2013 NFL Draft

2013 NFL Draft: Projected Landing Spots for Top Running Back Prospects

EAST LANSING, MI - AUGUST 31:  Le'Veon Bell #24 of the Michigan State Spartans jumps over the attempted tackle of Jeremy Ioane #10 of the Boise State Broncos at Spartan Stadium on August, 2010 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

To put it gently, the 2013 Draft is a little weak at the running back position.

To put it frankly, the 2013 Draft is one of the weakest running back classes in years. Not only are there no top-10 picks projected from the position; there are no first-round picks projected either.

Some of that has to do with the evolving nature of the league. Unless you can get your hands on Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy, running backs are viewed, more or less, as interchangeable pieces. Especially now that most teams employ some sort of platoon at the position.

But some of that also has to do with the dearth of blue-chip talent at the position. The class' case wasn't helped when its presumed top back, Marcus Lattimore, went down with an ugly ACL tear. But even before that, things didn't look particularly pretty.

Having said that, there are still a few college workhorses capable of becoming viable NFL runners. And there are certainly a few NFL teams who desperately need just that—viable NFL runners.

Here's a look at where the draft's top backs might end up:

 

Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State: Cincinnati Bengals (35th Overall Pick)

In all likelihood, the 2013 Draft won't see any running backs go in the first round. But picking third in Round 2, Cincinnati will break the seal by taking Michigan State workhorse Le'Veon Bell.

The Bengals acquired this pick from Oakland in the Carson Palmer trade. And, considering the moribund state of Palmer's arm, yielding a potential franchise back with that pick has to be considered a steal.

Bell has a similar running style to incumbent Benjarvus Green-Ellis, but he's also got fresher legs and a higher ceiling. ESPN.com's Mel Kiper acknowledged his lack of burst, but lauded him as a second-rounder nonetheless, thanks to his patience and ability to wear down a defense. 

He could step in as a capable backup to Green-Ellis right away, and eventually develop into a much bigger role.

 

Giovani Bernard, North Carolina: Detroit Lions (37th Overall Pick)

Picking toward the top of Round 2, the Lions finally opt to solve the revolving door in their backfield.

Bernard,is shifty, consistent and durable. That last one, the durability, is particularly important in Detroit, where Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure have both struggled to stay on the field.

The redshirt sophomore put up nearly identical totals in his two years at Chapel Hill: 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011; 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. If that's not consistency, I don't know what is.

Looking for an NFL comparison, ESPN.com's Todd McShay called him "somewhere between Patriots RB Shane Vereen and Eagles RB LeSean McCoy..."

That's a pretty wide chasm, but if Bernard skews toward the latter, the Lions could be getting a steal.

 

Montee Ball, Wisconsin: Green Bay Packers (59th Overall Pick)

After four years spent breaking records in Madison, Ball stays in-state and heads to Green Bay at the end of Round 2.

The NCAA's all-time touchdown leader lacks elite speed, obviously, but his power, vision and production are impossible to ignore. Bell wouldn't fit in with any NFL team, but given the right milieu, he could develop into a productive player.

Chris Brown of SmartFootball.com had this to say of Ball:

I really like the idea of Montee Ball fitting in a good, simple zone blocking scheme as 2nd/3rd rounder in NFL. Right fit is key

— Smart Football (@smartfootball) December 6, 2012

The Packers are notorious for employing a zone-blocking scheme, and due to their paucity of running backs, Ball could come in and play right away.

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks called him a "potential rookie starter," and with this pick, that could very well be what he becomes.

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