2013 NFL Draft: Comparing the Top RBs to Their NFL Equal
It used to be that running back was one of the most sought-after positions in the NFL draft.
However, with the evolution of spread offenses and teams finding more late-round gems like Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins, it appears that the days of first rounds filled with running backs have come and gone.
That doesn't make this year's crop of ball-carriers any less talented though, and here's a look at the cream of the crop, complete with a comparison to a running back who is already plying his trade in the National Football League.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Compares to: Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy was one of the stars of the Crimson Tide's victory over Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
After gaining over 1,500 total yards and scoring 19 touchdowns last year Lacy is viewed as a first-round pick by some draft pundits.
At 5'10" and a chiseled 220 pounds Lacy is a powerful runner with surprising quickness, and his bruising style is reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks.
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Compares to: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Running back Giovani Bernard of North Carolina may be the most explosive running back in the 2013 draft class.
Bernard rushed for over 1,200 yards and caught 47 passes in 2012, and the redshirt sophomore found the end zone in every game for the Tar Heels last season.
Durability is something of a concern with the 5'10", 205-pound Bernard, but his ability to hurt teams both as a runner and receiver brings to mind LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Andre Ellington, Clemson
Compares to: Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
Andre Ellington of Clemson was a very productive back over the past two seasons for the Tigers, and the 5'10", 190-pounder is just as dangerous as a receiver and kick returner as he is carrying the rock.
However, Ellington's relatively small frame and lack of power limits his effectiveness inside somewhat, and Ellington may be best served by a complimentary role in the NFL.
It's that "speed back" role and ability in the return game that leaves many with the impression that Ellington is taller Jacquizz Rodgers of the Atlanta Falcons.
That impression could change, though, if Ellington is able to bulk up at the next level without sacrificing quickness.
Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
Compares to: Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle racked up over 1,600 total yards in 2012, scoring 16 touchdowns for the Cowboys en route for first team All-Big 12 honors.
The 6'1", 200-pound junior is a capable runner and receiver who averaged over five yards a carry last year, but Randle lacks elite speed and has a tendency to run too far upright.
Those tendencies sound an awful lot like Buffalo Bills tailback Fred Jackson, and it's easy to see the similarities between the two ball-carriers.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Compares to: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 2012 Doak Walker Award went to Montee Ball of Wisconsin, who was named the top running back in college football after a senior season in which he topped 1,800 yards for the Badgers.
The 5'11", 215-pound first team All-American doesn't possess elite size, speed or burst, but Ball does possess excellent vision and has few flaws in his game.
Ball's ability to do everything fairly well but nothing spectacularly brings to mind Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, although Ball doesn't have Martin's explosiveness.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Compares to: Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Were it not for the fact that each of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore's past two seasons ended with a severe knee injury, Lattimore would all but certainly be the first player at his position off draft boards in April.
When healthy the 6'0", 218-pound junior has just everything you could ask for in a running back. Lattimore has excellent size, agility, burst and vision.
Lattimore has drawn comparisons from numerous draft experts to Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, but Lattimore is going have a lot of work to do between now and the draft to ally concerns about his durability.
Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
Compares to: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
He may not be the "sexiest" player at his position in this year's draft class, but there may not be a safer pick at running back this season than Stanford's Stepfan Taylor.
Granted, there isn't anything that Taylor does especially well, but the 5'11", 215-pounder is a physical runner, capable receiver and solid pass-blocker.
Taylor is bruising back in the mold of BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Cincinnati Bengals, although Taylor's receiving and pass-blocking skills make him something of an improvement over the original model.
Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
Compares to: Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
There are some running backs who pick up yardage with elusiveness, speed and the ability to make defenders miss.
Then there's Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, a 244-pound wrecking ball who gained almost 1,800 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 2012 for the Spartans.
Bell is surprisingly agile for a back of his size, but he needs to work on his acceleration through the hole and improve his pass protection.
Given his size and running style, Bell likely projects as a bruiser at the NFL level similar to Michael Bush of the Chicago Bears.
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Compares to: Bilal Powell, New York Jets
UCLA's Johnathan Franklin was a second team All-American in 2012 after a wildly productive season in which he topped 2,000 total yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Franklin will be hard pressed to match that production at the next level, as his 195-pound build would appear to relegate him to a change-of-pace role.
Franklin played fairly well in January's Senior Bowl. However, he'll have to show scouts that he can improve his receiving and pass-blocking skills before it would even be accurate to compare him to a third-down back like Bilal Powell of the New York Jets.
Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Compares to: Anthony Dixon, San Francisco 49ers
Texas A&M running back Christine Michael had very up-and-down collegiate career, with injuries and run-ins with the coaching staff curtailing his production.
However, the 2009 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year buoyed his draft stock recently with a strong performance in last month's East-West Shrine Game, and at 5'11" and 213 pounds Michael possesses the size and skill set that NFL scouts covet.
Michael is another player who will have much to prove at the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine, and he recently drew a comparison to Anthony Dixon of the San Francisco 49ers from Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller.