It’s time now to turn our attention toward the most volatile position on the offensive side of the football and also the most important position in Fantasy Football: The Running Back. As I always say, success at RB in Fantasy Football is more about the offensive line and the fit of the runner to the scheme than it is the players themselves. What this means is as you look at this years RB field there are literally dozens of supreme athletes in the crop. Every year there is a sixth round, seventh round and undrafted free agent RB who makes an impact. So, here is a breakdown of a few of the names that will be called early as well as some who to watch out for in the later rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.
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Eddie Lacy – Alabama 5’11 – 230 Lbs
40 Time – 4.51
Strengths – Built like a brick shithouse. Lacy is made for the wear and tear of the NFL. He is a hard runner who is always falling forward and picking up the extra yards. He doesn’t shy away from contact and has consistently shown the ability to run through arm tackles. He’s fast enough to get to the next level but may have to shed a few pounds to get lighter. Lacy played at a high level for the best team in College Football. He isn’t a stranger to the big stage and raising his game to the next level.
Weaknesses – Doesn’t possess the elite speed so many NFL teams covet. He’s not a very smart runner either as he too often runs into contact which will not work as well in the NFL. Doesn’t show an interest in blocking which could keep him off the field at the next level.
Final Analysis – Lacy will be either the first or second RB off the board this year. He is going to have to pick up his blocking and pass catching during NFL Training Camp or he could very well be relegated to short yardage duty an abyss from which few break out of. I am not extremely excited about his fantasy potential as he will need to get behind a stellar offensive line to rack up huge yardage totals. There is a lot of speculation that he will wind up with the Rams at pick #22.
Compare To – RaShard Mendenhall
Joseph Randle – Oklahoma State – 6’0 – 205 Lbs
40 Time – 4.63
Strengths – Randle is an ultra professional RB. He does everything well. He played in a very pass happy offense and did so with numerous QB’s leading the way but despite it all he was a consistent performer. Coaches really love his team first attitude and his pass catching ability will help him get on the field often. Randle plays faster than he times out on drills mostly due to great hip swivel and cutting ability. He was a real good pass blocker in college as well.
Weaknesses – Overall Randle is just not that fast. Because of his height scouts are worried about his ability to protect the football despite fumbling only twice in over 400 carries his final two seasons. He needs to add bulk as his frame is just too big a target to endure the beating that an NFL RB will go through.
Final Analysis – Randle will never be a star in the NFL. He is a very solid player however who could have a long career in the league. If he gets behind a real good offensive line early in his career he could put up some quality fantasy numbers but that is about it. His ability to catch the football and block draws a conclusion that he could be a productive third down back.
Compare To – Benjarvus Green-Ellis
Montee Ball – Wisconsin – 5’10 – 214 Lbs
40 Time – 4.66
Strengths – The best cut back runner in the country should get plenty of attention from teams that run that system. Ball was a prolific college RB who ran around, over and through defenses consistently. He was the focus of the offense and put up gaudy numbers in spite of the attention. His patience especially in the cut back is something of a very experienced RB. Doesn’t shy away from contact and is known for getting low on would be tacklers only to shed them off.
Weaknesses – Ball is just not that fast in and out of his breaks. His break tackle ability may not work at the next level. He needs to add some bulk. He’s not a great pass catcher or pass blocker though he does try hard at both. Ball was involved in a couple off the field incidents during his time at Wisconsin including a robbery that left him with a concussion.
Final Analysis – Ball should have come out of school after his stellar 2011 season which saw him seated as a Heisman Trophy Finalist. The name of the game in the NFL is speed and quickness which Ball really doesn’t have a lot of. He is a workhorse type of back though and would fit so much better in a zone blocking scheme.
Compare To – Alfred Morris
Marcus Lattimore – South Carolina – 5’11 – 220 Lbs
40 Time – 4.48
Strengths – Lattimore is Incredibly fast and balanced. When healthy he is an electric runner with great vision and lateral quickness. He possesses great hands and run after the catch ability. Lattimore has that “star” appeal when the ball is in his hands. He was on his way to shattering some long standing school records before injuries each of the last two seasons derailed him. The guy has the tools to be the best RB in this draft and to be an All-Pro in the league someday.
Weaknesses – Obviously the biggest concern about Marcus Lattimore is his ability to stay healthy. Last season he suffered a complete blow out of his right knee which could ultimately delay the start to his rookie season. There isn’t a lot not to like about his game otherwise. It would have been nice to see a larger sample size and to see how he’d rise to the occasion in a Bowl Game but for now we’ll never know.
Final Analysis – In my opinion this is the only true difference maker RB in this years draft. Most other ballcarriers need to land in the right system to prevail while all Lattimore needs is to stay on the field. The kid puts in the work though and is said to be ahead of schedule in his rehab at this point. He profiles as one of the later round picks who could produce first round results if he can stay on the field.
Compare To – Knowshon Moreno
Johnathan Franklin – UCLA – 5’10 – 210 Lbs
40 Time – 4.49
Strengths – Great kid who is highly coachable. He excels as a one cut runner with game break ability. Franklin has good vision and awareness which helps him in hitting the right hole. The lateral quickness is what gives him a big advantage over linebackers and his straight line speed is enough to outrun defenders. Despite smaller frame he isn’t shy from contact and pumps his legs hard to gain extra yardage while engaged. Franklin is an above average pass catcher and route runner out of the backfield. With some improvement he could be a three down RB in the NFL.
Weaknesses – Has some work to do in pass protecting. Some don’t trust his ability to get outside the tackles but his elite vision seems to help overcome that. His arms need to get stronger. He’s been known to put the ball on the ground when hit top down and thus needs to actively keep the ball tight to his frame. He gets jumpy at time when a hole isn’t open and will wind up losing more yardage than necessary in that process. Franklin wasn’t challenged enough at the College level so the NFL will be quite a leap for him competitively.
Final Analysis – He could be dynamite if he lands as a backup in a zone blocking type of system. Washington, Seattle and Houston would be the prefect fit for him. He’ll likely earn a spot as a backup RB in the league and with some added bulk and experience work his way into a starting job quite quickly. He won’t be a star in his first year but could potentially become one by his second NFL campaign.
Compare To – Alex Green
Giovani Bernard – North Carolina – Other think he is a star but he is too small and has little experience running pro type of runs. He could be an All-Pro punt returner one day.
Andre Ellington – Clemson – Another smallish type RB without elite speed or break tackle ability. Could be useful in a zone blocking system but I’m taking a pass.
Stepfan Taylor – Stanford – I like him more as Kulabafi than as an NFL RB. Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu5l86SgDJk
Christine Michael – Texas A&M – Injuries have derailed him from early round consideration. Never trust a RB who has a woman’s name no matter how they pretend to pronounce it.
Mike Gillislee – Florida – Cocky and underutilized RB has some scouts smelling “sleeper.”
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