The 2014 NFL draft is littered with big names at the running back position.
Which makes it a shame the position has devalued so heavily in recent years at the pro level. Last year, the top back off the board (Giovani Bernard) was not taken until No. 37. Three backs managed to slip into the first round in 2012 (Trent Richardson, David Wilson and Doug Martin).
Late-round gems such as Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy in recent years will only further deter teams from spending a high selection on a big-name back.
2014 does not lack for those. De'Anthony Thomas, Tyler Gaffney, Jeremy Hill, Andre Williams, Carlos Hyde and a swath of others line what could be a very special class if all declare.
But which backs have the best shot at cracking the elusive first round at this point in time? Read on to find out.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
We are possibly a long way from knowing if Lache Seastrunk, a redshirt junior, will declare or not (especially now that quarterback Bryce Petty is sticking around another year).
One thing is for certain—the Baylor product's stock may never be higher.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller illustrates this point well:
Could be best RB in '14 class. RT @CobbMcWalter79: What is your opinion on Lache Seastrunk as a prospect?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 6, 2013
To succeed at the NFL level these days, backs must be able to contribute in the passing game. That is good news for Seastrunk, who excels in a wide-open scheme and compares favorably to New England's Shane Vereen per Albert Breer of NFL.com.
At 5'10" and 210 pounds, Seastrunk is built to last at the next level. He missed two games this year, but still ran for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns on 126 carries—giving him a superb 7.8 yards per carry.
Seastrunk may very well end up in the first round, especially if a team with the right system has a specific need.
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Washington's Bishop Sankey has yet to make things official, either. But with numbers such as these through two seasons, it only makes sense for Sankey to take his talents to the next level:
At 5'10" and 203 pounds, Sankey is also built to last at the next level. Analysts such as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler compare the talented back to names such as Baltimore's Ray Rice thanks to his running style and ability to pick up chunks of yardage at a time.
Unlike Seastrunk, Sankey will not necessarily need a specific offense to thrive. This makes him even more attractive at the next level, and it increases his chances of sneaking into the first round.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Arizona's Twitter account neatly summarizes Ka'Deem Carey's dominance in 2013 both statistically and visually:
Carey had a monster season, but it impressively does not compare to what he did in 2012 on fewer carries. He took 303 attempts last season and ran for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Carey is a complete package at 5'10" and 207 pounds. He displays good patience, is a violent runner and has flashed an ability to contribute in the passing game. ESPN's Steve Muench compares Carey to the aforementioned Bernard:
Like Bernard, he’s not a powerhouse who's going to consistently drag defenders for extra yards. At 5'10" and 197 pounds, he’s leaner than Bernard at this point, but Carey, too, is a hard-nosed competitor who runs hard and finishes better than you’d expect for a back with his frame.
Clearly, Carey has a game that translates well to the professional level. Like the other backs detailed here, he likely won't crack the top 10 of the first round. But he also has the tools to sneak in at some point, provided his workouts and interviews go well.