Bruisers and Cruisers: The 2011 NFL RB Class Is Littered With Prospects

Devin BrackenContributor ISeptember 30, 2010

Bruisers and Cruisers: The 2011 NFL RB Class Is Littered With Prospects

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    The ground game.  It's the staple of football.  If you can't run the ball well, the passing game doesn't open up.  Your recievers are played too close.  The linebackers drop into coverage.  Without a solid running game, you will probably lose more than you win. 

    Every team in the NFL has room in the backfield for RBs.  You can never have too many.  Injuries happen and can sideline players for untold weeks.  So I decided to take a look at the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft's RB class.  I have to say, it is teeming with talent.  It could be the deepest in years.  Let's take a look at the Top 5.

Mark Ingram, Alabama (Jr)

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    The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner comes in at No.1.  He is the do-it-all type of back coaches dream of.  He won't wow you with top-end speed or flashy moves.  He just gets it done, plain and simple.  He can run between the tackles, outside, and catch the ball very well. 

    During the 2009 Heisman campaign, Ingram ran for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs with 6.1 YPC.  He also caught 32 passes for 334 more yards to go with his rushing total.  For those keeping score, that's over 2,000 yards of offense.  Who wouldn't want that type of produtivity?  A knee injury kept him out of the first 2 games of this season, but he has returned with a vengeance, racking up 311 yards and 4 TDs.  He looks to be sure-fire first rounder next April.

    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 215 lbs

    40 Time: 4.44

    Projected Round: 1st, Top 15

Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech (So)

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    When Darren Evans went down in 2009, coach Frank Beamer turned to his redshirt freshman Ryan Williams to pick up the slack in the ground game.  Boy, he did not disapoint.  Williams led the nation in TDs with 21, while rushing for 1,655 yards on 293 carries.  That's what you call a workhorse.  Any team in the NFL would be lucky to have a back with that type of staying power for the season. 

    Williams is a hard-nosed runner, capable of taking it to the house on any given play.  He reads the play and reacts to the blocking, instead of just tumbling ahead for a yard or two.  He has great vision, able to see the defense in motion while making his cuts.  If he so chooses to declare next season, Williams will be a first-rounder for sure.

     

    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 207 lbs

    40 Time: 4.43

    Projected Round: 1st, Top 20

Daniel Thomas, Kansas State (Sr)

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Daniel Thomas is a big, Adrian Peterson-style runner who likes to run downhill, while punishing his opponents with his physical style.  He has also proven to be extremely hard to bring down upon first contact.  In 2009, Thomas rushed for 1,265 yards with 11 TDs. 

    This season, he already 628 yards and 6 TDs in 4 games.  Thats a projected total of close to 1,900 yards and 20 TDs!  What coach in his right mind wouldn't take Thomas?  His style of play and physical abilities would work great in an offense like Pittsburgh or Jacksonvile as a great complement to MJD.

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 228 lbs

    40 time:  4.58

    Projected Round:  1st - 2nd

Shane Vereen, California (Jr)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Shane Vereen is an explosive and fast.  The guy can flat out run.  During his time at Cal, he has unloaded 2,584 yards of total offense, along with 27 TDs, and he wasn't even the featured back until this season.  He is more a scat-back type, a lot like Chris Johnson. 

    He is great out of the backfield, able to catch passes and turn it upfield and get into space.  That's what Head Coach Jeff Tedford and his offense has tried to to do this season.  When Vereen gets into open space, he makes people miss and they pay for it.  His playing style would really work somewhere like New England, where the emphasis on the ground game isn't too heavy. 

    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 198 lbs

    40 time:  4.45

    Projected Round:  1st - 2nd

DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma (Sr)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Murray has really come into form these last few seasons.  In 2008, he rushed for 1,002 yards and 14 TDs.  During his junior campaign in 2009, after coming off an injury, Murray rushed for 705 yards and 8 TDs. 

    This season, however, he is looking like every bit the back we thought he was when he arrived at Oklahoma.  So far during 2010, he has rushed for 436 yards and 7 TDs through 4 games.  Thats half of his TD total from a full season in 2008.  If the trend continues, Murray could be looking at jumping into the first round. 

    Height:  6'1"

    Weight:  214 lbs

    40 time:  4.44

    Projected Round:  2nd - 3rd