There has been a big difference between the rookie campaign of last year’s top running back selection, Adrian Peterson, and the rookie year of 2006’s top running back selection, Reggie Bush. Peterson was rookie of the year in 2007, and he finished second in rushing despite missing several games. Reggie Rush, on the other hand, was average at best in the rushing game and prevailed more as a receiver and punt returner than as a feature back.
So what will be the fate of the running back selected as the first RB of the 2008 NFL Draft? Who will be the first running back selected in this year’s draft?
Here are the top running back prospects and their rankings. Enjoy!
1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas, 6’2″, 212 pounds – I think that there is very little question who the best running back in the nation is. McFadden was the likely candidate to be the top RB entering the 2007 college football season, and he remains the top candidate after the 2007 college football season. We all know about the speed (4.4 40-yard dash), the size (6’2″, 212 pounds), and the comparisons (Eddie George), but putting that all aside, just look at the game tape. This man ran roughshod over the best defensive conference in the entire nation. He even broke records with 300+-yard-rushing game in the SEC! On top of that, he has outstanding versatility where he essentially quarterbacked the offense at times by executing the option and even throwing passes at times. Some scouts are worried about this upright running style and the shots that could leave him vulnerable to at the next level. But Eddie George had no problem staying on the field with the same running style, so it should not deter any team from drafting him.
2. Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois, 5’11”, 225 pounds – Mendenhall is a big boy- excuse me, man! And his size dominated the Big 10, including an impressive performance against eventual Big 10 champion, Ohio State. Despite his size, he has great feet and quickness, and his hands are not that bad when coming out of the backfield to catch passes. His size and 4.55-speed make him a prototypical running back that should start immediately once he enters the league. He might be taken out on third downs because of his inexperience pass blocking, but he has demonstrated the focus and ability to learn in the months since season’s end.
3. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon, 5’11”, 233 pounds – Remember that big running back that ran all over Michigan? Yeah, that was Stewart. And at 233 pounds, he plans to run over NFL defenses as well. He has great speed to go with his size, and in fact, he is very similar to Mendenhall. The big difference is that he is not quite as adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. But when scouts look at him, they see a quick-footed, strong, runner that can have a draining effect on defenses; much like Jerome Bettis was in his heyday.
4. Jamaal Charles, Texas, 6’1″, 205 pounds – Charles is undoubtedly the fastest running back in this class. He has world-class speed (he was a college sprinter) and he gets in the open field, it is pretty much over for the defense. Despite his lack of size, he seems to get stronger as the game carries on. And while he Charles could certainly work on his pass blocking, he probably will be utilized on third downs early in his career due to his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make the big play.
5. Felix Jones, Arkansas, 6’0″, 205 pounds – Jones is another fast running back with dynamic open field moves and quick-cutting ability. He is also a great receiver, and not just for a running back, but also as a receiver period he could be very effective on the NFL level. He too is quite small, and that may limit the number of carries he can take in the NFL, but his ability to return punts and kicks will allow a team to get added value out of him if they choose to do so.
6. Ray Rice, Rutgers, 5’9″, 197 pounds
7. Mike Hart, Michigan, 5’9″, 200 pounds
8. Chris Johnson, East Carolina, 5’10”, 195 pounds
9. Kevin Smith, Central Florida, 6’1″, 213 pounds
10. Steve Slaton, West Virginia, 5’10”, 196 pounds