According to the experts, if you are looking for a running back on Thursday, you are out of luck. Not so fast my friend!
At least one team will land a sure-fire, heavy-duty, every down back when the NFL draft commences later this week. Alabama’s Mark Ingram is that man. Detractors point to Ingram’s pedestrian time in the forty, however he was best at the combine in the ten yard burst. Why is this important? Ten yards gets Ingram into the hole and the second level on running plays.
Ingram burst upon the scene during Alabama’s 2009 National Championship run, which ultimately landed him the Heisman Trophy. There was considerable talk about Ingram being a repeat winner, however multiple factors, including injury derailed his efforts. Ingram’s overall numbers may be also been impacted by backup Trent Richardson. Richardson shared some of the work load and enters the 2011 season as arguably the top back in college football and a heavily sought after pro prospect.
While the 2011 class of running backs available is not a deep one, it is by no means bare. A pair of big backs should go off the board on Friday, at some point in the second round. Ilinois’ Mikel Leshoure exploded into the national spotlight in November at Wrigley Field. The 6’0″ 230 pounder rushing for an amazing 330 yards versus Northwestern. Leshoure’s effort was the most in a single game in Ilini history and was also the most by any back in 2010. Leshoure is sturdy enough to be an every down back, but may settle into a committee situation. Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas is next on my board at the position. Thomas has excellent size, 6’0″ 230 pounds, but a 4.6 forty time may scare some.
Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams is in a category of his own among the elite running backs in the draft. Williams has some power, but also has game changing ability in terms of athleticism and quickness. Williams doesn’t have game breaking top end speed (4.5 forty) but has more wiggle than the big backs. Williams rushed for nearly 1700 yards in 2009, but was slowed by a hamstring injury much of last season. Had the two seasons had been reversed, we would be talking about Williams as a top ten selection.
Only two other backs seem to be destined for selection on Friday, when rounds two and three take place. Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray was of the most heralded high school backs in the nation and delivered for the Sooners, setting school records in all-purpose yards and touchdowns in his career. Murray has both size, 5’11” 215 pounds, and speed, sub 4.4 forty at the combine, but is not a bulldozer or a true speed back at OU. Murray could have posted bigger numbers at another school, as Oklahoma spreads it around with so many weapons. Injury concerns also are part of the package when teams consider Murray. Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter rounds out the top of the running back list after an explosive career in Stillwater. Of the elite backs under discussion, Hunter most fits the bill of a third down, or situational back. Never count out Cowboy running backs, as Thurman can point to the great successes of his predecessors, Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas.
No fullbacks will be drafted before the weekend. As teams at every level from Pop Warner on up move to the spread, traditional fullbacks are a dying breed. One thing is for certain, fullbacks almost never are a part of you fantasy football game plan.
Tomorrow, we will take a look at the receivers and tight ends.