B/R NFL 1,000: Top 80 Running Backs

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 15, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 80 Running Backs

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    Pop quiz: Who is the best running back in the NFL?

    Adrian Peterson might be the strongest, Ray Rice the best on third downs and LeSean McCoy the most athletic, but who is truly the best in the game?

    After spending countless hours locked in the film room breaking down the 2011 NFL season, here is our ranking of the top 80 running backs in the NFL today as part of the B/R NFL 1,000 series.

    The series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year or even who has the most potential. Rather, players are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only.

    After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 80 running backs have been scored on 10 criteria (more on the criteria here). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

80. Chester Taylor, FA

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    Agility

    5

    Very limited athletically, but that's to be expected at this point of his career.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight. Will rarely let it hit the ground.

    Burst

    5

    Average, short burst to the hole, but no longer possesses a second gear.

    Hands

    3

    Very bad hands. Struggles to look the ball in.

    Pass Block

    7

    Still possesses above-average strength when blocking, but his technique is starting to slip.

    Power

    6

    No longer powerful enough to move the pile with any consistency.

    Route Running

    4.5

    Does not run great routes and is not a reliable receiver.

    Speed

    7

    Deceptively fast and quick enough to eat up big chunks of yardage at a time.

    Vision

    7

    Looks for cutback lanes too often, which will get him trapped in the backfield.

    Health

    7

    Missed four games in 2011.

    Overall

    61.5

    Taylor is no longer the dominant change-of-pace back he once was, but he can still get the job done in certain spots.

79. Tashard Choice, Buffalo Bills

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    Agility

    6

    Above-average athlete, but not necessarily quick.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Holds the ball loosely in open space.

    Burst

    7

    Slow to accelerate when he finds open field.

    Hands

    6

    Drops too many passes to be considered reliable.

    Pass Block

    5

    Limited pass-blocker who lacks the fundamentals and technique.

    Power

    7

    Good size and explosion. Finishes off runs with good power.

    Route Running

    6

    Will round out his routes, which allows linebackers to keep up.

    Speed

    6

    Does not have great speed for a running back.

    Vision

    6

    Not an incredibly instinctive runner.

    Health

    8

    Sat out three games in 2011.

    Overall

    63

    Has the power and burst to be effective as a backup.

78. Kahlil Bell, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    7

    Possesses good quickness and flexibility.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Susceptible to losing the ball when hit high.

    Burst

    7

    Good burst, but slow to accelerate in space.

    Hands

    7

    Good hands overall, but needs to do a better job looking it into his hands.

    Pass Block

    3

    Can be a liability in the backfield as a blocker.

    Power

    5

    Does not have the power to play a factor between the tackles.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs clean routes, but needs to create more separation.

    Speed

    7

    Has the burst to beat a defender to open space and speed to maintain the advantage.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find his running lane.

    Health

    8

    Missed three games in 2011.

    Overall

    63

    Quick runner in space. Good change-of-pace back.

77. Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans

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    Agility

    7

    Possesses good flexibility and quickness.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Good protection overall, but susceptible to losing the ball on high hits.

    Burst

    7

    Good, short burst to the hole but struggles to accelerate in open space.

    Hands

    7

    Must work on looking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    3

    Not a good pass-blocker. Lacks the solid base and fundamentals.

    Power

    6

    Does not have the power to go through the middle and move a pile.

    Route Running

    6

    Struggles to run crisp routes.

    Speed

    7

    Has a good burst to get to the hole but will get closed on in open space.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find his lanes.

    Health

    8

    Missed three games in 2011.

    Overall

    63

    Average backup running back at best.

76. Alfonso Smith, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    6

    Above-average athlete, but not known for his elite quickness.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight and is reliable with it.

    Burst

    6

    Does not have a high-level burst. Struggles to start and stop effectively.

    Hands

    5

    Has a hard time looking the ball into his hands.

    Pass Block

    8

    Strong, solid base in pass protection.

    Power

    4

    Not a good between-the-tackles runner.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not run smooth routes. Rounds off too many corners.

    Speed

    6.5

    Has decent speed but can be chased down in the open field.

    Vision

    4

    Below-average vision. Has a hard time finding running lanes.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    63.5

    Reliable second or third back in a platoon system.

75. Tim Hightower, FA

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    Agility

    6

    Slightly above average athlete.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Possesses strong hands and arms. Will rarely fumble.

    Burst

    7

    Strong burst to the hole but can be slow to accelerate.

    Hands

    6

    Does not have great hands out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    10

    Very good pass-blocker who is an asset on third downs.

    Power

    7

    Good size and hip explosion when finishing runs.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not run fluid routes out of the backfield.

    Speed

    6

    Average speed at best, but not good enough.

    Vision

    5

    Has a hard time seeing the correct running lanes.

    Health

    4

    Missed 11 games in 2011.

    Overall

    65

    Really an asset as a power runner and pass-protector when he's on the field. How he recovers from a torn ACL for 2012 will be key.

74. Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys

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    Agility

    8

    High-level quickness and overall athleticism.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Holds the ball far too loosely in space.

    Burst

    7

    Has a good initial burst but struggles to find the second gear in open space.

    Hands

    4

    Does not have good hands as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    5

    Does not possess good technical skills or a strong base as a blocker.

    Power

    6

    Can be effective at times between the tackles but isn't consistent.

    Route Running

    8

    Very fluid route runner out of the backfield but lacks the consistency with his hands.

    Speed

    7

    Fast enough to pick up good chunks of yardage but doesn't have elite speed or a second gear.

    Vision

    7

    Can find cutback lanes well but needs to get downhill more often.

    Health

    7

    Missed four games due to an ankle injury in 2011.

    Overall

    65

    Good change-of-pace back who can be effective when utilized correctly.

73. Anthony Dixon, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    7

    Possesses enough quickness and flexibility to be a factor.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Doesn't consistently keep the ball high and tight.

    Burst

    7

    Slow to accelerate in the open field but has a good burst to the line of scrimmage.

    Hands

    6

    Drops too many sure passes.

    Pass Block

    5

    Limited pass-blocker who doesn't have a good base or technique.

    Power

    6

    Not extremely effective when meeting tacklers head-on at the line of scrimmage.

    Route Running

    5

    Is not a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Does not run crisp routes.

    Speed

    6

    Does not have enough speed to be a major factor.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find his running lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    65

    Backup running back but will be pushed back on the depth chart by more talented runners.

72. Evan Royster, Washington Redskins

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    Agility

    6

    Has good enough athletic ability but lacks quickness.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Royster simply does not fumble.

    Burst

    7

    Has some burst in his game, showing an ability to quickly hit the hole.

    Hands

    7

    An able receiver with soft hands but can turn upfield before locking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    8

    Has the strength and physical nature to be a damn good pass-protector.

    Power

    7

    Has good lower-body strength and strong running to get through the line with power.

    Route Running

    5

    A limited route runner who doesn't have the foot speed to be elite.

    Speed

    6.5

    Lacks great speed and won't run away from anyone in space.

    Vision

    5

    Can struggle to find cutback lanes. Is more of a battering ram.

    Health

    4

    Played in just 10 games in 2011.

    Overall

    65.5

    Royster is a strong runner who brings value as a situational back. He's strong enough to be a great stand-in pass-protector and is strong enough to carry the rock in goal-line situations.

71. Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    7

    Agile and athletic runner.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Very strong possession skills. Holds the ball high and tight.

    Burst

    5

    Does not have a great burst of speed to the hole.

    Hands

    7.5

    Good hands as a receiver. Catches the ball away from his body.

    Pass Block

    3

    Poor pass-blocker who doesn't have the strong base or fundamentals.

    Power

    2

    Will not be mistaken for a downhill power runner.

    Route Running

    8

    Runs clean, crisp routes and can be flexed out.

    Speed

    6

    Despite his small size and agility, he does not possess elite speed.

    Vision

    8

    Has the ability to find the hole and make quick cuts.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    65.5

    Very good situational player who is effective as a receiver out of the backfield as well.

70. Maurice Morris, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    6

    Displays decent agility and flexibility.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Upper-level protection skills, but needs to develop better consistency.

    Burst

    5

    Decent, short burst to the hole but does not have a good second gear.

    Hands

    7

    Pretty good hands but needs to do a better job looking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    5

    Does not possess good pass-blocking technique.

    Power

    5

    Not a very powerful runner. Will not break many tackles.

    Route Running

    8

    Has good body control in the flats and runs crisp routes.

    Speed

    6

    Does not have great speed. Very average runner.

    Vision

    6

    Does not have great instincts for finding running lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    66

    Decent third option at running back. Will be good for a series or two.

69. Marion Barber III, Retired

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    Agility

    6

    Does not have great quickness and is a slightly above-average athlete.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Good, strong hands. Will normally protect the ball well.

    Burst

    8

    Dangerous first step and short-area acceleration.

    Hands

    7

    Possesses a pair of fairly reliable hands for a running back.

    Pass Block

    4

    Does not have the technique and is a liability as a blocker.

