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30 Aug

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2014 NFL Draft: Running Backs

A full breakdown of the 2014 NFL Draft running back class by Jeff Mans

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Despite the influx of spread offenses and historic passing numbers there is no position more important in fantasy football than running back. Considering most leagues make you start at least two of them and the NFL has vastly become a running-back-by-committee league, the pressure to have steady performers is immense. Furthermore no skill position gets beaten up more than the RB. The amount of turnover at the position is highest of any in the NFL and thus fantasy football as well.

 

This RB draft class absolutely stinks to be honest with you. There isn’t a single stand alone star in this bunch. Mind you, that doesn’t mean none of these prospects will have success at the NFL level. A few definitely will. But those will be the ones who land themselves behind a superior offensive line and in a system that caters to their skill set and technique. I always use Arian Foster as the example of a below average RB who got put into the right system at the right time and became a star. Arian Foster won’t be starting if not in a cut-back zone blocking system.

So, now that I have taken a big ole’ crap on this entire RB class, let’s try and find some usable nuggets. Here is my 2014 NFL Draft RB Report:

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Before we start analyzing the RB prospects in this years draft we have to take a few moments and look at which teams will be in the market for a runningback in this draft. Remember, all of these guys are among the finest athletes in the world. They are all fast, strong and have endurance to spare. What will separate these guys from being great athletes to great players is mostly where they end up. There are many real good backup RB's in the NFL right now but they aren't going to contribute to your fantasy team unless someone else gets injured. 

So here are the teams with the most need and best possible landing sports for these RB prospects:

1) Tennessee Titans – The Titans cut Chris Johnson to save a ton of money off the cap but that leaves them with scraps in the backfield at the time being. They will definitely be drafting a RB this year.

2) Arizona Cardinals – Believe it or not but the retirement of RaShard Mendenhall hurt the Cardinals. Andre Ellington was fantastic last year but he’s not an every down RB and there is nothing else currently behind him on the depth chart.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars – Oh come on now…Toby Gerhart? Toby Gerhart is the answer to a question that NOBODY ASKED!! The Jags had better get serious about their running game and fast.

4) Cleveland Browns – Ben Tate was another system guy in Houston and is in the perfect setup here in Cleveland. Still, he has never been able to stay healthy and the Browns have already confirmed they will look to bring in another RB in the draft.

5) Atlanta Falcons – Steven Jackson is hanging on by a thread and without any offensive line support he is doomed. The Falcons need to add a “make you miss” type runner to their backfield this offseason.

Others In Need

Washington Redskins,Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams

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One last stop before we begin my profiles and rankings. Let's take a look at just how similar many of these players are physically. For those who don't pay attention to the NFL Combine every February you are missing out on a very useful way of scouting all of these NFL prospects right there in one place. Also, a chance to see a lot of men in their underpants. If you are in to that sort of thing. 

Here are the top RB performers in each drill that I find most important to the position. 

40 Yard Dash 

PLAYER POS. SCHOOL SECONDS
Senorise Perry RB Louisville 4.4
De'Anthony Thomas RB Oregon 4.4
Jerick McKinnon RB Georgia Southern 4.41
Henry Josey RB Missouri 4.43
Damien Williams RB Oklahoma 4.45
LaDarius Perkins RB Mississippi State 4.46
Jeff Scott RB Ole Miss 4.47
Charles Sims RB West Virginia 4.48
George Atkinson III RB Notre Dame 4.48
Tim Cornett RB UNLV 4.48
Bishop Sankey RB Washington 4.49
Tyler Gaffney RB Stanford 4.49
Tre Mason RB Auburn 4.5
John Spooney RB Brown 4.5
Beau Blankenship RB Ohio 4.5
Lache Seastrunk RB Baylor 4.51

 

3 Cone Drill

PLAYER POS. SCHOOL SECONDS
Bishop Sankey RB Washington 6.75
Tyler Gaffney RB Stanford 6.78
Jerick McKinnon RB Georgia Southern 6.83
Lorenzo Taliaferro RB Coastal Carolina 6.88
David Fluellen RB Toledo 6.9
James Wilder Jr. RB Florida State 6.92
Tim Cornett RB UNLV 7.01
James White RB Wisconsin 7.05
George Atkinson III RB Notre Dame 7.07
Tim Flanders RB Sam Houston State 7.07
Henry Josey RB Missouri 7.07
Ka'Deem Carey RB Arizona 7.08
LaDarius Perkins RB Mississippi St 7.08

