2014 NFL Draft: Who Are This Year's Most Overlooked Running Backs?

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IMarch 25, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Who Are This Year's Most Overlooked Running Backs?

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Running back has become arguably the hardest position to figure out for the NFL draft. The value of the position has fluctuated recently, and this particular 2014 draft class is tough to decipher.

    There aren't any top elite talents, and there isn't even a somewhat general consensus as to who should be the first back taken. But there is a wealth of talent that could be available in the middle rounds.

    While first-rounders like Trent Richardson and David Wilson struggle, late-rounders Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy have excelled.

    This could lead more teams to try to find value later in the draft, and these five running backs all fit that mold. They've been overlooked for one reason or another and could end up being very successful in the NFL.

    Here are this year's most overlooked running backs in the 2014 NFL draft.

Storm Johnson, Central Florida

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Storm Johnson is a big back at 6'0", 209 pounds, but he sometimes runs like he thinks he's a 5'9" speedster, and he surprisingly gets away with it more often than not.

    A long, powerful-looking runner, Johnson is actually really slippery and can be very agile in tight spaces. His acceleration is solid, and he can break away in the open field as well.

    This combination of quickness and size is not all too common, and Johnson is being severely overshadowed by former UCF teammate Blake Bortles.

    But Johnson, who rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, could easily be a mid-round pick who steps into an NFL backfield right away as a No. 2 guy and is productive.

Terrance West, Towson

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    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Terrance West may not have played in a big program, but he led the entire FCS with an absurd 2,519 rushing yards in 2013 while carrying Towson to the FCS National Championship Game.

    He's something of an understated runner in that he doesn't do any one thing spectacularly. There isn't blazing speed, overpowering strength or flashy moves.

    But West is a well-built, sturdy, tough, smart back who can make things happen with the ball in his hands. At 5'9", 225 pounds, he's something of a bowling ball who just finds little gaps and gets through them.

    He may not have the speed or agility to be a feature back in the NFL, but he could excel as a short-yardage guy who could carry the load when need be.

Jeremy Hill, LSU

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    Bold statement time: Jeremy Hill is the most talented running back in this class. He's an unbelievable blend of size (6'1", 233 lbs), power, agility and tenacity.

    It's nearly impossible to bring Hill down once he gets ahead of steam. He can run people over but can also break down, shift and change directions, and break away from an unsuspecting defensive back.

    But he doesn't have elite acceleration or top-end speed, which could make some teams hesitate a bit. His off-the-field troubles are really what is keeping his stock down, though.

    He has had two serious brushes with the law in the past couple years and has been suspended at LSU. I can't pretend to know him as a person or comment on his character, but those are major issues on paper.

    All I can say is that on the field, Hill is a beast. And if he can keep himself in line, there's legitimate potential for stardom.

Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    And here we have the combine warrior who made a name for himself in Indianapolis last month. Jerick McKinnon ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, put up 32 reps on the bench and had a 40.5" vertical. He was a top performer in literally every category.

    McKinnon ran the triple-option as a quarterback in 2012, rushing for 1,817 yards, and then transitioned into more of a running back role in 2013 as a senior.

    He is a powerful, tough runner who isn't going to make guys miss in the open field or be a big-play threat, and it's obvious that he isn't specifically trained as a running back.

    But he's an incredible athlete and legitimate weapon who came into college as a cornerback and returner, and any team would be happy to have a football player like McKinnon on its roster. He's well worth a fifth- or sixth-round pick.

Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State

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    Jay Sailors/Associated Press

    Isaiah Crowell started his college career off at Georgia, where he was a true freshman star in the SEC, but then trouble hit, and Crowell transferred to Alabama State.

    He has had a productive past couple years there, but clearly it is a few major steps down in terms of quality of competition. One cannot forget about Crowell's ability, however, and his upside is immense.

    This article by Bleacher Report's own Andrew Hall does a fantastic job profiling Crowell's career and life since his fallout at UGA, and it seems like he has gotten himself back together and is ready for a career in the NFL.

    He's fallen off the radar but is still just a couple years removed from being a dominant rusher in the SEC. An NFL team could get a major steal with Crowell in the middle rounds.