With the NFL draft coming up next week and the draft being a year round industry in itself, its never too early to list some rankings for next year's draft. The college football season this year is prime to help us uncover some stars and also serve as a final stage for other rock toters to strut their stuff on tape.
The running back position has seen its value decrease in draft circles year after year, as many teams feel they can find a starting running back in the later rounds. Yet, I still believe that if you have a chance to draft a back that you feel will be special, you do it.
There may even be a couple backs in this class that may be special, who? Come take a look.
Barner is is in the shadows of both LaMicheal James and Lache Seastrunk but he can be a steal in the middle to late rounds. He's a bit undersized at 5'11", 180 pounds, but I think he shows the skill set of being a solid complimentary back.
He likely will have to prove his durability and tack on some girth for the program but as a third down, change of pace type to supplement a big, bruiser, he could have a solid career in the NFL.
Taylor likely will see his stock rise after this season. He rushed for over 1100 yards and 15 scores last season and the mantra is that production in college usually means production in the NFL when evaluating running backs.
5'11", 210 pounds, Taylor has the chance to be a spot starter or a solid back up in the pros. He has the size and to take hits and shoves, stay on his run line, keep his balance, and get up field to and through holes.
Rainey is a player I like,aand he reminds me a bit of Giants' running back Ahmad Bradshaw. A compact 5'9", 205 pounder, Rainey has solid run strength and toughness.
He also displays solid quickness, balance and quick cut ability. He won't be an every down type in the league, but you get him on your roster as a spot starter and kickoff return type, and you can work him into the offense in different ways.
Ford is a 6'0", 235 pound chugger that could play fullback or even big back. He had 480 yards and seven scores last season and has the run strength to carry the ball inside the box effectively.
Ford flashes tackle breaking ability, and can push piles on his own. He has a chance to develop into a solid goal line/short yardage threat down the run. With Mike LeShore gone, look for increased carries for Ford.
5'11", 250 pounds, Johnson reminds some of a poor man's Ron Dayne. He may have to shed some weight to stay at running back in the NFL, but he has solid run strength and flashes some foot quickness.
Johnson is a power guy that will need to be spelled by a shifty back. I would like to see how he carries his weight and also see if he is truly 5'11".
Poole is another productive runner with good size. 5'11", 215 pounds, he ran for over a 1000 yards in the SEC last year, along with chipped in 12 scores. That will go a long way in his evaluation, but he needs to have another big year.
Poole shows solid vision, patience to set up his blocks and balance. He can skate through holes, jump linebackers and has some wiggle in the open field. He's a key player for the Vols this season.
Demps is never going to be an every down back in the league, we all know that. But as a specialist type that can work in the backfield, work in the slot and return kicks and punts, his value to a team will become very visible.
5'8", 180 pounds, Demps has very good speed, quickness, balance and elusiveness. He can factor in the passing game, showing good hands and quickness in his underneath routes, and also is a solid return man.
Ellington had 10 touchdowns last season to go along with nearly 700 yards on the ground for Clemson. A 5'10", 190 pounder, he has the talent and skill set to surprise some in the NFL.
He shows a good understanding of when to attack downhill and when to be patient, set up blocks, pick and slide, then dart upfield. Ellington also has adequate strength and will slip out of a tackle or two. I expect a big year form him this season.
Another runner that is productive, which is why he is on my list. 5'11", 200 pounds, Pead flashes the potential to be able to do it all. He's solid in all critical factors for a running back.
I expect him to be able to tack on an extra 10-15 pounds, keep his speed and quickness and be able to show solid burst. Pead has adequate vision and run instincts to create on his own.
A 5'9", 215 pound gamer, Martin could be a steal in the NFL. He just shows up week in and week out and produces. He's solid in the toughness and durability department and will hide behind his linemen to annoy linebackers.
Martin is very competitive, and doesn't back down from contact. He totaled over 1200 yards and 14 scores last season. He and Kellen Moore will be the main two offensive threats for the Broncos this season as they need new receivers to emerge.
A 5'10", 200 pound runner, Wilson has found himself locked behind the shadows of Ryan Williams and Tyrod Taylor, as even the QB had more carries and yards than him. With both gone, Wilson is looking to become the focal point of the Hokie rushing attack in 2011.
He has flashed a skill set to do so, which warrants his outlook. Wilson has solid speed, flashes an adequate burst to and through holes, some wiggle in the open field and solid run strength.
Tyler has battled injuries all through his career at USC. He was the top running back in his recruiting class, and finally got his chance to shine last season. He didn't disappoint.
5'11" 220 pounds, I expect Tyler to move up the board during the season. He must show he has a better burst and improved speed, but Tyler does flash solid quickness, vision and cutting ability. This is will be a make or break year for him.
OK, I'll admit it: at first I was a non-believer in Quizz, but now I am. 5'7", 190 pounds he has been timed at 4.45 in the 40 and can just flat out play. He has shown to be a very tough runner that can withstand pounding.
