2012 NFL Draft Order: Predicting Destinations for LaMichael James & Top RBs
Most of the best running backs in college football were juniors this season, but with Trent Richardson, David Wilson and LaMichael James all leaving school early, there are a number of premier tailbacks available in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Moreover, a number of NFL teams have a desperate need for a franchise running back. Thus we can expect to see many more tailbacks chosen in the early rounds of the draft this year than were taken last season.
Here are the projected landing spots for the top five running backs available in this year's NFL Draft.
Trent Richardson: Cleveland Browns
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Perhaps providing further proof of the Madden curse, Peyton Hillis was sidelined by injuries and overall had a down year for the Cleveland Browns in 2011. With no one else really filling the void at that position for the Browns, Cleveland will likely address that need early.
Trent Richardson is going to be the first running back taken in the 2012 NFL Draft. Most project him to be a top-10 pick. With his speed, strength, and big-play ability in multiple facets of the game, the Browns will select him fourth overall.
David Wilson: Cincinnati Bengals
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With Ryan Williams and Darren Evans out of the way, David Wilson had a fantastic year for the Virginia Tech Hokies (despite the fact that his offensive line rarely provided holes). Wilson was fourth in the FBS in rushing with 1,709 yards.
In today's NFL, the shelf life of a running back is not as long as it once was. With Cedric Benson turning 30 next year, the Cincinnati Bengals will need a replacement at some point in the near future. And for the time being, Wilson would provide a nice counter to Benson.
With what they got from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for Carson Palmer, the Bengals have two first-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. They will use one of them to select Wilson as their next franchise running back.
Lamar Miller: Green Bay Packers
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All season long a number of us were pointing out the Green Bay Packers' numerous holes while others were predicting that they would repeat as Super Bowl Champions in 2012.
One of the biggest holes is at running back. Neither Ryan Grant or James Starks is a premier runner, and thus the Packers need to get a playmaker in the backfield to help Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay will use their first-round pick to take Lamar Miller.
Despite playing for the disappointing Miami Hurricanes, Miller had 1,272 yards this season. More importantly, he averaged over 100 yards per game and over five yards per carry. He is a rare talent, and he will be a late first-round choice.
Chris Polk: Washington Redskins
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Chris Polk has declared for the 2012 NFL Draft, and he is projected by most to be a second-round pick. Polk had 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection.
The Washington Redskins drafted two running backs last year in Roy Helu, Jr. and Evan Royster, but they haven't picked a running back in the first or second round since Ladell Betts in the 2002 NFL Draft.
The Redskins need a franchise running back, and Polk could be that guy. They will let Tim Hightower depart and draft Polk.
LaMichael James: New York Jets
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There are questions about LaMichael James' vision and balance and (because he played in a spread) his ability to transition to an NFL offense. However, he still has elite speed and in his career with the Oregon Ducks he proved he is a rare talent. Despite only playing in 12 games, James had 1,805 yards this year.
With LaDainian Tomlinson in the twilight of his NFL career (and also a free agent), the New York Jets will need a running back. Yes, Shonn Greene had his best season in 2011, but the Jets will need another tailback to keep the one-two punch going once Tomlinson is gone.
Running back isn't the most pressing need for the Jets and James isn't one of the top three backs in the draft, so this will probably be a second or third-round pick.