2011 NFL Draft RB Rankings

The value of running backs has plummeted in recent years as fewer and fewer teams have a true featured back. In fact, only 16 runners averaged 15 or more carries per contest over the course of the season. Now, teams look for specialized runners who only see around eight touches a game to complement the skills of the other backs on the team. Running backs truly do grow on trees nowadays, especially the smaller third down backs, which is why a handful of productive and talented college prospects did not make my should-be-drafted list. These players include West Virginia’s Noel Devine, Connecticut’s Jordan Todman, and California’s Shane Vereen. While these players have a nice skill set, nothing distinguishes them from your run-of-the-mill reserve running back. With such an abundance of talent at the position, teams would be better off not spending a draft pick on one of these players. If you are unfamiliar with my ranking system, you can find an explanation at https://lombardigreen.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/2011-nfl-draft-qb-rankings/.

RB Mark Ingram, Alabama 8
RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech 6
RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois 6
RB Delone Carter, Syracuse 6
RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State 5
RB Demarco Murray, Oklahoma 4
RB Da’Rel Scott, Maryland 3
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State 3
RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State 3
RB Bilal Powell, Louisville 3
RB Stevan Ridley, LSU 2
RB John Clay, Wisconsin 2
RB Derrick Locke, Kentucky 2
RB Evan Royster, Penn State 2
RB Graig Cooper, Miami 2

Mark Ingram is clearly the top back in this class because he is built to be a successful feature back in the NFL. He is a bruiser who plays faster than his timed speed, and can withstand the punishment he will take on the next level. Ryan Williams and Mikel Leshoure are not quite as complete as Ingram, but they could easily be starters in the NFL. My favorite player in this class is Delone Carter. At 5’9″, 222, Carter has an extremely low center of gravity and runs with great power and balance. His vision impressed me in his game against Kansas State, and he is shiftier than you’d expect. He’s built in the mold of Ray Rice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be that kind of steal in the third or fourth round. After those four talents, you have DeMarco Murray and Daniel Thomas. Neither will be a full-time starter, but both are very, very good at specific skills. Murray will excel as a third down back and receiver out of the backfield while Thomas is great in short yardage and can step into a feature role as the second option. After those six, there are still a bunch of intriguing prospects, but I wouldn’t more than one or two of them to find much success in the NFL.

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