    Power

    8

    Physical and punishing runner who will fight for extra yards and move the pile.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not have good route-running skills.

    Speed

    6

    Below-average speed for a running back.

    Vision

    7

    Instinctive runner, but looks for too many cutback lanes, which slows him down.

    Health

    7

    Played in 11 games in 2011.

    Overall

    66

    Once top-notch running back who was nearing the end of his career. Retirement proves he just didn't have it anymore.

68. Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Agility

    6

    Does not have great athleticism or mobility.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Good protection skills but needs to be more consistent.

    Burst

    6

    Has a good burst to the hole but struggles to maintain.

    Hands

    5

    Does not possess good hands as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    10

    Very good blocker who has a solid base and knows where he needs to be in the backfield.

    Power

    6

    Not powerful enough on a consistent basis.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs smooth routes but needs to take sharper corners.

    Speed

    7

    Has a good initial burst and can pick up good yardage in the open field.

    Vision

    6

    Does not consistently find running lanes.

    Health

    5

    Missed a big chunk of games in 2011.

    Overall

    66

    Veteran running back who can make a huge positive impact on offense.

67. Ricky Williams, Retired

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    Agility

    7

    Possesses good flexibility, mobility and athletics.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Needs to protect the ball better when hit high.

    Burst

    7

    Very good burst to get to the hole but loses a step in space.

    Hands

    6

    Does not have great hands out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    3

    Struggles to get a good base as a pass-blocker.

    Power

    8

    Possesses great power at the point of contact.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not run smooth routes coming out of the backfield.

    Speed

    6.5

    Still has a burst, but at this point in his career he doesn't have the speed needed to play a huge factor.

    Vision

    7

    Has a veteran understanding of running lanes but will cut back too often.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    66.5

    At this point of his career, Williams is more of a short-yardage power back who can be used situationally.

66. Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    7

    Good athletics and quickness in the open field.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Very good at keeping control of the ball. Holds it high and tight.

    Burst

    5

    Decent, short bursts but does not have a second gear.

    Hands

    7

    Good hands and extension, but needs to work on looking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    4

    Does not have the base or technique to be a good blocker.

    Power

    4

    Not a powerful downhill runner.

    Route Running

    8

    Possesses good body control in the flats and is even able to flex out in situations.

    Speed

    6.5

    Good initial burst but doesn't have game-breaking speed in the open field.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find running lanes or cutback lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    66.5

    Decent scatback-type player who can play a role in the passing game.

65. Jackie Battle, FA

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    Agility

    6

    Slightly above-average athlete.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight. Won't cough it up much.

    Burst

    6

    Struggles when he has to start and stop but has a good initial burst.

    Hands

    5

    Does not have good hands as a receiver.

    Pass Block

    7

    Strong pass-blocker with good fundamentals and a solid base.

    Power

    5

    Not incredibly effective between the tackles. Will not break many tackles.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Runs clean routes but lacks the ability to get separation from his defenders.

    Speed

    6

    Below-average speed.

    Vision

    6

    He can lower his pads and charge forward but is not an instinctual runner.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    66.5

    Does a good job as a platoon back but has too many weaknesses to be much more.

64. Cedric Benson, FA

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    Agility

    7

    Good quickness and flexibility.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Veteran ball-carrier who fumbled a surprising five times in 2011.

    Burst

    7

    Has a decent burst to hole but struggles in open space.

    Hands

    5

    Does not have solid hands as a pass-catcher.

    Pass Block

    7

    Very limited blocker in the backfield.

    Power

    7

    Good size and hip explosion make him a dangerous runner at the point of contact.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not run fluid routes out of the backfield.

    Speed

    5.5

    Not a fast running back.

    Vision

    8

    Veteran knowledge of the game allows him to find the hole and cutting lanes.

    Health

    9

    Sat out one game in 2011.

    Overall

    66.5

    Solid veteran power runner who can still be effective between the tackles but lacks the speed to be a factor after the first wave of tacklers.

63. Mewelde Moore, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    6

    Good quickness and flexibility.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Strong arms allow him to hold on to the ball effectively.

    Burst

    6

    Good, short burst to the hole but lacks the ability to start and stop effectively.

    Hands

    6

    Drops far too many passes to be considered consistent.

    Pass Block

    7

    Good pass-protector with a good base and technique.

    Power

    6

    Not an effective between-the-tackles runner.

    Route Running

    8

    Runs very crisp routes out of the backfield.

    Speed

    7

    Possesses good speed in the open field.

    Vision

    6

    Has a hard time finding running lanes consistently.

    Health

    7

    Sprained his MCL in 2011 but didn't miss many games and looks fine for 2012.

    Overall

    67

    Solid back who can be a positive contributor but isn't great in any way.

62. James Starks, Green Bay Packers

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    Agility

    7

    Good athleticism and quickness in the open field.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Will normally hold on to the ball but needs to get better at protecting it against high hits.

    Burst

    7

    Has a great first step and burst to the hole.

    Hands

    7

    Fairly consistent hands for a running back. Looks the ball in well.

    Pass Block

    8

    High-level pass-blocker with a strong base and good technique.

    Power

    5

    Has trouble breaking tackles and is inconsistent through the middle.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not excel at running crisp, smooth routes.

    Speed

    8

    Top-notch speed and ability to outrun opponents in the open field.

    Vision

    5

    Has a hard time finding open lanes to run through.

    Health

    8

    Missed three games in 2011.

    Overall

    67

    Starks has a ton of raw ability and is full of potential. Tough runner who will always move the ball forward, but he needs to put together a consistent season.

61. Curtis Brinkley, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    7

    Good athleticism and quickness for a running back.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Will rarely let go of the ball. Holds it in optimal position.

    Burst

    7

    Strong first step and a good burst at the hole.

    Hands

    7

    Solid hands. Will catch most passes thrown his way.

    Pass Block

    7.5

    Pretty good run-blocker but needs to develop better technique.

    Power

    5

    Does not have the strength to be effective between the tackles.

    Route Running

    6

    Does not run smooth routes and struggles to get separation.

    Speed

    6.5

    Doesn't show consistent speed, but he has the ability to outrun opponents.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find running lanes.

    Health

    6

    Missed six games in 2011.

    Overall

    67

    Has the ability to be an effective backup but needs to work on some of his fundamentals and speed.

60. Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    6

    Slightly above-average athlete, but is not exceptionally quick.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight.

    Burst

    7

    Has a decent, short burst and can stop and start effectively.

    Hands

    5

    Has a hard time looking the ball into his hands.

    Pass Block

    8

    Strong base with above-average strength. Can hold his own against the pass rush.

    Power

    8

    Very impressive power runner who can run over defenders.

    Route Running

    5

    Not a good route runner out of the backfield.

    Speed

    7

    Does not have great speed for a running back.

    Vision

    7

    Struggles to find open lanes or cutback lanes.

    Health

    4

    Missed 10 games in 2011.

    Overall

    67

    Bruising back who is exceptional between the tackles when healthy.

59. Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    6.5

    Slightly above average athlete but doesn't possess great quickness.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Tucks the ball high and tight.

    Burst

    5

    Does not have the second gear to outrun defenders in the second level.

    Hands

    4.5

    Struggles to have reliable hands in the passing game.

    Pass Block

    7

    Well above average strength and a very solid base.

    Power

    6

    Despite his strength, he struggles to move piles on a consistent basis.

    Route Running

    6

    Not reliable out of the backfield as a receiver.

    Speed

    7

    Does not have the speed to be a consistent factor.

    Vision

    8

    Does not have the ability to make quick and efficient cuts.

    Health

    7

    Missed five games in 2011.

    Overall

    67.5

    Good backup running back, but doesn't have what it takes to be the feature back.

58. Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    7

    Very good mobility and athleticism as a runner.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Needs to get better at protecting when hit high.

    Burst

    7

    Very good initial burst but doesn't have a second gear.

    Hands

    7

    Possesses good hands but needs to look the ball in more.

    Pass Block

    5

    Does not have the fundamentals to be an adequate pass-blocker.

    Power

    6

    Can move the pile, but cannot do so consistently.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Reliable receiver but needs to work on running crisper routes.

    Speed

    7

    Has enough speed to pick up big chunks of yardage before being tracked down.

    Vision

    6

    Does not really run off instinct. Has a hard time finding lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    67.5

    Has the speed, explosiveness and ability to be serviceable, but he's not great.

57. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos

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    Agility

    8

    High-level athlete with good quickness.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Good protector, but needs to consistently hold on to the ball.

    Burst

    8

    Good initial burst to the hole, slow to accelerate in the open field.

    Hands

    8

    Good hands overall. Won't drop many passes.

    Pass Block

    4

    Very poor pass-blocker. Doesn't display good technique.

    Power

    6

    Does not have enough power to break many tackles.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs very smooth and clean routes.

    Speed

    7

    Good burst and is quick enough to maintain it, but lacks that second gear to really escape.

    Vision

    7

    Has the ability to find running lanes well.

    Health

    5

    Missed from Week 11 through the end of the season after a knee injury

    Overall

    68

    Speedy and effective runner, especially in the right system.

