The NFL may be coming an increasingly pass-happy league, but that doesn't mean runningbacks still can't dominate.
In particular, as the injuries continue to pile up and the lifespan of RB careers shorten, young studs are still incredibly key for NFL offenses.
So, while the 2013 draft is still kind of far away, it's never too early to take a look at how it might play out. What follows is my mock draft with an emphasis on young running backs who will instantly make their teams better.
Note: These players are in italics.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Most people will agree that Barkley is the best bet to have his named called first in next year's draft. If the Jaguars get the pick, it will likely be because of more poor play from Blaine Gabbert.
That would make this pick even more of a no-brainer.
2. Miami Dolphins: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The big preseason All-American out of Utah is an absolute force in the middle, but he also combines that power with sneaky athleticism.
Lotulelei constantly garners double teams from the opposition, and he would be a welcomed addition in Miami.
3. Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
The Browns' pass rush is far from intimidating. Jones, who racked up 14 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2011, is the perfect man to fix that.
4. Minnesota Vikings: David Amerson, CB, N.C. State
The Vikings might be better served adding someone like Robert Woods or Johnathan Hankins, but corner is a definite need.
Amerson is raw, but his potential is through the roof.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Who will have a better career?
The Chiefs have plenty of talent and could easily be a playoff team in the AFC West, but adding a franchise quarterback would make that a lot easier.
Wilson has franchise quarterback written all over him.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
Barkevious Mingo is just too talented to pass up at this spot. If he has a good year at LSU this season, don't expect him to drop out of the top five picks.
Indianapolis is rebuilding very quickly, but it could use some more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
7. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Robert Woods, WR, USC
The need for a wideout in St. Louis wasn't exactly put to rest this year. The Rams wanted Justin Blackmon, but had to settle for Brian Quick and Chris Givens.
Neither of them are close to as talented as Woods, who could easily go in to the top three.
8. St. Louis Rams: Eric Reid, FS, LSU
The Rams could certainly use an offensive tackle at this position, but that wouldn't be Jeff Fisher's style. Instead, with his second pick in a row, he'll opt to improve the secondary by grabbing the talented Eric Reid.
9. Tennessee Titans: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
The Titans have next to no depth behind Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, so grabbing the best defensive end available here, assuming it's not too big of a stretch, makes a lot of sense.
Jeffcoat has been a force for Texas and would be the logical pick.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
If you've seen the Cardinals offensive line try to protect Kevin Kolb and John Skelton this preseason, you know just how bad that unit needs some help.
Joeckel is the consensus best offensive tackle, and if he falls to Arizona, the Cardinals should jump all over him.
11. Oakland Raiders: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Thomas's stock is absolutely soaring, and if he puts together another good year at Virginia Tech, don't be surprised if he enters the tier of Barkley and Wilson.
The Raiders have Carson Palmer and a sea of mediocrity backing him up, so grabbing Thomas would be a smart move.
12. Carolina Panthers: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU
Carolina's offensive front has looked mediocre in pass protection, and if it wants to protect Cam Newton, it will need to add some more pieces.
The best available tackle at this spot has to be Faulk.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Hankins is a potential top five pick, so for the Bucs—a team in need of size in the middle—to grab him at No. 13 is a steal.
14. Cincinnati Bengals: DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Bengals could very easily go with a running back here, but they can't run if they don't have an offensive line. Adding Fluker would really bolster this unit.
15. Seattle Seahawks: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal
The Seahawks are young and mostly set on the defensive side of the ball. What they need most, as evidenced by their signings of Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards, is a playmaker in the passing game.
Enter Allen, who should have yet another huge year in the Pac-12.
16. Buffalo Bills: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Te'o would have been a top 15 pick had he left Notre Dame last year, but he decided to return to school. His stock could still fluctuate, but it will be hard for him to drop any farther than this.
The Bills could use a tackling machine in the middle of their defense.
17. New York Jets- Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
The Jets' offense needs a lot of help. They could easily go with a quarterback, but there aren't a lot of options at this point that wouldn't be a large reach.
