New York Jets: 12 Future Running Back Options for Gang Green in 2012 NFL Draft

Michael Desjardins@TheMDesjardinsCorrespondent IIFebruary 16, 2012

New York Jets: 12 Future Running Back Options for Gang Green in 2012 NFL Draft

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    With the NFL Draft approaching, the New York Jets will have several tough decisions to make. One of those decisions will be who their new running back should be.

    With Shonn Greene as the starter, the Jets ranked just 22nd in the league in rushing yards in 2011.

    Since Greene's lackluster turn, and with LaDanian Tomlinson's contract up (and him contemplating retirement), the team needs a new back to bring their offense back to what it was in 2009 and 2010

    But who should it be?

    Well, here are 12 options the Jets could choose from.

Tauren Poole, Tennessee

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    Tauren Poole battled a hamstring injury last season, and wasn't able to produce the numbers he did in 2010 (1,034 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns). Despite this, he was able to record 693 rushing yards and five touchdowns for the Volunteers last year.

    Poole lacks patience in allowing blocks to develop. However, he does a good job at punching through the middle and falling forward for additional yardage.

    He'd be good to use for short yardage and goal line situations, but I'm unsure if he could develop into anything more than just that. has Poole projected as a fifth or sixth-round draft pick.

Lance Dunbar, North Texas

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    Just because Lance Dunbar played for North Texas doesn't mean he doesn't have talent. This kid is definitely good.

    A three-time All-Sun Belt Conference first-team player, Dunbar rushed for 1,115 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. He capped off his collegiate career by breaking a North Texas and Sun Belt record for most rushing yards in a game, with 313 against Middle Tennessee State.

    He's also just the sixth player in NCAA history to record over 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his career. projects him as a borderline seventh-round draft pick, which is a shame because I think he's far more deserving of something higher.

Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M

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    Cyrus Gray started off his senior season splitting duties with Christine Michael. After Michael went down with with an injury, Gray became the featured back for the Aggies.

    He ran for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns before he suffered a shoulder injury and missed the final two games of the regular season.

    The shoulder injury may bring up some initial concern, but he has a decent skill set.

    Though small in size, he's got great balance, has a knack for making quick cuts and stiff arms even the best tacklers.

    He was also a kick returner for the Aggies, so the Jets, at the very least, can use him in special teams.

    Gray is projected by to be a late third or early fourth-round pick.

Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky

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    Rainey is another Sun Belt player who the Jets could choose.

    He ranked second in the nation last season in rushing yards per game (141.1). He also finished with the most carries of any running back in the FBS (369).

    He's a true workhorse, but some scouts will wonder if he has anything left entering the pros, especially since he'll be 25-years-old when the 2012 NFL season begins.

    However, he has great acceleration and balance, and has done a decent job as a receiver, as well. has him pegged as a sixth-round draft pick.

Robert Turbin, Utah State

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    A redshirt junior, Turbin rushed for 1,517 yards last season—with an average of 6.1 yards per carry—and 19 touchdowns. His success helped Utah State get to their first bowl game in 15 years.

    Despite weighing in at 216 pounds, he has a lot more speed and acceleration than one would think. He also has a good upper body build, which helps when he needs to block.

    There will be some concerns, however, considering that he missed all of 2010 with an ACL injury and was redshirted in 2007 with a foot injury. has him projected between the fourth and sixth rounds of the draft.

Ronnie Hilliman, San Diego State

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    Would you believe a talent like Hillman received offers from only three Mountain West schools? I don't think NFL teams will think the same way, though, after what he's done for San Diego State.

    Despite playing in just two seasons (Hillman enters the draft as a redshirt sophomore), he has combined for more than 3,600 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.

    The kid is very speedy and elusive, something that the Jets definitely need. He also possesses good football intelligence and goes after the ball quickly after a fumble, which brings me to my main concern.

    Hillman has fumbled on several occasions and his ball security will be a work in progress. He's also not that effective as a receiver.

    However, his explosive agility could definitely make him a featured back on the team.

    He's projected, by CBS Sports, to be selected in the third or fourth round of the draft.

Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

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    Even faster than Hillman is Isaiah Pead, who played for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

    Last season, he rushed for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had great games against decent competition, such as Tennessee and Louisville, but also came up short in Big East conference matchups against South Florida and Connecticut. He did, however, win the 2012 Senior Bowl MVP, averaging nearly 50 yards a return.