56. Justin Forsett, Seattle Seahawks

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    Agility

    7

    Possesses high-level athleticism.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight and will rarely put it on the ground.

    Burst

    7

    Possesses a good, short burst to the hole.

    Hands

    7.5

    Possesses good hands and extends his arms well when catching.

    Pass Block

    3

    Not a reliable blocker in the backfield.

    Power

    4

    Not an effective between-the-tackles runner.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Rounds off too many routes, but he's a reliable receiver.

    Speed

    8

    Possesses very good speed in the open field.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find running lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    68

    Very good quickness and speed make him an effective change-of-pace back.

55. Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    7

    Displays good quickness and agility for a running back of his size.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Holds the ball solely in open space, which makes it susceptible to getting punched out.

    Burst

    7

    Great burst to the line of scrimmage, but a tad slow when accelerating in space.

    Hands

    6

    Has solid, but not great, hands as a receiver.

    Pass Block

    4

    Despite his size and strength, he doesn't have good technique or base when blocking.

    Power

    8

    Very powerful, downhill runner. Needs to lower his pads at the point of impact though.

    Route Running

    8

    Runs clean routes overall but needs to get more separation.

    Speed

    6

    Does not have great speed. Much more of a momentum runner.

    Vision

    8

    Can see the field well but looks for cutback lanes far too often.

    Health

    8

    Missed two games in 2011.

    Overall

    68

    Extremely good change-of-pace back. Typical downhill bruising runner who is very effective.

54. Shonn Greene, New York Jets

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    Agility

    7

    Decent flexibility and agility, but nothing special.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Possesses good strength in his arms, will rarely fumble.

    Burst

    7

    Has a good, short burst to the hole and can start and stop well, but doesn't have the open-field quickness to be an elite runner.

    Hands

    4

    Doesn't have great hands as a receiver.

    Pass Block

    7

    Above-average strength allows him to hold his ground against the rush.

    Power

    8.5

    Strong between-the-tackles runner who can punish defenders and break tackles.

    Route Running

    6

    Does not run great routes and doesn't cut crisp corners.

    Speed

    4

    Poor speed for a running back. Relies more on his strength.

    Vision

    6

    More of a bulldozer runner than an instinctual runner who will cut back into lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    68.5

    Good downhill presence that will pick up tough yards when needed, but needs to be more consistent.

53. Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    7

    Good quickness and flexibility, but is not great.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight and will rarely fumble.

    Burst

    7

    Has a good, short burst to the line, but is slow to accelerate in open space.

    Hands

    5

    Does not have good hands. Struggles to look the ball in.

    Pass Block

    5

    Can be a liability as a blocker in the backfield.

    Power

    6

    Not very effective running between the tackles.

    Route Running

    5

    Poor hands and poor route-running skills.

    Speed

    6.5

    Decent speed but isn't quick enough to make a huge impact.

    Vision

    7

    Has good instincts but looks for the cutback too often.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    68.5

    Average, young running back who won't be much more than a backup.

52. D.J. Ware, New York Giants

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    Agility

    6

    Just above-average athlete.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight, which allows him to protect the ball well.

    Burst

    6

    Displays a decent, short burst to the hole.

    Hands

    7

    Decent hands but needs to look the ball in.

    Pass Block

    5

    Does not have great fundamentals as a blocker.

    Power

    5

    Not effective running between the tackles.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs cleans routes but needs to work on using his body to get separation.

    Speed

    7

    Quick enough to pick up good chunks of yardage in open space.

    Vision

    6

    Does not have great instincts as a runner. Struggles to find the proper lanes.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    69

    Good platoon back who can play a factor in the passing game.

51. Ryan Grant, FA

30 of 81

     

    Agility

    6

    Not extremely athletic and has average quickness.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Has strong arms and will rarely put the ball on the ground.

    Burst

    6

    Decent short burst to the hole.

    Hands

    7

    Possesses good, solid hands out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    4

    Liability as a blocker out of the backfield. Does not have good technique as a blocker.

    Power

    6

    Below-average power. Has trouble breaking tackles.

    Route Running

    9

    Has great balance out of the backfield and runs smooth, crisp routes.

    Speed

    6.5

    Lacks elite speed needed at his position.

    Vision

    8.5

    Has good vision. Very good at finding the right lanes.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    70

    Has had a hard time with consistency and injury in the past two years, but when he's on, he's a legitimate starting running back.

50. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    8

    Has very good mobility and quickness.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Holds the ball well and will rarely fumble.

    Burst

    7

    Good, short burst to the line of scrimmage, but is not necessarily explosive.

    Hands

    6

    Not an elite-level receiver out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    8

    Strong base allows him to hold his own in the backfield.

    Power

    5

    Not an effective between-the-tackles runner.

    Route Running

    7.5

    Runs clean routes and shows good balance in the flats.

    Speed

    7.5

    Possesses good-to-great speed in the open field.

    Vision

    7

    Has the ability to see the field well and find his lanes.

    Health

    5

    Battled injury throughout 2011.

    Overall

    70

    Can play above his skill level at times, but truthfully he is nothing more than a good backup who will pick up yards when needed.

49. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    7

    Good mobility, athleticism and quickness.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Will rarely fumble the ball. Holds it high and tight to his body.

    Burst

    6

    Has a good burst to the hole, but struggles to start and stop with a high-level burst.

    Hands

    4

    Does not have consistent hands.

    Pass Block

    9

    Very good pass-blocker with a solid base and good technique.

    Power

    5

    Is not a consistent threat between the tackles.

    Route Running

    6

    Struggles to run effective routes.

    Speed

    8

    Possesses high-level speed and can outrun opponents in the open field.

    Vision

    5

    Does not run the ball instinctively.

    Health

    10

    Healthy for all of 2011.

    Overall

    70

    Has the ability to be a very good change-of-pace back.

48. Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    8

    Very good athlete with good mobility and quickness.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Usually protects the ball well but needs to do a better job when hit high.

    Burst

    7

    Great first burst to the line of scrimmage but struggles to accelerate once he hits the open field.

    Hands

    7

    Good hands but needs to look the ball in more.

    Pass Block

    6.5

    Limited blocker who needs to work on his technique.

    Power

    8

    Possesses very impressive power on contact.

    Route Running

    6

    Reliable receiver but needs to learn to run cleaner routes.

    Speed

    6

    Very average speed for a running back.

    Vision

    7

    Not an incredibly instinctive or shifty runner.

    Health

    8

    Played in 13 games in 2011.

    Overall

    70.5

    Young, powerful back who has the ability to grow into a bruiser role.

47. Thomas Jones, FA

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    Agility

    6

    Does not possess great athleticism this far into his career.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Veteran ball-carrier who holds it high and tight.

    Burst

    8

    Possesses a strong first step and good burst in short-area acceleration.

    Hands

    6

    Decent hands but is not a consistent pass-catcher.

    Pass Block

    8

    High-level pass-blocker with a good, solid base.

    Power

    7

    Strong runner who will break tackles and move the pile.

    Route Running

    4

    Not a reliable route runner.

    Speed

    5

    Does not possess good quickness.

    Vision

    7

    Good, veteran knowledge of the run game and where his lanes are.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    Veteran player who is no longer the workhorse he once was, but can still put his head down and get valuable yards.

46. Roy Helu, Washington Redskins

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    Agility

    8

    Very agile and quick running back.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Does a good job holding on to the ball because of his strong arms.

    Burst

    8

    Has a strong first step and good explosion in short areas.

    Hands

    5

    Does not possess great hands as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    8

    Strong base allows him to hold his own against the pass rush.

    Power

    5

    Not an effective runner going between the tackles.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs good, crisp routes out of the backfield.

    Speed

    8

    Combines very good agility with game-breaking speed.

    Vision

    5

    Has a hard time finding the running lanes, but this will come in time.

    Health

    9

    Sat out one game in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    Young running back with a ton of potential, but still needs time to develop.

45. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Agility

    6

    Not incredibly athletic or mobile.

    Ball Protection

    5

    Struggles to protect the ball and will put it on the ground when defenses attack his arms.

    Burst

    7

    Good, strong burst but struggles to accelerate in open space.

    Hands

    4

    Does not possess reliable hands as a pass-catcher.

    Pass Block

    9

    Good, solid base makes him a reliable blocker.

    Power

    10

    Elite power as a runner. Possesses a lower center of gravity and is punishing to meet head-on.

    Route Running

    8

    Runs relatively clean routes for such a big player.

    Speed

    7

    Possesses a deceptive burst of speed.

    Vision

    7

    Can easily pick out running lanes but has a hard time finding cutback lanes in space.

    Health

    8

    Missed Weeks 6 and 7 of the 2011 season due to a knee injury.

    Overall

    71

    Very powerful runner who can be a force when he gets going.

44. Joe McKnight, New York Jets

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    Agility

    9

    Great athlete with good quickness and mobility.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Has good protection skills and will rarely fumble.

    Burst

    8

    Very strong first step and can be a very explosive runner.

