Rating the NFL draft prospects: Running backs
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
April 20, 2013

1. EDDIE LACY, Alabama (5-11, 229, 4.58, 1) - Fourth-year junior backed up Mark Ingram in 2010 and Trent Richardson in '11 before splitting carries with freshman T.J. Yeldon last season. "There's really not a ton of difference between him and Richardson," one scout said. "He runs more violently, actually. He's a big back. I like that. He hits the hole fast. He's a pro running back." Finished with 1,322 yards in '12 compared to 1,108 for Yeldon. "Can he be the lead guy in a committee? Sure," another scout said. "Can he be the solo back like Adrian Peterson? I wouldn't bank on it. He may have as much ability as Ingram and Richardson. However, he's been nicked up virtually the whole time he was there. He had a toe that required surgery, he had a hand, an elbow and now the hamstring. The last vision people have of Lacy is jump, bend, twist, spin, explode and (Notre Dame MLB Manti) Te'o grabbing air. If you could evaluate him in the vacuum of the Georgia and Notre Dame games, then he's a first-round pick." Three-year stats include 355 rushes for 2,402 yards (6.8 average) and 35 receptions for 338 (9.7). Scored 17 on the 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test. Out of Geismar, La. "He'll be good but he probably won't be great just because he doesn't have that speed," a third scout said. "He's punishing. He just doesn't have that dynamic skill set. A lot of big backs don't. That's what he is: He's a big power guy."

2. MONTEE BALL, Wisconsin (5-10˝, 214, 4.58, 2) - Record-setting back started the final 32 games of his 49-game career. "I know one thing - he's productive," one scout said. "I'd rather have a guy that scores touchdowns than one that doesn't and runs 4.5." His pedestrian 40 times prompted another scout to label him as a "pounder, a plodder." Finished with 924 carries for 5,140 yards (5.6) and 77 TDs. Also caught 59 passes for 598 (10.1) and six TDs, giving him an NCAA-record 83 scores. "I like him but he's got a lot of carries in his body," the scout said. "He's had a concussion, and a subsequent concussion. And I'm not totally sure what kind of kid he is." Was cited for trespassing in May 2012 and then was assaulted on a Madison street late at night. "Some people have high grades on him and I'm like, 'What are you thinking about?' " another scout said. "How many big plays do you get out of those guys? He's probably not going to get a lot of big plays because he lacks speed. But he's got some lower-body strength and run vision. Instinctive kid. I can see him in the rotation, not as the starter." Hails from Wentzville, Mo.

3. LE'VEON BELL, Michigan State (6-1˝, 229, 4.57, 2-3) - Third-year junior. "I like his size and athletic ability," Tennessee scout Johnny Meads said. "He doesn't run as hard as you want him to for his size but he makes up for it with his agility and smoothness for a big man." Led the nation with 382 carries in '12 when the Spartans' passing game fizzled. "Has a chance to be a pounder," one scout said. "He catches the ball a little better than Lacy. Got a little better speed but not quite as good balance. He's got the makings of a No. 1 back." Hails from Columbus, Ohio. Finished with 671 carries for 3,346 yards (5.0) and 78 receptions for 531 (6.8). "He danced too much sometimes, but the more I watched him I saw he has some natural run skills that I don't know if you can coach or not," another scout said. "He can move people. He can get a linebacker to step the wrong way. For his size, he wasn't a physical runner, but as we know physical runners don't last. He played on a team that wasn't very good so defenses could play to him, and he still made yards."

4. GIOVANI BERNARD, North Carolina (5-8˝, 203, 4.52, 2-3) - Third-year sophomore who didn't play in 2010 after blowing out his knee in August. "He's a tricky little dude," one scout said. "He runs hard, too. Breaks tackles for a little guy because he's all knees and pads. Catches it good." Came back from the ACL injury to rush for 2,481 yards (5.9) and catch 92 passes for 852 (9.3). "I think he goes down too easy but, boy, he's got some shake and bake now," another scout said. "He lacks power. He's a 15-carry-a-game guy." Scored the highest (25) of the RBs on the Wonderlic. Not as good as Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, according to another scout. "He's a little bit like (C.J.) Spiller in that he's a slippery back," a fourth scout said. "He has good contact balance. He is tough and he does run inside. Is he a first-rounder? No." From Davie, Fla.

5. JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN, UCLA (5-10, 200, 4.50, 3) - Came out of South Central L.A. to break Gaston Green's school record with 4,403 yards (5.6) in 788 carries. His goal is to become mayor of Los Angeles. "What a great kid," said Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl and former Browns GM. "He's a team player. There's no downside to taking him on your team. I really like him as a role contributor." Runs hard for his size. "Good little back," one scout said. "He's small and slow. You like the vision and run instincts and production. But he's not a starter." Also caught 58 passes for 517 (8.9). "Nice little player," said another scout. "Not overly fast. He's just got great vision and just makes yards. Understands angles. Plays hard."

6. ANDRE ELLINGTON, Clemson (5-9˝, 196, 4.45, 3-4) - Took over for Spiller in 2010. "He's really fast," one scout said. "He's improved a lot catching the ball. He's a big-play threat no matter where he is on the field. The durability has to check out on Ellington, but you can say that about most of these running backs." Battled injures year after year. "He's a speed guy that can give you a home run or two and do some things on special teams," said another scout. Hails from Moncks Corner, S.C. Finished with 621 carries for 3,436 yards (5.5) and 59 catches for 505 (8.6). "Good player, but not a special player," a third scout said. "I question his pass blocking."

7. CHRISTINE MICHAEL, Texas A&M (5-10, 215, 4.47, 3-4) - Led all RBs in vertical jump (43 inches) and broad jump (10-5). "He's a stud," one scout said. "If you took character out of the equation I'd take him over Ball. Very, very talented player. There's a lot of similarity between him and (Baltimore's Bernard) Pierce." Suffered a torn ACL in Game 9 of 2011 and was suspended for Game 3 of 2012 by coach Kevin Sumlin, who replaced Mike Sherman. Didn't play much after that. "This guy looks like a Greek god," Savage said. "The question will be the reliability off the field." Finished with 529 carries for 2,791 yards (5.3) and 44 catches for 323 (7.3). Out of Beaumont, Texas. First name is pronounced "Kristin." Wonderlic of 11. "Kind of a malcontent," another scout said. "He didn't get along with the new staff. I guess maybe he's turned that around. Who knows? He's got upside."

8. KENJON BARNER, Oregon (5-9, 194, 4.43, 4) - Replaced LaMichael James last season and rushed for 1,767 yards. "Most people wonder, 'Is he LaMichael James?' " one scout said. "That kind of speed, yes, but LaMichael had better ability to make people miss and was a little tougher as well. Barner takes bigger hits than you need to take, especially when you're an undersized back like that." Finished with 582 carries for 3,623 yards (6.2) and 54 catches for 591 (10.9). "That whole system really helps those guys," said another scout. "You're so scared of the offense you lose sight of the backs. He's a good inside runner. Quick starter. Speed to the corner." From Riverside, Calif.

9. STEPFAN TAYLOR, Stanford (5-9, 213, 4.71, 4-5) - Surpassed 1,000 yards three years in a row, giving him 4,300 yards in 843 carries (5.1). "I like him because he's so consistent," one scout said. "He's never missed. The all-time leading rusher at Stanford." Sells out against the blitz, often stopping pass rushers cold. Just not very fast or athletic. "He is kind of a poor man's Lacy," another scout said. "He's better in the receiving game than Lacy but doesn't quite have the initial quickness and make-miss that Lacy has." Caught 97 passes for 778 (8.0). Flashes ability to elude tacklers in close quarters. Hails from Mansfield, Texas.

10. MARCUS LATTIMORE, South Carolina (5-11, 219, 4.65, 4-5) - Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier called him the most popular player in team history. It's probably because he never felt sorry for himself after suffering a torn left ACL in mid-2011 and then three torn ligaments and a dislocated right kneecap Oct. 27 last season. "I've had trainers tell me he's so far away," one scout said. "One told me he's not going to make it back ever. Others say he'll get back to a certain level. It's a tough repair and a tough rehab." Rushed for 1,197 yards as a true freshman in 2010. "He wasn't a real talent or anything," another scout said. "He's a 4.7. He was good because he's smart (Wonderlic of 18), understands the (game) and is a great kid. He would have found a way to make yards in the league." Finished with 2,677 yards (4.8) in 555 carries and 74 catches for 767 (10.4). Out of Duncan, S.C. "I think the world of the kid," a third scout said. "It will all come down to the doctors."

