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NFL Draft Stock Update: John Clay and Montee Ball Make Statement in Rose Bowl

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Running back John Clay #32 of the Wisconsin Badgers rushes with the ball against the TCU Horned Frogs in the fourth quarter of the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Chris EggemeyerCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

The Wisconsin Badgers may have lost the Rose Bowl in a close one against TCU, but it wasn't a total loss for John Clay and Montee Ball, two of Wisconsin's star running backs who are both draft eligible this year.

Wisconsin has developed a reputation for itself, especially this year, of physical offensive line play coupled with great power runners, and Ball and Clay have thus become a staple of the Badgers' offense.

In the Rose Bowl game this year, in which Wisconsin only managed 19 points, Ball posted 132 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries (giving him a six yards per carry average) with an explosive 40 yard run in the mix.

Ball proved that he could run with strength and balance, but also showed flashes of speed and agility that make him a very dangerous weapon in space.

Coming in at 5'11" and 236 pounds, Ball is a massive physical specimen and has the potential to be a Michael Turner type running back, should he continue to develop well.

Ball, however, is a sophomore and thus the likelihood of him jumping ship for the NFL draft is less than that of his partner in the backfield, John Clay.

Now, if you thought Ball was big at 5'11" and 236 lbs, Clay looks like a giant among men in that perspective. Clay measures in at 6'1" and 255 pounds, making some wonder whether he is more suited for the fullback role than anything else.

While it is perfectly reasonable to believe that Clay could make the switch to fullback, it is important not to get lost in the assumption, because Clay has proven time and time again that he is perfectly capable of carrying a proper running back load. He may turn out to be something like Mike Tolbert for the San Diego Chargers, but he can be a very effective weapon.

Despite missing two games due to injury this season, plus being limited in one, Clay posted his second 1,000 plus yard season with 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns on 187 carries (5.4 yards per carry average).

This follows a breakout season last year, where Clay posted 1,517 yards.

Clay has never averaged under 5.3 yards per carry in his college career, he has shown he is capable of taking full loads (he carried the ball 287 times last year), and has the size and speed to truck through defenders and pick up big chunks of yardage.

His draft stock has fallen considerably, likely because of his lack of top end speed, but Clay could still be a very good pick up for a team looking for running back options in the mid and late rounds.

As Clay is a junior, it is not guaranteed that he will enter the draft, but that is the assumption at this point.

Both of these running backs look to have bright NFL careers ahead of them, that much is for certain. Any team on the lookout for a good running back prospect should look out for these two in the mid rounds when they enter the draft.

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