    Hands

    7

    Good hands, but needs to work on looking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    5

    Not a good blocker in the backfield.

    Power

    4

    Does not have good power as a runner. Not good between the tackles.

    Route Running

    8

    Good body control in the flats and can even be flexed out from time to time.

    Speed

    8

    High-level speed. Has the ability to outrun opponents in the open field.

    Vision

    4

    Struggles to find his running lanes.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game due to injury in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    Very fast, young player who will only continue to develop and round out his skill set.

43. Jason Snelling, Atlanta Falcons

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    Agility

    6

    Does not possess great athleticism or mobility.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Holds the ball high and tight. Will rarely fumble.

    Burst

    6

    Gets a good first burst but doesn't have much after that.

    Hands

    6.5

    Decent receiver but needs to work on looking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    8

    Strong base and technique allow him to be an effective blocker.

    Power

    7

    Strong enough to explode at the point of contact and push the pile.

    Route Running

    6

    Struggles to run clean routes.

    Speed

    6

    Lacks elite speed, which hinders him as a player.

    Vision

    7

    Does not have the natural instincts as a runner. More apt to put his head down and bully his way forward.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    71.5

    Solid backup running back. Fits his role and does it well.

42. Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons

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    Agility

    8

    Good athleticism and flexibility as a runner.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Susceptible to putting the ball on the ground when hit high.

    Burst

    8

    Dangerous first step and has good short-area acceleration.

    Hands

    8

    Possesses good hands and arm extension. Will catch the ball away from his body.

    Pass Block

    6

    Limited blocker with poor technique.

    Power

    4

    Does not have the power to go between the tackles and play a huge factor.

    Route Running

    7.5

    Runs very solid routes and has good balance in the flats.

    Speed

    8

    Top-notch speed. Has the ability to outrun his opponents in the open field.

    Vision

    5

    Struggles to find running lanes consistently.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    71.5

    Young, fast running back that could develop into a great change-of-pace back or a third-down scatback.

41. Brian Leonard, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    5.5

    A limited athlete who doesn't show great quickness or flexibility for a running back.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Has strong enough arms and hands to hold on to the rock.

    Burst

    6

    Leonard doesn't show great burst but can accelerate to the hole.

    Hands

    6.5

    An able receiver who can catch touch-passes in the flats.

    Pass Block

    7

    Strong enough to protect in the backfield but needs to show more awareness.

    Power

    8.5

    Has a big, strong frame that lets him run with impressive power behind his pads.

    Route Running

    7

    Shows good cutting ability to get to the flats and work routes off play-action.

    Speed

    6

    Slightly above average speed—Leonard won't run away from anyone.

    Vision

    7

    A one-cut runner who gets his shoulders square without looking for cutback lanes.

    Health

    8

    Injured for three games in 2011.

    Overall

    71.5

    A versatile runner who fits as a power running back and a possible fullback, Brian Leonard has exceptional value to NFL teams. Leonard will never be the fastest guy, but he's a strong goal-line runner and blocker.

40. Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    6

    Has a big body with nice strength but limited quickness.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Has the bulk to protect the ball, showing limited fumbling.

    Burst

    8

    Uses his thick legs and lower-body power to explode out of his stance.

    Hands

    6.5

    An able receiver, but limited extension makes him a body catcher.

    Pass Block

    7.5

    At 5'9" and 240-plus, Tolbert has a thick frame and low center of gravity, which allow him to stand in and protect.

    Power

    9

    Has exceptional power, powered by a big, thick base.

    Route Running

    5

    A limited route runner who doesn't show much more than flare routes to the flats.

    Speed

    6

    Limited speed for the running back position.

    Vision

    7

    Finds creases and has the burst to slip through cracks.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game last year.

    Overall

    72

    Tolbert will move to more of a fullback role with Carolina, but in 2011 he was a running back in San Diego. Tolbert is a strong runner who will add immediate value in the red zone for the Panthers.

39. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    7

    Has enough quickness and flexibility to be a factor, but isn’t great.

    Ball Protection

    10

    A rare fumbler who didn't put the ball on the ground once in 2011.

    Burst

    7

    Has enough quickness to get into the second level quickly.

    Hands

    8

    Shows soft hands with good extension and awareness in space.

    Pass Block

    6

    A solid blocker who doesn't shy away from contact.

    Power

    5

    Has average power for the position, struggling to bounce off contact.

    Route Running

    8

    Has good awareness as a route runner, showing nice cutting ability and good separation.

    Speed

    7

    Has okay speed but won't run away from defenders.

    Vision

    6

    Inexperience is a major factor in Stephens-Howlings' ability to find running lanes.

    Health

    8

    Missed two games in 2011.

    Overall

    72

    A very good third-down back, LaRod Stephens-Howling has good hands and nice route-running ability. He's also a strong and willing blocker. If his vision to find holes increases, he will see a larger workload.

38. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    7

    Has good quickness and nice flexibility for a bigger back.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Gerhart is strong on impact but can carry the ball a little loose.

    Burst

    7

    Gets out of his stance in a hurry, showing good quickness in his first few steps.

    Hands

    7.5

    Soft hands allow him to pull in receptions away from the body.

    Pass Block

    5

    Has the size to be a good blocker but didn't show great technique or base strength.

    Power

    9

    A strong runner who can get behind his pads to power through the line of scrimmage.

    Route Running

    6

    Shows good understanding of routes but needs improved footwork.

    Speed

    7

    Has good, not great, speed to make plays in the open field.

    Vision

    6

    Frequently missed out on cutback opportunities last year. Gerhart needs to put in the work here.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any time last year.

    Overall

    72.5

    When asked to take on a bigger role after Adrian Peterson went down with injury, Gerhart stepped up and produced. He's a strong runner with capable skills for third down.

37. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    8

    Possesses good flexibility and quickness.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Decent ball protection, but needs to wrap up better when hit high.

    Burst

    8

    Good burst at the line of scrimmage but struggles in space.

    Hands

    6

    Struggles to look the ball into his hands.

    Pass Block

    7.5

    Strong base in pass protection but needs to work on his technique.

    Power

    6

    Not effective running between the tackles.

    Route Running

    5

    Does not run smooth routes, making him an unreliable option out of the backfield.

    Speed

    8

    Very good speed in the open field.

    Vision

    6

    Does not have great instincts as a runner.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    72.5

    Good change-of-pace back, but isn't reliable in many third-down situations.

36. Leon Washington, Seattle Seahawks

45 of 81

     

    Agility

    8

    Has good enough quickness and some wiggle, but he's lost a step or two.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Holds the ball high and tight, limiting exposure for fumbles.

    Burst

    8

    Gets off the ball in a hurry, showing very high-level quickness in his first three yards.

    Hands

    7

    Washington is a limited receiver who will drop too many passes in the flats.

    Pass Block

    7

    Strong enough to stand in and take on pass-rushers. Gets low and delivers a hit.

    Power

    4

    At around 5'8" and 200, lack of size and strength keeps Washington's power to a minimum.

    Route Running

    7.5

    Can be flexed out to the slot and shows good change-of-direction skills in a route tree.

    Speed

    7

    Still has the speed to turn the corner and make plays, but isn't among the fastest at RB.

    Vision

    6

    Does a good job locating first openings but can get bottled up looking for the second.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    72.5

    The 29-year-old Washington is a good third-down back who brings value as a blocker and receiver, but his hands looked less impressive in 2011. As the league moves to more of a committee approach to running backs, Washington still holds good value.

35. Javon Ringer, Tennessee Titans

46 of 81

     

    Agility

    8

    Has nice quickness and body control out of his stance.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Tucks the ball away and runs compact, protecting the ball with his arms.

    Burst

    8

    Has very good quickness off the ball, with strong legs to power out of his stance.

    Hands

    8

    A capable receiver with soft hands to pull in the ball, Ringer is a fine receiver in space.

    Pass Block

    6

    Lacks size and strength to stay in as a pass-protector. He's a willing blocker but needs to get better.

    Power

    6

    Lacks the power to punch and bounce off defenders.

    Route Running

    6

    Limited experience and flexibility to get out in space and run routes.

    Speed

    7.5

    Has solid speed to pick his hole and explode on to the edge. Can run away from tacklers.

    Vision

    7

    Is a good one-cut runner who can read a block and bounce outside.

    Health

    7

    Sat out four games last season.

    Overall

    72.5

    Ringer has starter-quality skills in a scheme with a strong offensive line. He has good baseline skills and enough burst to quickly get past the initial wave of defenders.

34. LaDainian Tomlinson, FA

47 of 81

     

    Agility

    5

    Tomlinson regressed in terms of quickness and burst during the 2011 season.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Remains strong at contact and puts the ball away.

    Burst

    5

    Not as fast as he once was. Age and workload have slowed Tomlinson down.

    Hands

    8

    Has soft hands and a good feel for extending to catch the ball in space.

    Pass Block

    6

    Delivers a good shoulder shot but doesn't use his hands well to protect.

    Power

    4

    Lack of burst has stripped Tomlinson of his power between the tackles.

    Route Running

    9

    Still shows good awareness and an ability to work off coverage to find openings.

