Running Wild in the NFL Draft
My look at the NFL Draft’s top runningbacks…
1. Ryan Mathews– C.J. Spiller could make the argument for being a better all-around prospect, but when it comes to who you want to hand the ball to 250-300 times, Mathews has to be the top choice. He is the complete package when it comes to ball carriers. Spiller may be taken ahead of him, but I believe Mathews will end up being the best back in this class.
2. C.J. Spiller– Spiller can do it all, and will definitively be a major weapon at the next level. Spiller has world class speed, and can take the ball to the house any time he sees a little daylight. While he isn’t incapable of running inside, I still question whether he can be an every down back. For me that knocks him out of top 10-15 consideration.
3. Toby Gerhart– I know this is a surprise player for number 3 on this list, but I’m a huge believer in Gerhart. He ran all over some of the best rush defenses in the nation this past season. Many of whom will send players the the NFL over the next few years. While I don’t think he will run for 1,800 yards in the NFL, I think he can be a featured back at the next level. I know power backs seem to be on the way out, but Gerhart could make them fashionable again. Also, another thing that benefits Gerhart is the need that every team has for short yardage work. While the 60-80 touchdown run might be more exciting to fans and show up more on Sportscenter, the 3rd and 2, 4th and 1, or to goal to go situations are more important and the ones that win football games.
4. Dexter McCluster– Don’t let McCluster’s size fool you, he is a fantastic football player. He has the same home run ability of Spiller, and though his size may preclude him from doing much inside, he will help the running game tremendously. He played part of his career at Ole Miss at wide receiver, so splitting him out wide or running routes will be more natural to him.
5. Jahvid Best- Overall I’m a little down on Best, I don’t think he has the skills of Spiller or the upside of McCluster. I think he will get over drafted based on his speed potential, but I don’t really see him being much more than a specialty back. And unlike a Leon Washington or Darren Sproles I don’t think he can be a specialty back that makes a huge impact. I see him more of a return first guy, who could develop into a solid runner, and weapon out of the backfield.
6. Jonathan Dwyer– Dwyer’s stock has taken a serious dip since the season ended, and I really don’t think it is warranted. He is a power back, so speed isn’t his forte, yet everyone seems to knock him for his lack of it. I think he has probably slid into the 4th-5th round range, but will be a steal for some team.
7. Montario Hardesty- Next to Mathews, Hardesty is the most complete back in this draft. He could be a steal as a mid-round pick and develop into a good every down runner. He is a very smart runner and always seems to get an extra yard or two in traffic. He isn’t great in the passing game, but given his work ethic and football intelligence I think he could develop into a solid option out of the backfield.
8. Anthony Dixon- Dixon is another power back and should have a solid career. He is a bit too one dimensional for me. Unlike Gerhart or Dwyer, he doesn’t even try to make people miss running straight ahead towards contact. I don’t know if that will work as well in the NFL, and I see him more as a back-up short yardage guy.
9. Joe McKnight- Joe McKnight is loved by most draft pundits, but for me I really don’t see it. Here is a guy who was hyped as the next Reggie Bush, but at no point of his time at USC or during his workouts has he shown that he is anywhere near Bush in terms of production or skill set. And really is a comparison to Bush a compliment right now in the NFL? He’s a solid player, but he wasn’t worth the draft pick or money invested in him. Now I don’t think McKnight will be a bust and he could have a solid future in the NFL, but for me he is no better than a late 3rd round pick, and more worthy of a 4th or 5th rounder. Overall I think he is very raw, it worries me he was not more productive in college given the immense talent surrounding him. Early on I think he is a return man/ 3rd running back. Since he is athletic he can contribute some on offense, but he’s not nearly as dynamic as some of the other backs in this class.
10. Ben Tate– Tate I think is a boom or bust prospect. I think he will either end up a good starter or a complete waste of a pick. He isn’t really as speed or power guy so he will need to show some starting ability to stick. For me he grades out average across the board, but he does possess excellent work ethic and dedication, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make it.