Ranking The Running Backs In The 2014 NFL Draft

Ronald Martinez

To continue our series, we are going to look at the running back position

I would say our running-back situation is very strong. We have a battering ram in Ivory, complimented by an effective if declining 3rd down back who's never rushed for less than 1,000 yards in a season. We have an offensive coordinator who will be able to use Johnson's speed and Ivory will wear the defense down to make the change of pace that much more effective. Not to mention we still have Bilal Powell who tired last season after getting off to a fantastic start.

Lets put it like this, if you combine the production of our top three running backs from last year, you end up with 2607 yards on the ground and 627 yards in the air. Now I would take that every single time. Obviously the roles will change this year but that's not a bad situation to be in by any means. I don't think Goodson will be here for much longer, he may spend more time in prison next year. However right now, if you said we'd go into the season with that depth chart, I'd be delighted.

Saying that, there is some serious talent in this draft and I do expect us to pick up a running back at some point, as long as the value is there. So lets dive straight in, and I apologise in advance if this is a little longer than some of the others.

TIER ONE

Carlos Hyde - Ohio State (Projected: Round 2)

Tre Mason - Auburn (Projected: Round 2)

Bishop Sankey - Washington (Projected: Round 2)

Jeremy Hill - LSU (Projected: Round 2)

Andre Williams - Boston College (Projected: Round 2)

My Take: As you can see, I've included a lot of players in tier one. I don't see any running-back worth a first round grade, but I do see plenty of players with potential to be a steal in the second round. I see Carlos Hyde very much as an Eddy Lacy type player. A good downhill runner who's very difficult to bring down, good in short yardage situations. Can block and catch the ball when needed, but his power is his main trait. The same can be said for Williams, who is just a bowling ball, punisher on every single level. Where as Tre Mason is a little bit of a dancer, in that he has excellent slide cuts and stop-start quickness, although he needs to hold onto the football more. Bishop Sankey may be my favourite guy from this group, great instincts and awareness and he reads the game as well as any one. He can slide and accelerate but some will question his elusiveness in the open field and does he have enough speed to run away from NFL backs? Hill is a player who really punishes defences when he gets going, a true power football back who can run through and off tackle quite effectively. Has good feet for a big man but again, he isn't the most elusive runner. Of everyone here, Williams and Sankey are my two favourite prospects. However personally, I would bypass all of these guys and move to the next tier to pick up the value.


TIER TWO

Lache Seastrunk - Baylor (Projected: 3rd Round)

Devonta Freeman - Florida State (Projected: 3rd Round)

Terrance West - Towson (Projected: 3rd-4th Round)

Ka'Deem Carey - Arizona (Projected: 3rd-4th Round)

My Take: I will put a disclaimer here and say that I really want us to select Lache Seastrunk. I think he is a fantastic back with a very bright future, especially if he can land in a west-coast offence. He has excellent speed and acceleration. However he also runs with a low centre of gravity making him difficult to bring down, he spins off a lot of tackles and for a speed back he makes a lot of people miss, while churning extra yards by fighting through arm tackles. Devonta is another guy I like because he can do it all, he's well balanced and patient. Can pass protest and catch the football away from his body. West is a very talented player who can run through the tackles, he has excellent vision for the cut-back lanes and he can really stretch the corner, not to mention he's scored a ton of touchdowns. Ka'Deem is a very nifty runner with good balance who's been a very productive back over the last few years, has had to carry a lot of the load at Arizona, so he's already got a lot of mileage on the clock.


