2013 NFL Mock Draft: Top Running Backs in the Draft

Matt Schreiber@@schreiberstakeAnalyst IIIJanuary 10, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft: Top Running Backs in the Draft

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    Alright, so this isn't the most attractive class of running backs that we have seen, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few guys who could headline the next wave of NFL superstars.

    How is it that someone can be so dominant in college at the running back position, but still be projected to be somewhat worthless on an NFL team?

    The answer is simple, but not really.

    In college, you may not necessarily need the power at running back to put up yards. Enter Kenjon Barner and Andre Ellington.

    You need the full package of speed, vision, power and balance to ensure success at the professional level. 

    The 2013 NFL draft class of running backs has a little bit of everything, but perhaps there is one guy who has it all.

    Aside from this one tailback, we will also look at seven other guys who rank towards the top for running backs likely available to be drafted come April.

Honorable Mention

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    Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

    Taylor is quick and will surely get drafted. He possesses good size for a running back, although he is quicker than he is fast. He needs to get better running between the tackles.

    Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

    If it weren't for two gruesome injuries, Lattimore would be the best running back available come April. He is just a risky prospect at this point. But hey, you never know. Adrian Peterson recovered from his injury, so why can't Lattimore?

    Kenjon Barner, Oregon

    Barner is extremely quick and is a dual threat out of the backfield to catch and run. He can make you miss with his speed. He needs to get stronger in order to break through tackles. Poor blocking skills will also prevent him from going earlier in this draft.

5. Andre Ellington, Clemson

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    Andre Ellington could go much higher in the draft if it weren't for the fact he has suffered multiple injuries while playing at Clemson. Durability is surely an issue with him.

    He can make you miss badly with his speed and is powerful enough to bounce off tackles. 

    He will have trouble adjusting to the speed of the NFL due to the difference between the time it takes for linemen and linebackers to clog the holes at collegiate and professional levels. Ellington can't move the pile with his power.

    He also needs to do a better job holding on to the ball and put on a few pounds. He is undersized for his position but can make up for it with his speed. Making the first guy miss is standard for him and he can turn the corner quickly.

    He just needs to hit the weight room and it will be a whole new ballgame. 

    I project Ellington to be a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick come April.

4. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

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    Montee Ball could surprise many of his critics by taking his collegiate success to the NFL level. He has the speed and power to make a splash early on.

    Ball is fearless when he is on the field. He isn't scared to plow through defenders. His vision is above average and he possesses the size and weight to be a sufficient blocker in pass protection.

    He could become a bit better catching the ball out of the backfield, but with proper NFL coaching, he can easily improve.

    Ball leads vocally and by example. He is very coachable.

    He is the all-time NCAA Division I leader in touchdowns.

    Although I have him ranked fourth on my list of top running backs, don't be surprised if he turns out to be the best running back in the NFL a few years from now.

3. Eddie Lacy, Alabama

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    It remains to be seen whether or not Eddie Lacy will enter the 2013 NFL draft, but his performance against the nation's top defense in the BCS National Championship Game helped to boost his stock in my book. 

    He possesses the prototypical size and weight for an NFL running back. His vision is above-average and he can easily break tackles and plow through defenders.

    Lacy's power running style reminds me of his former Alabama teammate Trent Richardson. If their paths are going to continue to be similar, then Lacy will make his presence known in the NFL.

    I project Eddie Lacy to be off the board somewhere in the second round assuming he does skip his senior season.

2. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State

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    At 6'2", 244 pounds, Le'Veon Bell is the biggest back this draft has to offer. It takes more than one guy to bring him down.

    For his size, he shows pretty solid speed. He has the typical build overall for a power running back in the NFL. I compare him to a smaller Brandon Jacobs when he was in his prime.

    I have seen him run some solid routes out of the backfield, making him a threat to catch the ball as well. His vision needs to improve, but he often creates more yards for himself with his body. He doesn't possess breakaway speed but will usually make something out of nothing.

    Bell should be off the board by the end of the second round.

1. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

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    Giovani Bernard is the one guy in this draft who possesses the complete overall package. He is the only running back worthy of a first-round pick in April.

    He is fast, physical and can make you miss. He is a dual threat to catch and run.

    The redshirt sophomore announced in December that he was declaring for the NFL draft.

    At 5'10", 205 pounds, Bernard's size is average. His 4.56 40-yard dash time really helps him burst through holes (ESPN.com).

    Aside from missing two games with an injury, Bernard piled up 1,228 yards on the ground and 19 total touchdowns. Twelve of those touchdowns were rushing, five were receiving and two were through the return game. 

    Injuries are a concern for Bernard, but as long as he stays healthy, more and more people will learn who he is.

    I see him potentially going to the Green Bay Packers by the end of the first round, as they are in desperate need of a guy to complement Aaron Rodgers.