    Speed

    7

    LT is no longer fast enough to run away from defenses.

    Vision

    10

    Excellent patience and vision to find openings in the offensive line.

    Health

    9

    Missed two games in 2011.

    Overall

    73

    We may have seen the last of LaDainian Tomlinson's Hall of Fame career as the 2011 season closed. He is no longer the shifty, powerful back of years past, proving that time and carries have left him with little burst or breakaway speed.

33. Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals

48 of 81

     

    Agility

    6.5

    Slightly above average athlete.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Good possession skills, but needs to get better at holding on when hit high.

    Burst

    8

    Hits the hole hard with a good first burst but is slow to accelerate.

    Hands

    6

    Very below-average hands as a receiver.

    Pass Block

    6

    Limited pass-blocker who lacks the fundamentals.

    Power

    9

    Possesses excellent downhill power to break tackles and move the pile.

    Route Running

    6

    Does not possess great hands out of the backfield.

    Speed

    7

    More of a downhill, momentum runner than a fast back.

    Vision

    9

    Good vision, but needs to get north and south more often.

    Health

    8

    Missed two games in 2011.

    Overall

    73.5

    Very strong and dangerous downhill back, but needs to improve his overall game. Wells has the skills to be very good if he can stay healthy and work on getting upfield.

32. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

49 of 81

     

    Agility

    7.5

    Has good body control and balance but lacks great flexibility or burst.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Needs to be careful when hit high.

    Burst

    7.5

    Gets off the ball with good quickness, but he struggles to maintain his first step.

    Hands

    7.5

    Can be a quality receiver when thrown to in the flats.

    Pass Block

    7.5

    Ingram has the size and strength to be a valuable protector, but he needs to work on reading blitz packages.

    Power

    8.5

    Runs with a low center of gravity and has the strength to break tackles.

    Route Running

    6.5

    An underdeveloped skill that doesn't fit Ingram's body of work.

    Speed

    7

    Ingram has good quickness, but he lacks the speed to get to the corner and make plays in space.

    Vision

    8

    Is a patient runner with good vision to find lanes on dives and counters.

    Health

    6

    Missed six games in 2011.

    Overall

    74

    The Saints' first-round pick in 2011, the '09 Heisman winner from Alabama did little to contribute to the Saints' season. Graded on pure ability, Ingram comes in at 32 due to a lack of speed, receiving ability and burst.

31. Ben Tate, Houston Texans

50 of 81

     

    Agility

    8.5

    Shows good overall athletic ability with solid quickness and strength.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Tate had some issues hanging on to the ball through contact last season, as he put it on the ground four times for the Texans.

    Burst

    8.5

    Uses powerful lower body to explode off the ball.

    Hands

    7

    A good receiver who has potential to be much better with added experience.

    Pass Block

    5.5

    Strong enough to be good, but too often drops his head and loses the defender.

    Power

    7

    Has the frame to punish defenders if they step in the hole.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Does a good job turning his shoulders to make himself a big target out of the backfield.

    Speed

    8

    Has more than enough speed to get to the edge and run away from a defensive front seven.

    Vision

    8

    Sees the field well for a young player, showing the ability to pick his spots and get through the line.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    74

    A strong runner with good vision and strength, Tate has to prove he can stay healthy. With the emergence of Arian Foster in the Houston backfield, Tate has become more expendable but still provides the skill set of a high-level No. 2 back and potential starter.

30. Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos

51 of 81

     

    Agility

    7

    Slowed some by age and carries, McGahee still has a good first step.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Has a tendency to hold the ball too loose, resulting in fumbles when running in traffic.

    Burst

    9

    Has an exceptional first step, showing good ability to eat up yards out of his stance.

    Hands

    5

    Big weakness here. Struggles to secure the ball unless it's thrown into his gut.

    Pass Block

    8

    A solid blocker who shows good vision and awareness for where the blitz is coming from.

    Power

    8.5

    A hard, downhill runner who picks up steam as he hits the line of scrimmage.

    Route Running

    5.5

    A decent route runner off stretch plays, but you won't see McGahee out in space often.

    Speed

    7

    Doesn't have runaway speed but is good enough to elude defenders.

    Vision

    10

    Sees the field well and can find openings in multiple schemes—even the triple option.

    Health

    9

    Sat out one game in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    Now 30, the Bronco continues to produce at a high level despite having been in the league since 2003. McGahee's become more of a power runner, showing good vision and burst to take on tacklers in the hole.

29. Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs

52 of 81

     

    Agility

    6.5

    Good quickness for a big man, but lacking compared to all running backs.

    Ball Protection

    9

    It's not common when Hillis fumbles, but it does happen.

    Burst

    8.5

    Shoots out of the gate strong, showing good burst and power.

    Hands

    5

    Did not offer much in the way of receptions in 2011.

    Pass Block

    7

    Has the size/strength ratio to be good but too often fails to make contact.

    Power

    10

    A big, strong back with exceptional total-body power.

    Route Running

    7

    Can make some plays in the flats or off play-action, but doesn't offer much flexed out.

    Speed

    7

    Has more than enough speed to accelerate to the corner but won't outrun many defenders once he clears the line of scrimmage.

    Vision

    9

    Sees the hole well and does a nice job cutting back on plays.

    Health

    6

    Missed considerable time in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    The Madden cover boy struggled with injury and effort in 2011, and his performance on the field reflected that. Hillis didn't run with the same power or burst as he did in his breakout 2010 and was much easier to bring down in the open field.

28. Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots

53 of 81

     

    Agility

    6

    Still shows nice quickness and some hip shake for an older guy.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Faulk is as sure-handed as they come. He didn't fumble once in 2011.

    Burst

    7

    Lacks the get-off to attack the line of scrimmage.

    Hands

    8

    One of the better receivers out of the backfield in the NFL, Faulk has soft hands and good form.

    Pass Block

    10

    Comfortable enough to stay in the pocket and pick up blitzes. Plays with good leverage and a violent pop.

    Power

    5

    Lacks the power to run over tacklers.

    Route Running

    10

    A smooth route runner who can work in the slot and out of the backfield.

    Speed

    6

    Has seen his speed regress over the years. Faulk's game is more about quickness than speed.

    Vision

    8

    Does a great job finding openings and picking his spots.

    Health

    5

    Faulk missed nine games in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    A textbook example of what a third-down back should be able to do, the soon-to-be 36-year-old Faulk has remained a valuable player in the New England Patriots offense because of his consistency and the security he provides Tom Brady as a runner, receiver and blocker.

27. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    9

    Has extraordinary burst and quickness in the open field.

    Ball Protection

    10

    For a smaller speed back, Best does a great job protecting the ball.

    Burst

    8

    Has very good acceleration and is quick to get to top speed.

    Hands

    8

    A reliable and effective receiver who can be intermittently used as a receiver in the slot.

    Pass Block

    4

    A lack of size and strength keeps Best from being much of a blocker.

    Power

    6

    Small and squat, Best can pack a punch but doesn't maintain power through his runs.

    Route Running

    9

    A dangerous route runner who has good foot speed and nice ability to plant and cut.

    Speed

    9

    Best has the speed to run away from defenders and easily beat defenders in space.

    Vision

    8

    Shows good vision to locate holes and can also identify cutbacks.

    Health

    4

    Missed 10 games in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    If healthy, Jahvid Best has the speed and agility to be one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL today. He plays with good body lean and the hips to make players miss in space. Health was an issue for him and the Lions last year, however.

26. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

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    Agility

    8

    Despite being a little stiff in the waist, shows nice change-of-direction skills and overall athletic ability.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Shows some wiggle in the ball when he takes hard hits. Must learn to tuck it away stronger.

    Burst

    8

    Fires out of his stance well, getting up to his top gear quickly.

    Hands

    7.5

    Murray can be a good option as a receiver, as he looks the ball in and can extend to make catches.

    Pass Block

    6

    Often failed to recognize and pick up blitzes for the Cowboys offense.

    Power

    7

    Has good one-cut power, meaning he can plant and change directions and lower a boom on an unsuspecting defender.

    Route Running

    7

    Rounded off a lot of his routes out of the backfield, but gets up the seam well.

    Speed

    8.5

    Has enough breakaway speed to reach the second level and hit a second gear to outrun defenders.

    Vision

    7

    Lowers his head in the backfield at times, limiting his ability to find cutback lanes.

    Health

    8

    Missed three games in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    Week 7, DeMarco Murray burst onto the scene in 2011 with a breakout, record-breaking 253-yard outing against the Rams. The former Sooners star followed it up nicely with good play the rest of his rookie campaign. But to prove he's a feature back, he'll have to work on staying healthy and finding blitzers better.

25. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    8

    Has nice quickness and open-field moves, showing good power and balance.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Williams is like a vault when carrying the football.

    Burst

    8

    Has high-level acceleration to get from Point A to Point B in no time.

    Hands

    4.5

    For being a good athlete, he wasn't a factor as a receiver in 2011.

    Pass Block

    4

    Wasn't used much as a blocker due to a lack of fundamentals when attacking the pass rush.

