2011 NFL Draft Player Rankings | Running Backs
As the college football season starts to dwindle down, NFL Soup is preparing more and more for the NFL Draft. We are getting things set up with the running backs eligible in the 2011 draft class.
A great running back can be the difference between a Super Bowl team and a playoff team. Every team is looking for the next Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson. Those are two running backs that seem to get five yards or more on every hand off.
Running backs are crucial to the offense for many reasons, and one of the biggest is to open up the passing game. A legit running game can often make a mediocre quarterback into a top notch passing threat. We’ve witnessed young guys like Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford succeed because the opposing defenses have to account for the running back by putting another man in the box.
But, without further haste, NFL Soup presents its 2011 NFL Draft Running Back rankings.
1) Mark Ingram- Alabama*- 5’9 1/8 215
What can you say about the 5’11 215 pound junior running back? Ingram is a tough north/south runner with good acceleration. He’s also an effective blocker in third down situations, and is a true every down back in the NFL. He doesn’t run out of bounds and can take the hard hits, throwing the shoulder into opposing defenders and bruising them. He can break a long touchdown at any time and has the hands to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Projection: 1st Round
2) Mikel Leshoure – Illinois*- 6’0 227
LeShoure is a big back in the mold of his predecessor Rashard Mendenhall. He is tough between the tackles, but lacks ideal speed. Regardless, he’s not an easy back to take down, and his stock has increased heavily. He had an excellent bowl game, and carried Illinois to a winning season and a bowl win. He could be a solid work horse at the next level.
Projection: 1st- 2nd
3) Kendall Hunter- Oklahoma State- 5’7 199
Hunter is sneaking up on 2011 draft boards with his exceptional running ability. While he’s on the small side, he has a lot of positives that will make him a coveted running back in April. Hunter is very quick, and shifty, and his best attribute is his patience in letting the blockers set up. He has a fantastic burst off the plant, often cutting off of a block, and excelling up the field quickly, making defenders miss.
4) Ryan Williams- Virginia Tech**- 5’9 212
Williams is a surprisingly powerful runner with the speed to break a play outside. He has excellent hands out of the backfield as well. Williams does a nice job hitting the hole and using his vision to gain extra yardage.
5) Shane Vereen- California*- 5’10 210
Shane Vereen is almost identical to Jahvid Best in terms of overall ability. He’s an excellent open field runner and is a threat to make a play catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s blessed with exceptional speed, and has a knack for making defenders miss. He needs a bit of work in pass protection, but in a two running back league, he could fill a big role for many teams.
6) Jordan Todman- UConn*- 5’9 203
Todman is a smaller, tough runner between the tackles. He hits hard, and can make plays out of the backfield. His production has been great in a rush heavy UConn offense.
7) DeMarco Murray- Oklahoma- 6’0 213
Murray is a fast running back, and he’s a very special player. However, he hasn’t been able to have the success that Oklahoma has wanted after suffering injuries in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Even then, he averaged over 5 yards a carry (6 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman), and got into the end zone quite a bit. Murray is excellent out of the backfield as a receiver and could easily be the best overall running back in this class. His health issues are reminiscent of former Top 10 pick, Adrian Peterson, but he has been known to have nagging injuries.
8 ) Daniel Thomas- Kansas State- 6’0 230
One of the most physically gifted players in the NCAA, Thomas can do it all. He can run, he can catch, and he can run the ball down your throat. With another great season for the mediocre Kansas State Wildcats, Thomas could solidify himself as a top running back in the entire nation, and potentially end up a 1st round pick. He’s extremely talented, and runs hard. He’s very quick, and slippery, but is also very good between the tackles.
9) Delone Carter – Syracuse- 5’9 222
Carter is a smaller guy with decent speed. He is good between the tackles and can break tackles and has amazing balance. He catches well out of the backfield, but really lacks the extra gear to break a long run. He has solid, but not exceptional vision, and needs to protect the ball better.
10) Taiwan Jones- Eastern Washington*- 6’0 194
Jones really ran all over the FCS competition in 2010. He has solid size, good speed, and acceleration and could be a nice sleeper. Problem is, the FCS competition isn’t very impressive, and he’s still a very raw runner overall.