11. JOSEPH RANDLE, Oklahoma State (5-10, 203, 4.69, 4-5) - Third-year junior. "He's more a straight-line, downhill runner," one scout said. "And he's not a real big back to do stuff like that." Rushed 564 times for 3,085 yards (5.5) and caught 108 passes for 917 (8.5). Regarded as a character risk by some teams. "Not a great kid but a pretty good runner," another scout said. "He runs tough and he can make you miss. He made (Texas FS) Kenny Vaccaro look like an idiot in the open field. Plays faster than his 4.6." Hails from Wichita, Kan.

12. KNILE DAVIS, Arkansas (5-11˝, 224, 4.38, 4-5) - Third-year junior. Led the Southeastern Conference in rushing as a freshman with 1,322 yards before suffering a broken ankle in August 2011 and missing the season. Fumbled eight times early in 2012 and had a terrible year (112 carries, 377 yards, 3.4) in limited action. "He's so soft and timid," one scout said. "I've never seen a guy fumble like him where people just breathe on him and he drops the ball. Doesn't play to that timed speed at all. You think injuries have taken their toll, but he can still run fast so it's nothing to do with being injury. On the field he just doesn't have it." Marvelous combine workout included RB-leading 31 reps on the bench press. Hails from Missouri City, Texas, and is well-acquainted with Green Bay executive Alonzo Highsmith, who lived there until last year. "He has a chance to be a better pro than college player," another scout said. "He had flashes in college but just couldn't stay healthy."

OTHERS: Spencer Ware, Louisiana State; Mike Gilleslee, Florida; Rex Burkhead, Nebraska; Kerwynn Williams, Utah State; Mike James, Miami; Cierre Wood, Notre Dame; Theo Riddick, Notre Dame; Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt; Michael Ford, Louisiana State; Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook; Jawan Jamison, Rutgers; Onterio McCalebb, Auburn.


FULLBACKS

1. KYLE JUSZCZYK, Harvard (6-1˝, 248, 4.72, 4-5) - Stands a chance to be the first player drafted this year that wasn't invited to the combine. "He played more tight end and flex tight end there," one scout said. "But you watch him at the Senior Bowl and it was like he's played fullback his whole life. He is not going to be your Lorenzo Neal who decapitates you at the point. But he is really athletic, has great hands and good run skills. He is a MAC (Mid-American Conference) player that was smart enough to get into Harvard. He will clean the toilet if you want him to." Just three career carries but caught 125 passes for 1,576 yards (12.6). Out of Medina, Ohio. Wonderlic of 31. "Ideal West Coast fullback," Savage said.

2. ZACH LINE, Southern Methodist (6-0˝, 231, 4.77, 5-6) - Featured back with three 1,000-yard seasons. "When he gets in a camp you're not going to run him off because he won't let you," Tennessee scouting supervisor C.O. Brocato said. "Nothing great about the guy. He's just a good football player. I like his toughs. Just an everyday player. He runs hard. He blocks. Not a speed guy." Finished with 778 carries for 4,185 yards (5.4) and 75 catches for 599 (8.0). "Not really a true fullback," another scout said. "He's going to be a bigger No. 1 running back and short-yardage guy." From Oxford, Mich.

3. LONNIE PRYOR, Florida State (5-11˝, 225, 4.67, 6) - Played mostly fullback but looked good at tailback down the stretch last season. "If you watch the bowl game (Orange Bowl) he had two 60-yard runs where he beat angles," one scout said. "Big butt, bubble thighs, good calves, so he's not going to be able to get much bigger. Heck of a lead blocker but I don't know if he'll ever be big enough." Learning doesn't come easily. Finished with 124 carries for 718 yards (5.8) and 41 catches for 379 (9.2). Hails from Okeechobee, Fla.

OTHERS: Tommy Bohanon, Wake Forest; Zach Boren, Ohio State; Braden Wilson, Kansas State; Alex Debniak, Stanford; Darius Taylor, Sam Houston State.