2012 NFL Draft: Predicting Landing Spots for Top RBs

Zachary Parker@@zacharyparker49Correspondent IIJanuary 30, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Predicting Landing Spots for Top RBs

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    Trent Richardson will be the first running back picked in the 2012 NFL Draft. This is as safe a prediction as Andrew Luck being picked first overall.

    Who the remaining top backs will be is a little less certain.

    There are not many big name running backs in the 2012 draft class. It might take three rounds before the first five running backs are taken.

    This article will predict the landing spot for each of those players. 

Trent Richardson

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    After helping Alabama win the National Championship his first year as the starter, Trent Richardson is unquestionably the highest touted running back in the 2012 draft. He will be swooped by the Cleveland Browns with the fourth overall pick.

    Colt McCoy was unable to improve after a decent rookie season. Part of the reason for the sophomore slump was the absence of running back Peyton Hillis, who likely will not be on the Browns' roster in 2012.

    Richardson, who is listed at 5'11" and 224 pounds, is ready to be a starting running back in the NFL. He has a good initial burst and runs low behind his pads. It is easy to stereotype Richardson as a power back, but he is deceptively elusive

    Richardson has the potential to be what Frank Gore could have been if not for his knee injuries in college: an every-down, all-purpose power back with the ability to carry a team with a weak quarterback. 

Chris Polk

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    Chris Polk will be taken in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals (53rd overall).

    Polk did not get much recognition during college because he played for the University of Washington. Even within the Pac-12, his play was overshadowed by the flashier LaMichael James.

    However, by the time the draft comes around he will be the No. 2 back on most teams' draft boards.

    At 5'11", 224 pounds, Polk is a powerful runner with an elusive side. He is built to be an every-down back who can carry the ball 20-plus times per game. Polk is also an above-average receiver.

    His biggest asset is his vision, which allows him to predict where the running lanes will be before they develop and then make cuts to avoid over-pursuing defenders. His ability to foresee a play makes him look faster than he is.

    Polk has the potential to put up Matt Forte-like statistics. 

    The Bengals are a young, up-and-coming team. Polk will initially be asked to split time with Cedric Benson (if Cincinnati plans on keeping him), but over time will establish himself as the starter. He will help maximize the production of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton for years to come. 

Lamar Miller

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    Lamar Miller, who some project to be picked late in the first round, will be taken in the second round by the Denver Broncos (57th overall). 

    Miller is a fast back who can quickly change direction. His strength is running the ball to the outside where he relies on his speed to outrun defenders.

    Measuring in at a generous 5'11" and 212 pounds, Miller is not physical enough to consistently have success running between the tackles. 

    The Broncos, who are looking to surround Tim Tebow with talent (to hide his flaws), will look to add a quick back to compliment the aging yet still productive Willis McGahee.

    Miller's ability to get to the outside will stretch the defense and open up running room for Tebow and McGahee up the middle.  

    Knowshon Moreno has been a disappointment since being drafted 12th overall in the 2009 draft. His production has suffered due to a string of injuries. 

    The Broncos hope that the combination of McGahee and Miller will result in the balanced rushing attack they were promised when they drafted Moreno. 

    In the not-so-far future when the tires fall off of McGahee, Miller will take over as the starter but still split time with Moreno. 

David Wilson

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    David Wilson will be picked by the Green Bay Packers in the second round (60th overall).

    Wilson has the ability to be to Aaron Rodgers what Darren Sproles is to Drew Brees: a quick running back who can help the quarterback by turning dump-off completions into huge gains.

    Like Lamar Miller, Wilson has blazing speed, but at 5'10", 210 pounds he is too nimble to be an every down back.

    He has a good center of gravity which helps him stay on his feet as shown on this run against Clemson

    His downside is that he will not be an every-down back. 

    The addition of Wilson would add to a crowded backfield that already includes Ryan Grant and James Starks (assuming they both return for the 2012 campaign). Both of these backs have shown glimpses of brilliance, but they also lack consistency. 

    Of the three, Wilson is the most explosive and will thrive if he is given the same responsibilities Sproles has in New Orleans. 

LaMichael James

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    LaMichael James will be picked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round (69th overall).

    James has the potential to be one of the biggest steals in the draft if he is put into the right system. If it were not for his tiny 5'9", 185-pound frame, James would rival Polk as the second best back in this year's draft.

    But James uses his small size to his advantage. He is able to hide behind his offensive line which buys him a little extra time to find the opening in the defense, and once he sees green grass ahead, he is gone.

    There is no better open-field runner than James. He possesses lightening quick speed and utilizes cut-back lanes to gain big yards.

    The biggest concern on James is whether his talent will translate into the NFL where the defenses are bigger and faster. 

    In Tampa Bay, James will complement LeGarrette Blount in the backfield (like he did at the University of Oregon). The combination of the powerful Blount and shifty James will keep defenses on their heels and provide the Buccaneers with a much needed home-run threat on offense.