NFL draft preview: running backs

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2012 - 12:12 PM

Today is Day 3 of the Star Tribune's position-by-position preview of the NFL draft April 26-28 in New York City.

Today: running backs

Just what are running backs worth anymore?

Alabama's Trent Richardson stands alone. Not only is Richardson far and away the best running back available in 2012, he'll also likely be the only back to hear his name called on the NFL draft's first night, continuing an undeniable trend.

Running backs just aren't a hot draft commodity any longer. Not in the first round anyway.

In a league that continues evolving from pass-happy to pass-delirious, a stellar ground game just isn't a prerequisite for success anymore. The Giants, for example, won last year's Super Bowl despite finishing the regular season dead last in rushing. The AFC champion Patriots finished 20th. Neither team had a back rush for 700 yards.

So let's play a quick game of roll call. Here are the leading rushers for Super Bowl teams over the past five seasons: Ahmad Bradshaw, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas, Joseph Addai, Willie Parker, Edgerrin James, Brandon Jacobs and Laurence Maroney. On that list, there are as many undrafted backs (Green-Ellis, Thomas and Parker) as guys selected in the top 25 (James, Maroney, Mendenhall).

Now here are the top six rushers from 2011, all of whom ran for more than 1,200 yards despite not being drafted in the first round: Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Michael Turner, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster and Frank Gore.

Blend that all together and it's obvious why running backs don't shake the needle on the draft hype meter. Yes, Trent Richardson will make some team picking in the top 10 very happy. But for others looking to bolster their running attack, the waiting game has plenty of practical value.

THE FRONTRUNNER

Trent Richardson, Alabama

The consensus says Richardson is the best running back prospect since the Vikings took Adrian Peterson at No. 7 five years ago. With a multi-faceted skill set, Richardson can be a force as a runner, pass catcher and blocker. His combination of speed, power and effort gives him obvious All-Pro potential.

THE CONTENDERS

Lamar Miller, Miami

In his lone season as a college starter, Miller averaged 5.6 yards per carry. At the NFL combine in February, he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. His fluid running style and vision could earn him a late first-round nod.

Doug Martin, Boise State

Martin lacks the sizzle that makes draft pundits drool and won't wow anyone with his measurables. But he is a reliable between-the-tackles ball carrier who can see a hole and hit it.

LaMichael James, Oregon

A two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, James is an electrifying big-play back who ran for 5,082 yards and 53 touchdowns in three seasons at Oregon. Some question his size (5-8, 194 pounds). James supporters, however, see Darren Sproles-type potential.

THE SLEEPER

Bryce Brown, Kansas State

Brown had only 476 college rushing yards between stops at Tennessee and K-State. But when he finished high school in 2009, he was being compared to both Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders.

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Team Irvin 3 1st Qtr 5:40
Team Carter 0
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 4th Qtr 0:12
New Orleans 105
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 67 3rd Qtr 5:39
Toronto 75
Milwaukee 61 3rd Qtr 7:14
San Antonio 51
Boston 20 1st Qtr 2:51
Golden State 25
Washington 22 1st Qtr 2:27
Denver 19
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 71 1st OT 3:55
NC State 73
Belmont 59 2nd Half 5:26
Tennessee St 44
Creighton 35 2nd Half 10:17
Villanova 50
Northwestern 41 2nd Half
Maryland 30
Washington 7:30 PM
Utah
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 23 1st Half 10:40
USC 13

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