This year's rookie class of running backs is like a well-chiseled player at that position: lean at the top, but thick and powerful through the middle.
I'm not going to sugar-coat it: it's not a good year to want an Adrian Peterson or Trent Richardson-like running back who can do everything from day one and be just as dangerous between the tackles as in the open field. Those backs just don't exist here. However, there are a lot of good running backs who will find extremely productive roles on their new teams, and I expect that this class will produce a large number of solid, successful runners for the NFL.
Around the top of the rankings are several names fighting to be the first back taken: Eddie Lacy (Alabama), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), Stepfan Taylor (Stanford), Giovani Bernard (North Carolina), and Johnathan Franklin (UCLA) all will likely be drafted in the first three rounds.
Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) is coming off two gruesome knee injuries but has all the ability in the world - he won't be doing much running or agility work, but will likely participate for the sake of interviews. Christine Michael (Texas A&M) has a blend of speed and power that could be intriguing. Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State) is the only running back taller than 6 feet who will likely be drafted. Kenjon Barner faces concerns about his size at 5'9 and 188 pounds, but his speed will make him very appealing to some team looking to snatch him up in the middle rounds.
Stefphon Jefferson (Nevada) earns a nomination here for egregious use of extra consonants. Ontario McCalebb (Auburn) might only fit as a kick returner in the NFL, but his name fits in well. Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) should be an action movie star (I think he was mentioned somewhere in an epic Mystery Science Theater 3000 show), not a running back.
Most Interesting Small School
Once again, there's really only one choice here: Stony Brook, the State University of New York. Miguel Maysonet is their sole representative, and hopes to be the first alumnus of Stony Brook to be a productive NFL player. Maysonet is viewed as a late-round or undrafted free agent prospect, but he led the FCS in rushing yards per game this season while helping the Seawolves to a 10-3 record and a berth in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Players shown in italics are underclassmen. Players shown with an asterisk are likely to be fullbacks in the NFL.
|Bell, Le'Veon||Michigan State|
|Bernard, Giovani||North Carolina|
|Bohanon, Tommy*||Wake Forest|
|Boren, Zach*||Ohio State|
|Harper, D.J.||Boise State|
|James, Mike||Miami (FL)|
|Lattimore, Marcus||South Carolina|
|Maysonet, Miguel||Stony Brook|
|Michael, Christine||Texas A&M|
|Pryor, Lonnie*||Florida State|
|Riddick, Theo||Notre Dame|
|Rouse, Robbie||Fresno State|
|Thompson, Christopher||Florida State|
|Williams, Kerwynn||Utah State|
|Wilson, Braden*||Kansas State|
|Wood, Cierre||Notre Dame|
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