The 2011 NFL Draft looks like a good one for running backs, at least for the kind of running backs that can work well as part of a pairing. With Steven Jackson on the roster, a pairing is exactly what the St. Louis Rams are looking for heading into the 2011 season. To pass the time on a hazy Friday afternoon, here's a couple running backs to get know.
Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
Buckeyefan55 listed Williams atop his list of "man crushes" yesterday. He's not alone. The Rams are said to be interested in Williams, who looks like a viable second or third round pick. Mel Kiper also mentioned him as a possible Rams pick.
Williams might be more of a long-term replacement for Jackson than a mere complement. Smaller, he had the power to make things happen between the tackles. His cutback ability and lateral movement make him dangerous for opposing defenses. Williams also looks to be an effective pass catcher. He would need to work on pass blocking.
Shane Vereen, California
Here's a guy that, for some reason, I have a nagging suspicion about, a sixth sense telling me that Vereen is a real under-the-radar value...and someone who could easily end up on the Rams. Maybe he's not too under-the-radar; National Football Post has him as their fourth ranked running back, behind Williams.
Before we talk about his game, there's one huge factor to mention with Vereen: health.
"I've never missed a game, and I felt that was something that worked for me as far as making a decision to come out," he said at the Combine. "I call it a blessing from God, because I don't know how I've been able to make it that long without more injuries that I've had."
Don't forget, he also carried the ball 42 times against Stanford last year.
Vereen has a real acumen for the game, from the film room to finding his lanes and being aware of defenders on the field. That allows him to be a more effective runner on the inside and even in short yardage than you might expect just looking at his measurements.
The passing game might be his best attribute. From the National Football Post scouting report:
...is a natural receiver out of the backfield, has a good feel in the screen game, plucks the football well away from his frame and squares his body quickly. Is also a threat out of the backfield, is a natural route runner you can split out in the slot, looks comfortable getting down the field and has the ability to create mismatches in the pass game in the NFL.
There's still a question about whether or not Vereen could be a full-time, 300 carries-per-season type of back. Many don't believe that he can be. However, his skill set is perfect for pairing with a guy like Steven Jackson and would allow the Rams to have a very reliable option should Jackson be forced to miss a game or two because of injury. As far as the long-term goes, Williams might be more of a true replacement, but Vereen would be a guy ready to re-pair with another back picked up via the draft or free agency.
Do I sense a man crush...perhaps.
Here's a good highlight video breaking down Vereen's play at Cal.