2010 NFL Draft: Evaluating Running Back Prospects

Fantasy Football TraderContributor IApril 14, 2010

C.J. Spiller: 5-11     195 lbs.    RB     Clemson

  • 40-yard dash 4.37 at the combine
  • 225 lbs bench reps: 18 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: DNP at the combine
  • Birthday: 8/5/1987     Age: 22   

The Good: Big time playmaker finished 2009 with over 1,200 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns while adding over 500 yards and four touchdowns receiving. He also threw a touchdown. Added value as a return man with over 950 yards and five touchdowns on 31 kickoff and punt returns last season. Big time speed. Elusive. Quick feet and excellent field vision. Not afraid to get the inside yards when needed.

The Bad: Could use some more bulk. Not a great blocker but is willing. Could find it difficult to be an every-down back thanks to his superior return skills. Has had fumbling issues. Will lose his concentration from time to time in the receiving game. Needs to improve his route running. 

The Truth: I am a big Spiller fan, the kid can do it all, and he is a Reggie Bush talent but looks capable of being an every-down back as well. He is fast and elusive and despite his smaller stature he has never missed a game due to injury. I expect him to be the No. 1 pick in dynasty leagues and looks to be a solid number three fantasy back as a rookie with the potential to be so much more.

Ryan Matthews: 5-11     220 lbs.    RB     Fresno State

  • 40-yard dash 4.53 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench Reps: 19 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: 36” at the combine
  • Birthday: 5/1/1987     Age: 23   

The Good: Averaged over 6.5 yards per carry and 150 yards per game last season for Fresno State. Is a big bruising back but don’t underestimate his speed and quickness; led the NCAA last season in 50+ yard runs. Keeps driving forward with his legs and has the strength to break tackles. Good effort shown on blocks. Good hands as a receiver. 

The Bad: Has had a history of injury problems. Needs to learn the nuances of blocking. Lacks track speed but not everybody can be Chris Johnson. A 4.53 is nothing to sneeze at.

The Truth: Has the size and strength to be an excellent short yardage back with enough speed and agility to be so much more. Is not a track star but the fact that he led the country in 50+ yard runs last season shows he is not slow. While everybody is focusing on the big three name running backs in this draft it could be Matthews that ends up having the best career.  Have seen him compared to Frank Gore and I believe that he is deserving of the comparison.

Jahvid Best: 5-10     195 lbs.     RB     California

  • 40-yard dash 4.35 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench reps: 18 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: N/A
  • Birthday: 1/30/1989     Age: 21   

The Good: A yardage machine who racked up over 4,000 all-purpose yards in only 31 games while at Cal. Lightning in a bottle that knows how to use his 4.35 speed and elusive moves to the best of his ability. Good quickness to the hole with the field vision to follow his blockers and find the cutback lane. Uses speed and moves to elude tackles. Good hands adds value in the receiving game as well as a star returner. 

The Bad: Lacks bulk and strength. Is coming off a major concussion and back injury. Doesn’t break many tackles with minimal leg strength. Needs work as a blocker. 

The Truth: Best appears to be a lot like C.J. Spiller in terms of being a speedster who can take it to the house any time the ball is in his hands, whether as running back, a receiver, or as a return man. I think unless he bulks up some and improves his blocking ability it will be difficult for him to be an every-down back but he has too much skill to not see his share of carries. I like Best to be a possible star but his fate could be decided more by the system he ends up in. 

Jonathan Dwyer: 5-11     235 lbs.     RB     Georgia Tech

  • 40-yard dash 4.59 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench reps: 15 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: NA
  • Birthday: 7/26/1989     Age: 20   

The Good: He has everything you look for in a feature back: size, strength, speed, and is very elusive for a 235-pound back. Consistent runner as he ran for 1,395 yards in each of the past two years. While some say his college system inflated his numbers, he did prove in his freshman season in a pro-style offense that he is capable of putting up big numbers in any system. Runs over people, keeps a pile moving, and falls forward. Good foundation with room to improve as a blocker. Never missed a game due to injury.

The Bad: Small hands; only one other running back of the 26 at the combine had smaller hands. He only fumbled five times in over 550 touches in college however. Played in a triple-option system while at Georgia Tech. Tough blocker but must continue to improve. Only 15 career receptions, part of that could be the system he played in but it could also come back to his smaller hands. Must watch his weight.

The Truth: While C.J. Spiller gets all the headlines, and rightfully so, Dwyer could end up as the best rusher in this class. He may not have the complete game of some other backs but he is big, strong, and fast enough to turn small runs into big gains. Has the short yardage body to be a goal-line specialist right away and the ability to be so much more in the right system. I expect big things from this underclassman in the years ahead.

Ben Tate: 5-11     214 lbs.     RB     Auburn

  • 40-yard dash 4.43 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench reps: 26 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: 40.5” at the combine
  • Birthday: 8/21/1988     Age: 21   

The Good: Tested among the best at his position at the combine. Good size and speed. No fear of running over or around a defender. Good quickness off the line. He is a downhill runner that knows how to get where he needs to go. Good receiver.        

The Bad: Sometimes tries to make too many cuts instead of just being a one cut back. Not real elusive. Shared the spotlight until he broke out last year. Has had some fumbling issues. Capable blocker but still needs improvement.     

