NFL draft preview, running backs: Where are all the backfield stars?

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2013 - 9:54 AM

If you fear that the days of the highly hyped running back have passed, this year’s NFL draft (April 25-27) might provide the most convincing supporting argument in some time.

If you fear that the days of the highly-hyped running back have passed, this year’s NFL draft (April 25-27) might provide the most convincing supporting argument in some time. It’s not only that there aren’t any ball carriers the caliber of say, Trent Richardson last season, Darren McFadden in 2008 or Adrian Peterson in 2007, it’s that the draft’s first night might come and go without a single back selected.

Not since 1963 has the first round of the draft been running back-free. And only three times in the past half-century has the draft produced only one first-round running back: 2011 (when Mark Ingram was picked 28th); 1984 (Greg Bell, 26th); and 1964 (Joe Don Looney, 12th).

In a pass-happy league, the quest to land franchise quarterbacks and big-time receivers and reliable defensive backs has become a pressing priority. And this year, the draft pool also is as deep as it’s been in the trenches in some time. On both sides of the ball.

That means even the best backs in this draft might be stuck playing the waiting game next week.

The teams most in need of running backs are Green Bay, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. But don’t be surprised if none of those organizations uses their first-round pick to plug that hole.

THE FRONT-RUNNER
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
A true workhorse back with obvious power, Lacy also is nimble for his size (5-11, 231 pounds). He waited his turn with the Crimson Tide behind Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, then put together his own highlight reel full of bruising runs. Lacy’s draft stock could be hindered by his limitations as a receiver and blocker. Plus he has been slowed during the predraft process by a hamstring injury.

THE CONTENDERS
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Bernard led the ACC in rushing (1,228 yards) and scoring (114 points) last season. Not only does he have an array of nifty moves out of the backfield, but he also is adept as a pass catcher and can be an explosive return guy as well.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
An undeniable college standout, Ball produced 5,140 career rushing yards and 77 touchdowns as a Badger. But at the combine, his 4.66-second time in the 40-yard dash renewed the skepticism of many NFL scouts, who just aren’t convinced Ball has the burst to be a difference-maker at the next level.

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Before there was Louisville’s Kevin Ware, there was Lattimore, whose gruesome knee injury last October became a YouTube draw for anyone who could stomach it. At full strength, Lattimore’s quickness and vision is intriguing. But with season-ending injuries to both knees the past two seasons, durability is a concern.

THE SLEEPER
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn
His senior season production (94 carries, 570 yards, six TDs) was modest at best playing for a struggling Auburn squad. Then McCalebb turned heads with a 4.34-second run in the 40-yard dash at the combine, fastest of any running back. Might that be enough to propel the 5-10, 168-pounder in the NFL?
 

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  • Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the highest-rated of a rather unimpressive group of running backs in this year’s draft.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 6:30 PM
Boston
Portland 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Cleveland
Toronto 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Dallas 7:00 PM
Miami
LA Clippers 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Golden State 8:00 PM
Utah
Chicago 9:30 PM
Phoenix
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
New Jersey
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Carolina
Nashville 8:00 PM
Colorado
Buffalo 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Chicago 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Harvard 5:00 PM
Princeton
Quinnipiac 6:00 PM
Canisius
Brown 6:00 PM
Cornell
Siena 6:00 PM
Manhattan
Marist 6:00 PM
Niagara
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
Penn
Oregon 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Yale 7:00 PM
Columbia
Monmouth 7:00 PM
Fairfield
IUPUI 7:00 PM
Western Ill
Oregon State 9:00 PM
Arizona
Kent State 9:00 PM
Buffalo
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 6:00 PM
Providence
Cornell 6:00 PM
Brown
Columbia 6:00 PM
Yale
Coll of Charleston 6:00 PM
Drexel
Penn 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
Elon 6:00 PM
James Madison
(19) Princeton 6:00 PM
Harvard
(9) Florida State 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Quinnipiac 6:00 PM
Siena
Richmond 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Loyola-Chicago 6:05 PM
Southern Ill
Georgetown 7:00 PM
DePaul
Villanova 7:00 PM
Marquette
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Xavier 7:05 PM
Creighton
Bradley 7:05 PM
Illinois State
Missouri State 7:05 PM
Drake
Arizona 8:00 PM
Utah
(11) Arizona State 8:00 PM
Colorado
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