That's okay though, because Shonn Greene hasn't been anything more than average and Marcus Lattimore could be a downright steal at No. 17.
The South Carolina running back is an absolute bulldozer with sneaky speed and athleticism. If he wouldn't have had a season-ending ACL injury, he would be a lock for the top 10. Still, he oozes talent and if he proves to be healthy, he'll easily be the first running back off the board.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
A lot of people have different thoughts on Montgomery, but I'm certainly a believer. The Cowboys could use some extra depth on the edge, so the LSU stud fits here.
19. San Diego Chargers: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
The Chargers replaced Vincent Jackson with Robert Meachem, but the former Saints wideout is far from a sure thing. San Diego still needs another pass catcher.
Wilson should have a monster year under Mike Leach, causing his stock to immediately jump.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: Barrett Jones, G/C, Alabama
Philadelphia still has some holes on its offensive line, and Jones, who can play all three positions up front, is the perfect versatile pick the Eagles need.
21. New Orleans Saints: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Saints' defense is clearly its weakness, so adding a player who can cause some pressure and hurried decisions in the backfield would be a smart addition.
Werner racked up seven sacks and 11 tackles in the backfield last year as a mere sophomore, so I'd say he qualifies as someone who can get pressure in the backfield.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
The Steelers have Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman as their current running backs. Decent options, sure, but obviously not the safest guys in the book.
Adding a young, dynamic threat like Davis would be well advised.
The junior running back tallied an impressive 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns last season against SEC defenses, which are basically all NFL players, anyways.
If the popular Heisman pick has another season like that, this will be a steal for the Steelers.
23. Atlanta Falcons: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
The Falcons are stacked on the offensive side of the ball, so look for them to add a playmaker. John Abraham and Ray Edwards won't be around forever.
24. Chicago Bears: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
The Bears have made some adjustments to what was a very mediocre offensive line, but they could still use a couple more pieces.
Warmack, a preseason All-American, should do the trick.
25. Detroit Lions: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Banks, arguably the best corner in the SEC with the absence of Tyrann Mathieu, would be a good addition for a Lions defense that consistently got beat through the air last season.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
With Joe Flacco entering the elite tier of quarterbacks and all, the Ravens could really use some extra help at the tackle position.
Matthews would provide that.
27. New York Giants: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
The Giants don't have a ton of weaknesses, but the tight end position is notably thin with Bear Pascoe as the current projected starter.
Eifert is just the most recent in a long line of stellar Notre Dame tight ends. It wouldn't be surprising to see him crack the first round.
28. Denver Broncos: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Depending on how Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker play this year, the Broncos probably don't need a wide receiver.
But Hunter has top 10 talent and would be too hard to pass up here.
29. Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Packers got Alex Green in the third round of last year's draft and went and signed Cedric Benson, but if neither of those guys pan out, Green Bay could go for yet another running back.
Especially if Lacy has the year he's expected to have with Alabama.
Lacy has served the backup role during his two years with the Crimson Tide, but when he has gotten opportunities, he has displayed the talent that would make him a first-round choice. With just 151 career carries, Lacy has racked up 1,080 yards. That's 7.1 yards per carry.
The young running back has shown a great mix of speed and power. This projection might not last once the season starts and he begins to rumble over defenders.
30. New England Patriots: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Might as well stay on the Alabama train now that we're on.
The Patriots have two solid cornerbacks in Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, but the depth beyond that is far from perfect. For a team that gets thrown on as much as the Patriots, depth in the secondary is key.
31. Houston Texans: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
The Texans have yet to put a legitimate option across from Andre Johnson. They are turning into a running team, sure, but Stills would make a legitimate positive impact on this team.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
The Niners don't have a ton of weaknesses, but adding depth to the interior is always a necessity, especially for a run-heavy team like San Francisco.
Cooper can solidify his stock in the first round with a solid season. For now, I'll keep him right on the fringe.