2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs Set to Make Instant Impact at Next Level

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IDecember 31, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 06: Giovani Bernard #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels breaks free for a gain against the Virginia Tech Hokies on October 6, 2012 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Lost in the Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson hysteria this year is the fact that several rookie running backs have put up insanely productive seasons. 

From the powerhouse that is Florida Atlantic, sixth-round pick Alfred Morris quietly established himself as the second most popular rookie in Washington, made fantasy owners forget that Mike Shanahan is usually the devil and entrenched himself near the top of the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns.

Doug Martin, meanwhile, proved to be one of the best three-down backs in the league, racking up 1,454 rushing yards, 472 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns.

Not only have these two been terrific for rookies, but they've been among the best rushers in the league. Period. From ESPN Stats & Info:

Most Yards After Contact in 2012 leaderboard- Adrian Peterson 1,019, Doug Martin 683, Alfred Morris 576 (entering tonight)

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 31, 2012

Anytime you're grouped with Adrian Peterson, you are clearly doing something right. 

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Trent Richardson has struggled to find holes, but his 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns have to be encouraging for Browns fans. 

Throw in Vick Ballard, Bryce Brown, Bernard Pierce, Daryl Richardson, Robert Turbin and David Wilson all making significant impacts, and you have an absolutely stacked draft class. 

The 2013 youngsters might not be as talented, but there are certainly plenty who will quickly make an impact next season. 


Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

It has only taken two years at North Carolina for Bernard to prove that he's a special player. 

After racking up 1,615 yards from scrimmage as a redshirt freshman last year, the dynamic back outdid himself (1,718 yards) this season on 53 less touches. On the year, Bernard averaged 6.7 yards per carry, caught 47 passes out of the backfield and found the end zone 17 times.

At 5'10", 205 pounds, he's tough to take down, but he also has fantastic vision, quickness and elusiveness to burst through the holes. While the breakaway speed might not completely be there, Bernard's versatility and ability to play on all three downs will make him a weapon in the NFL right away. 


Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State

Linebackers won't be happy about Bell entering the league. 

At 6'2", 242 pounds, he is an absolute load who will run over you, through you and maybe even on top of you if you get in his way.

On the season, the junior tallied 1,648 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry and found the end zone 12 times to give him an impressive 33 for his career.

Bell isn't a player who will rack up a bunch of 80-yard touchdown runs, but he's someone you can give the ball to 350 times in a season—as the Spartans did this year—or put him in short-yardage situations and let him do the dirty work.

Heck, Bell even tossed in a few kick and punt returns this season in addition to 30 catches, which give him 76 in his career. That's just gravy on top of his powerful style that will earn him plenty of carries in 2013. 


Andre Ellington, Clemson

This is admittedly my sleeper pick.

Ellington has had plenty of trouble staying healthy and doesn't possess ideal size (5'9", 195 pounds), which are two things that often make it very difficult for rookies to make an instant impact in the NFL.

But whoever drafts Ellington will soon find it necessary to find a way to get him on the field. 

The senior running back tallied 1,031 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry and found the end zone nine times. During his impressive four-year career, he has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and racked up 35 touchdowns.

Ellington is incredibly shifty. His elusiveness getting through the hole is impressive, and if he can find a way to get to the outside and turn the corner, he is gone thanks to his top-end speed. 

He isn't someone who will instantly become a true No. 1 back, but he'll present a change of pace and an ability to quickly change the landscape of the game.