11) Darren Evans – Virginia Tech*- 6’0 227
Evans is a bigger back with good speed once he reaches the second tier of the defense. He’s has solid patience and can break a long gain on every touch. He tore his ACL early in 2009 missing the season, allowing Ryan Williams to take over. Evans split time in 2010 with Williams, helping lead Virginia Tech to the Orange Bowl. Evans can be a bruiser at the next level with a bit more strength.
12) Mario Fannin- Auburn- 5’10 231
Fanning didn’t have the season he hope with Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCaleb stealing the show, but he’s a tough north/south runner who should get a few tryouts. Fannin was terrific at the 2011 NFL Combine, and saw his stock rise with excellent speed to match his size.
13) Bilal Powell- Louisville- 5’11 207
Powell is one of the more underrated runners in this draft. He has come out of nowhere to be one of the leading NCAA rushers in 2010. He runs hard, keeping his pad level low, and fighting for extra yards. He has above average speed to break long runs, and does a nice job hitting the extra gear in the secondary.
14) Roy Helu Jr.- Nebraska- 6’0 219
Say Helu to this powerful running back who has solid downhill speed. Roy Helu Jr. is a powerful downhill runner who has the speed to break a play into the secondary. He’s had a stellar career consistently breaking big runs. He’s a disciplined runner who can also make an impact in the passing game.
15) Jacquizz Rodgers- Oregon State*-5’6 196
Rodgers is a shifty runner who can make plays out of the backfield. He’s a bit on the small side, but has the speed to take it the distance. Rodgers utilizes his small stature in sneaking through between the tackles and is often hard to spot. His explosiveness gives him the ability to break a long run in the open field, and he makes tacklers miss with his agility when he’s got green in front of him
16) Dion Lewis- Pitt- 5’7 193**
Many are surprised with Lewis’ official declaration to enter the NFL Draft. After having a fantastic true freshman season, he slowed down a bit in 2010, splitting carries with Ray Graham at Pitt. Lewis hits the hole quickly, showing good patience and vision. He’s quick and can turn the corner, and does well catching the ball. But his size is a concern, and he won’t be able to take a beating. While he’s fast, he doesn’t have blazing speed that a smaller guy should have.
17) Da’Rel Scott- Maryland- 5’11 211
Scott is a bit on the light side, but he has exceptional speed. He could develop into a nice 3rd down back, and make plays in the passing game. He also has big play potential with his speed and power combination.
18) Johnny White, RB, North Carolina- 5’9 7/8 209
White is an athletic running back with good agility and strength. He has average vision and can be patient when he wants to be. Somewhat of a workout warrior, White is a dedicated football player.
19) Derrick Locke – Kentucky- 5’8 188
Locke is a smaller, quicker scat back in the mold of Darren Sproles. He uses his speed to get to the edge and makes defenders miss in the open field. Injury issues will make his stock fall, but when healthy, he’s one of the best.
20) Jamie Harper*- 5’11 233
Harper is a big bodied bruiser between the tackles. Alliteration aside, he’s a talented player who will be no worse than an excellent short yardage back. He isn’t a big play maker, and doesn’t have great timed speed, but he doesn’t go down easily.
Taua is a hard nosed north/south runner who doesn’t go down very easily. He has decent speed, but lacks explosiveness
22) Noel Devine- West Virginia- 5’8 179
Devine is a slippery runner who has the initial burst to get into the secondary quickly. He can be a force in the passing game as he can catch four to five balls a game and make plays after the catch. He’s a great screen runner and has the ability to be a home run threat with his top end speed. Despite his lack of size, he doesn’t go down as easy as expected, often breaking arm tackles with ease and driving his legs.
23) Stevan Ridley- LSU- 5’11 225
Ridley is a bit of a one year wonder. He did a nice job of making big plays, and running between the tackles. His stock may increase if he can work on his foot speed, and football IQ. He struggles in pass protection, and isn’t a big threat out of the backfield. He’s a one dimensional runner who still could find a home on a team who needs a hard nosed downhill runner with adequate speed.
