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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Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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