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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Chicago Cubs - WP: B. Parker 6 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: J. Hoover 4
Philadelphia - WP: D. Buchanan 9 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Garza 1
Oakland - WP: S. Kazmir 6 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 1
Chicago WSox - LP: R. Belisario 3 FINAL
Boston - WP: A. Miller 4
Washington - LP: G. Gonzalez 3 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 4
NY Yankees - LP: M. Thornton 3 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 9
Atlanta - WP: A. Harang 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 1
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 9 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: S. Miller 1
LA Angels 15 Bottom 9th Inning
Texas 4
Detroit 15 Bottom 8th Inning
Kansas City 4
San Diego 0 Top 4th Inning
Los Angeles 0
Minnesota 2 Bottom 3rd Inning
Seattle 1
Winnipeg 7/11/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 7/11/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 7/12/14 5:30 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 7/12/14 8:30 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 7/17/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 7/18/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Hamilton 7/18/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Montreal 7/19/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Indiana 72
Minnesota 91 FINAL
Tulsa 85
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pm
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pm
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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