24) John Clay- Wisconsin*- 6’1 230
Clay is a big, punishing north/south running back. His 255 pounds make his speed just mediocre, and he draws a lot of comparisons from former Wisconsin standout Ron Dayne. Clay is not an every down back, and struggles in pass protection, but is a Brandon Jacobs type guy who you ant in the red zone. If you try to tackle this guy head on, you will be punished as he will lower his shoulder
25) Shaun Draughn – North Carolina- 5’11 213
Draughn is a decent third down back who can block well and catch out of the backfield. He struggles between the tackles
26) Graig Cooper- Miami (Fl.)- 5’10 205
Cooper is an underrated runner with excellent vision who makes good cuts off his blocks. He never lit the NCAA up in rush stats in a crowded backfield, and battled some nagging injuries. He could be one of the most underrated runners that could develop like fellow Miami graduates Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee.
27) Damien Berry- Miami (Fl.)- 5’10 211
Berry is a deceivingly quick runner who uses his athleticism to make plays all over the field. With a good combine, he could move up a few rounds in the NFL Draft.
28) Evan Royster- Penn State- 6’0 212
Royster has been a reliable running back for Penn State in his career. He’s not very fast, but he’s a powerful downhill runner. He’s a pure north/south runner who has better than average hands. He won’t break many big runs, but he’s effective in short yardage situations.
29) Brandon Saine- Ohio State- 5’11 220
Saine made a name for himself with excellent speed at Ohio State. He bulked up a bit and slowed down, but has good vision, and excellent hands to make plays out of the backfield.
30) Armando Allen – Notre Dame- 5’8 199
Allen isn’t a big threat to make a huge play, but he runs well north/south and has decent vision.
31) Baron Batch – Texas Tech- 5’10 210
Despite Texas Tech’s spread offense, Batch has made a name for himself. He projects nicely as a 3rd down back, excelling in pass protection as well as running sweeps, counters and draw plays.
32) Anthony Allen – Georgia Tech- 6’1 228
Allen replaced Jon Dwyer in a triple option attack at Georgia Tech. He’s a powerful downhill runner who doesn’t go down on first contact.
33) Allen Bradford- USC- 5’11 242
Bradford is a bigger back who is excellent between the tackles. He’s a tough runner that doesn’t go down on the first tackle often. Bradford got caught up in a mix of many USC backs, therefore didn’t have excellent production at USC.
34) Nic Grigsby – Arizona- 5’10 190
Grigsby doesn’t have ideal size, but he runs hard between the tackles, and hits the hole hard. He could afford to protect the ball better.
35) Matt Asiata -Utah- 5’11 229
I like Asiata quite a bit, and he could up being drafted based on toughness and athleticism. He’s quite versatile.
36) Donald Buckram – UTEP- 5’10 195
Buckram is a smaller, hard runner with solid speed. He has decent hands and can line up in the slot if needed.
37) C.J. Gable – USC- 6’0 205
Gable was a part of the running back by committee in USC. He’s a solid runner between the tackles with a lot of untapped potential.
38) Josh Nesbitt – Georgia Tech- 6’1 215
Nesbitt played quarterback in the Georgia Tech triple option. He’s a great athlete who will have to make the transition as a runner in the NFL.
39) Vondrell McGee- Texas- 5’10 205
McGhee uses his solid speed to break long runs, but he’s only mediocre between the tackles. He still has the power to push the pile.
40) Ricky Dobbs- Navy- 6’1 203
Dobbs is a tremendous athlete who played quarterback in Navy’s triple option. He has good speed and is very tough, and could be utilized on trick plays at the next level.
41) Emmanuel Moody – Florida- 5’11 215
Moody has good size and speed, but he has poor vision. He does a good job of making people miss in the open field.
42) Eddie Wide – Utah- 5’10 195
Wide is a versatile runner who can make plays in the passing game, as well as line up as a slot receiver. He has the speed to turn the corner on sweeps and toss plays as well.
43) Derrick Washington- Missouri- 6’0 215
Washington won’t get much love being in the Missouri spread offense, but he has been effective out of the backfield and uses his speed to create mismatches in the passing game.
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