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Auburn running back Tre Mason ran a drill at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February.

NAM Y. HUH, Associated Press

2014 NFL draft preview: Running backs

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL
  • Star Tribune
  • April 27, 2014 - 11:33 PM

It might be a while until we see a running back selected in the top 10 picks in the NFL draft again.

The decision to select Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick in 2007 turned out to be a wise one for the Vikings, but since then only three running backs have been selected in the top 10 (Darren McFadden in 2008, C.J. Spiller in 2010 and Trent Richardson in 2012). None has come close to having an impact similar to what Peterson has provided for the Vikings.

Last year was the first year since 1963 in which a running back wasn’t selected in the first round, and with the position devalued because of explosive NFL passing attacks and a short shelf life for running backs, many draft analysts think 2014 will make it two years in a row.

“I don’t think it’s anything negative on the running backs,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said on a recent conference call. “I just think that it’s a pass-first league now so you’re seeing a lot of different draft picks getting pushed up ahead.”

Mayock said he believes this year’s class of running backs is deep and talented, even if it lacks a prospect of Peterson’s ilk. Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde and Auburn’s Tre Mason are widely considered to be two of the best, and there are a bunch of backs — with vastly different skill sets — who may interest the Vikings as they search for a young runner to pair with Peterson.

“There are a lot of different flavors out there depending on what kind of offense you run,” Mayock said.

THE FRONT-RUNNER

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

A 6-foot, 230-pound power back with a little bit of burst and wiggle, Hyde rushed for 1,521 yards on 208 carries during his senior season, which started three games late after he was suspended following an alleged assault. If someone sneaks into the first round, it will be Hyde.

THE CONTENDERS

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

Mason’s shorter stature — he’s 5-9 — and his powerful lower body have drawn him comparisons to Ravens running back Ray Rice. He helped carry Auburn to the BCS title game in 2013 with 1,816 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, but with 317 carries, he took a beating.

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

Carey is said to lack top-end speed and some will argue that he was simply another product of a Rich Rodriguez offense. But his staggering 4,290 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons are proof it was tough for defenses to slow him down. The Vikings have shown interest.

 

Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State

Freeman, who visited the Vikings in April, is another pint-sized back who put up big numbers last season. Freeman led the national champs with 1,016 rushing yards. He also has the skills to be a factor in the passing game, theoretically complementing Peterson well.

THE SLEEPER

Terrance West, RB, Towson

West set the FCS single-season rushing record in 2013 with 2,519 yards. In the process, he pretty much single-handedly carried Towson to the FCS national title game. While he is on the shorter side, this potential Vikings target weighs 225 and has the burst to get outside.

© 2014 Star Tribune