Over the next couple of weeks and leading up to the draft, I will be taking a look at each position, if the Dolphins have a need to upgrade that position in the draft, and who are the top 10 prospects going in. Remember, this is only one man’s opinion. This is the second of such posts and today we will look at the running back position.
Depending on who you talk to, some people will say the running back position is more important for the Miami Dolphins to address in the draft then the quarterback position. Me? Well I still believe the quarterback is more important. Either way, it’s been made clear the the Dolphins won’t be bringing back both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. It’s still up in the air whether or not they will even bring one of them back. Regardless of who they bring back, it’s clear that the Dolphins lack the speed threat that can take a hand-off and break it to the end zone. You can bet the Dolphins will try to find one in the draft. With that, I present to you the top 10 running back prospects of the 2011 NFL Draft:
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama 5’10, 215 lbs
Ingram was an absolute beast during his time at Alabama. In a relatively weak running back class, Ingram is the clear cut number 1. At 215 lbs, he is a load to get to the ground. While his 40 time wasn’t all too impressive (4.62), he had the best 10 yard split of any of the running backs, which I believe translates better to the NFL. At one point, there was some concern that he couldn’t carry a full load by himself, which he dispelled in 2009, when he got 271 carries and rushed 1,658 yards and 17 TD’s. Honestly, I have looked through tape and read scouting reports and I can’t find a true negative about him without nitpicking. He is big, agile and smart. If he falls to the Dolphins at #15, I don’t see how they can pass. His skill set and potential are just too high.
2. Mikel LeShoure, Illinois 6’0, 230 lbs
LeShoure has been quietly working his up people’s draft boards. There is no denying the talent is there. The big project for LeShoure is proving that he is not just a one-year wonder. In 2010, LeShoure ran for 1,697 yards and 17 TD’s. In his two previous years, he ran for a combined 860 yards and 6 TD’s. There are concerns about his pass blocking ability as well. For a man of his size, pass blocking should be something that comes more naturally to him. More concerns about him is that he always wants the big play. He needs to learn to play north-south, not east-west. On the positive side, he has good hands and can create after the catch. He is big, and has proven he can handle a full workload. Predictably, he has drawn comparisons to Illinois alum, Rashard Mendenhall. Right now, LeShoure is a borderline first rounder.
3. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech 5’9, 212 lbs
Williams burst onto everybody’s radar’s in 2009, with 1,655 yards and 21 TD’s. He followed that up by getting hurt in 2010 and missing four games with a hamstring injury. When he returned, he rushed for an unimpressive 473 yards. He followed THAT up by (to the confusion of many) declaring for the NFL draft a year early. The question during draft season has been, will we be getting the 2009 Williams or the 2010 Williams? Questions remain on whether or not the hamstring is 100% healthy, but his fast 10 yard split at the combine helped to answer that question. Williams is big, and he is not afraid of contact. He is fast in and out his breaks, and can catch swing passes and screens with ease. He could end up being the biggest surprise of the draft. He certainly has the talent to be a star at the next level, as long as he lands in the right system. He’ll be taken somewhere near the end of the 1st-beginning of the 2nd round.
4. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma 6’1, 207 lbs
This one may get me in trouble. Before you all start in on me, yes I am aware he is injury prone. But if there is one thing I believe every running back needs to be able to do, it’s catch the ball. Especially on a Dolphins team that loves to check down, a pass catching running back is extremely important. Murray may be the best in the draft when it comes to catching out of the backfield. Not only that, Murray can run too. In 2010 when he finally had the backfield to himself, Murray managed 282 attempts for 1,214 yards and 15 TD’s, in the Big 12. He has less mileage on him than most of the running backs in this draft. He also ran an impressive 4.41 at the combine. Teams will shy away from him because of his injury history, and that is warranted. If Murray can stay healthy in the NFL, he could be the surprise of the draft. I expect a team to pull the trigger on him by the end of 2nd round.
5. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State 6’2, 228 lbs
Thomas took a pretty unconventional route to the NFL. He spent his freshman year at Northwest Mississippi CC, leading them to a division championship. He was the 8th rated JUCO prospect in the state of Mississippi. In his junior year, he got the opportunity to play for Kansas State, and made the most of it. Both of his years with the Wildcats, he ran for over 1,000 yards. Scouts like Thomas because he is big, and does everything well. In terms of running back prospects this year, he may not have the most potential, but he is one of the safest. Teams know what they will be getting from him, which is a big, every-down back. I expect to see Thomas gone by the 3rd round.
6. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State 5’8 197 lbs
I like Hunter, a lot. At only 5’8, he is smaller than ideal for an NFL running back. He plays bigger than that though. He broke 1,500 yards twice in college (2008 and 2010) and had 16 TD’s in each of those seasons. He draft stock was boasted by his senior year, but even more by his Senior Bowl performance. Many were surprised by his ability to pass block, despite his size. He performed well at all the practices and pretty much everything he did during that week. Hunter might start out as a change of pace back in the NFL, but I believe eventually he will get an opportunity to start.
7. Shane Vereen, California 5’10, 204 lbs
Vereen has been the victim of being stuck behind Jahvid Best the depth chart for most of his college career. In 2010, Vereen finally got the chance to be the featured back for the Golden Bears and didn’t disappoint, rushing for 1,167 yards and 13 TD’s. Vereen probably won’t be a featured back in the NFL, but he has value as a third-down back and a kick returner. He ran a 4.50 at the combine. Vereen will interest a team because he a very balanced back. I expect him to be off the board in the 3rd or 4th round.
8. Jordan Todman, Connecticut 5’9, 193 lbs
People will look at Todman’s size and automatically assume he can’t carry a full load. Tell that to his 2010 season, where he tallied 334 carries and 1,695 yards. He had over 30 carries in four of his final five games, and even missed a game during the season. Todman ran a 4.40 at the combine, which will certainly do nothing to hurt his draft stock. He’s fast, and can certainly break the big one at any point. Questions go towards his ability to be a pass protector and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (only 42 receptions in 3 years). Todman could be a later round sleeper though, especially for a team like the Dolphins that are looking for a speedy back.
9. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State 5’7, 191 lbs
Rodgers is undersized, and he doesn’t have as much upside as Kendall Hunter. However, he is shifty enough to make defenders miss, and can also line up as a slot receiver. Despite his size, he hasn’t missed a game in two years and managed three back-to-back seasons of over 200 carries and 1,000 yards. Rodgers will have to get stronger to have a full-time role in the NFL. NFL linebackers and D-lineman will mow right through him, to the quarterback. He will serve some purpose to an NFL team though, as he can also return kicks, or as a change of pace type running back.
10. Delone Carter, Syracuse 5’10, 215 lbs
Carter definitely has the build to be in the NFL. He can run through the arm tackles and won’t be brought down easily. He may be able to carve a niche in the NFL as a short-yardage back. Questions surrounding Carter go towards his ability to catch the ball (only 28 receptions in 4 years) and his character, as he had a misdemeanor assault charge in college. He probably won’t be an every-down back, as he doesn’t possess great speed. Carter will probably be a day 2 pick.
So what do you think? Did I miss someone who can be a late round gem for the Dolphins? I believe if Ingram is there at #15, the Dolphins have to pull the trigger. If he doesn’t fall that low though, I’d like to see the Fins try to land either Daniel Thomas or Kendall Hunter. Disagree? Let me know!