Senior Bowl 2013: Running Backs Who Improved Their Stock the Most
While the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl were unsurprisingly underwhelming, several running backs stole the offensive show with stock-rising performances.
Many believe that the best RBs in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft are underclassmen, and with Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy and even Marcus Lattimore on the board, it's hard to argue that notion.
But the Senior Bowl is an ideal time for the old geezers to improve their stock, and after a week in Mobile, there are suddenly a handful of ball-carriers who will challenge the youngsters for the honor of best rookie running back.
Let's take a look.
Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
If you're a fan of either A) guys with first names that sound normal but aren't quite spelled that way or B) running backs with massive Redwood tree trunks for legs, then Stepfan (pronounced Stuh-Fon, kind of like Steve Urkel's alter ego) Taylor is your guy.
While the Rose Bowl star is rightfully known for his downhill running style, ability to pancake defenders and resemblance of a truck, he proved at the Senior Bowl that he is a far more balanced prospect than he is given credit for.
Just ask Yahoo! Sports' Doug Farrar:
I like Barner/Franklin a lot, but all in all, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor seems the best overall back. Power/speed/elusiveness. No major flaws— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) January 24, 2013
I wouldn't be surprised if Taylor, who doesn't have top-shelf quickness, tests poorly at the combine, but his week in Mobile should counterbalance that.
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
I wasn't exactly convinced Franklin could have done much to improve his stock after racking up over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns in his last year with the Bruins but color me dead wrong.
Franklin may not be as complete of a back as Taylor, but his speed, athleticism and ability to make people miss all stood out over the past week.
The NFL Network's Akbar Gbajabiamila noted just how impressive the dynamic back really was:
Franklin may not have ideal size (5'11", 195 lbs), but as ESPN's Cecil Lammey pointed out, he runs bigger than his frame. At the very least, the former UCLA stud is going to be a sneaky middle-round pick who serves as a home-run threat with massive upside potential.
Mike Gillislee, Florida
Gillislee came away from Mobile with mixed reviews.
On the one hand, he showed an intriguing combination of vision, acceleration and home-run hitting ability. He follows his blockers well through the holes and has the decisiveness and shiftiness to cut once and get up field in a hurry.
But there's a but coming.
Most seemed to agree that Gillislee still has an incredibly long way to go in pass protection, as he often missed his blocking assignment entirely.
Still, though, while the former Florida standout doesn't look like a three-down back right away, he displayed other tools that will have teams drooling.
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Barner is another one who doesn't look like an every-down back, as he struggled to produce in between the tackles.
Nevertheless, he was receiving praise like this while in Mobile (via FOX Sports' Lindsey Thiry):
Who will have the best NFL career?
He backed up that talk by leading the North team with seven receptions for 59 yards.
Again, Barner, who recorded just three carries for 13 yards, isn't going to push any piles or be a complete running back. But his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and explode when in space make him a very unique weapon.
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