Which of These 2009 Running Back Prospects Will Thrive in the NFL?

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Which of These 2009 Running Back Prospects Will Thrive in the NFL?
(Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Knowshon Moreno, Chris "Beanie" Wells, and LeSean McCoy will end up somewhere on draft day, that's for sure. However, when you look at the three separately, what do you see? They all possess Pro Bowl-level talent, but of the three, which one stands the biggest chance of being successful?

Knowshon Moreno is 5'11", 217 pounds and ran a rather unimpressive 4.62 at the combine. However, any fan or follower of Knowshon will tell you that the proof is in the pudding.

Although Knowshon lacks the size of the optimum running back, he has the ability to drop his shoulder, when necessary, and run over and through tacklers with a fierceness unrivaled by any running back in the NFL. Further, once he gets into space, he can be very hard to stop due to his lateral quickness and ability to elude defenders.

He also possesses a great set of hands that makes him equally as impressive as a pass catcher. He is as good as any wide receiver and is a definite threat on a passing down, and not just the passes that you often see running backs take either (flats and dumps-offs as the play breaks down). No, Knowshon could actually line up as a wide receiver. His hands are that good.

While at Georgia, he caught 53 balls for 704 yards and two scores.

The one knock against Knowshon is that he isn't very big. If he's being used for pass protection, he can stand up to the biggest defensive lineman, but over the long haul, he could break down physically.

Further, because he is so competitive and willing to absorb those big hits, you have to wonder if he won't begin to suffer more injuries over a long NFL season.

See more about Knowshon here.

Which leads me to Chris "Beanie" Wells.

Wells is 6'1", 235 pounds, and probably the most naturally talented runner in the draft. Where Knowshon is all heart and determination, Wells can do most things with minimal effort. His field vision is uncanny. He sees the hole develop, and he hits it hard. Plus, he runs pretty well for a guy his size. His combine 40 time was 4.59.

That may seem pretty close to what Knowshon ran, but Wells is about 20 or so pounds heavier and a couple inches taller than Moreno. So, in all, it was pretty impressive to see him run as well as he did.

He has excellent breakaway speed and often makes other guys look silly as they attempt to tackle him.

As a receiver, he's lacking, but it's hard to know whether or not that is due to a lack of opportunity or a lack of talent. He was rarely, if ever, targeted as a receiver while at Ohio State.

He has 15 catches total for his college career.

The one perceived issue with Wells is his toughness. Last season, he seemed to be plagued by nagging injuries, and you could never be sure if he was really unable to play or if he was just milking it. A lot of times you would see him on the sidelines walking and talking like all was well, and it made you wonder, why isn't he in pads?

Any NFL team that would choose to pay a guy millions of dollars is going to expect him to play through some pain. I'm not sure if Wells is willing to do that, and for that reason, I think he has hurt himself substantially in the draft. 

However, in all, he only missed a total of three games in his career. All were last season. So, it's possible that all the questions about him being tough enough could be much ado about nothing. If that's the case, then I see no reason for any team to be leery of taking him early.

See more of Wells' combine stats here.

Lastly, we have LeSean McCoy.

Okay, in my opinion, LeSean should have stayed at Pitt for one more season. However, the life of a running back is short, so he probably made the right decision.

At 5'10", 198 pounds, LeSean is built much like Moreno. However, the comparisons end there.

McCoy is a little too careless with the ball. If he doesn't start learning how to switch the ball over to that outside hand, he may find himself fumbling quite a bit on gameday, and that won't make him any friends.

Further, he relies too much on his speed and cutting ability to make plays. That style of running may have gotten him 2,800 yards in the Big East, but the NFL will boast bigger, stronger, and faster players.

It won't be nearly as easy to find the lanes and make those quick cuts. He will have to get better at reading and reacting to the plays as they develop.

What's more, LeSean is not a tough runner. I am not certain that he can fight for the extra yard if he gets held up on a play. On the other hand, if he has some space, he can make enough moves to stymie defenders and break loose for a nice chunk of yardage.

In other words, his run production at the next level could be feast or famine.

He can be a very capable receiver out of the backfield, and with 584 total carries in two years, there is no question that he can be called upon to stand up to the rigors of an NFL season.

He will need to work on his pass protection if he expects not to be a liability, and that may require some extra work in the weight room. Otherwise, I see a lot of linemen having him for breakfast on blitz packages.

Get McCoy's combine numbers here.

So, of the three, which one has the best chance of being successful at the next level? Well, I think it's Moreno.

Moreno just has that "it" factor. He may not fit the mold of what you physically look for in a running back, but it's impossible to overlook his toughness, his heart, and his love of the game. Even more than that, there are no character issues. No questions about his work ethic. No doubt that when he goes out on the field, he's going to give you 110 percent on every single play.

As a fan, I couldn't ask for more than that.

Wells would be a close second to Moreno. I think the knock on his toughness is probably a bit overplayed. Once you can get past that, it's hard not to like Wells. He may not have the infectious personality that will make him a fan favorite, but I have found that many fans will take the production over the product (just look at Terrell Owens).

As for McCoy, the verdict is still out on him. However, with little tread on the tires, I think he may be the surprise that people are looking for at that position this year.

It should be interesting.

Draft Day: 10 days and a wake-up.

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