NFL Draft Prospects: RB

I posted a poll last week in my QB Prospects edition there on who we should draft. The top 5 choices, as of when I post this were as follows:

1. Jimmy Clausen, #2 rated - 91 votes

2. Sam Bradford, #1 rated - 78 votes

3. Dan LeFevour, #4 rated - 75 votes

4. Colt McCoy, #5 rated - 44 votes

5. Tony Pike, #3 rated - 27 votes

My #6 rated QB, Jevan Snead, received 26 votes.  #7 Tim Tebow received 18 votes, #10 Zac Robinson received 10 votes, #9 Jarrett Brown received 9, and 24 of you voted for no quarterback.  
Anyway, here are my top prospects for running back, once again based off the eye and scouting reports I have read.

                                          1. C.J. Spiller, Clemson Tigers




Why He Belongs Here: Despite being a backup for three of his four years at Clemson, Spiller managed to run for 2,335 yards in three years, in his fourth year as the lone starter, Spiller ran for 1,212 rushing yards, is a receiving threat with over 1,000 career receiving yards including 503 as a senior, is also a threat on special teams in returning kicks
Why He Doesn't Belong: He's 5'11 which possibly unfairly (yet justifiably) leads to questioning his durability

Upside: This guy's the real deal with his running ability, receiving ability, and possible returning threat. Only question mark is how he holds up with #1 duties in NFL.
Projected Round: Top 20

                                    2. Jonathon Dwyer, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets



Why He Belongs Here: Dwyer finished his last two seasons with 1,395 and 1,395 yards (not a typo), known as a bruising back with his 6'0, 235 frame
Why He Doesn't Belong: He wasn't much of a receiving threat in college, played in Paul Johnson's offense undoubtedly inflated his statistics

Upside: This really depends on how much Paul Johnson's system affected his stats; minimally then he should be a starter in the NFL
Projected Round: 1st-2nd round

                              3. Jahvid Best, California Golden Bears



Why He Belongs Here: he is a natural play maker with his shifty moves and quickness (4.42 40 time), rushed 1,580 yards and 15 TDs as the primary option at Cal his sophomore season, has natural hands receiving-wise
Why He Doesn't Belong: He is one of the least physical backs in the country, he draws comparisons to Reggie Bush which isn't exactly a compliment, is weak in pass protection

Upside: I'm not sure he does more than Reggie Bush ever did, which isn't bad cause he isn't the #2 pick
Projected Round: 2nd Round

                             4.  Ryan Matthews, Fresno State Bulldogs



Why He Belongs Here: Had a ridiculously good junior season with 1,808 yards, 150.7 YPG, and 19 TDs, is not a one-year wonder as he had injury setback to derail possibly great sophomore season, has good hands, is explosive, and can plant his foot 

Why He Doesn't: I have my doubts on why he is declaring if he's this low this year, has small frame and lack of upper body strength, is not the strongest pass blocker

Upside: Tons of upside with everything an every down back needs except pass-blocking ability
Projected Round - 3rd round 

                    5. Montario Hardesty, Tennessee Volunteers



Why He Belongs Here: Hardesty scored 13 TDs in a backup role over 3 seasons, when giving starter role, he rushed for 1345 yards and 13 TDs, good mix of size and speed at 6'0, 215 and 4.5 40 time, valuable pass-catching threat
Why He Doesn't Belong: He was a backup for his first three years for a reason, inexperience, isn't projected as a real star

Upside: He projects as a solid contributor who will immediately help but not likely a future starter (immediately? RAMS!)
Projected Round - 2nd-3rd round

                                       6. Joe McKnight, USC Trojans



Why He Belongs Here: very fast with 4.39 40 time, aggressive runner with great burst, ran for 1,000 yards as primary RB in a surplus of running backs, has excellent hands and runs routes well
Why He Doesn't: McKnight has had health problems (junior season was only healthy one), his 6'0, 190 frame also won't help ease those injury issues, can be fumble-prone, lacks power to take it inside

Upside: Another Reggie Bush like runner who seems to have everything but toughness and powerfulness (that's kinda important)
Projected Round - 2nd-3rd round

                                  7. Toby Gerhart, Stanford Cardinals



Why He Belongs Here: He has good size at 6'1, 235 pounds, won the Doak Walker Award as the best RB in college football, has good vision and is very powerful running between the tackles
Why He Doesn't Belong: He isn't terribly fast, he can't turn the corner well, and he doesn't read coverages well (possibly eliminated his pass protection advantage), also a mix between a RB and a FB, but neither really fits him, he's white (Brian Leonard is current white rushing leader in NFL)

Upside: Considering he's getting the Tim Tebow treatment to a much lesser extent, he doesn't have a high upside
Projected Round: 3rd round

                             8. Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss Rebels



Why He Belongs Here: His versatility, he actually was more of a wide receiver in college than running back, he has blazing speed for a running back, he's a playmaker, he's got a squeaky-clean image right now
Why He Doesn't Belong: He's 5'6, 163 - to small for a receiver, not big enough to be a running back, he's fumble-prone, has had injuries in the past and his size could make that a problem
Upside: It lies in how the team uses him of course... that blazing speed can be used in some way in the NFL

