiQuale Lewis, Ball State
Not Invited To The Combine

23. Joique Bell, Wayne State 5-11, 220
Post-Combine Skinny: If you're going to come from Wayne State, you had better be special. Considered a speed back coming into the Combine, that all stopped with a 4.65 in the 40. However, he was extremely quick in the drills and jumped ten feet. He looked smooth and wasn't awful, but he didn't run fast enough.
Pre-Combine Rank: 24
Positives: The mix of skills are intriguing with excellent speed to go along with his compact size. … Can run with power and has the bounce to get to the outside. … Great at getting the extra yard needed with a nose for the goal line.
Negatives: Wayne State. He has to prove he can consistently play with the big boys after a decent outing in the post-season circuit. … Fumbles, fumbles, fumbles. It’s enough of a concern to knock him down a few rounds. … Not a receiver and will need work in pass protection.

24. Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss
Not Invited To The Combine

25. Keith Toston, Oklahoma State 6-0, 213
Post-Combine Skinny: His game is about strength and running between the tackles, so the painful 4.7 isn't as big a problem as the 22 reps was a positive. He's nothing more than a late round pick anyway, but he was strong enough to warrant a look from teams looking for a decent No. 3 rushing option.
Pre-Combine Rank: 26
Positives: A strong runner for his size and produced when he got the chance. … Decent power who finishes off runs well. … Came up with a nice, productive career considering he was OSU’s No. 2 man.
Negatives: Not big enough and not fast enough. Doesn’t have big-time talent. … Knee problems. Missed time with an injury. … Not a shifty back. Forget about home runs.

26. Toney Baker, NC State
Not Invited To The Combine

27. Stafon Johnson, USC 5-11, 214
Post-Combine Skinny: If nothing else, it was a special Combine moment when Johnson did the bench. He only came up with 13 reps, but that's obviously understandable after his devastating injury. It might still be his dream to play in the NFL, but after running a 4.66 and with all of his concerns he's nothing more than a free agent.
Pre-Combine Rank: 21
Positives: A solid, strong runner who’s not afraid of taking a hit. … A good NFL complementary back who should do a little of everything well in a limited role. … Decent speed. Not just a tough grinder.
Negatives: Never a workhorse, he’ll be part of a tandem. … There will always be a concern about his serious weightlifting accident that crushed his throat. He’s fine, but it’ll be part of the equation. … Not as tough of a runner as he should be considering his style.

28. Roy Upchurch, Oklahoma State
Not Invited To The Combine

29. Kevin Grady, Michigan
Not Invited To The Combine

30. Michael Smith, Arkansas
Not Invited To The Combine

31. Deji Karim, Southern Illinois
Not Invited To The Combine

32. Joseph Turner, TCU
Not Invited To The Combine

33. Brandon West, Western Michigan
Not Invited To The Combine

34. Darius Marshall, Marshall 5-9, 190
Post-Combine Skinny: He needed to be special to overcome his lack of bulk and his off-field concerns, and he wasn't in any way. The 4.56 was too slow, he didn't show much explosion, and he was just a guy on the field doing drills. His Marshall production might warrant a late round pick, but that's not a sure thing.
Pre-Combine Rank: 34
Positives: Extremely productive. Always made things happen and came up with a nice career. … Shifty. He’s great at making defenders miss and has a good bounce to the outside. … A stronger goal line runner than his size would suggest.
Negatives: Character. There’s a major concern about the knucklehead factor after he was suspended early last year for drug possession. … A runner. That’s it. He’s not going to block anyone. … Doesn’t do anything at an NFL level.

35. Alfonso Smith, Kentucky
Not Invited To The Combine

36. Dominique Lindsay, East Carolina
Not Invited To The Combine

37. Shawnbrey McNeal, SMU 5-9, 194
Post-Combine Skinny: It was an interesting enough showing to make teams look for more. He wasn't fast enough for his size, running a disastrous 4.56, and he didn't show enough explosion, but as expected he caught the ball well and he was smooth. No one will go out of their way to draft him, but he might be worth a camp look a as high priority free agent.
Pre-Combine Rank: 37
Positives: Fast. Is able to make things happen when he gets into the open field. … Versatile. He can be used as a returner or a receiver. … An excellent athlete who should be great in workouts.
Negatives: Left school too early. He’s not a polished football player. … Only did it for one year after transferring from Miami. While he was productive, he also had plenty of lanes to run through in the June Jones system. … Not a power runner. Won’t get the hard yards.

38. Mikell Simpson, Virginia
Not Invited To The Combine

39. Daniel Porter, Louisiana Tech
Not Invited To The Combine

40. John Conner, Kentucky 5-11, 246
Post-Combine Skinny: Sort of a jack-of-all-trades, he showed of his potential as a fullback with 24 reps on the bench. The 4.72 40 means he might never see a carry and might only be a special teamer, but he didn't look awful in the short drills.
Pre-Combine Rank: 40
Positives: A do-it-all player who will produce on special teams. … A tough runner when he gets the chance and can be used in short-yardage situations and as a receiver. … Excellent blocker. He’ll be some tailback’s best friend.
Negatives: Not an elite athlete. The former walk-on made himself into a player. … No speed. He’ll never be feared with the ball in his hands in space. … Might not have a place on too many teams.

NR. Rashawn Jackson, Virginia  6-1, 239
Post-Combine Skinny: Considered nothing more than a fullback prospect before, nothing changed. There was some explosion when he was jumping, but the 4.73 40 was among the slowest of the running backs. He's a special teamer.
Pre-Combine Rank: Not Ranked
Positives: With good size and toughness, he should fill an all-around role and will be used mostly as a fullback. … A good runner, he’s great at coming up with the tough yards. … Strong in pass protection.
Negatives: Not an elite run blocker. He’s not going to blow up anyone in the running game. … Not a receiver and might not be used on third downs. … Limited. Won’t carry it much, if at all, at the next level.

NR. Manase Tonga, BYU 5-11, 245
Post-Combine Skinny: Was billed as a mix of talents with the potential to show off some speed to go with his size. And then came the 4.83 40, the slowest among the running backs, and the pedestrian 19 reps didn't help. He went from being a fullback prospect to being close to undraftable.
Pre-Combine Rank: Not Ranked
Positives: A good all-around blend of size and speed. … A pounder of an inside runner who can be used as a tough tailback at times. … A nice receiver for his size.
Negatives: Not really a blocker and will need to work hard to have any hope of being a fullback. … Character questions after having schoolwork issues. … He’ll have to find a niche on the right team. He’s not necessarily a No. 3 RB who can take up a roster spot.

NR. Pat Paschall, North Dakota State 6-0, 209
Post-Combine Skinny: Nope. He was supposed to be a speedy-fast back who could become a game-changer, and while he's fast in games on the field, he only ran a 4.69. He was quick through the drills and moved fine, but the 40 all but ended any hope to become more than a pet project by some team who fell in love with the tape.
Pre-Combine Rank: Not Ranked
Positives: Fast. A pure speed back who’ll be used as a change-of-pace option. … Extremely productive as the centerpiece of a good offense. … Solid inside and out. Is great at bursting through the hole.
Negatives: Bounced around before getting to NDSU and had some legal issues. … North Dakota State. It’s not like he faced a slew of great teams. … Not used enough as a receiver and isn’t a blocker.