2012 NFL Mock Draft: 5 RBs Ready for Next-Level Leap

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IDecember 9, 2011

2012 NFL Mock Draft: 5 RBs Ready for Next-Level Leap

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    It's often tough for RBs to get ready for pro football. At a position that takes rough hits on the most consistent basis, it's hard to expect a lot out of a rookie.

    However, that doesn't mean there aren't multiple underclassmen ready to make the leap, as well as seniors who spent that fourth year preparing themselves.

    Here are five RBs ready for the NFL—two of whom are in the Heisman race this year and another who was a Heisman finalist in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals: Trent Richardson, Alabama

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    I'm not entirely sure biceps are supposed to get that big, but that just goes to show the beastliness that encompasses Alabama's Trent Richardson.

    I've been going back and forth about Richardson and the Cardinals because Beanie Wells is having a good season. The thing is, taking Richardson would give Arizona an excellent two-back tandem, as the second most productive RB for the Cards this season is Alfonso Smith, who only has 107 yards.

    As for Wells, he may have 916 yards this year, but 366 of those yards came in two games (Giants, Rams). Those games account for roughly 40 percent of his yards. Hence, more consistency is needed, as defenses double Larry Fitzgerald in coverage while stacking the box.

    With so many teams having two very reliable RBs nowadays, the addition of Richardson would allow the rookie to grow acclimated to the NFL behind Wells, who would, in turn, have the opportunity to become more consistent. Good running teams like Oakland, Houston, Pittsburgh and San Francisco have two RBs they can count on (useful in the case of injury).

    Richardson would bring depth and talent to Arizona, something their offense urgently needs to help out Larry Fitzgerald.

Washington Redskins: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

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    With an improving defense and an upcoming draft that is deep on QBs, the Redskins need a stud RB that works with Mike Shanahan's offensive philosophy.

    We have to remember that this is a coach that got Mike Bell, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Tatum Bell and Selvin Young all to play above and beyond their potential, so Wisconsin's Montee Ball's ceiling is basically unlimited.

    The man has accounted for 38 TDs this season, after a quiet 18 TDs in 2010 as a sophomore. Last season, Ball gained 996 rush yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. This season Ball one-upped himself and compiled 1,759 rush yards as well as 255 receiving yards.

    Currently, Washington ranks No. 31 in the NFL in rush offense, averaging just 87.5 yards per game. That's definitely not good enough to help out a respectable defense. So, bring Ball to the nation's capital and let him do work on the ground.

    It would take a significant amount of pressure off Rex Grossman—that is, if the Redskins don't take a QB—but either way, the passing game would open up. And having a stout ground game is a big advantage in the NFC East.

    Dallas is proving that with DeMarco Murray.

Cincinnati Bengals: Chris Polk, Washington

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    The Cincinnati Bengals need a punishing bruiser RB that can give their offense attitude on the ground. Cedric Benson has been decent, but not that productive against tough run defenses.

    Combining Benson with Washington's Chris Polk would be a good way to improve Cincinnati's No. 20-ranked rush offense. Polk is virtually the same size as Benson, but Cedric only has a few years left to begin with, as he'll be 29 by season's end.

    Polk would be a steal in the middle of the second round. In each of the past three years at Washington, he's gained over 1,100 yards and averaged over five yards per carry. With hardly any talent around him, that's solid.

    Polk's also one of the more underrated backs coming into the draft, as the Huskies went no better than 7-5 during his time. Also, being out west on a mediocre team won't get you much exposure.

    Nonetheless, Polk to Cincy would add another dynamic to the Bengals' ground game, which would then open up the passing game. Cincinnati needs that to happen if they want to compete with Baltimore and Pittsburgh every year.

St. Louis Rams: LaMichael James, Oregon

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    Oregon's LaMichael James will go early in the third round, shortly after Chris Polk. A team like St. Louis could definitely use him, as his versatility would thrive in the NFC West.

