The Grand National Championships

April 4, 2009

Day 1 Prospect Breakdown: Running Backs

The running back class this season is no great, but it is better than some of the past classes in history. Of course, in this modern NFL world, you have to be sure in a running back, because like Ryan Grant or Priest Holmes? You can get good value late. So why be early? Take a look at the prospects.

Chris Wells

1. Chris Wells (Ohio State)
6’1″ 237 4.52

The good thing about Beanie? His run talent. In that proverbial defensive box? Wells is a killer. He runs hard between the tackles, and runs through defenders. Let alone the sweet, sweet stiff-arm. He has an excellent size-speed ratio. And while he may gather to cut, if he breaks through the first level? He can take it to the barn.

The problem? The intangibles. He runs hot and cold. His injuries have been many and minor. He needs to have someone keep on him to work. I know, he’s young and intangibles can improve. But I can’t write a paragraph on fumbling problems alone.

Now, there are some who want to compare him to Adrian Peterson. If he had the intangibles? Yeah. Adrian Peterson can win games by himself. Chris Wells may soon? But it may take a while. And the football fans know what I mean when I talk about a talented power runner with poor intangibles.

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2. Knowshon Moreno Georgia
5’11” 217 4.61

There is a lot to like about Knowshon. He is a hard, determined runner with excellent leg drive. He has excellent mobility and vision. He is not someone who can stay got. You can use him as a weapon on screens and angle routes. And it may be both a plus and a minus, but he did not have to be the bellcow.

And while he is a hard, determined runner. He does not have power to his game. He can run upright. And he does not have the bulk to make that style work for 25-30 carries. He can be tracked down, because he does not have the blazing speed.

He reminds me a lot of a more-versatile Clinton Portis. He runs hard between the tackles with an undersized frame. He has excellent mobility, and while Portis timed faster, Moreno plays to his timed speed. You give him 25 touches a game? He’ll be great for six years.

LeSean McCoy

3. LeSean McCoy Pittsburgh
5’11” 204 4.48

LeSean McCoy has quick feet and that vision thing. He gas a great ability to find his way into the cutback lane. He’s got an excellent ability to make the first defender miss. He has good hands and an excellent nose for the end zone. His intangibles are decent. He’ll never be a captain, but he comes to play and brings his lunch.

He’s does have that Clinton Portis thing of being unable to play to his timed speed. More agile than explosive. He does have a dancing problem. He runs east-west entirely too much. And in traffic, a loose hand can make the ball go bye-bye.

But you know what? He’s got upside. He can either go one of two ways. He can be a Clinton Portis styled slasher. Or he can be solid for 12 years like Warrick Dunn. There’s good value in this late 1st round pick.

Donald Brown

4. Donald Brown UConn
5’10” 208 4.42

There’s a lot to like here as well. Brown is not powerful, but he has nice strength for his size and he does run hard. As last season showed? He has durability. He is spectacular at getting to the corner. He is great at being a one-cut runner. And despite having a -5 passing game on a scale of 1 to 10? Brown has great hands.

However? That timed number is not his football speed. His acceleration is not spectacular either. And he does need more work on his receiving skills. But like McCoy and Moreno? There’s a lot more good then bad.

Now, there’s not much sex-appeal to Donald Brown. His comparisons are to guys like Willie Parker and the Platinum Pierre Thomas. But you know what? Some team is going to get him in the second round. And they are going to like him. He has a Tiki Barberish upside.

The third round is going to be rich with running backs. I could see five running backs going in this round. Shonn Greene and Andre Brown are both powerbacks who could yet sneak into the second round. Rashad Jennings is a small school powerback stud. Javon Ringer is going to be a productive waste of a pick. Mike Goodson is the speedy dude who may be nothing more than a tease. And James Davis is the Thunder of Tommy Bowden’s nightmares.

Outside linebackers are next.

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