One thing we know for sure is that outside of Darren McFadden there is no sure superstar in the bunch. However this class is a pretty deep one and teams looking for help at that position shouldn’t panic this season. Quality backs can be found this year as late as the 4th Round.
#1 DARREN McFADDEN – Arkansas 6’1″ 213
This guy could be like Adrian Petersen was in his first season. McFadden is that good. He has speed, power and catches out of the backfield. However he does run a little bit straight up and he’ll have to fix that. He also had a few off the field issues so hopefully he will stay on the straight and narrow. Oakland should take him with the 4th overall pick.
#2 RASHARD MENDENHALL – Illinois 5’10” 210
Two or Three other backs could be the next pick but I think Rashard will be the next best runner. He has a solid all-around game and tremendous drive. He is also a really good back out of the backfield. He could go as early as #13 to Carolina, #14 to Chicago or as late as #25 to Seattle. There will definitely be some teams looking to trade up to get him if Chicago and Carolina take a pass.
#3 FELIX JONES – Arkansas 5’11” 200
Felix is more than likely going to go to a team that features tandem backs. He is known as a ‘home run hitter’ kind of a back. He could break one open but he could look really average too. He is an inside out runner with very little receiving skills. And there is no telling how much of his stats were in mop up time. However he performed well against some great run defenses (LSU 9 attempts 85 yards) and will get a look in the first round. Dallas may take him at #22 but if they pass on him there Seattle might nab him at #25.
#4 JONATHAN STEWART – Oregon 5’10” 236
Stewart is a solid runner. He is built like a tank and has very good speed for his size. He is also a good blocker and receiver. His only downside is the competition he has faced. PAC-10 defenses (except for USC) are typically weak against the run. However Jon is a tough runner with a good all around game. He could sneak into the end of the 1st Round as a pick of the Packers or NY Giants. He may also slip as far as the NY Jets in the 2nd Round.
#5 Ray Rice
Ray may end up being the most productive back of this draft. He is a three year starter that get better each year. He is a tough kid who fought through injuries. He also improved his overall game and became a very productive receiver in 2007. He also scored 24 TDs on the ground in 2007. Ray might go to his home town team the NY Jets in the 2nd Round but he could slip to the Bucs where he would fit in nicely with Warrick Dunn.
#6 JAMAAL CHARLES – Texas 5’11” 200
You can’t help but think Jamaal is doomed because Texas backs have been a bust in the NFL. However he is a very fast runner. He appears to a be a Reggie Bush “all or nothing” kind of a player. If he bounces to the outside and has room he has a chance to take it to the house every single time. Unfortunately he is a little light and will have a hard time bouncing anywhere in the NFL. He also has issues fumbling and blocking. Jamaal will go to Seattle in Round 2 or he slips all the way to the Lions or Texans in Round 3.
#7 KEVIN SMITH – Central Florida 6’1″ 211
Kevin has scary potential. He rushed for over 2,5oo yards in only 14 games. That is unreal. He also had 242 yards receiving on the season. He has above average speed, quickness and hands. His downsides are minimal. He had some injuries in 2005 and 2006 and he probably needs to add 10 to 15 pounds to his frame. These should be huge issues and someone will find a great deal in Round 3. He should go to the Lions, Cardinals or Texans.
#8 CHRIS JOHNSON – East Carolina 5’11” 194
Chris is a very fast running back. He also has great hands and is a threat on special teams. He is this year’s Devin Hester. But don’t get me wrong, he’ll never be Devin Hester. He is the closest thing to him in this draft though. He had a break out year in 2007 but really didn’t do much to impress before that. He probably ends up becoming a back-up, change of pace back and kick off return specialist. He is also a 3rd Round pick to either Arizona, Detroit or Houston.
#9 MIKE HART – Michigan 5’8″ 200
The one thing you can say about Mike Hart is he is a leader. He is also a solid 3 1/2 year performer (he was injured as a sophomore). There is no mystery to this pick. You are getting a kid that works hard, runs inside and out and will protect the ball. He is a little small so he will need to add a few pounds. He reminds me a little of Tim Biakabatuka. He will make a football team but he won’t be a starter. He could go in Round 3 to Detoit but he may slip to the end of that round to Chicago or Indianapolis.
#10 STEVE SLATON – West Virginia 5’9″ 193
Steve probably cost himself a round or two by returning to school. His sophomore year was awesome and his junior year just OK. He does have great speed and is a very dangerous runner. He is also a fantastic receiver and some team might use him as a 3rd down back or in the slot. He would be a heck of a weapon for Peyton Manning and the Colts at the end of Round 3 but he might slip to a lucky team like Rams, Chiefs or Jets in Round 4.
Sleepers – Matt Forte – Tulane, Tashard Choice – Georgia Tech, Alllen Patrick – Oklahoma, Kalvin McRae – Ohio