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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 17, 2010

NFL draft: Chicago Tribune: Running backs make for a poor draft crop in 2010

By Dan Pompei
Chicago Tribune

In preparing for the April 22-24 NFL draft, Chicago Tribune reporter Dan Pompei examines a poor group of running backs in the NFL draft:

Talent at the running back position is down in this year's draft. There is not a runner who is expected to be chosen near the top, and the depth at the position is lacking as well.

1. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, 5-10, 196: Spiller is a little smaller than ideal. But he is a little similar to Chris Johnson, who led the NFL in rushing yards for the Titans last year. Like Johnson, Spiller has home run speed. Spiller might not be as elusive a runner as Johnson, however. He is best in the open field, but he can run inside adequately. Spiller also is a talented return man. Spiller is the best of a below average group of runners, but in most years he would not be considered the best running back in the draft.

2.Ryan Matthews, Fresno State, 5-11, 218. This is the most instinctive, natural running back in the draft, and it showed as he led the nation in rushing last season. Matthews does everything pretty well, but doesn't excel in any one area. He doesn't have top end speed or unusual quickness. He has been compared to Donald Brown, the Colts' first round pick one year ago. Matthews has had some durability issues throughout his college career.

3.Jahvid Best, Cal, 5-10, 199. This speedy back can take it the distance. He also can have an immediate impact as a kick returner. Best is an elusive runner who avoids contact well. He has soft hands and will be a weapon on third down. His value between the tackles is questionable. At 5-10, 199 pounds, Best might not have the size to take an NFL beating as an every down back. Staying healthy was an issue in college.

4.Ben Tate, Auburn, 5-11, 220. Tate has the size and power to run inside, and the speed to run outside. His toughness enables him to break tackles. His burst is average. Tate also has good hands. He helped himself during Senior Bowl week, and helped himself again with an outstanding combine (4.34 40 yard dash, 40 inch vertical jump). He does not play as fast as he ran, however. Tate could be a solid special teams contributor.

5.Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech, 5-11, 229. This productive college back is big and physical and get can get the tough yards. Dwyer may be a first and second down back only. His receiving skills are questionable. He didn't have a great workout at the combine (he ran a 4.64 40 yard dash), and some scouts question his athleticism. Dwyer's initial quickness is lacking, but he builds up speed when he is allowed to. He doesn't move very well laterally. Dwyer played in a gimmicky offense last year and some his production may have been inflated as a result.

6.Toby Gerhart, Stanford, 6-0, 231. This productive back is a load to bring down and can break tackles. He is durable enough to carry the ball 25 times a game. He can catch the ball pretty well. Gerhart has top intangibles. He has nimble feet for his size, but he probably isn't a dynamic enough runner to make many big plays in the NFL.

7.Joe McKnight, Southern Cal, 5-11, 198. This is Reggie Bush light. McKnight is very athletic and has great cutting ability. He will cause problems for defenses because very few defenders can match up with his quickness. McKnight can be a weapon in the passing game and on special teams. McKnight probably lacks the power to be an every down back.

8.Montario Hardesty, Tennessee, 5-11, 225. He came on strong during the 2009 season. Prior to last year, he had a hard time staying healthy and he already has had three knee surgeries. Hardesty has enough size, speed, athleticism and instincts to be consider above average in all areas, but he does not have one trait that stands out. He has the potential to develop into a steady workhorse type of back. He runs hard and does not go down easily. Hardesty is a leader.

9.Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State, 6-0, 223. His stock has risen since his impressive Senior Bowl performance. A power runner who can move the pile, Dixon has subtle speed. He has some receiving skills as well. Dixon is not the most elusive runner. Dixon raised some concerns with a DUI.

10.Deji Karim, Southern Illinois, 5-9, 209. He was not invited to the combine, but he had a phenomenal workout at the pro day at Northwestern. Karim is a short, compact back who can make tacklers miss. His burst and acceleration are excellent, and he can make big plays. He was very productive in college and his stock has been on the rise. He also can return kicks. After sitting out the 2008 season with a knee injury, Karim had an outstanding season in 2009. He has not played against top competition and may be a little raw in terms of receiving skills and pass protection.

11.James Starks, Buffalo, 6-2, 218. His run instincts are questionable, but he flashes speed and power. He cuts well and can be difficult to tackle. He had a productive junior year, but was prevented from playing as a senior because of a shoulder injury.

12.Lonyae Miller, Fresno State, 5-11, 221. His resume is limited in terms of production because he played behind Ryan Matthews at Fresno State. But he showed excellent athleticism in workouts, and could be drafted higher than his production would warrant. He has size, speed and balance. Miller can peel off long runs. Miller also was impressive in the Senior Bowl. Some scouts question his instincts and vision.

13.Chris Brown, Oklahoma, 5-10, 210. He has shown the ability to produce when given the chance. Brown is a little limited in terms of athleticism and speed, but he seems to have a feel for running and could improve as he matures physically.

14.Joique Bell, Wayne State, 5-11, 220. He has exposed himself with substandard workouts, both at the combine and at his pro day. But Bell does have some size and vision. He was very productive at the Division II level, but he could struggle adjusting to the level of competition in the NFL.

15.Charles Scott, Louisiana State, 5-11, 238 This is a huge back with decent straight line speed once he gets going. His lateral quickness is just so-so, and Scott does not have great burst. He can run with power. Scott played better as a junior than as a senior, when his season was cut short by a broken clavicle.

16.LeGarrette Blount, Oregon, 6-0, 241. Blount makes his living between the tackles. He can run over defenders in the open field. He is a downhill runner who lacks ideal speed, but does have quick feet. His 4.70 40 yard dash at the combine did not help his cause. Nor did his weight control issue, his conformity issues and his sucker punch during a game, which got him suspended for his senior season. He also is an inconsistent runner whose effort seems to run hot and cold. Blount has the body and ability to be an NFL player, but he has a lot of baggage.

17.Brandon Minor, Michigan, 6-0, 214. This physical runner can make some hay going downhill, but he takes some big hits because he isn't very elusive. He was a very productive college player until his career ended with a shoulder injury. He has some potential as a special teams player and has been a return man.

18.Keiland Williams, Louisiana State, 5-11, 233. He played behind Charles Scott but is an intriguing blend of size and speed. Williams can break tackles. Scouts question his vision, and he has not been an every down back.

19.Andre Dixon, Connecticut, 6-0, 233. He brings a combination of run skills, receiving ability and blocking prowess. Dixon does not have elite size, burst, power or speed, however. He could find a role as a third down back in the NFL. Teams have some concerns about Dixon off the field.

20.Pat Paschall, North Dakota State, 5-11, 209. Paschall was a productive back against a lower level of competition. He doesn't have top vision or speed, but he seems to get the job done. He has had some off the field issues.