2012 NFL Draft: Top 5 Running Backs to Complement Denver Broncos' Willis McGahee

Jason MuckleySenior Analyst IIApril 12, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top 5 Running Backs to Complement Denver Broncos' Willis McGahee

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    Denver Broncos' Willis McGahee had a monster year in 2011. A change of scenery and a wild read-option, college-style approach behind Tim Tebow both opened up the door for McGahee to have a huge year.

    Even at over 30 years old, McGahee dazzled as the primary running back all season. However, McGahee can't be the only RB in the backfield in the NFL era of mixing and matching running backs, short yardage backs and speedy, shifty running backs all alternating on offense throughout the season.

    The running back position is probably the position on the field which is most apt to injury compared to every other spot. The Broncos will likely be moving on without first-round draft bust, Knowshon Moreno, and will use a top draft pick in 2012 to complement Willis McGahee in 2012.

Doug Martin, Boise State

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    The Denver Post has linked the Broncos with Doug Martin recently for good reason.

    His NFL combine performance was tops in Indianapolis last month as he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, tied all running backs in the bench press and showed off his exceptional pass receiving skills out of the backfield.

    In the Senior Bowl, Martin performed exceptionally well also. He flashed his ability as a runner, receiver and blocker. Martin can do everything. He won't be the first running back off the board in this draft, but he will likely go early. 

    The Post projects Martin to go late in the first round or early second round. If able, the Broncos could make a move to trade their first-round draft pick to get an early second-round pick and another pick later in the draft and scoop up Martin as their first draft pick of 2012.

    In his 2011 season, Martin averaged five yards per carry with 1,299 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. He also added 28 receptions for 263 yards and two more scores in the passing game.

    Martin also has skills as a kick returner. This is an area where the Broncos could improve and have legitimate need. Martin averaged 34 yards per return in 2011.

    Martin has the look of a starting three-down running back. Martin is a sharp-cutting runner with good quickness. He also is very strong and is hard to tackle at first contact.

    Martin is a complete, total-package back. 

Lamar Miller, Miami

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    BroncoTalk is reporting that the Denver Broncos are heavily leaning towards taking a running back in the first round, possibly going for the explosive, big-play specialist out of the University of Miami, Lamar Miller.

    Cecil Lammey (NFL Insider for 102.3 ESPN Radio Denver and senior writer for Footballguys.com) "cites that the Broncos favor Miller’s big play ability over Boise State RB Doug Martin and feel that he has better rushing instincts than David Wilson of Virginia Tech," according to BroncoTalk's report.

    Miller's final year in Miami as a redshirt sophomore was very impressive. He racked up 1,272 yards on 227 carries (averaging over 5.6 yards per carry) with nine touchdowns in 2011.

    Those numbers are very comparable to the other backs listed before Miller. Miller is 5’11" and weighs 213 pounds. He also has the size to bulk up his frame a bit for the NFL to promote longevity. He had a lightning-fast 40-time at 4.36 seconds.

    His experience and ability in the passing game has drawn some question marks. He didn't have the best showing among running backs on the passing drills at the NFL combine. Receiving the ball has never been a strong suit of Miller's during his collegiate career. In 2011 as a receiver, Miller caught 17 passes for 85 yards and a TD.

    Miller is a home-run hitter, though. He is explosive carrying the ball. He has the speed, agility and burst to get to the outside and take it to the house when he gets in space. Another attribute he has shown is his decisiveness between the tackles. He doesn't hesitate and has excellent vision to find open running lanes.

    He electric speed also points to value as a return specialist in the NFL, an area the Broncos could upgrade after losing Eddie Royal in free agency.

David Wilson, Virginia Tech

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    ESPN.com draft expert Todd McShay has the Denver Broncos landing David Wilson with their second-round pick in his latest mock draft at the 57th overall draft pick.

    If the Denver Broncos' plans to land Doug Martin early in the second round fall through, David Wilson appears to be a fallback option for Denver.

    The biggest thing Wilson has going for him is his impressive NFL combine performance. He had a blazing fast 40-yard dash time of 4.40 seconds. He also led the running backs in the vertical and broad jumps with a vertical jump of 41 inches and a broad jump of 11 feet. 

    Martin also excelled in the pass-receiving drills. Wilson had the look of a natural receiver and showed the ability to be a three-down back in the NFL.

    Wilson was the ACC Player of the Year in 2011. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry, totaling 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. 

    However, the Broncos may have some competition for Wilson from the New England Patriots, who have the 31st overall pick in the 2012 draft. Charles Davis with NFL Network has the Patriots scooping him up in round one in their mock drafts.

Chris Polk, Washington

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    Chris Polk would likely be a later draft option for the Denver Broncos, going in the third or fourth round.

    What hurt Polk's stock most this offseason was his lackluster showing at the Senior Bowl. He appeared slow out of the backfield and struggled mightily to pick up the blitz in pass protection.

    The NFL combine, though, was a good showing for Polk. He had a nice 40-yard dash at 4.46 seconds and held his own in the pass receiving drills for running backs.

    Statistically, Polk performed well in his senior year as a Husky. He ran for 1,488 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He also impressed in the passing game, where he caught 31 passes for 332 yards and four scores. 

    What Polk lacks in speed, he compensates with his powerful drive-after contact. He has good balance on his feet, which move very quickly, employing quality leg drive after contact. 

    Polk has punishing power and the ability to break tackles and slip away from defenders. He has a strong upper and lower body to run through arm tackles and to bounce off hits. He likes using the stiff arm to get yards after contact. He is also a punisher at the end of runs.

    Polk has a similar type of play to the aging Willis McGahee. Unless his stock really dips, the Broncos will be looking for a more speedy back as a change of pace, not someone similar to what they already have in McGahee.

Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

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    Isaiah Pead's stock has been on the rise recently as we get closer to the NFL Draft at the end of the month. ESPN's top draft analysts, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, both predict Pead coming off the board late in the second round, a place the Broncos have a pick at No. 57 overall.

    Pead's Senior Bowl performance really helped him as he stood out as a runner, receiver, blocker and returner.

    At the NFL combine, Pead ran well with a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and was a natural in the receiving drills. He looks poised to be a high-quality complementary back in the NFL next year. If Martin, Miller or Wilson aren't with Denver by the time they reach the 57th pick, Pead could be their man.

    As a Bobcat in 2011, Pead ran for 1,259 yards (averaging 5.3 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 319 yards and three TDs.

    He is a bit smaller than the prototypical running back coming into the draft this year. He is listed at 5'10" and weighs only 197 pounds.

    Pead has been labeled as lacking toughness. He prefers to avoid contact by making a move, but he has shown an ability to run through arm tackles.