 

Shuttle Run

PLAYER POS. SCHOOL SECONDS
Bishop Sankey RB Washington 4
Andre Williams RB Boston College 4.06
Jerick McKinnon RB Georgia Southern 4.12
Henry Josey RB Missouri 4.13
Tre Mason RB Auburn 4.15
Tyler Gaffney RB Stanford 4.18
James White RB Wisconsin 4.2
Lorenzo Taliaferro RB Coastal Carolina 4.22
James Wilder Jr. RB Florida State 4.24
Damien Williams RB Oklahoma 4.25
Devonta Freeman RB Florida State 4.26
Tim Cornett RB UNLV 4.26
Charles Sims RB West Virginia 4.3
LaDarius Perkins RB Mississippi State 4.3

 

Bench Press (225 lbs) 

PLAYER POS. SCHOOL REPETITIONS
Jerick McKinnon RB Georgia Southern 32
Bishop Sankey RB Washington 26
Kapri Bibbs RB Colorado State 24
James White RB Wisconsin 23
Isaiah Crowell RB Alabama State 23
LaDarius Perkins RB Mississippi State 23
Jeremy Hill RB LSU 20
Antonio Andrews RB Western Kentucky 20
Tim Flanders RB Sam Houston State 20
Henry Josey RB Missouri 20
Carlos Hyde RB Ohio State 19
Ka'Deem Carey RB Arizona 19
George Atkinson III RB Notre Dame 19
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1.  Bishop Sankey, Washington, 5’9”, 210 lbs

Sankey is the best RB package in this draft. He is strong, fast and is very coachable. He rushed for a TD in every game he played in 2013 and has a nose for the endzone. He runs low and has exceptional cut technique. I think his hands are good enough to be a three down back in the NFL. He may be the only three down RB in this year’s draft.

He’s not a punishing runner and can be easily tackled at the first level. Sankey needs to add some bulk to both his upper and lower body to sustain the beating that NFL RB’s receive. Despite good straight away speed he isn’t a home run hitter type of RB. 

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2.  Carlos Hyde, Ohio St, 6’0”, 230 lbs

Hyde was an NFL RB playing against kids last year which is evident by his 7.3 YPC last season. He is incredibly strong and tough to bring down by a single tackler. Although he lacks high end speed, Hyde has a real explosive jump-cut that is reminiscent of Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte. This cut is basically the only thing separating him from being no more than a short yardage back in the NFL.

It is hard to bring down Carlos Hyde but it is not that difficult to catch him. He was suspended for the first three games of the 2013 season due to an assault violation and carries some off the field type baggage. He’s also a doughnut or two away from being mistaken for an offensive lineman which is something to pay close attention to as he turns pro.

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3.  De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon, 5’9”, 175 lbs

I don’t like smallish RB’s but in this class De’Anthony Thomas is one of the most likely to carve out a viable fantasy role. This guy is crazy fast both straight head and laterally. He has good hands although some will point to a couple drops over the middle during his career. While I don’t think he’s going to ever be an All-Pro player, a coaching staff somewhere will take Thomas much earlier than anybody anticipates and carve out a role for him in their offense.

At just 5’9” and 175 lbs, Thomas is a light as a feather. He will be arm tackled quite easily in the NFL and might never be a true NFL RB. If he can’t show the ability to break through certain arm tackles he may wind up as an elite return man and special teams ace.

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4.  Charles Sims, West Virginia, 6’0”, 217 lbs

In today’s NFL an effective RB needs two things: quick feet and pass catching ability. Sims has plenty of both. He finds holes quickly and can get through them before they close. His hands are the best at the position this year by far. He caught 70 balls for the University Of Houston in 2009 and continued his receiving prowess at West Virginia after he transferred. If he lands in the right spot Sims could have the best career of any RB in this draft.

I noticed that he gets arm tackled a lot which to be is part mindset and part fundamentals. Sims tends to get frustrated by tight spaces and appears to stop his legs upon those situations. This could have to do with running out of the shotgun offense a lot of the time but still something that will need to be coached out of him. He also needs to learn how to use his body to shield him from tacklers which would help him gain more yards after first contact. 