The Truth: Arguable that he underachieved most of his career at Auburn but appears to have found his groove. He has the size and running style to be an excellent NFL running back. Was very impressive at the combine and could move up because of it. I really like what I have seen from Tate and believe that he is very capable of being a quality fantasy starter in the not so distant future.

Joe McKnight: 6-0     190 lbs.    RB     USC

  • 40-yard dash 4.47 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench reps: 18 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: 36.5” at the combine
  • Birthday: 4/16/1988     Age: 22   

The Good: Decent size and speed with excellent quickness and agility. Good field vision.  Not a power back but runs hard and has no fear. Excellent receiver.      

The Bad: May have difficulty learning an in-depth playbook. Has had fumbling problems.  Needs to add bulk. Needs work on blocking. Has had some injury issues. Runs upright on occasion. 

The Truth: I remember him coming out of high school and thinking, "Here comes the next Adrian Peterson," but he was lackluster at best in his college career. Some feel he is good enough to make a change to receiver if he struggles at running back. I am not sold on him doing either to be honest. It is not as if USC has the best track record of star fantasy running backs lately. He needs to fall into the right situation before I get too excited about McKnight.

LeGarrette Blount: 6-1     241 lbs.    RB     Oregon

  • 40-yard dash 4.62 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench reps: 19 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: NA
  • Birthday: 12/5/1986     Age: 23   

The Good: Power back with the ability to break longer runs. Will run over the opposition. Only lost one fumble in his career. Despite ideal speed he has good agility and enough speed to make big plays when he breaks through the first wave of defenders.      

The Bad: Composure. Everybody remembers the cheap shot punch of a Boise State player that cost him most of his senior campaign. Also suspended for not showing up at voluntary workouts. Has had weight issues. Lacks ideal speed. Needs work as a blocker.

The Truth: He only started one game at Oregon in 2009 (the game he was kicked out of). He did rush for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns though as a junior. Likely drafted much lower than his talent level because of his past issues. Blount has all the tools and at worst could be a quality goal-line back. A potential sleeper worth keeping an eye on.

Anthony Dixon: 6-1     245 lbs.     RB     Mississippi State

  • 40-yard dash 4.65 at the combine
  • 225 lbs. bench reps: 15 at the combine
  • Vertical jump: NA
  • Birthday: 9/24/1987     Age: 22   

The Good: Big, strong back with the strength to gain extra yards any time he touches the ball. Powerful blocker. Ran all over top quality opponents in the SEC. Decent hands for a man of his size. 

The Bad: Ran in the mid 4.6 range at the combine. Had a DUI in July 2009. Good blocker but doesn’t always have head or heart into it. Nothing more than an inside runner. Has had fumbling issues.

The Truth: Looks like nothing more than a bruising back such as LenDale White but you cannot ignore the 3,994 career rushing yards and 42 touchdowns, both school records for Mississippi State. He could surprise but I am not a fantasy fan, as I see him nothing more than a potential goal-line back that could be one of those players that always has potential but just never performs. More hype than substance.

Toby Gerhart     6-1     235     RB     Stanford

  • 40 yard Dash4.53 at the combine
  • 225 Lb Bench Reps: 22 at the combine
  • Vertical Jump: 38” at the combine
  • Birthday     3/28/1987     Age: 23   

The Good:  He ran for over 1800 yards last season with 28 rushing touchdowns.  Great size and strength to get the tough inside yards with enough speed and agility to make some guys miss.  He can wear a defense down.  Good patients.  Good hands as a receiver.  Gives 110 percent on every play.  Solid blocker.  Intelligent on and off the field. 

The Bad:  Lacks ideal speed.  Hits the hole with power but lacks the burst to break big plays.  Has had some fumbling issues.    

The Truth:  I don’t know whether he will ever be a fantasy force or not but don’t think for a second that this guy is not an athlete, he owns the career high school rushing record for the state of California (9622 yards) and in 2006 he was named as a top 50 baseball prospect by Baseball America.  At best, he turns into a cross between Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs and at worst he becomes Brian Leonard.  To me he is the biggest wild card of this entire running back class.

Montario Hardesty     6-0     215     RB     Tennessee

  • 40 yard Dash4.49 at the combine
  • 225 Lb Bench Reps: 21 at the combine
  • Vertical Jump: 41” at the combine
  • Birthday     2/1/1987     Age: 23   

The Good:  Was among the best at his position in everything he did at the combine.  Good size, decent speed, good initial quickness and agility.  Good field vision.  Fights for extra yards.  Good receiver.  He’s a competitor, was voted twice as a team captain while at Tennessee, one year he wasn’t even a starter.        

The Bad:  Doesn’t have great cut back ability.  Needs to improve his blocking.  Doesn’t run as fast as his 40 time.  Can run too upright at times.  Has had some serious injuries, a torn ACL in 2005, ankle issues in 2007, and a stress fracture in 2008.  Already 23 yards old.      

The Truth:  I love this guys potential but the fact that he only had six career starts while at Tennessee and ended his career with only 278 carries, 1046 yards, and 13 touchdowns while adding only 13 receptions for 103 yards is worrisome.  I believe that if he can stay healthy that he has the potential to be a major sleeper with ability similar to Marion Barber.  One to keep an eye on.

To view more of Robb Perkins' 2010 NFL Draft running back prospects, as well as more in-depth fantasy football coverage visit Fantasy Football Trader.



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