2011 NFL Draft: Projecting the Top 25 Running Backs

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer INovember 9, 2010

2011 NFL Draft: Projecting the Top 25 Running Backs

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    The 2011 Draft gets a little closer every day, and now we're going to look at how the top 25 running backs fall as things stand in early November.

    You can never have enough good running backs on your team, unless you're the Kansas City Chiefs, so it's in every team's best interests to grab one or two over the course of a draft.

    You just never know when someone is going blow out an ACL, lose their breakaway speed, or just get too beat up to be effective.

    So here are the top 25 running back prospects this week.

25. Mario Fannin, Auburn

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    Mario Fannin is a solid late-round pickup for any team. Fannin shows good speed, but doesn't have the size NFL Scouts look for.

    His size will be the factor that keeps him in the lower rounds, but he's shown the ability to get through the line and his technique can be coached up.

24. Allen Bradford, USC

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    While Bradford's height is similar to Fannin's, he has more bulk, which makes him a slightly more attractive prospect.

    Bradford protects the ball and runs through blocks, trying to get the extra yard or two. His knock is that he is an "impatient" runner, but experience can soften his negative characteristics.

23. Da'Rel Scott, Maryland

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    Da'Rel Scott is a great outside runner, but doesn't like to cut inside, according to his scouting report.

    Scott has average height and bulk, but he does have speed, and teams always are interested in a fast running back.

22. Damien Berry, Miami

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    Berry already has torn one ACL, and missed last week's game due to injury, which most likely will keep him from going in the first round.

    Berry was averaging 4.9 yards per carry prior to his latest injury, so there will be interest in the Miami running back, but look no farther than Montario Hardesty to understand why a running back who develops a significant injury history in college becomes a risk to draft high for an NFL team.

21. Baron Batch, Texas Tech

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    Baron Batch is quick, makes good cuts and is described as a fearless runner.

    However, he is small for an NFL running back and doesn't tend to fall forward. He'll be a great late-round pickup, though, who could end up being a great kick returner.

20. Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech

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    Allen is going to be a good sleeper pick because he's far down on the draft boards for no real good reason.

    He has good size and speed, never has been in trouble, and he protects the ball while churning for extra yards.

19. Nicolas Grigsby, University Of Arizona

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    Grigsby can get big runs, and is fast enough to catch scout's attention.

    Grigsby has no major marks against him, and should be able to transition to the NFL with little problem.

18. Victor Anderson, Louisville

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    Anderson shows a lot of speed and skills, and his lack of size is made for in his effort.

    Anderson is explosive off the line, finds holes, and makes blockers miss. Anderson is a guy who could creep up the draft boards as the winter progresses.

17. Armando Allen, Notre Dame

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    Armando Allen is small, but he's quick. Expect this guy to be picked up primarily for special teams, but he'll make a great tailback who can burst through holes and leave the defenders in his wake.

16. Evan Royster, Penn State

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    Royster is a good guy out of the backfield who scouts criticize for not cutting inside enough.

    That being said, Royster can hit the holes and can turn the corner once he is on the outside.

15. Brandon Saine, Ohio State

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    Saine is described as an above average prospect, but has too many "inconsistent" tags against him in various aspects of his game.

    However, Saine already looks like he'll be a good option out of the backfield with his cutting ability and willingness to throw blocks and fight for yards after contact.

14. Roy Helu, Nebraska

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    Helu shows good speed and exposiveness out of the backfield, but gets knocked for his tendency to stop running once he gets hit and not fighting for the extra yard.

    However, scouts also note he shows good awareness for where he is on the field and where the first down markers are.

13. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh

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    Dion Lewis has shown himself to be a very agile, speedy, runner who is determined to be the "go to" guy in the running game.

    Lewis has shown good skills and technique and has the intangibles teams look for when drafting.

12. Derrick Locke, Kentucky

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    Locke isn't the biggest back in the pool of prospects, but he runs through people and doesn't go down easy.

    He plays tough, and that will attract a lot of attention as we move closer to draft day.

11. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

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    Kendall Hunter is known as a "straight ahead" runner, but his ability to get through the line has been questioned.

    Hunter shows good balance and ability to see the play developing, and that ability to read the defense will make him a good pickup for any NFL team.

10. Graig Cooper, Miami

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    Cooper has quick feet, great balance and agility, and has a good frame. Cooper's knock is his tendency to let the ball hang out.

    Cooper's positives outweigh his negatives and he's a guy who also could creep up the draft board as draft day nears.

9. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State

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    At 5' 7", Rodgers has a tough road ahead of him to succeed in the NFL, but he has a great heart, legs that never stop moving and a work ethic to make it in the Pros.

    He has all the attributes of a great NFL running back except his size, but others have overcome that before and Rodgers looks like he can do it as well.

8. John Clay, Wisconsin

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    Clay has great size and speed, is classified as a "downhill" runner and has the moves to make it in the pros.

    Clay's only real negative is his reputation for fumbling, but that happens with a guy who's hard to take down and fights for every yard.

7. Noel Devine, West Virginia

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    Devine runs well, cuts well, and can get through blockers well. He also is a good pass blocker and has above average speed.

    His height and bulk will be issues going into the Combine, but he projects well enough to still be drafted relatively high.

6. LaMichael James, Oregon

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    LaMichael James got the opportunity to show his stuff after LeGarrette Blount was suspended last year and got several offensive honors over the course of the season.

    He's relatively small, though, and that could affect his draft position. He may benefit from staying one more year, but his ranking is so high that he might be crazy to risk one more year in college.

5. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

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    Daniel Thomas is 6'2", 228 lbs., and his scouting report reads like a general manager's fantasy.

    Thomas has first-round potential, and his natural abilities for finding holes and breaking through for the big run will give him plenty of options in the NFL.

4. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

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    DeMarco Murray has all the intangibles GMs want in their players in the 21st Century, but what could affect his draft status is his injury history.

    While none of his injuries appear to have long-term consequences, the durability issue surfaces. However, Murray is a determined runner who will get yards and will be an asset to any team.

3. Shane Vereen, California

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    Shane Vereen is a guy who has consistent 100-yard game potential and finds ways to make plays.

    He's a projected second round draft pick, and given how team's needs may go in the first round, that's not an unrealistic projection.

    Vereen has shown he's hard to catch once he's in the open field, and his relatively short stature hasn't been an issue so far.

2. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

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    Ryan Williams has all the attributes of a first-round draft pick with his big issue being ball security.

    But his ability to run through the line, study the game and make plays makes him a very attractive first-round prospect.

1. Mark Ingram, Alabama

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    Your 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, his resume and on-field work speak for itself.

    There's always the "Heisman Curse" to worry about, but if you go strictly by his on-field production and the scouting reports, Ingram is the No. 1 prospect and will have a good career in the NFL.