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5.  Tre Mason, Auburn, 5’8”, 207 lbs

Mason is the most intriguing RB in this year’s class. He is in between being a prolific early down RB and an effective third down option. I love his jump-cut move and ability to start and stop on a dime. He is quite patient and allows his blockers to get out in front. These are high level characteristics which aren’t usually available in college level RB’s.

There are two big concerns about Tre Mason: size and fumbles. I believe these tow are directly related and therefore he most certainly needs to add some upper body bulk to his frame. If he can do that without losing any speed and learn proper ball protection technique the sky is the limit for Tre Mason. 

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6.  Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona, 5’9”, 210 lbs

Every year there are a handful of real good players who the media and Mel Kiper put on their naughty list because of some generic off the field incidents. Ka’Deem is one of those players this year. The facts are that he is one of the most accomplished RB’s in this draft and could be a big rotational asset for an NFL team this season. He’s a great pass catcher out of the backfield and hard to bring down in the open field.

Carey had two off the field incidents that have plummeted his draft stock. One of them is ridiculously blown out of proportion in that he yelled at a security guard who wouldn’t seat him during an Arizona-UCLA basketball game and was heard asking the guard, “Do you know who I am? I am an All-American!” The more troubling issue was being charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct for a domestic incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend in 2013. What many people don’t know or talk about is that he is back with the Mother of his child and they are raising the kid together. 

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7.  Andre Williams, Boston College, 5’11”, 230 lbs

Andre Williams looks like the best RB in this draft. He is a very powerful frame and strong legs that inflict punishment on would be tacklers. He seems to have an extra gear but only in certain situations. Won the Doak Walker Award in 2013 and was a Heisman Trophy Finalist as well. Williams is more than capable in pass protection as well which will endear him to offensive coordinators everywhere.

Williams doesn’t possess high end speed. He also ran behind a very good offensive line at Boston College and some wonder if that led to his success more than pure skill level. The biggest challenge for Andrew Williams will be in learning how to catch the football. He had limited exposure to this in college and it could be his undoing at the pro level.

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8.  Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern, 5’9”, 210 lbs

McKinnon basically won the combine at the RB position and put himself clear on many teams radar despite his small school status. McKinnon was an option QB half the time at Georgia Southern and some may knock him for that. Although a raw RB, he has a very high ceiling thanks to his great speed and high football IQ.

The lack of experience at RB and in big Division 1 games will be a drawback to some. But his skills cannot be denied after his performance at the combine. We truly don’t know what kind of future he will have until he gets some professional level coaching to add to this amazingly raw set of skills.

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9.  Kapri Bibbs, Colorado St., 5’9”, 212 lbs

Bibbs is this years best one cut runner. What that means is if he finds himself in a solid zone blocking type scheme, he could out produce every other RB taken ahead of him in this draft. He reminds me of a dumber version of Alfred Morris. Bibbs is incredibly powerful and has more speed that we see in his combine numbers.

 

This kid could barely make it into college let alone stay there another year. Some people just aren’t cut out for it and Bibbs was clearly not the student type. He is going to be a much better pro than he ever was at the collegiate level. Though he’ll need a lot of coaching due to his lack of experience pass blocking or catching the football out of the backfield.

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10. Jeremy Hill, LSU, 6’1”, 233 lbs

I wouldn’t call Hill a boom or bust rather a “productive RB or bust” type of player. He is a strong, downhill runner who can make people miss at the first level. He has shown great break tackle ability as well. It appears in workouts that he has at least average hands though he wasn’t a pass catcher at LSU.

There are many character issues surrounding Hill and to me it sounds like he will be trouble for whichever coaching staff takes a shot on him. He’s been charged with sexual assault back in 2011 and battery in 2013 for fighting at a local bar. 

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Other RB’s Of Note

Dri Archer – Kent St. – 5’8”,173 lbs – Productive scat back could find a role as a third down change of pace guy. Would fit in perfectly with the Saints.

Terrance West – Towson – 5’9”, 225 lbs – I thought he’d test better in strength drills but didn’t. Pure between the tackles and short yardage runner with limited upside in passing game.

Lache Seastrunk – Baylor – 5’9”, 200 lbs – His production was inflated by high octane Baylor offense. He’s another ripe third down RB candidate for a team in need.

Raijon Neal – Tennessee – 5’11”, 220 lbs – Really intriguing player is a natural fit for a zone blocking system. Could be the biggest sleeper at the position in the draft.


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