    He also doesn't fumble the ball as often as Ronnie Hillman (none in 2010, two in 2011), which is nice.

    He doesn't have a quality tool that makes him stand out amongst other running backs in the draft, but he's an all-around kind of guy, meaning he can play nearly every down.

    CBS Sports has him projected as a late second to mid-third-round pick.

Doug Martin, Boise State

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    When most people think Boise State, they probably think of quarterback Kellen Moore (who will also be in this year's draft).

    However, for all the attention Moore has received, people often forget about running back Doug Martin.

    Martin averaged about five yards a carry and recorded nearly 1,300 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He is good at bursting in and out of holes, and does a great job cutting against opponents' secondaries.

    He was a very solid receiver as well, recording 28 receptions for 338 yards and two scores.

    However, like Cyrus Gray, what makes Martin so good is his ability as a kick returner, averaging nearly 34 yards a return last season. At the very least, he would be effective on special teams.

    His biggest problem coming in to the draft is that he provides little in protecting the quarterback on pass plays and QB sneaks. has him projected as a third or fourth-round pick.

Bernard Pierce, Temple

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    This junior from Temple is big on size, but has abilities to make him a starter for the Jets... well, maybe not in 2012; he's more of a project player.

    In 2011, he rushed for 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns, and would have rushed for more had he not been slowed down by both a hamstring injury and a concussion.

    That's the biggest concern for this guy, and evaluators will wonder how long of a career he'll have.

    In addition, his skill set is very raw. He lacks the speed other backs in the draft have and will get beaten in the open field, as defenses try to tackle from behind. He also has little experience as both a receiver (19 career catches) and as a kick returner (one career return).

    On a more positive note, Pierce is a very imposing, very physical back. He's not afraid to fight for extra yardage. He's also done a good job at squeezing in between tackles, despite his size.

    CBS Sports has him pegged as a third-round pick in the draft.

LaMichael James, Oregon

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    Anybody who has watched an Oregon game in 2010 or 2011 knows about LaMichael James.

    He's a playmaker and his 1,805 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns last season attribute to his ability.

    His size and explosiveness have often been compared to Warrick Dunn and Brian Westbrook, which is pretty accurate.

    Surprisingly, James doesn't play much towards the outside, which is odd, considering the type of player he is. However, when he does, he is capable of eating up big chunks of yardage.

    What he lacks though, is the strength to break tackles. He also has been used sparingly as a receiver.

    What hurts his draft value is his durability, which is why CBS Sports has him projected to be selected in the third round. He suffered a dislocated elbow against California in October.

    He'd make for a good change-of-pace back, and if he can remain healthy, has the potential to be the next Ray Rice.

David Wilson, Virginia Tech

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    There's no doubt that David Wilson has the tools to be a starting back in the NFL. The question will be whether or not he's going to be able to do it on a consistent basis.

    Last season, he recorded 1,709 rushing yards and nine touchdowns and won the ACC Player of the Year award. However, this was his first full season as a starter, so who knows whether or not he is able to put up numbers like this consistently or if he's just a one-hit wonder.

    It also doesn't help that he has argued with offensive coaches over the season on some play calls, which, considering the problems the Jets had, may cause even more tension both in the locker room and on the field.

    On a more positive note, he is a very physical runner and will do what he can to pick up extra yardage. However, he's also patient, particularly when carrying it through the inside.

    CBS Sports has Wilson projected as a second-round pick.

Chris Polk, Washington

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    Another running back who's been easily overshadowed by his quarterback, Chris Polk had to deal with Jake Locker at quarterback before he was drafted last year.

    With Locker gone, Polk ran for 1,488 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He also recorded 31 receptions for 322 yards and four touchdowns, as well.

    He'd probably record even better statistics if Washington's offensive line wasn't so mediocre.

    He's been consistent in this three years as a starting back for the Huskies, rushing for at least 1,100 yards in each of those seasons.

    He's not the most explosive back in the draft, but still has plenty of speed to show.

    What's great about Polk is his vision in finding open lanes to run through and his ability to protect the football.

    However, the way he breaks tackles may be his best attribute. Stiff arms, spins, jukes; you name it, this guy does it, and will do whatever it takes to keep going.

    The only concern is durability. He's had two shoulder surgeries, so one may wonder if he can handle a workload in the NFL.

    Polk is projected by CBS Sports as a second or third-round pick.