2008 NFL Draft: The Year of the Junior Running Back

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2008 NFL Draft: The Year of the Junior Running Back

1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas Junior

The top back in the class of 2008 is also the best overall prospect. He rushed for 1,830 as a junior and eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark all three years he spent in Fayetteville.

Despite his status as the best overall prospect, it is unlikely that he will be the first pick as the Dolphins already have Ronnie Brown.

The new front office may decide to trade the pick, however and rumors are flying about Arkansas alum Jerry Jones wanting McFadden badly.

If the top three stays set, McFadden will likely land in Atlanta with pick number three.

 

2. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon Junior

Snoop (as he is known around Oregon) is not quite as fast as McFadden, but has a tremendous combination of power and speed. He set the University of Oregon record rushing for 1,722 yards this season.

An immensely talented back, Stewart may actually be a better pro (where he can run out of the I-formation) than a college player (where he did his damage out of the spread).

The only real knock on Stewart is that he is somewhat injury prone. The fact that Adrian Peterson had similar concerns last year and still won Rookie of the Year should help squash some fears.

Look for his stock to rise when he hits the NFL combine at the end of this month. His measurables are exactly what scouts look for in a running back.

Stewart will likely come off the board somewhere between picks 10 and 20 with the Bears (if they don’t go QB), with Cardinals or Texans also being likely landing places.

You can be sure that the Seahawks would be ecstatic if the Lacey, WA native fell to them at 25, but chances are Stewart will be long gone.

 

3. Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois Junior

Mendenhall is a powerful runner, who has some speed as well. In his first season as the starter in Champaign he rushed for 1,681 yards to help the Illinois get to the Rose Bowl.

He is less experienced than McFadden and Stewart, but that may be a plus in the eyes of some front office executives. Running backs have the shortest careers in the NFL and Mendenhall has taken fewer hits in college then the two guys ahead of him.

Mendenhall’s stock rose sharply when he rushed for 155 yards and caught five balls for 59 yards against USC in the Rose Bowl.

Mendenhall is also likely to go somewhere between picks 10 and 20. He is rated very similarly to Stewart, so it will be a battle to see who comes off the board first.

 

4. Jamaal Charles, Texas Junior

Another junior running back with great top-end speed. He is smaller and more elusive than the backs that precede him on this list.

He rushed for 1,619 yards this season, including a 290 yard game against Nebraska. Charles will need to work on his hands and his blitz pick-ups to succeed in the NFL.

As a former track star he will definitely run well at the combine. Scouts will be looking at his strength, but he should have an immediate future in the NFL as a third down back or kick return specialist.

Charles has a shot at the end of the first round if he performs well at the combine. Dallas and Seattle could be in the market for a running back at the end of the first round.

 

5. Felix Jones, Arkansas Junior

Jones played second fiddle in Arkansas during his three years as a Razorback. But, he has blazing speed like Charles and is an electrifying return man.

Experience may be an issue, since unlike everyone else on this list he was never a feature back. Yet, he averaged 7.5 yards per carry for his career and seems like a good character guy (not complaining about his role behind McFadden).

Much like Mendenhall and Stewart, Charles and Jones are very close in the eyes of scouts. Jones may land in Dallas if they don't trade up to get McFadden.

 

Sleepers:

Chris Johnson, East Carolina Senior

4.25 40 time!

Ryan Torain, Arizona State Senior

Hurt early this year, but had a nice junior season.

 

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