    Not to mention, the Rams need a stud WR; expect them to take Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State in Round 1. Although he's just the offensive coordinator, you know Josh McDaniels will be convincing enough to get St. Louis to draft offense.

    McDaniels' credibility has increased with Tim Tebow on a streak. In addition, the Rams only rank No. 28 in passing and No. 27 in rushing, so the offense legitimately needs to improve. RB Steven Jackson will be 29 before next season starts, so James' youth will serve well.

    Now for his ability: LaMichael was a 2010 Heisman finalist as a sophomore and accounted for 24 TDs and 1,939 total yards. This season, he had an encore performance (1,856 total yards, 18 total TDs) despite missing two games.

    James' versatility and explosiveness would give the Rams a lot to work with and take a lot of pressure off Sam Bradford. Although he wasn't much of a head coach, McDaniels could make the Rams offense crazy good in 2012 with a player such as LaMichael James.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

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    If there's one thing that's been lacking in Pittsburgh, it's been the threat of a versatile and dynamic RB. Rashard Mendenhall may have 710 yards on the year and average 3.8 yards per carry, but that only comes out to just under 60 yards per game.

    Now, Pittsburgh has become more of a passing team with Ben Roethlisberger under center. However, a multi-dimensional RB such as Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead would make them so much more dangerous.

    Last season, Pead ran for over 1,000 yards and scored seven TDs. This year, he's come onto the scene even more, with 1,110 rushing yards, 304 receiving yards on 36 receptions and 14 total TDs. 

    The Steelers could certainly improve on screens and draws, and could use a reliable check-down RB in the flat or across the middle. We know Ben Roethlisberger is arguably the best at buying time, and providing him with another reliable target would only help.

    That would just add another dimension to the Steelers offense, which would open up more routes deep and underneath if Pead were used to draw up LBs and CBs from the outside.

    2012 First Round NFL Mock Draft

    1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB (Stan.)

    17. New York Jets: Riley Reiff, OT (Iowa)

    2. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR (Okla. St.)

    18. Tennessee Titans: Jeff Fuller, WR (Tex. A&M)

    3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, DB (LSU)

    19. Chicago Bears: Nick Toon, WR (Wisc.)

    4. Miami Dolphins: Matt Barkley, QB (USC)

    20. Cincinnati (From Oak): Jonathan Martin, OT (Stan.)

    5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devon Still, DT (Penn St.)

    21. Cincinnati Bengals: David DeCastro, G (Stan.)

    6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR (ND)

    22. Detroit Lions: Zach Brown, LB (UNC)

    7. Cleveland Browns: Alshon Jeffery, WR (S. Car.)

    23. Cleveland (From ATL): Vontaze Burfict, LB (ASU)

    8. Arizona Cardinals: Trent Richardson, RB (Ala.) 

    24. Denver Broncos: Alfonzo Dennard, CB (Neb.)

    9. Seattle Seahawks: Robert Griffin, QB (Baylor)

    25. Dallas Cowboys: Quinton Coples, DE (UNC)

    10. Washington Redskins: Montee Ball, RB (Wisc.)

    26. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cordy Glenn, OG (Georgia)

    11 .Philadelphia Eagles: Manti Te'o, LB (N.D.)

    27. Houston Texans: Jerel Worthy, DT (Mich. St.)

    12. Carolina Panthers: Brandon Thompson, DT (Clem) 

    28. N.E. (From N.O.): Cam Johnson, DE (Virginia)

    13. San Diego Chargers: Courtney Upshaw, LB (Ala.)

    29. New England Patriots: Mark Barron, S (Ala.) 

    14. Kansas City Chiefs: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Ala.)

    30. San Francisco 49ers: Chase Minnifield, CB (UVA)

    15. Buffalo Bills: Janoris Jenkins, CB (N. Ala.)

    31. Baltimore Ravens: Luke Kuechly, LB (B.C.)

    16. New York Giants: Mike Adams, OT (Ohio St.)

    32. Green Bay Packers: Melvin Ingram, DE (S. Car.)

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