I still can't see him being an every down starter at the next level, but I think he has a chance to be a dynamic No.2 guy,and he can also factor in the return game. Screens should become his favorite play in the NFL.
Ealey is an intriguing prospect. He has a mass amount of talent and potential but has had some character questions and concerns arise around him. He is not in the best standing with the Georgia coaches right now.
Yet, he's a 5'11", 200 pounder with near 4.4 speed and every down potential. He reminds a bit of Derrick Ward as a runner. Ealey flashes good elusiveness, strength, cutting ability and vision. He needs to work on his hands though.
Herron won't really wow you too much, or make many highlight real plays or runs. But he will show up week in and week out and run tough for you. I've always noted Herron's running style and admired how hard he runs.
5'10", and nearly 200 pounds, Herron looks like a 4.6 40 guy but may play a little faster than that. He will have to answer questions about his suspension.
OK, I'll admit another point: I'm fascinated with Montee Ball's NFL prospects. He's a 5'11", running back that weighs nearly 240 pounds and rushed for nearly 1000 yards last season. He teamed with John Clay and James White to form a three headed rushing monster at Wisconsin last year.
Ball flashes good straight-line speed, power, run force, tackle breaking ability, toughness, durability, instincts and a knack to find the end-zone. He will be a starter in the NFL.
Baker has done nothing but be productive year in and year out in Sparta. He is a tough runner that shows good vision, solid quickness, adequate long speed and good instincts.
He has been just as a good as Javon Ringer was for Michigan State and the 5'9", 210 pounder has a chance to be a productive NFL runner. Baker totaled 1200 yards and 13 scores last season.
A running back's kind of running back, Harris is the prime rush threat for BC. 5'10", 200 pounds, he notched over 1200 yards last season and added eight touchdowns. Harris also caught 18 passes out of the backfield.
He has a chance to be a better runner for the Eagles overall than Williams Green was. Harris has solid speed, good vision, shows a good feel blocks, sets up defenders and has some explosion to his game.
It's been a tough couple season for the Bruins, but last year Franklin was a bright spot for the boys in Westwood. Out of high school a few years back, Franklin was a highly touted runner that lit up Los Angeles CIF-City Section competition for years.
5'10", 195 pounds, Franklin has tacked on some girth, added strength, kept his quickness and is a solid home run threat. He totaled over 110 yards on the ground and eight scores for UCLA last year, and should have an even bigger year as the Bruins move into year two of the pistol offense.
5'10", 200 pounds, Gray is among the top senior running backs in the nation. He plays in a pro-style offense under Mike Sherman for the Aggies and has been exposed to NFL run principles and also asked to learn pass protection and blitz pick ups.
Gray has solid speed, can get to the edges, squares his shoulders well and also will protect the ball by lowering his pad level. I think he has a chance to be a solid player in the NFL and will need to test well to solidify his standing.
I remember when I evaluated Polk when he was at Upland highs school in California, I wasn't sure if he would end up as a receiver, cornerback or running back. He committed to USC initially, but switched to Washington before signing day.
Now, he has developed into perhaps the best running back in the Pac-12. 5'11", 210 pounds, he has proven to be able to add weight, keep his athleticism and be a durable runner. Polk rushed for over 1400 yards and nine touchdowns last year. With he Huskies breaking in a new QB, look for them to lean on him more.
Bolden will come into this 2011 season to get that 1000 yard season he just missed last year. He notched 976 yards but also had 17 touchdowns. Showing a knack to find the end-zone is an instinct that is very much valued by the NFL brass.
5'11", 215 pounds, Bolden has good run strength, can push piles, get yards after contact and is a bully at times with ball. He also shows good speed and elusiveness.
James is here at the No.3 spot, but he will need to show eh has added some weight and strength this season. About 5'10", 185 pounds, I have questions if James can be a starter in the NFL, due his smallish frame.
Yet he ran for over 1700 yards and total scores last season and was one of the cogs in the Ducks' offensive machine. He has the speed, quickness, elusiveness, vision and explosion to be a dangerous player in whatever role he finds himself in at the NFL level.
Richardson has played a bit of a Robin type of role to Mark Ingram's Batman the past couple seasons, but now he will assume full control of the rushing duties in Tuscaloosa.
5'11", 225 pounds, Richardson has a NFL starting skill set. He has good size, good speed, runs tough, physical and hard. He flashes great vision and home run ability. He will use the 2011 season to show that he is a NFL prospect in his own right and could be a first round pick.
I went with Davis here, as I really like the 6'0", 220 pounder's skill set. He totaled over 1300 yards last in the top conference in the country, and plays for a coach that surely will find ways to get him the football.
Davis has a big back frame, yet shows small back quickness, agility, balance and speed. He can skate to and through run alleys, wiggle around defenders and split the safeties deep. I expect a 1500 yard season from him and some Heisman talk.