NFL Draft 2011: The Top 10 Running Backs the New York Giants Should Consider
While the Giants had one of the better dual threats in football last season in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, Bradshaw is a free agent, while Jacobs is under contract for two more seasons. Fans, pundits and experts have wondered if the Giants can afford to keep both players.
If Bradshaw leaves, the Giants need a running back to complement Jacobs. If Jacobs is traded, the Giants need a running back to complement Bradshaw. If both stay, it never hurts to have a guy on reserve in case of injury.
These are the running backs the Giants will likely look at the hardest.
Mark Ingram (Alabama)
Mark Ingram is the best running back in the NFL draft. It is unlikely he will be around when the Giants pick in the first round, but if he is, the Giants should strongly consider picking the former Heisman winner.
While the Giants don't need to take a running back in the first round, Ingram's value would be too much to pass up, even with his knee problems.
Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech)
Although he missed part of last season with a hamstring injury, Williams was one of the best backs in the ACC in 2009.
Williams would provide a similar change-of-pace to a game as Bradshaw. He has quick feet and is one of the more agile backs in the draft.
Williams would be a likely second-round target for the Giants.
Mikel Leshoure (Illinois)
Leshoure has a rare blend of speed and power and could go to the Giants as early as the first round, but is more likely to fall to Round 2. With Illinois last season, Leshoure rushed for 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns.
A big back at 5'11" and 227 pounds, Leshoure is able to take the pounding his bruising running style requires.
While Leshoure is still a raw receiver, the Giants would give him the opportunity to improve and learn behind one of their other backs.
Daniel Thomas (Kansas State)
Another relatively big back at 6'0" and 230 pounds, Thomas rushed for 1,615 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2010. He is an advanced receiver, catching 27 passes out of the Kansas State backfield last season.
Thomas could give the Giants versatility for trick plays. In 2008, he threw for 450 yards and two touchdowns.
There are a number of concerns about Thomas' ability to hold on to the football. With Ahmad Bradshaw's struggles last season and the Giants' team struggles with turnovers, Tom Coughlin would have to think twice before drafting Thomas.
Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State)
Kendall Hunter ran for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns last season for Oklahoma State. Standing 5'7" at 199 pounds, Hunter does not have the size many of the other top-flight running backs.
Despite his size, Hunter is a punishing back who hesitates to run out-of-bounds and lowers his shoulder at the end of runs.
Hunter has some of the best quickness in the draft to make moves near the line of scrimmage, but appears to lack the breakaway speed that separates the good backs from the great ones.
Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh)
Dion Lewis is one of the smaller backs in the draft at 5'6" and 193 pounds. Lewis does not project as an every down back, but appears to be more in the mold of Darren Sproles.
Lewis is a player who loves his underdog role. He was only offered two scholarships at FBS schools and that slight motivates him to succeed.
Lewis projects as a third or fourth-round pick, but it is unlikely the Giants would take him unless he fell to Round 5.
Jordan Todman (Connecticut)
In 2010, Jordan Todman rushed for 1,695 yards and 14 touchdowns. UConn's opponents knew Todman was going to get the ball, and Todman still ran them over.
The biggest concern NFL scouts have about Todman is his size (5'9" 203 pounds).
Although Todman is not as highly projected as other running backs on this list (ESPN ranks him outside the top 10 running backs), he had an outstanding combine and could benefit from UConn's location. Giants front office personnel were able to watch more UConn games than executives in other parts of the country.
Don't be surprised to see the Giants reach for Todman in Round 3.
Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State)
Standing a mere 5'5" and weighing 196 pounds, Jacquizz Rodgers will need to overcome his size to succeed in the NFL.
Rodgers has been one of the more dynamic college running backs throughout his career at Oregon State, rushing for 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010.
Rodgers is explosive to the line of scrimmage and has good balance. Aside from his size, he is one of the most talented running backs in the draft. Expect the Giants to look at him around the third or fourth round.
DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)
Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray is not the type of player who will get substantial carries his rookie season. But he will make it on a team as a kick returner. His unique blend of speed and quickness allows him to make plays in the open field.
Murray would also be a great third down back for any team that chooses him. He is a good route runner and seeks out holes under zone defenses. Murray also has experience picking up blocks in the backfield, a skill many rookie running backs struggle with.
Another Giants running back began his career as a kick returner picked in the late rounds of the NFL draft and became a serviceable feature back: Tiki Barber.
Expect the Giants to look at Murray in the fourth and fifth rounds of the draft.
Johnny White (North Carolina)
Johnny White did not have outstanding production in the 2010 season with only 720 yards and seven touchdowns. He does have outstanding knowledge of the game.
White has played cornerback, running back and wide receiver throughout his career, in addition to roles returning and covering kicks.
Playing so many positions shows White's exceptional athleticism. He has some of the quickest feet and biggest burst among running backs in the draft. That being said, he is still a project, a risk who would likely not contribute as a running back for a couple of seasons. Like Murray, he could find a role on special teams in the meantime.
The Giants would likely look at White if he were still available around the sixth round.