Projected Round - 3rd

                                  9. Chris Brown, Oklahoma Sooners



Why He Belongs Here: Brown is a traditional, steady every down back, forced into action his freshman year, he did not disappoint, workhorse in the Murray-Brown split carries
Why He Doesn't Belong: He wasn't even the best back on his team, when pressed into action, he felled behind Murray and/or Allen Patrick, not explosive play maker

Upside: He could be an every down back in the NFL, which is pretty big upside for a 3rd rounder
Projected Round - 3rd- 4th round


                                     10. Ben Tate, Auburn Tigers



Why He Belongs Here: He is a downhill runner at 5'11, 218, been a part of the offense since his freshman year, had 1209 yards and 8 TDs his senior year, appears to be a durable running back, runs at an average time of 4.50 40 time 

Why He Doesn't Belong: inconsistent, too many games where is a non-factor, rarely runs around people and instead runs through them

Upside: He seems to be a short down running back that will gut it out on short-term situations

Projected Round - 4th round

11. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State Bulldogs

Why He Belongs Here: 1,391 yards, 12 TDs for his senior season, fast runner, decent size at 6'0, 243 pounds, solid hands that was under-used at MSU

Why He Doesn't Belong: ran a lot of mileage at MSU, doesn't have elite change of direction skills, not as overpowing as his size indicates

Upside: He has good upside as he's a talented runner and could be a pass-catching threat as well

Projected Round - 4th round

12. Charles Scott, LSU Tigers

Why He Belongs Here: had a whopping 5.4 YPC his junior season with 18 TDs, has great size and upper body strength with a 6'0, 233 base, lost 15 pounds to improve his speed which could say something about his work ethic

Why He Doesn't Belong: He doesn't project as an every down back without top end speed and little pass-catching ability, has struggled in his senior season with more attention on him

Upside: His upside is as a very good complimentary back, but not likely as an every down back

Projected Round - 2nd-3rd round

13. Joique Bell, Wayne State

Why He Belongs Here: He's got decent size at 5'10, 225, he has never missed a game from injury, 1,427 rushing yards, 25 TDs his senior season

Why He Doesn't Belong: He's from an I-AA school so his competition is close to awful, lacks explosiveness, won't make many defenders miss

Projected Round - 4th round

14. Stafon Johnson, USC Trojans
Why He Belongs Here: has good size and speed combo at 6'0, 210 and 4.42 40 time, is elusive and effective in one-on-one situations, his hands are reliable, he projects better as a pro back than a college back
Why He Doesn't Belong: needs to run more aggressively, not a great blocker, has durability issues, wasn't able to overtake competition at USC

Upside: He projects better as a pro back and that's all you need to say, plus he has all the intangibles to be succesfull (Rams?)
Projected Round - 4th-5th

15. Keiland Williams, LSU Tigers
Why He Belongs Here: has great size for a every down back at 6'0, 225, has run in 4.4 for his 40 time, has great change in direction in his running, has been backup to Scott most of career hiding his true potential
Why He Doesn't Belong: Why would he be a star in the NFL when he wasn't on his own college team?, not consistent, injury questions as he injured himself in November

Upside: His upside is unknown, therefore this seems like a risky pick. Is it worth it?
Projected Round - 5th round

16. Javarris James, Miami Hurricanes
Why He Belongs Here: he averaged 4.8 YPC during his senior season, has contributed to the team in some way since freshman year with at least 200 rushing yards in each season, good size with 6'0, 215 frame
Why He Doesn't Belong: He has been a backup virtually all of his Miami career, never rushed for more than 900 yards, isn't a receiving threat

Upside: Somebody will draft a player with his talent, but he likely should be happy if he becomes a backup
Projected Round - 5th round

17. Curtis Steele, Memphis Tigers

Why He Belongs Here: he is a red-zone scoring threat scoring 12 TDs there, has efficient hands out of the backfield, speedy threat

Why He Doesn't: His size is less than ideal at 6'0, 195, played against C-USA competition which is a step down from Big Six

18. LeGarrette Blount, Oregon Ducks
Why He Belongs Here: 6'1, 240 frame is scary good potential-wise, downhill runner who attacks the line aggressively, has good vision and good initial quickness, has rare flexibility for his size
Why He Doesn't Belong: If you somehow don't know, he punched a man after a game and went ballistic, not a great receiver, despite size does not cut it as a blocker, character issues with teammates

Upside: He is the classic risk-reward... except its huge risk, huge reward instead.... pick at your own risk
Projected Round - 5th-6th round

19. Andre Anderson, Tulane Green Wave

Why He Belongs: rushed for 864 yards in injury-filled junior season and over 1,000 in his senior season, was tutored by Matt Forte (not literally but he was backup in his first two), a solid receiving threat with 200 yards receiving

Why He Doesn't Belong: Well, there is that injury...., struggled to top of depth chart until junior season

Upside: Considerably good when taken into account his stock is low because of injury and he's hurt by Forte

