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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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 06:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide avoids a tackle by Karnell Hatcher #37 of the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Ima
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 6:  Running back Mario Fannin #27 of the Auburn Tigers rushes upfield against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    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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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Portrait of Allen Bradford #21 of the USC Trojans during warm up before the game against the California Golden Bears at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 29:  Da'Rel Scott #23 of the Maryland Terrapins carries the ball in the first half against the Boston College Eagles on November 29, 2008 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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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    COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 11:  Damien Berry #20 of the Miami Hurricanes runs with the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    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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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 26:  Running back Baron Batch #25 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders rushes for a touchdown against the Houston Cougars at Robertson Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    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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    BLACKSBURG, VA - NOVEMBER 04:  Running back Anthony Allen #18 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets runs with the ball against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on November 4, 2010 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    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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    TUSCON - OCTOBER 4:  Nicolas Grigsby #5 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball during the game against the Washington Huskies on October 4, 2008 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    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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    LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 04:  Victor Anderson #20 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Imag
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    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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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Armando Allen Jr. #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on September 25, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 37-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Evan Royster #22 of the Penn State Nittany Lions against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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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    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 23:  Ryan Kerrigan #94 of the Purdue Boilermakers attempts to tackle Brandon Saine #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    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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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Running back Roy Helu Jr. #10 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers break a long run against the Missouri Tigers during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Missou
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    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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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs away from Deunta Williams #27 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    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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    GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Running back Derrick Locke #20 of the Kentucky Wildcats is brought down by safety Ahmad Black #35 of the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    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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    STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 5:  Running back Kendall Hunter #24 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys rushes for a nine yards during the third quarter of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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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    FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Running back Graig Cooper #2 of the Miami Hurricanes looks to avoid being brought down by cornerback Mario Butler #2 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Land Shark Stadium on September 17, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Fl
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    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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    PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Jacquizz Rodgers #1 of the Oregon State Beavers runs through an opening against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on November 6, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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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    IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 23: Running back John Clay #32 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with fans after Wisconsin's victory over the University of Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 31-30 over Iowa. (Photo by
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    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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    BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Noel Devine #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers avoids a tackle by Brandon Taylor #15 of the Louisiana State Univeristy Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the Mou
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 6: Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks runs with the ball as defensive tackle Sione Potoa'e #55 of the Washington Huskies closes in during the third quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Eugene
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    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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    LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 14:  Daniel Thomas #8 of the Kansas State Wildcats carries the ball as Olaitan Oguntodu #44 of the Kansas Jayhawks defends during the game on October 14, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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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    COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 23: DeMarco Murray #7 of the Oklahoma Sooners in action against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Columbia, Missouri.  The Tigers beat the Sooners 36-27.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Ima
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    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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    BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Shane Vereen #34 of the California Golden Bears signals for a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins in the first half at California Memorial Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Berkeley, California. Vereen scored on the next play. (Photo
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    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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    LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 06:  Running back Ryan Williams #34 of the Virginia Tech Hokies runs with the ball as linebacker Byron Hout #94 of the Boise State Broncos defends at FedExField on September 6, 2010 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Ge
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    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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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 06:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tries to catch the ball near Patrick Peterson #7 of the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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.