    Power

    7

    Gets low behind his pads and can run with good power.

    Route Running

    6

    Gets to the flats with good timing and can be used in motion as a receiver.

    Speed

    9

    Williams has game-breaking speed if he can get to daylight.

    Vision

    9

    Finds the hole well and has the ability to find space and get to the edge.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    75.5

    DeAngelo Williams had trouble living up to the expectations of his substantial new contract at five years and $43 million, but the Panther is still a very good running back with all-around skills to be a feature back.

24. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    7

    Can be a little heavy in space but has excellent burst and strength.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Put the ball on the ground once in 2011, down from five times over the 2009-2010 seasons.

    Burst

    8

    Gets to top speed within his first few yards.

    Hands

    7

    Good enough hands to pluck the ball out of the air and tuck it away before making a move.

    Pass Block

    8

    Mendenhall has the strength, leverage and technique to be a solid pass-protector.

    Power

    8

    Strong enough to lower the boom on defenders who get in his way.

    Route Running

    7

    A good receiver who can get to the flats and lose defenders with solid, crisp routes.

    Speed

    7

    When running on two good knees, Mendenhall is fast enough to pull away from defenders.

    Vision

    7

    Can get tunnel vision at times and fails to locate cutback lanes.

    Health

    9

    Tore his ACL late in 2011.

    Overall

    76

    Mendenhall went down with a torn ACL that severely limited his 2011 season. When healthy, Mendenhall is a powerful running back with good burst and agility to get to the edge and make plays.

23. Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Agility

    10

    Has elite overall athletic ability with the burst and open-field moves to make defenders look foolish.

    Ball Protection

    8

    One of the better young ball-carriers in the game, McCluster's protection skills are solid.

    Burst

    8

    Consistently shows great acceleration out of the backfield, the slot and as a returner.

    Hands

    8

    A very good receiver with soft hands and very good hand-eye coordination.

    Pass Block

    5

    Too small to stay in and provide a line of defense against pass-rushers.

    Power

    4

    Comes off the ball with good burst, but the 5'8", 170-pound McCluster is just not strong enough to back it up with power running.

    Route Running

    8

    A master on wheel routes, flairs and digs. Can be used as a receiver out of the slot without missing a beat.

    Speed

    9

    Definitely has the speed to run away from NFL defensive backs, showing rare long speed.

    Vision

    6

    Sees the field well when out in space but can have trouble locating holes when running between the tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any time in 2011.

    Overall

    76

    KC's Round 2 pick in 2010, Dexter McCluster is a wonderful option as a returner, third-down back and occasional wideout. McCluster is the type of multi-purpose running back every NFL team would love to have. As he develops more skills as a runner, his role will grow with the Chiefs.

22. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

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    Agility

    10

    An all-world athlete who shows excellent athleticism and instincts.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Rarely fumbles, showing good strength in his arms and hands.

    Burst

    9

    Top-level ability with the burst to run away from defenders in and out of space.

    Hands

    8

    A talented receiver, McFadden is confident in his hands and arm extension to catch the ball away from his body.

    Pass Block

    3

    Hasn't bought in as a pass-protector, blowing too many assignments.

    Power

    7

    When he gets his pads down, McFadden can be very good on impact.

    Route Running

    8

    With good speed, quickness and balance, very solid here. Has good body control in the flats and can even flex out wide if needed.

    Speed

    9

    Has the speed to get to the corner and run past defenders. Not many people will catch this Raider from behind.

    Vision

    9

    Is an instinctive runner with excellent agility to find creases between the tackles.

    Health

    5

    Missed considerable time (nine games) in 2011 with a Lisfranc fracture to his right foot.

    Overall

    76

    When healthy, there are few running backs in the NFL with Run-DMC's talent. His early-season performance for Oakland last year was brilliant, but once again, McFadden was struck down with injury. At this point it remains to be seen if he can remain healthy long enough to prove his worth.

21. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

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    Agility

    9

    Has the quickness and balance of a great athlete. Would score higher if not for some subpar quickness early in the season.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Has decent ball protection but will let go of the ball when hit hard up high.

    Burst

    9

    Able to accelerate and explode through first three to five yards of his carry, but was inconsistent early in 2011.

    Hands

    5

    Not much of a receiver, Johnson lets the ball get into his body.

    Pass Block

    5

    Can be a liability as a blocker and is not asked to stay in as a pass-protector very often for the Titans. 

    Power

    6

    Asked to run outside, as he is not powerful enough to move piles on a consistent basis.

    Route Running

    7

    Shows good ability to separate with raw speed, but his routes can be sloppy.

    Speed

    10

    One of the fastest players at any position in all the league.

    Vision

    8

    Much better when running off-tackle, Johnson can struggle to read guards and work off their blocks in the middle of the line.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any time last season.

    Overall

    76

    Few RBs in the NFL have Johnson's speed or quickness, but his toughness and vision were major concerns through much of the 2011 season. The three-time Pro Bowler could be the best, but he has to want to be more than the highest-paid back. He must begin to show the effort to be great.

20. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

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    Agility

    10

    Moves well laterally and takes advantage of poor angles with speed and balance.

    Ball Protection

    5

    Struggled to put the ball away in 2011.

    Burst

    8

    Creates separation in a blink and is often being chased from behind. 

    Hands

    10

    Could likely the Bills' No. 1 wideout if the team wanted to. Sees the ball into his hands and gets going north in one motion. Can catch the ball all over the field, short or deep.

    Pass Block

    4

    Gives a good effort when picking up the blitz, but not a strength of his. 

    Power

    3

    Doesn’t push piles forward. If a tackler can get his hands on him with any type of strength or balance, Spiller's going down.

    Route Running

    10

    Shows very good balance to run clean routes out of the backfield and in space at receiver.

    Speed

    9

    Has electric speed when he gets to space.

    Vision

    7

    Will look for cutbacks too often, allowing him to be caught in the backfield.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    76

    C.J. Spiller is a talented, athletic running back who has been lost in the shuffle with the emergence of Fred Jackson in Buffalo. Still, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2010 draft brings great receiving skills to the position and can be a threat to make plays out of the backfield.

19. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    7

    Has solid overall athletic skills with good burst and strength.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Didn't fumble once in 2011.

    Burst

    7

    Can get to his top speed quickly, but it's not quite elite.

    Hands

    7

    A dependable receiver who the Patriots were comfortable throwing to out of the backfield.

    Pass Block

    7

    Able to stand in on third down and protect the quarterback. Green-Ellis does more than get in the way.

    Power

    7

    Has solid power to hit defenders and move the pile.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs clean routes, but can be limited in using his body to generate separation.

    Speed

    6

    Lacks elite speed for the running back position.

    Vision

    8

    Has shown the ability to find the hole and make a quick cut to get into space.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games last year.

    Overall

    76

    Green-Ellis didn't get many chances to show his stuff as a runner in the pass-happy New England offense, but moving to Cincinnati in 2012, he will be able to show what he can do as a punishing, consistent force in the run game for Marvin Lewis and co.

18. Michael Bush, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    7.5

    A good overall athlete who actually played quarterback in high school.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Very solid ball protection, but did lose a fumble last year.

    Burst

    8

    Fires off low with good lower-body strength propelling him to top speed.

    Hands

    7.5

    A comfortable receiver who can catch away from his body and bring in tough passes.

    Pass Block

    5.5

    Has the strength to be good here, but needs to work on technique to better his hand placement and leverage.

    Power

    8.5

    Weighing in at almost 250 pounds, Bush gets his size and weight behind his pads and runs hard through defenders

    Route Running

    7.5

    A solid route runner who boxes out the defender well with his considerable frame.

    Speed

    6

    Doesn't have the speed to run away from defenders or get to the corner consistently.

    Vision

    7

    Shows solid vision between the tackles, but in space he can be limited.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    76.5

    A big, bruising runner who has oftentimes played the role of a No. 2 back, Michael Bush has elite strength to be a factor in any part of the field. In a power-run offense, Bush could be a featured back.

17. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants

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    Agility

    7.5

    Has enough quickness and flexibility, but agility isn't his biggest strength.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Holds the ball high and tight with great ball protection.

    Burst

    8

    Bradshaw can be slow to accelerate when given a chance to run in space.

    Hands

    8

    Shows nice hand and arm extension to catch the ball away from his body.

    Pass Block

    7

    Has above-average strength to hold his ground, but technique and awareness could be better.

    Power

    7.5

    He has enough size and hip explosion to finish most runs off with power.

    Route Running

    7.5

    Bradshaw has good body control in the flats and can even flex out wide at times for the G-men.

    Speed

    7

    Lacks elite speed for the position but is quick enough to get the job done.

    Vision

    8

    Can find the hole and make a quick cut to get in space or to the second level.

    Health

    7

    Missed four games in 2011.

    Overall

    76.5

    Ahmad Bradshaw is a solid all-around back who doesn't quite get the recognition he deserves around the league. The 26-year-old back is tough, has good quickness and is an able receiver. In today's NFL, having a three-down back like Bradshaw is a luxury.

16. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

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    Agility

    8

    Much more athletic than he looks, showing good burst and agility.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Too many fumbles from Jackson in 2011 keep his score down.

    Burst

    7

    Has good burst but not great ability to accelerate away from defenders off a cut.

    Hands

    8.5

    An accomplished receiver who extends away from his body well and rarely drops passes.

    Pass Block

    10

    Shows textbook leverage and hand placement. One of the NFL's best pass-blockers at RB.

    Power

    7

    Has deceptive power and can lower a boom on defenders who aren't ready.

    Route Running

    8

    Has good body control in the flats and can even flex out wide at times.

    Speed

    8.5

    You may not think of Fred Jackson as fast, but he's capable of outrunning defenders to the corner and can fly in the open field.

    Vision

    8

    Has shown the ability to find the hole and make a quick cut to get into space.

    Health

    6

    Missed considerable time in 2011.

    Overall

    78

    Jackson is one of my favorite backs in the NFL. He's tough, fast and brings an added punch as a receiver and blocker. The United Indoor Football alum is the type of player you hate to take out of the game for any reason.

15. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    7

    Has a strong base and good quickness. Plays fast with good strength.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Can put the ball away, fumbling just once in 2011.

    Burst

    7.5

    Doesn't have great top-end speed but gets up to his full speed in a hurry.

    Hands

    9

    A sure thing as a receiver, Thomas rarely drops passes and has great extension.

    Pass Block

    6

    Used more as a receiver than a blocker, he has the size but lacks the technique.

    Power

    8

    Will gladly run over defenders jumping into the hole.

    Route Running

    8

    Shows good understanding of route concepts, working well in combination with tight ends and receivers.

    Speed

    7

    Lacks the top-end speed to consistently pull away from defenders.

    Vision

    8

    Able to find creases and cutbacks on the move. One of his best traits.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games last season.

    Overall

    78.5

    Pierre Thomas didn't get as much mention in 2011 as Darren Sproles took over the share of the excitement in New Orleans, but the 27-year-old former Fighting Illini remains one of the NFL's best all-around backs and was good enough to come in at No. 15 on the 1000. His vision and third-down ability are elite.

14. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

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    Agility

    8

    Has natural strength, burst and hip flexibility to roll through tacklers.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Will put the ball on the ground as a result of trying too hard to pick up extra yards, opening himself up to rips.

    Burst

    10

    Incredible ability to explode out of a two-point stance and be at full speed.

    Hands

    6

    Decent hands. Lynch doesn't add much in the passing game however.

    Pass Block

    6

    Doesn't block with the same violence and aggression that he runs with for the Hawks.

    Power

    10

    One of the hardest players in the NFL to tackle due to his strength and leg drive.

    Route Running

    6

    Not very developed in his ability to run more than a swing route.

    Speed

    7.5

    Has above-average speed, but his real game is his power and burst. Can punish defenders and then speed away.

    Vision

    9

    Finds the seam and hits it with full force.

    Health

    9

    Injured during one game in 2011.

    Overall

    78.5

    Lynch has reinvented himself in Seattle as a hard-nosed, Skittles-loving back who seems to never go down on first or second impact. He has ideal leg drive and body lean, which allow him to rarely lose yards.

13. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    8

    A big, strong back with high-level burst and power at the point of impact.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Improved his game in 2011 by showing better strength to hold on to the ball. Just one fumble for Carolina last year.

    Burst

    8

    Stewart has a dangerous first step and good short-area acceleration.

    Hands

    7.5

    Shows nice hand and arm extension to catch the ball away from his body.

    Pass Block

    4

    Can be a liability as a blocker. Doesn't block with same power that he runs.

    Power

    9

    Excellent power, showing he can break tackles or move the pile without slowing down.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs clean routes, but can be limited in using his body to generate separation if he doesn't box out.

    Speed

    8

    Though coming in at a solid 5'10" and 235, Stewart shows very good speed getting to the corner and when he gets into the open field.

    Vision

    8

    Has shown the ability to find the hole and make a quick cut to get into space.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    78.5

    Jonathan Stewart is a big, powerful runner with good hands and all-around skills to be a featured back. He currently shares time with DeAngelo Williams in the Panthers backfield, but on our board, Stewart is the better overall player.

12. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    9

    An all-around athlete who has good strength and speed for the position.

    Ball Protection

    5

    One major area of concern—Mathews has to improve his strength and hand placement to hold on to the football.

    Burst

    8

    Comes out of his stance low and with authority, quickly picking up speed and getting to his highest gear.

    Hands

    8

    We didn't chart many drops from Mathews, who emerged as a legitimate target in the passing game last season for the Chargers.

    Pass Block

    8

    Likes to deliver hits and will stand in and protect his quarterback.

    Power

    8

    Gets behind his pads well and will deliver a pop. Picks up very good yards after contact.

    Route Running

    9

    A very underrated route runner, Mathews can do much more than flash out to the flats. High-level footwork and separation.

    Speed

    8

    Has breakaway speed to get to the corner and accelerate past defenders.

    Vision

    8

    Sees the field well and is able to quickly shift gears or change direction to get through holes.

    Health

    8

    Missed two games last season.

    Overall

    79

    The 24-year-old Mathews was well on his way to a stellar season when injury struck, slowing him down for weeks in the middle of the year. What Mathews did prove, though, is that he's ready to carry the load in San Diego, taking over for an impressive line of backs including LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles.

11. Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    10

    As universally known, Bush has incredible athletic ability with great speed, burst and flexibility.

    Ball Protection

    6

    Runs with the ball loose in space, which means he'll put the ball on the turf if hit hard. Fumbled four and lost two for the 'Fins last season.

    Burst

    10

    Has exceptional acceleration skills—one of the game's fastest at getting to his second gear.

    Hands

    9

    Bush is a dangerous receiver out of the slot and backfield due to his ability to extend his arms and catch like a wide receiver.

    Pass Block

    3

    Lacks the size and strength to be a true wall between the quarterback and the defense. Major deficiency here.

    Power

    5

    Shows good power for a small back but won't run over many defenders.

    Route Running

    9

    Has good ability to cut in the open field and can use his speed and agility to break free from coverage.

    Speed

    10

    Among the fastest in the game, Bush can quickly turn a missed tackle into a touchdown.

    Vision

    8

    He has few peers when talking about vision in space, but between the tackles Bush is not quite up to the grade. He did improve here in 2011, however.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game last year.

    Overall

    79

    Written off as a draft bust in New Orleans, Reggie Bush became the all-purpose threat many thought he could be coming out of USC in '06. He ran with power—amassing 1,000 yards rushing—and continued to show the same game-breaking speed and agility in space for the Miami Dolphins in 2011.

10. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons

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    Agility

    8

    For such a thick running back, Turner shows great flexibility and good overall athleticism.

    Ball Protection

    7

    Did put the ball on the ground more than you'd like in 2011 with three fumbles.

    Burst

    8

    Uses his impressive lower-body strength to power off the ball and quickly get to top speed.

    Hands

    7

    A capable receiver who will struggle to extend and catch away from his body with shorter arms.

    Pass Block

    7

    Is strong enough at the point of attack to take on pass-rushers.

    Power

    9

    Turner brings a solid punch with big, strong legs and a good stiff arm. Definitely a handful at 5'10" and near-250.

    Route Running

    6.5

    A solid route runner on swing passes and flares, but he's not a downfield threat for Matt Ryan and co.

    Speed

    8

    Shows very good speed when he gets into the open field.

    Vision

    9

     Is an instinctive in-line runner with excellent agility to find creases between the tackles.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any time last season.

    Overall

    79.5

    Michael Turner has remained one of the more productive running backs in the NFL since coming to Atlanta from San Diego. The two-time All-Pro has uncanny leg drive and strength but is also able to cut and make defenders miss in the hole and open field.

9. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    8.5

    Agile enough to stick his foot in the ground and plant to make defenders miss.

    Ball Protection

    8.5

    Gore fumbled twice in 2011.

    Burst

    9

    An explosive runner with good ability to accelerate out of his stance to top speed.

    Hands

    7

    A solid swing-pass receiver, Gore is just okay outside of the backfield for the Niners.

    Pass Block

    5

    Makes good contact, but he'll also fall into a habit of using his shoulder instead of his hands to block.

    Power

    8.5

    Runs behind his pads with excellent body lean and good strength to make contact.

    Route Running

    5

    A solid backfield route runner who lacks skills in the slot.

    Speed

    8

    Has the raw speed to run away from defenses and get to the corner to take off.

    Vision

    10

    Runs with excellent vision and does a good job of following his blockers and letting the hole develop.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011, marking his best season since 2006.

    Overall

    79.5

    A dependable No. 1 running back who is always a threat to break away. Room for improvement comes in the passing game. Any time Gore remains healthy for a full year, he has a chance to lead the league in rushing.

8. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    10

    An excellent all-around athlete who combines size, strength and explosion.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Fumbled just twice in all of 2011.

    Burst

    8

    Has a dangerous first step and good short-area acceleration.

