The Next Ten Rookie Running Backs (8-17)



This is the last, best chance to check all the players based on their talent (this includes intangibles).  In this article, I will analyze some of the rookie running backs, and discuss their overall skill set.  As last year’s draft bears witness, there are a lot of things that are unknown to the draft community.  At this time in 2012, running back Chris Polk was considered a top five rookie running back in dynasty leagues until his non-selection in the NFL Draft – this revealed he had more health concerns than were originally known.  For the first seven rookie running backs, click here. Today, I cover my next ten rookie running backs based on their talent before the NFL Draft:

8.) Joseph Randle, RB OKLA ST

Randle is a running back who I seem to hate on more than others.  He is a tall back (6′ 1″) who runs too high.  He doesn’t get his pads behind him to deliver hits, instead Randle gets hit more often than he should.  He is a very smooth, finesse type runner with soft hands.  My concern is that he will struggle in traffic as he goes down easily after contact, and bounces too many runs outside as his short power game is not strong.  The best comparison I have for him is former Tennessee Titan Chris Brown (not the singer) as he also was very quick and ran way too high.  Randle will be better in a zone blocking scheme, as he would not do well on a power running team.

9.) Marcus Lattimore, RB SCAR

Lattimore is another player I’ve got heat for having so low.  Significant injuries to running backs are never good.  Yes, Adrian Peterson beat the odds last year, but he is the exception and not the rule.  The entire dynasty community is hoping this former Gamecock will be ready to contribute by 2014, perhaps earlier.  He is an explosive runner who runs hard with a lot of power and speed.  Lattimore isn’t shy about making contact running over someone or blocking them and this physical style may have to change somewhat.  He has excellent lateral movement, possesses good balance, sees the field well and knows what angles to take.   If he fully recovers, which still could be a big “IF,” I would place him in the top three of this rookie running back class.

10.) Christine Michael, RB TEXAS A&M

Michael is a jacked-up beast who shows a lot of burst and runs powerfully into the line.   He has quick feet, great lateral agility, decent vision and has a chip on his shoulder.  By not playing much his Senior year due to injury and not getting along with his college coach, Michael has a lot to prove to NFL front offices and the entire football community.  He likes to smash people, keeps his legs driving forward, and is willing to block. The young running back is improving his ability to be effective catching the ball out of the backfield. In a rookie class that does not have a true superstar, I am willing to gamble on Michael because of his tremendous upside.

11.) Le’Von Bell, RB MICH ST

Bell is not an athletic running back, but he may be the toughest and most physical runner in this class. He lines up ready to smash into the line and knock around opposing defense. He reads his blockers well, always falls forward and does a great good at taking what the defense gives him. He has an effective stiff-arm and uses a subtle spin moves to gain extra yardage. Bell has good downfield vision, shows good lateral moves (including a jump cut) and runs inside to out. I worry about his foot movement as it could be quicker and he needs to pick up his feet to avoid the trash at the line of scrimmage.  He is a better fit in a more traditional type blocking scheme.

12.) Zac Stacy, RB VAND

Stacy is a hard-nosed runner who is very effective running inside and outside the tackles.  I really like the versatility he brings in the passing game as he is a good pass blocker and can catch the ball in space.  Stacy has good vision, decent lateral movement and strong leg drive.  When I look at Stacy, I’m reminded of former Bengal Rudi Johnson and he might even be a bit thicker than he was.  He is a jack of all trades like Johnson, but is a master of none.

13.) Kerwynn Williams, RB UTAH ST

Williams is impressive with his speed, agility and vision in person.  He takes good angles, sees the field well, gets separation and runs to daylight.  He is big enough to take the hits, but gets small enough to avoid taking many of them.  Out of all of these running backs I’ve discussed, his impact will be most greatly influenced by where he goes.  Williams could become a good returner who sees the field sparingly or he could become a third down specialist to start.   I think his initial role will be as a change of pace player, but will become a starter a few years down the road.

14.) Ray Graham, RB PITT

Graham is a very smooth runner who gets small in the hole and doesn’t give defenders much to hit.  His 40 time at the Combine of 4.80 was a major red flag, but he has always been more quick than fast – it’s his lateral agility and vision that help him find seams in the defense.  He might begin in the NFL as a third down back, but he has the hands, wiggle, and vision to become a three down player.  Graham is closer, in my eyes, to fellow former Pittsburgh Panther LeSean McCoy in overall talent than compared to Dion Lewis.  I might draft more than the 13 other running backs before him until he shows he is fully recovered, but I will keep an eye out on his performances during training camp.

15.) Kenjon Barner, RB ORE

Barner uses a slight stutter step, has good balance and gets small in the running lane. While he doesn’t have much power, Barner possesses a mean stiff-arm, always falls forward and gets stronger in the fourth quarter of games.  He can read his blocks, is a patient runner and uses a fantastic jump cut. In the passing game, he is an adequate blocker who slows his blitzer for a few seconds.  Barner has excellent hands and is great in space, but lacks the size and power to likely be anything more than a third down back in the NFL.

16.) Knile Davis, RB ARK

The oft-injured running back looked big, quick and strong during running drills.  In fact, the former Razorback was explosive running drills at the Combine.  He tends to run too high and dances a bit too much for my taste, though.  The ball sometimes is not his friend as he fights the ball when attempting to catch passes and when he tries to cradle it.  Davis is a strong, explosive inside runner with quick feet.  He has decent vision, can spin out of trouble, and has a few jump cuts at his disposal.   I want to like him, but his injury history and ball control issues have pushed him back for me.

17.) Jawan Jamison, RB RUTG

Jamison has decent lateral agility and usually made the first man miss. He is effective when his team uses designed cut back runs and delayed handoffs.  Jamison also has a good spin move that he uses to keep from losing yardage.  I am not convinced that he will be anything more than a third down back ever in the NFL.  Maybe it’s the Rutgers connection with Ray Rice that is giving me hope.

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