Projected Round - 6th round

20. James Starks, Buffalo Bulls

Why He Belongs Here: He has been an integral part of Buffalo's resurgence, rushed for 1,000, 1,103, and 1,333 yards in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, is a strong receiving threat with over 300 yards receiving in his senior year

Why He Doesn't: He didn't exactly rip up elite competition in the MAC, had shoulder surgery throughout his whole 2009 season

Upside - Pretty good considering he's all-around threat at RB, but his injury is keeping him low

Projected Round - 7th round

21. Andre Dixon, Connecticut Huskies

Why He Belongs Here: He is quite possibly one of the most experienced running backs in college football missing one game since 2006, rushed for 1,000 yards the past few seasons, good frame with 6'1, 235 pound base

Why He Doesn't Belong: Inconsistent with little versatility, doesn't make defenders miss, tends to disappear in big games

Upside: His size and stats show he could be an every down back, but he you would like more consistency

Projected Round - 7th round

22. Patrick Paschall, North Dakota State

Why He Belongs Here: had some ridiculous numbers at ND State, has decent speed at 4.55

Why He Doesn't Belong: He played at I-AA school, his size at 5'11, 190 spells durability concerns

Upside: As with every I-AA prospect, it depends on how he adjusts to the competition

Projected Round - 7th round

23. Darius Marshall, Marshall Thundering Herd

Why He Belongs Here: 1,131 rushing yards his junior year, 1,095 his sophomore year, fast runner, comparisons to Ahmad Bradshaw

Why He Doesn't Belong: had misdemeanor charges of marijuana, 5'10, 190 likely can't be every down back, he could have raised stock more his senior season

Upside: He could be a very good complimentary back to any running back, possibly to someone named Steven

Projected Round - 7th round

24. Brandon Minor, Michigan Wolverines

Why He Belongs Here: He's was recruited by Michigan... when they were good, good size at 6'0, 218, could have a future returning kicks

Why He Doesn't Belong: speed is not blazing at 4.57, was injured most of his senior season and won't be able to do football activities for another 2 months or so

Upside: Someone will take a stab at him because of his untested potential, but that injury is going to scare people away

Projected Round - undrafted

25.  Keith Toston, Oklahoma State Cowboys


Why He Belongs: he not only rushes, but is a great receiver and pass-blocks a big part of his game, at 6'0, 214, he has size to be successful long-term, as a go-to-guy in 2009 he rushed for 1,000+ yards Why He Doesn't: he could not get his way past Kendall Hunter who isn't the best, suffered knee injury sophomore year

Upside: With hardly any downsides to his game, he seems like a solid pick for a team looking for a backup running back (cough Rams)

Projected Round - undrafted 

The Rest of the projected undrafted free agents as ordered by ESPN

26. Shawnbrey McNeal, Southern Methodist - Miami transfer with 1,000+ rushing yards who decided to forego his senior season, 5'10, 190 indicates speed and durability concerns 

27. Alfonso Smith, Kentucky - Senior with decent size at 6,0, 210, speedy with 40 time as low as 4.32 

28. Lonyae Miller, Fresno State - Senior running back who has been the unfortunate backup of the #4 prospect Matthews who is projected to be drafted by 

29. Matthew Asiata, Utah Utes - Senior has endured many injuries throughout is applying for medical redshirt in hopes of playing 2010 season 

30. Dmitri Nance, Arizona State Sun Devils - His size at 5'10, 195 wouldn't be bad if his speed matched it (4.5 40 time) 

31. Michael Smith, Arkansas Razorbacks - He rushed for 1,000+ yards, but is only 5'7, 180 with a fast 40 time of 4.4 

32. Deji Karim, Southern Illinois Salukis -The I-AA prospect is a bit small at 5'9, 205 

33.  MiQuale Lewis, Ball State Cardinals - The senior running back, whose parents thought Michael was too original, is just 5'6, 188 and rushed for 188 yards 

34. Carlos Brown, Michigan Wolverines - Helped by Brandon Minor's injury, the 6'0 senior rushed for just 480 yards 

35. Jake Sharp, Kansas Jayhawks - This guy was a major contributor for about 3 years, but he rushed for less than 500 his senior season and is 5'9 

36. Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss Golden  Eagles - The 5'10, 182 senior rushed for at least 5,032 yards EVERY season (including freshmen) 

37. Kevin Grady, Michigan Wolverines - He rushed for 483 yards his freshman season, but only for 113 yards his junior and senior seasons combined 

38. William Ford, South Carolina State Bulldogs - The I-AA product rushed for 4,676 yards and 35 touchdowns in his career 

39. Roy Upchurch, Alabama Crimson Tide - The true loser of Mark Ingram's marvelous Heisman season 

40. Cordera Eason, Ole Miss Rebels - The senior accumulated next-to-nothing stats with 801 career rushing yards 

The rest of the running backs (19 of them) are either players from big schools who accumulated no stats (like Eason), from small schools with decent stats, or I-AA products who probably don't have a future.  So I won't waste your time. 




Vote on the poll below.  I write daily blog on St. Louis sports here.  I will do WR prospects next week.

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