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2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Running Backs

Matt HunterCorrespondent INovember 4, 2016

2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Running Backs

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and NFL teams are preparing for what is to be an interesting draft year.

    This year's draft may not be filled with what people would call "greatness," but it does bring in a solid crop of running backs from throughout the country waiting to show their skills at the next level.

    Scouts and analysts want to rank players based on the amount of yards they have gained in their careers, but they also like to see the amount of yards per carry.

    I like to look at the player's size and the conference they played in, as well the stats they gathered through their college careers to determine whether or not they will be a top-ranked NFL player.

    Now, let's see the top 10 ranked running backs coming out for the 2011 NFL Draft.

     

10. Jacquizz Rodgers

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    JACQUIZZ RODGERS
    College: Oregon State
    Height: 5ft 7in     Weight: 192     40-yard Dash: 4.49

    Running Back Ranking
    Cbssports.com: 9     Walterfootball.com: 13    Optimumscouting.com: 13

    Jacquizz Rodgers is known for his quickness and ability to find the hole when running the ball.

    He finished his career at Oregon State as the second leading rusher in school history with nearly 3,800 yards on the ground.

    He also finished sixth on the Pac-10's all-time rushing yards list.

    Where Rodgers excels in acceleration and speed he lacks in size. At only 5-foot-7 and well under 200 pounds, some say Rodgers cannot make it as a team's No.1 back.

    This may be true, but Rodgers would make for a great one-two punch teaming him up with a big hard running back.

    He may go into the draft marked as a running back, but he may get drafted to be a special teams returner instead.

    Look for Rodgers to go later in the draft, perhaps the fourth or fifth rounds.

9. Jamie Harper

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    JAMIE HARPER
    College: Clemson
    Height: 5ft 11in     Weight: 235     40-yard Dash: 4.54sec

    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 10     Walterfootball.com: 10     Optimumscouting.com: 7

    Jamie Harper decided to forego his senior year at Clemson University to enter the NFL draft this coming year.

    Harper had 197 carries for 760 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in his last year with the Tigers.

    Harper also has very good hands, racking up 35 receptions for 328 yards and three touchdowns.  Those 35 catches put him at No.3 for a Clemson running back in school history.

    At 235 pounds Harper is a solid running back and could cause havoc in any NFL secondary when trying to bring him down.

    His 35 catches should catch the eye of scouts as well. A running back with good hands can turn out to be a quarterback's best friend as many are now turning to running backs to catch balls out of the backfield.

    Watch for Harper to be taken in the middle of the draft in either the third or fourth round.

8. Shane Vereen

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    SHANE VEREEN
    College: California
    Height: 5ft 10in     Weight: 205     40-yard Dash: 4,49

    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 8     Walterfootball.com: 7     Optimumscouting.com: 8

    Shane Vereen was an all-around football player for the Cal Bears in his career.

    He was asked to run, catch and return for his team, which is asking a lot of one player, especially when they are getting the bulk of the carries.

    This past year Vereen ran for 1,167 yards on 231 attempts, leaving him as the fourth ranked running back in the Pac-10.

    He finished his career with 2,834 yards on the ground and 29 touchdowns.

    Vereen is a good size for a running back; at just under six feet and 205 pounds he can make for a solid back in the NFL.

    Watch for Vereen to go somewhere in the third round or early fourth this year.  With his promise and skills, Vereen could be a team's No. 1 back, and getting a No. 1 that late in the draft would be a great pick up for any team.

     

7. Delone Carter

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    DELONE CARTER
    College: Syracuse
    Height: 5ft 9in     Weight: 226     40-yard Dash: 4.52

    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 7     Walterfootball.com: 9     Optimumscouting.com: NR

    Delone Carter finished this past year ranked as the No. 3 running back in the Big East with 1,233 rushing yards.

    He finished his collegiate career with 3,104 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

    Carter runs the ball very well, and with his small stature and large mass, he has no trouble lowering his helmet and running between the tackles for yardage.

    The only thing that could possibly hurt Carter's stock is that he came from a very weak conference and a team that finished 7-5 in the Big East.

    He has good size for the NFL, and even coming in at 226 pounds, he still has a very respective 40-yard time that may catch the eyes of some scouts.

    Carter could go as early as the third round. I see him dropping just a bit and getting taken in the fourth though.

6. Daniel Thomas

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    DANIEL THOMAS
    College: Kansas State
    Height: 6ft 2in     Weight: 228     40-yard Dash: 4.63


    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 6     Walterfootball.com: 6     Optimumscouting.com: 5

    Daniel Thomas is a monster plain and simple. At just over six feet tall and pushing 230 pounds, no linebacker or defensive back is going to want stand in front of him if he is in the open field and running at full speed.

    Thomas led the entire Big 12 Conference this year with 1,585 rushing yards on 298 attempts, giving him 5.13 yards per carry.

    He also finished 2010 with 19 rushing touchdowns, and 30 total in his career and Kansas State.

    One bad part about this past season was that teams took Thomas out of the game by lining up defenders in the box and forcing Kansas State to quit running and move to the passing game.

    The one thing scouts have said is that Thomas needs to work on is his ability to cut and change directions quicker.

    This could turn out to be a very hard task for Thomas to accomplish given his height, but with work he should be able to improve on it.