    Hands

    10

    Forte became a big part of the Bears passing game last season. Shows soft hands, dropping very few passes when thrown to.

    Pass Block

    4

    Used more as a receiver than a blocker, Forte doesn't make great contact when protecting the pocket.

    Power

    7

    He has enough size and hip explosion to finish most runs off with power.

    Route Running

    8

    Has good body control in the flats and can even flex out wide at times.

    Speed

    9

    Has the speed to get to the corner and turn a run upfield into daylight.

    Vision

    10

    Patient and smart, the four-year vet knows how to pick a hole and then explode through it.

    Health

    7

    Missed four games in 2011.

    Overall

    81

    Before injury, Matt Forte was on the fast track to be our top-ranked RB. His blend of power, speed and receiving ability makes Forte one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL today—and he's doing this behind an average (at best) O-line.

7. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    10

    Hands down the most agile running back in the NFL. Has incredible hip swivel and footwork.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Fumbled once in 273 rushing attempts and 48 catches in 2011.

    Burst

    10

    Great ability to cut on a dime and be at full speed a few yards later.

    Hands

    7

    Has okay hands but needs to work on looking the ball in.

    Pass Block

    5.5

    Can be a liability as a blocker and as such is not someone you want to ask to stay in for pass protection very often. 

    Power

    5.5

    Is not very effective running between the tackles and does not break many tackles.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs clean routes but can be limited in using his body to generate separation.

    Speed

    9

    McCoy has the ideal blend of agility and speed, showing quick cuts and then game-breaking speed.

    Vision

    9

    Has great instincts and the vision to find holes on the edge without slowing down.

    Health

    9

    Sat out one game with injury last year.

    Overall

    81

    The Eagles' second-round pick in '09, it's hard to find a better edge runner in the NFL than LeSean McCoy. The former Pittsburgh Panther is a great outside runner who can make defenses pay if he gets in space. Better blocking and receiving would move McCoy higher up the RB ladder.

6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    10

    A high-level athlete with a statuesque build and the perfect speed/strength blend.

    Ball Protection

    9

    Has improved over time, but Peterson will still fumble occasionally.

    Burst

    10

    Peterson gets to top speed within a few steps. Incredible lower-body strength to generate this kind of burst.

    Hands

    7

    A reliable receiver, but he'll drop too many catches by looking upfield before securing the ball.

    Pass Block

    5

    Can be overaggressive at times, which causes him to miss easy blocks.

    Power

    10

    Incredible strength at the point of attack—Peterson makes tacklers pay for getting in his way.

    Route Running

    5

    Doesn't have the hips to sink and change direction as a route runner.

    Speed

    8

    More of a long-strider, but he can run away from defenses with very few people catching him.

    Vision

    10

    The game's best vision between the tackles, A.D. rarely misses an opening.

    Health

    7

    Missed four games in 2011.

    Overall

    81

    If you had to ask who the best running back in the NFL is, many would say Adrian Peterson. Were it not for injuries in 2011, we'd agree. He has the best blend of power, size, speed and intangibles of any back in the game today.

5. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    8

    Surprisingly quick for his size, Jackson complements it with great footwork.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Is great 99 percent of the time but did fumble twice in 2011.

    Burst

    9

    Generates great power and acceleration out of his snap. While he doesn't have great speed, he gets to his fastest in a hurry.

    Hands

    9

    Has good awareness and uses his hands—not his body—to pull in catches.

    Pass Block

    7

    Has great strength to hold his ground, but technique and awareness could be better.

    Power

    9.5

    Excellent power, showing he can break tackles or move the pile without slowing down.

    Route Running

    7.5

    Runs clean routes for such a big man with a high center of gravity for a RB.

    Speed

    7

    Lacks great downfield speed but will be able to get to the corner without issue.

    Vision

    9

    Has elite instincts and vision while running through the line or getting lateral to find a crease on the edge.

    Health

    9

    Sat out one game in 2011.

    Overall

    83

    Lost in what has been a very bad offense most of his career, Jackson is often forgotten in best running back discussions. He's failed to go over 1,000 yards just once in his career (his rookie year), though, an incredible feat considering the supporting cast around him.

4. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    9

    Runs with great body control and quick feet. Foster is a smooth, fluid athlete.

    Ball Protection

    5

    Had more fumbles than you'd like to see during the 2011 season.

    Burst

    9.5

    Able to go from what looks like a jog to full speed in a split second.

    Hands

    9.5

    Has soft hands with good arm extension and the presence of mind to tuck the ball away before running.

    Pass Block

    7

    Relishes the ability to stand in and deliver a hit to the same defenders trying to hurt him throughout the contest.

    Power

    8

    Runs with high knees to drive through tacklers. Gets his pads low and can deliver a big hit.

    Route Running

    10

    A smooth, capable route runner who is a big part of Houston's passing game.

    Speed

    8

    Deceptively fast runner who doesn't look like he's moving fast—until you notice he's pulling away from defenders.

    Vision

    10

    Has elite vision to take the handoff, make one cut and then find openings to the end zone. 

    Health

    8

    Sat out three games last season.

    Overall

    84

    An undrafted free agent in 2009 after a lackluster senior year with the Tennessee Volunteers, you could easily make the argument for Arian Foster as the NFL's best running back. He has the production, size, speed, strength and third-down ability to be a longtime great at the position.

3. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

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    Agility

    9

    A compact runner with good flexibility and balance, Rice is a great all-around athlete.

    Ball Protection

    8

    Lost two fumbles for Baltimore in 2011.

    Burst

    9

    Has a powerful lower body that lets him get to top speed in a flash.

    Hands

    10

    A damn good receiver who doesn't drop receptions when thrown his way. One of the Ravens' best receiving options.

    Pass Block

    5

    More often asked to release as a receiver, Rice lacks the size to offer much as a blocker.

    Power

    8

    Generates great power from a short, thick frame that will put defenders on their ass if they get in the hole.

    Route Running

    9

    Can do more than make plays out of the backfield. Rice is comfortable in space running routes.

    Speed

    8

    Has very good top-end speed and can pull away from the defense when he finds a seam.

    Vision

    9

    Lack of great height (5'8") doesn't keep him from picking and choosing holes and creases to run through.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any time last season.

    Overall

    85

    A tough, hard-nosed runner who is also one of the best contributors as a receiver in the game. Ray Rice is a complete back who would receive few arguments if listed as the best running back in the NFL.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    10

    Has exceptional quickness, body control and strength coming from a small, stocky package.

    Ball Protection

    5

    Six fumbles in 2011 were way too many for MJD.

    Burst

    10

    Has superior quickness but is able to cut and accelerate better than any player in the game.

    Hands

    9

    A solid receiver with soft, sure hands.

    Pass Block

    9

    Strong enough to stand in and drill defenders who try to get to his quarterback.

    Power

    8

    Has the strength to finish runs and pick up very good yards after contact.

    Route Running

    8.5

    A smart route runner who uses his quickness, strength and body control to get open.

    Speed

    8

    Doesn't possess great downfield speed but is so quick that he makes up for it.

    Vision

    10

    Does a great job setting up his blockers and then running to daylight. Patience serves as a strong plus.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any games in 2011.

    Overall

    87.5

    A tough all-around back who brings exceptional skills as a runner and receiver but should receive more credit for his blocking skills. Jacksonville's single-season record holder for both rushing yards and all-purpose yards, MJD should be more widely recognized as an elite back in today's game.

1. Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    10

    One of the best all-around athletes in the NFL with great hips and quick feet.

    Ball Protection

    10

    Zero fumbles during a year in which he set the NFL's single-season yardage record.

    Burst

    10

    From zero to 60 in no time at all. When Sproles finds an opening, he's gone.

    Hands

    10

    A sure-handed, smart receiver who doesn't drop passes and is a consistent threat.

    Pass Block

    2

    Ideally, not someone you want staying in the backfield to block. Won't contribute more than a chip here and there.

    Power

    6

    Officially listed at 5'6" and 190, Sproles is a small player who naturally does not generate much punch on impact.

    Route Running

    10

    Moves like a receiver coming out of the backfield or even lining up in the slot.

    Speed

    10

    A defense-breaker who, if he finds a seam, can absolutely fly downfield.

    Vision

    10

    Able to find the first hole to get through but then excels at finding cutback lanes and reading his blockers at the first and second level.

    Health

    10

    Didn't miss any time last year.

    Overall

    88

    As the NFL has changed from a power run game to a spread-it-out passing attack, the running back position has changed. No player better personifies that change than Darren Sproles. His ability as a runner and receiver allows the Saints offense to operate with numerous looks and mismatch options. Sproles is the NFL's best rush/receive threat at running back, and that's why he gets our No. 1 ranking at the position in the 2012 B/R 1000.

Honorable Mention

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    A list of those players who were close to making the Top 80 but just fell short.

    Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns

    Overall: 61


    Delone Carter, Indianapolis Colts

    Overall: 60


    Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland Browns

    Overall: 58


    Kregg Lumpkin, Seattle Seahawks

    Overall: 50