While these backs will not go in the first round of the NFL draft, they will move up boards between now and April and will be good pros. In today's NFL, running back talent is going to be found after the first round. These backs will be living proof of that.
LaMichael James, Oregon
James is the perfect speed back for this day and age. The concept of having an every-down featured back is rapidly dying in the NFL. So, James and his smaller stature is not a huge concern, because he won't be on the field to take the big hits as often as backs used to.
But what James can do is score from anywhere on the field, and that's what will bolster his draft status. The only proof you need of that is the fact that he rushed for 5,082 yards in three years at Oregon, with an average of better than 6.5 yards a carry.
With James' speed, he can work in any offense and fill many roles. James can line up in the slot and catch passes, or be a receiver out of the backfield. He also has value as a return man—if James is given an inch of room to run, he's a genuine threat to go to the house.
At the combine, speed is key. James has speed in a big way, and his draft position will go up as a result.
Chris Polk, Washington
The Huskies had one of the top offensive attacks in the country in 2011, and Polk was as responsible for that as anyone. He rushed for 1,488 yards with 12 touchdowns, adding another four scores and 332 yards in the air.
At 5'11", 222 pounds, Polk has the perfect build to be a back in the NFL. He's small enough to make himself hard to see, hiding behind the big men up front. Still, he's big enough to take the punishment sure to find any NFL running back.
As we saw with Polk's 147-yard Alamo Bowl performance, he has the tools needed to keep pace with any offense in the country, no matter how ridiculous the game is. He'll likely be the first back taken after the first round.
David Wilson, Virginia Tech
Wilson thrived at Virginia Tech in an offense where he was literally the only constant scoring threat. But Wilson took the extra attention that came from defenses and responded to the tune of 1,709 yards on the ground.
That kind of production is too good to ignore. It's especially too good to ignore when the man producing is 5'11", 211 pounds, and runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, exactly the same as Polk. That is a combination of size and strength too strong for NFL scouts to ignore.
The scouts won't ignore Wilson for long. Only Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller will go in the first round, but don't expect the Virginia Tech star to last much longer than that.