Running backs are a dime a dozen, or so it is said, both implicitly and explicitly in NFL Draft circles. The prevalence of RBBC (that’s running back by committee) with two, and even three, backs have made being a professional ball carrier a tough proposition. It’s made it even tougher for college players looking to make their marks as the next great NFL running back. These days, it doesn’t pay, in more ways than one, to be the best the NCAA has to offer at the position.
In 2012, three of college football’s best rushers were selected in the top 32 picks. Of those three, only Doug Martin has had much success, and injuries have derailed him over the past few seasons. Since then, the NFL Draft hasn’t been kind, with round two being the highest landing spot. It seemed to be a given that teams just weren’t going to spend first round money at that position. Now, along comes the potential 2015 NFL Draft class, which just might change some people’s minds.
Todd Gurley: Gurley is the player aiming to resurrect the position in the eyes of scouts. At 6’1” and 230 lbs, he brings a linebacker’s size and power, but adds breakaway speed that puts him on another level. Guys who are that big aren’t supposed to move that well, with that kind of grace. He’s just as likely to shift his feet and leave a defender grasping at empty space as he is to lower his shoulder and leave that same defender laying on his back wondering about the license plate number of the truck that just hit him. His biggest concern is his physical running style, which could result in games missed, but the potential will be too much to pass up. His recent suspension won’t stop NFL teams either. Look for Gurley to go in the top 20 next year.
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Melvin Gordon: If “Who can bring speed” is the question, then Gordon is the answer. He’s a big play waiting to happen, and a game changer out of the backfield, who could also hear his name early in next year’s draft. Gordon isn’t just a home-run hitter though. His balance and vision make him a solid runner between the tackles, and his uncanny acceleration gets him though running lanes quickly. Offensive linemen won’t have to hold blocks for long for him. He’s also stronger than he looks, and can get tough yards when needed. It’s his big play ability that gets the attention however. He’s more of a total package than he gets credit for, but he’s not quite at Gurley’s level. Still, chicks, and NFL teams, love the long ball, so Gordon is going to find a home quickly.
Others to watch: He may not be known nationally as well as Gurley and Gordon, but Nebraska fans know Ameer Abdullah is a stud. He’s a tough runner, but a versatile player who can help a team in many ways. NFL teams will come for the excitement, and stay for the production. South Carolina’s Mike Davis will get some consideration early as well. A slow start has affected his numbers, but his talents are obvious. He’ll need to stay healthy, something that has been an issue for him.