We have already heard that this year’s draft class is weak at running back, so why bother with ranking more backs? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as every runner on this secondary list has some of the same skills that you can find in the top seven backs. Some of them don’t have a lot of experience at the position, didn’t get the carries, or were too slow/injury prone. Many of these backs will get pushed down your rookie drafts into the third, fourth, and fifth rounds with the talent found elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that they can’t help you win, if you grab the right one. These rushers got ranked by skill set before we all get caught up in what NFL team selects them in the draft.
8. Storm Johnson, Central Florida
The junior hasn’t started many games as he was a transfer from the University of Miami, but he certainly put together an impressive year. He has a slashing running style, possesses good balance, and is a good short yardage back. Johnson didn’t get asked to pass block much; however, he is a good receiver out of the backfield. He is raw, but malleable. I see him having the body type that can hold up to the NFL punishment.
9. Tre Mason, Auburn
He is a bit slender for a starting running back at 5′ 8″ 207 lbs., but he is lighting quick running a 4.50 40 time. Mason got outmatched as a pass blocker which had a lot to do with his lack of lower body power. He is a better outside runner, who got brought down a lot on inside carries. I think he could be a fantastic returner or a dump-off third down back, but it’s hard for me to envision him toting the rock 200+ times a season.
10. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Carey is about the same size as Mason, just a bit slower running a 4.70 40 yard dash and has the same pass blocking issues. He looks good in space because Carey strings together spin moves, stutter steps, and jukes that confuse defenders. If he is running up the middle, Carey needs his offensive line to create space for him. He tends to body catch too much, but he runs good downfield routes, including a wheel route. Carey looks like a better committee type back than a workhorse runner.
11. Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
He is one of his draft classes best inside runners and could be one of his class’ biggest knuckleheads. Weapons charges and personal tragedies sidelined him after a great freshman season at Georgia, only to see him transfer to small Alabama State (an uncle was from the area and a high school friend was already on the team). Speaking about him as a rusher, Crowell is quite talented. He would either lower his shoulder pads to knock his would-be tacklers down or get small in the hole, making sure he is the lowest man. Crowell delivers a nice stiff-arm, smashing defenders with the same veracity as he takes the punishment. He has a sudden burst, always falling forward using his almost feline balance. Crowell reads his blockers, takes good angles and makes decisive cuts gaining extra yardage. He could be a top three back in his class or be out of the league before September, so that is why I have him ranked here.
12. Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
The former read-option quarterback doesn’t have a lot of experience lining up as a traditional running back, but don’t let that scare you. McKinnon is a fluid athlete, who reads his blockers and defense quite well. He is quite a physical blocker himself, but ran most of his plays on the outside hashes. McKinnon caught only three passes in his college career and didn’t run many plays between the tackles. This rawness may concern many NFL teams, but where you will be able to draft him, don’t let that bother you and take a flier on him.
13. James White, Wisconsin
White can get small in the hole, use his quickness and burst , but is not agile enough to make most defenders miss. He takes what the defense gives him by running straight into a pile sometimes knocking people back. When White runs north and south, he can grind out yards, but I’m not sure if he is more than a change of pace runner in the NFL. He didn’t get a huge college workload, so his legs are fresh enough to take a pounding.
14. Marion Grice, Arizona State
He is a very explosive back who is quite tall and lean for his height 6′ 205 lbs. Grice is a better than average blocker and a great receiver out of the backfield. His lower leg injury caused him to miss his last bowl game and the Combine. If Grice can fully recover, he might be a huge steal as many people have forgotten about him.
15. DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon
The “Black Mamba” is not a very big player, if you look at him he will remind you more of DeSean Jackson. Thomas is a fast-twitched, electric player with good vision, elusiveness, and burst. He has good hands and can play at running back, wide receiver, and returner. Thomas’ production dropped every year and he ran a rather limited route tree for the Ducks, as he saw most of his receiving targets on shallow designed screen plays. If Thomas gets on a team with a forward thinking offensive coordinator, you might have a gem, otherwise he might be the next LaMichael James.
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