    I can see Thomas going possibly late in the second round, but more than likely he will go in the third.

    No team will be disappointed with this large back on their roster come the start of the 2011 NFL season.

5. DeMarco Murray

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    DEMARCO MURRAY
    College: Oklahoma
    Height: 6ft 0in     Weight: 214     40-yard Dash: 4.48


    Running Back Ranking:
    CBSsports.com: 5     Walterfootball.com: 5     Optimumscouting.com: 3

    Another big back in the top 10 prospects. DeMarco Murray has the size as well as the speed and is an all-around good back.

    Murray finished sixth the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards with 1,214 yards. He also had 15 rushing touchdowns.

    Murray might of had a down season for Oklahoma, but his career there was less than mediocre.  He finished with 3,685 yards on 759 carries averaging 4.85 yards per carry, with an amazing 50 touchdowns.

    One huge stat scouts and teams will mark as possibly his best attribute is that in his four years at Oklahoma, Murray never fumbled the football.

    Let me reiterate that last stat: NO FUMBLES, NO LOST FUMBLES IN FOUR YEARS.

    That is an amazing stat and one that coaches harp on their backs over and over.

    Murray is going to be a top back in the league in the future.  Look for him to go in the second round this year.

4. Jordan Todman

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    JORDAN TODMAN
    College: Connecticut
    Height: 5ft 9in     Weight: 195     40-yard Dash: 4.43

    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 4     Walterfootball.com: 4     Optimumscouting.com: 6

    Jordan Todman is a quick running back known for his ability to make players miss.

    Todman finished this season as the No. 1 rusher in the Big East Conference with 1,695 rushing yards. He carried the ball 334 times averaging 5.07 per carry. He had 14 touchdowns last year and 31 total in his career at Connecticut.

    Like Murray, Todman also had no fumbles in his three years of college ball.

    Todman could make for a very good running back in the NFL if he can put on at least another 10-15 pounds, which would put him between 205-210.

    His speed will be what teams are caught by when looking at him. This may lead teams to use Todman as a returner, as well as a No. 2 back for the first couple years in the NFL.

    Look for Todman to get picked late in the second round.

3. Mikel LeShoure

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    MIKEL LESHOURE
    College: Illinois

    Height: 6ft 0in     Weight: 230     40-yard Dash: 4.53


    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 2     Walterfootball.com: 2     Optimumscouting.com: 4

    Mikel LeShoure is "solid" at 230 pounds, and with a very reasonable 40-time, he is definitely one of the top prospects for this year's draft.

    LeShoure finished as the No. 2 rusher in the Big 10, but the No. 1 running back in yards since the top rusher was quarterback Denard Robinson of Michigan.

    LeShoure finished with 1,697 rushing yards this year with 17 touchdowns.

    He would probably be the most talked about running back if he could have been playing on one of the top teams in the Big 10 Conference.

    He is a standout back who runs hard and is able to move very well for a big back.

    LeShoure is going to be a stand out running back right out of the gate, and we will be hearing about him from Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season.  He could be a late first round pick if he has a good combine. He will not fall very much further though, as he should get picked up early to mid-second round.

2. Ryan Williams

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    RYAN WILLIAMS
    College: Virginia Tech
    Height: 5ft 10in     Weight: 205     40-yard Dash: 4.46

    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 3     Walterfootball.com: 3     Optimumscouting.com: 2

    Ryan Williams could not be found on the ACC rushing leader's radar, finishing 25th in the ACC with only 477 yards.

    Williams was not even the top rusher for the Hokies this year finishing fourth on the team behind even quarterback Tyrod Taylor.  He also finished the season with only nine rushing touchdowns.

    However, scouts and NFL general managers cannot look past the 2009 season Williams had, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns.  He is the No. 2 prospect for a reason, and that is his ability.

    Williams runs hard and downhill he has great speed and size for a running back.  He also has no problems running between the tackles or getting to the outside.

    The 2010 season may have hurt him a bit, but people know his potential and know his stats do not truly show the type of back he really is.

    Look for Williams to be taken early in the second round, or at worst late second.

1. Mark Ingram

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    MARK INGRAM
    College: Alabama
    Height: 5ft 10in     Weight: 215     40-yard Dash: 4.48

    Running Back Ranking
    CBSsports.com: 1     Walterfootball.com: 1     Optimumscouting.com: 1

    Heisman Winner. National Champion.

    Two pretty good things to boast when heading to the NFL Draft.

    Mark Ingram is a great running back who runs harder than anyone, and if you are thinking about trying to tackle him high, then you are going to be embarrassed because he is just too strong and quick to arm tackle.

    Ingram was a work horse his Heisman trophy-winning season, running for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns on his way to winning a National Championship with the Crimson Tide in 2009.

    2010 was a rough year for Ingram who battled an injury, but still came out and produced for Alabama with 875 yards on 158 attempts averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

    His 3-year career at Alabama finished with 3,261 yards on the ground and 42 touchdowns.  He had a great three years in the hardest conference in college football, the SEC.

    If a running back can put up numbers like he did in the SEC, he can run in the NFL against the toughest defenses.

    Ingram is a guaranteed first round pick. He will probably go in the middle to later picks in the first round, but he is a definite first round pick and the top running back prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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