2011 NFL Draft Top 10 Running Back Rankings:
1. Mark Ingram– Ingram isn’t what I’d call a franchise running back, but I do feel he is the best back in this class and still has first round talent. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but will have his fair share of long gains. He’s big enough to hold up running inside and should be a very good starting running back. Top 30 talent, should be the top back selected.
2. Ryan Williams- I’ve gone back and forth between Williams and Leshoure as the 2nd best back, but right now I think Williams makes more sense. He fits in to more systems, where as Leshoure is more of a power back. I like the leverage and elusiveness that Williams has, and still see a strong ability to break tackles. He still needs to be a bit more refined, but I love the potential. Top 40 talent, could even sneak into the 1st round.
3. Mikel Leshoure- Leshoure broke on to the scene this season in a big way, and really shined on a surprisingly talented Illinois team. He is a big strong running back, with good speed. He won’t make many people miss, but he does enough to ensure they don’t get great hits on him. He is strong enough to fight for that extra yard and should really help teams in rushing between the tackles. Top 45 talent, should be an early to mid 2nd rounder.
4. Daniel Thomas- Thomas seems to get overlooked in a lot of draft circles, because guys from bigger schools get more hype, but Thomas can play. He’s not s speed guy, but he is probably the toughest runner in this draft class, and the type of guy who can be a 25-30 carry a game type work horse. Top 50 talent, could fall to the 3rd round because he isn’t particularly flashy.
5. Jaquizz Rodgers- I love Rodgers and think he is likely to be one of the steals in this draft class. He is an exceptionally quick guy, with great speed and agility. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and will also help in the return game as well. He’s not much of an inside rusher, but off tackle, he should be extremely dangerous. He might not be an every down guy, but he will be an x-factor type player, that always gives opposing coaches nightmares on having to account for him. Top 60 player, could fall as low as the 5th round. I’m guessing though he is in the mid 3rd round range.
6. Kendall Hunter- Hunter really jumped up in my list with his performance during Senior Bowl week. He showed not only his great speed, but good vision, toughness and acceleration as well. I was throughly impressed, but was really blown away with how well he did on the blitz pickup drills. Despite being one of the smallest backs there, he stonewalled a number of the best linebackers. He is a speed guy, who will have to face questions about his size, but I think he can hold up to an NFL pounding. Top 60 player, should be in the 2nd-3rd round mix.
7. Dion Lewis- Lewis burst on to the scene a year ago at Pitt, and while he didn’t have as good of a year this year, he still put up big time numbers. While he is a smaller back, he shouldn’t be put in the same class of some of the other backs. He is a tougher runner who does a great job making people miss. He isn’t really a home run threat, but he constantly picks up big chunks of yards. He has excellent vision and patience as a runner. Top 70 player, should be drafted early-mid 3rd, but could fall to the 5th or later do to questions about his size.
8. DeMarco Murray– Murray has great size and had a productive career at Oklahoma, but I’m not sure how he will translate into the NFL. He has good speed for his size and looks like a feature back, but I’m not sure if that will be the case. I think he isn’t strong enough, despite his size and he goes down to often on first contact. Top 80 player, could go higher in the mid-2nd round, boom or bust type of guy.
9. Shane Vereen– Vereen will get comparisons to his former Cal teammate Javid Best, and they aren’t far off the mark. He is a shifty speed back, who can help in the passing and return game as well. I don’t know if he has the overall skill set of Best, but he is pretty close. He is a guy, who will need to have a good combine/workout to jump up the rankings. Top 80 player, should be mid 3rd round, could fall into the 4th.
10. Jordan Todman– Todman burst onto the scene this year, and led the Big East in rushing. Despite being a small quick back, he has the build to make you believe he can shoulder a starting load. He has very good vision and hits holes with a lot of power. He needs to work on a few areas, but I really like the potential with him. Top 85 player, could be picked in the third round, but i’m guessing he is more likely a 4th rounder.