NFL Draft 2013: Breaking Down This Year's Best Available Running Backs
For the first time since 1963, we may see the first round of the NFL draft come and go without hearing a running back's name called.
Yes, the crop of running backs that NFL teams have to choose from in this year's draft are, as a whole, kind of disappointing.
While there's no running back available who is a lock to be taken in the first round, that doesn't mean that the field is totally devoid of talent.
A handful of talented backs lead the way, and it's only a matter of when, not if, they'll hear their names called at the NFL draft.
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Measurements (via GoHeels.com): 5'10", 205 lbs
2012 Stats: 184 carries for 1,228 yards (6.7 YPC), 12 TD; 47 receptions, 490 yards, 5 TD
A draft-eligible sophomore, as he's been out of high school for three years, Giovani Bernard is one of the top-rated running backs in this year's draft.
Compactly built, Bernard relies on his elusiveness and speed to make defenders miss, though he has tremendous leg strength and has, on occasion, shown the ability to break tackles.
An explosive runner, Bernard accelerates quickly and is almost impossible to catch once he gets past defenders.
A tremendous receiver, he is also an excellent punt returner, averaging more than 16 yards per return and returning two punts for touchdowns this season.
His ability to impact the game in a number of ways makes him an intriguing selection, drawing comparisons to Buffalo RB C.J. Spiller.
Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
Measurements (via MSUSpartans.com): 6'2", 237 lbs
2012 Stats: 382 carries for 1,793 yards (4.7 YPC), 12 TD; 32 receptions, 167 yards, 1 TD
Le'Veon Bell is a powerful runner, one who keeps his pads at the right level and can break tackles with his brute strength and agility.
An excellent receiver, Bell is a player who can be utilized in a number of different ways by an NFL offense, whether it be as ball carrier or receiver out of the backfield.
Whether he has the speed needed to hit the hole quickly at the next level is something that remains to be seen—and his 40-yard-dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine will likely play a large role in where he's taken in the draft.
Pittsburgh's Jonathan Dwyer has been one back to which Bell has been compared, but I believe Bell will make a far greater impact than what we've seen from Dwyer thus far.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Measurements (via UWBadgers.com): 5'11", 215 lbs
2012 Stats: 356 carries for 1,830 yards (5.1 YPC), 22 TD; 10 receptions, 72 yards, 0 TD
College football's all-time leader in touchdowns with 82, Montee Ball might be the most polished of the running backs available in this year's draft.
Ball has the ability to find his running lane and attack the hole quickly, the speed to turn the corner outside and deceptive power that allows him to continue moving forward even when defenders have him in their grasp.
He allows blocks to develop in front of him and has the footwork needed to sidestep defenders and change direction quickly.
A concern for teams could be the wear on his legs, as he's carried the ball 663 times over the past two seasons, but Ball showed no issues with his durability, in fact becoming more productive as the season wore on.
I'm a firm believer that Ball will not only wind up being the most productive back to emerge from this year's draft, but he'll establish himself as one of the better workhorse runners in the NFL before too long.
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