TIER THREE

Charles Sims - West Virginia (Projected: Round 4)

De'Anthony Thomas - Oregon (Projected: Round 4)

Jerick McKinnon - Georgia Southern (Projected: Round 4)

Storm Johnson - Central Florida (Projected: Round 4/5)

My Take: We are coming with some serious speed, fast and fluid athletes who can beat anyone to the corner. Both Sims and Thomas are fantastic athletes, both show elusive moves in the open field, finding the cut back lanes, and when they find a gap, they are gone. Both can be used out of the back-field and both can do some damage after the catch. Jerick McKinnon may be the steal of the draft, or he may just be a work-out warrior. I hadn't really looked at him much before the combine, but he blew it up, so I went back and had a look and couldn't help but be impressed. He's as strong as you can get, with a strong upper and lower body. Punishing runner who's also a very effective blocker. He has moved around a little too much, which means he's very raw. If he can find a spot in the offence, and then work at it, with a little development, he could be a real talent. Storm Johnson wins the award for the best name, he's also a very powerfull back who runs between the tackles and keeps his legs churning, however he also possesses some open field moves to really gain that extra yard or two, although he doesn't possess top end speed and won't run away from many NFL backs.


TIER FOUR

James White - Wisconsin (Projected: 5th Round)

Alfred Blue - LSU (Projected: 5th Round)

Tyler Gaffney - Stanford (Projected: 5th Round)

Isaiah Crowell - Alabama State (Projected: 5th Round)

My Take: I actually really like James White, I think he possesses a nice blend of size, strength, speed and vision and could be a little diamond in the rough down here in the 5th. Alfred Blue is a guy that shows a lot of patience and vision and I really like that in my backs, he also has the power to run inside and the pace to reach the corner, I really don't know how some outlets have him being a UDFA. Gaffney I like for two reasons, he has excellent patience and waits for his blocks to set, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Two traits that I think you look for in a WCO running back. Crowell only just make this tier because of the sheer power he possesses. Players just seem to bounce off him right, left and centre. He struggles with his balance and has had some off-field incidents which may make him drop even further than the 5th round.


TIER FIVE

Damian Williams - Oklahoma (Projected: Round 6)

James Wilder - Florida State (Projected: Round 6)

Rajion Neal - Tennessee (Projected: Round 6)

Senorise Perry - Louisville (Projected: Round 6)

Marion Grice - Arizona State (Projected: Round 6)

My Take: Now we are getting to the bottom of the pack and you can start to tell. All of these guys have some serious flaws to their game. However first I want to talk about Marion Grice, a player I really like. He's a one-cut runner, but he does it better than most, he has good balance, good awareness with vision and an ability to be elusive in the open-field. I think this guy is a diamond and will be an effective back for whichever NFL team decides to take him. Williams has excellent balance with good hands, however he never looks as though he has a feel for the game and will often run into the wrong situations. James Wilder breaks a lot of tackles and hasn't had much mileage on the clock, but he does run too upright, losing a lot of momentum. Neal is a big guy at 220lb's but he manages to get to the corner quickly and works his way through traffic with some quick footwork.


TIER SIX

Lorenzo Taliaferro - Coastal Carolina (Projected: Round 7/UDFA)

Antonio Andrews - Western Kentucky (Projected: Round 7/UDFA)

Ben Malena - Texas A&M (Projected: Round 7/UDFA)

Henry Josey - Missouri (Projected: Round 7/UDFA)

Silas Redd - USC (Projected: Round 7/UDFA)

My Take: I really could have put 100 players here, there are a ton of guys around the 6th, 7th round. So if I haven't added your sleeper, it's not because I don't think he's any good, I just needed to pick out a few players to feature. Back in 2011 I thought Silas Redd would be a star, he was picking up yards for fun and his vision/cuts were among the best in college football. However after he transferred from Penn State to USC his career just derailed due to injuries. He's a one cut back who can certainly pick up some hard yards. I do also have a lot of time for Josey, a player who has a lot of ability, a quick-twitch athlete who's struggled with some nagging injuries. Finally on to Ben Malena, a guy who has some lateral quickness, with patience to allow the play to develop. A very entertaining player who also gives 100% in the blocking game.


DW's Conclusion:

Best Back In The Draft: Carlos Hyde

Mid-Round Gem: Lache Seastrunk

Late Sleeper: Marion Grice

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