2011 NFL Draft: The Top 10 RBs Entering the NFL

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: The Top 10 RBs Entering the NFL

0 of 10

    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after rushing for a touchdown during the Capitol One Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by M
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The running back position has been phased out somewhat over the last few seasons. Whether it be the prevalence of pass-first teams, or teams using multiple RBs to carry the load. Teams just aren't spending first round picks on RBs quite the way they used to.

    Ryan Mathews was the first RB taken in 2010 and had a disappointing season. While injury played a part in that, teams will look at Mathews as an example of why they can find productive RBs in later rounds.

10. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh

1 of 10

    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs for a touchdown during the Big East Conference game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Pittsburgh won 28-10.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Lewis, a two-year starter at Pittsburgh had an excellent career. He is solid in all areas. For a player his size, Lewis doesn't possess the game-breaking ability some would think.

    His elusiveness and acceleration are outstanding and he proved to be durable despite his size in college. He carried a heavy workload as a freshman.

    Look for Lewis to be selected in the middle rounds but will provide excellent value to the team selecting him.

9. Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington

2 of 10

    BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Mychal Kendricks #30 of the California Golden Bears returns a fumble for 45 yards against Taiwan Jones #22 of the Eastern Washington Eagles at Memorial Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacob
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Jones recently ran a 4.32 40 yard dash and had a productive college career. He has drawn comparisons to Tennessee's Chris Johnson because of his blazing speed.

    Jones was Big Sky co-Offensive Player of the Year. He ran for just under 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jones broke his foot in the playoffs so he wasn't healthy for the combine. If he had been healthy, Jones would have been mentioned higher on this list.

    His stock continues to soar and with that incredible speed, it would not be a surprise to see Jones go in round two.

8. Da'Rel Scott, Maryland

3 of 10

    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

    Scott grabbed the attention of the NFL when he posted amazing workout numbers. He ran the 40 in just under 4.4 and was solid in every one of the drills.

    He has decent size with room to grow. He is not a good blocker and has questionable change-of-direction ability despite blazing speed.

    Scott shared the carries at Maryland so he has less wear and tear than some of the other RBs and that is a positive in the eyes of the NFL.

    Look for Scott to go in the middle rounds, 3-5.

7. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

4 of 10

    LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 20:  Running back Kendall Hunter #24 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys carries the ball during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on November 20, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Hunter is a small back but has deceiving power. Only 5'7 and just under 200 lbs, Hunter has an excellent lower-body strength and will always fight for the extra yards.

    He doesn't possess elite speed, but has good enough speed to get around the edge and get downfield. Hunter is also a solid receiver out of the backfield.

    Hunter is an underrated player who will be a nice complement to an established starter. Look for him to be picked in round four.

6. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

5 of 10

    BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 20:  Daniel Thomas #8 of the Kansas State Wildcats rushes with the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on November 20, 2010 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated Kansas State 44-36.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Thomas has outstanding size and power. He possesses decent speed for someone his size. He is a legitimate power-runner.

    He has good footwork and is a load to bring down. Thomas does have some character concerns but with his size, production and durability, Thomas should be selected in round three.

5. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

6 of 10

    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  DeMarco Murray #7 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs the football to score a touchdown in the first quarter against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in G
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Murray had a solid career at Oklahoma. He had a dominant sophomore season. He was injured much of his junior season causing concerns about his durability.

    Murray is athletic and has the ability to make plays inside and outside. He has excellent patience and solid speed. There are concerns that he runs too upright at times which could be a reason for the injury issues.

    Murray is a solid all-around prospect who should go between round two and three.

4. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State

7 of 10

    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 04:  Jacquizz Rodgers #1 of the Oregon State Beavers runs the ball against the Oregon Ducks during the 114th Civil War on December 4, 2010 at the Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    For such a small RB, Rodgers is an excellent inside runner. He has tremendous lower-body strength and very good speed. His size will never allow him to be an every down RB. But many teams employee a RB by committee to where Rodgers would be ideal.

    Besides his size, there is so much to like about Rodgers. His vision and change-of-direction ability are simply amazing. Rodgers reminds some of Baltimore RB Ray Rice.

    Rodgers should go in round two.

3. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois

8 of 10

    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 20: Mikel Leshoure #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs on his way to a 339 yard rushing performance against the Northwestern Wildcats during a game played at Wrigley Field on November 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Illinois defeated
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Leshoure has ideal size for an NFL RB. Standing 5'11 and weighing 230 lbs, Leshoure is built to carry the ball over 20 times per game. For a man his size though, he sometimes runs like a smaller back instead of running through defenders.

    He has deceptively good speed and is a solid blocker in the passing game. He was durable in his college career.

    Possesses many traits that will give him an outside shot of being a first round pick, but more than likely, he will fall into the second round.

2. Mark Ingram, Alabama

9 of 10

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    A complete running back. While never possessing great speed, Ingram can turn the corner and get down field. He has shown good hands as a receiver out of the backfield.

    He is a strong runner with good vision and patience. Despite a knee injury in college, Ingram was durable. He will be solid starter in the NFL almost immediately.

    Ingram has reminded many of Emmitt Smith not only in size, but in his running style as well.

    Look for Ingram to go sometime late in round one.

1. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

10 of 10

    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 04:  Ryan Williams #34 of the Virginia Tech Hokies against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Williams is powerfully built with excellent body lean and lower body contact to run through the first defenders. His legs are always moving. He doesn't have blazing speed, but good speed. He is a quick, but patient.

    Williams runs low to the ground so it is often hard to get solid contact on him. He often creates contact which could lead to nagging injuries in the NFL. Showed the ability in college to grind out the tough inside yards or break outside and outrun defenders.

    He is a good receiver out of the backfield.

    Williams missed some last season with a nagging hamstring injury so some will question his durability.

    Williams will be a good pro, especially in a zone-blocking scheme. He is a solid second round selection.