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1. Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Big back at 5'11'' and 220 pounds. Bulky frame. Desired short-area quickness. Cuts laterally swiftly but doesn't lose speed after redirection. Runs with deceptive power. Can plow through smaller defenders at the second and third levels. Not exactly a home run hitter but far from slow in the open field. Terrific vision that allows him to see cutback lanes. One-cut-and-go runner. Average pass-blocker. Some injury and off-field concerns. Truly a gifted athlete who runs low with authority.
2. Andre Ellington, Clemson
Ideal new-age NFL runner. Fast. Somewhat tall but runs with low center of gravity and is quick in and out of his violent lateral cuts. Possesses the most explosive burst in the class and has above-average straight-line speed. Plays faster than 4.61 40-yard dash time. Not necessarily a home run hitter, but in space, he's special. Decent pass-blocker. Excels as a pass-catcher. There's some Jamaal Charles to him.
3. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Runs decisively, can employ one- or two-cut technique to free himself at the second level. Deceptive speed but not a burner. Willing pass-blocker but could improve. Finishes his runs with power. Comfortable catching the football. Though smaller, a complete runner with feature back potential.
4. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Amazing change of direction ability. Best in class. Has Maurice Jones-Drew-type build. Runs with unexpected power, but he won't knock over defenders. Bouncy lateral agility. Willing pass-blocker. Burst is good but doesn't wow. Experienced pass-catcher. Explosive return ability. Third-down back who'll succeed in that role instantly. Tore ACL in 2010. Only 21 years old.
5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Experience in Wisconsin's offense has made him a smart, one-cut runner. Can undoubtedly run between the tackles. More compact and strong than he looks at 5'10'' and 214 pounds. Far from a big-play guy but will pick up decent chunks of yardage, especially through arm tackles. Sifts through traffic exceptionally well. Natural pass-catcher who showed dedication as a pass-blocker, too. Doesn't possess much burst and didn't show a second gear on tape. Reliable. Logged 924 carries in college.
Thoughts: In today's NFL, I'm looking for a runner who can occasionally run between the tackles, but mainly, a guy who can excel on the perimeter and hit the big play. No, not every team is running the spread or zone read, but they're becoming more prevalent wrinkles across the league. Also, I really value short-area quickness and burst along with willingness as a pass-protector. Honorable mention Le'Veon Bell of Michigan State is more of a power runner than anything, but his pass-catching ability will help to keep him viable in the NFL for a while.