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2005 NFL RB Draft Class
Version 4.0

No more parades like livestock at an auction. No more superfluous tasks performed on demand like a circus animal. For what they are worth, the ambiguous and ubiquitous “measurables”, the final key in evaluation of a potential draftee, have been “officially” recorded, and re-recorded, between the Combine, Pro Days, and individual workouts. In the end, we get so many different interpretations, depending on the party and their motivation, that the only guys who come out clearly defined after all this are those who really excelled and those who really sucked. And all that still is combined with collegiate performance, film evaluation, scout opinions, interviews, medical reports, background checks, and other external factors (team needs, draft day trades, flow of the draft, etc.) before the subjective decision by GMs of who to pick where are made. The bottom line is, while a fun activity, full mock drafts and trying to identify the specific round a player will go the deeper you go in the draft is an exercise in futility. So instead of a formal value board, I’ve grouped this RB class in more general terms, explained under each heading. This is not a ranking of future value per se, just where I expect them to be drafted on April 23rd or 24th.

Name - School, Height, Weight, 40

Blue Chips
Barring any surprises prior to draft day, the first round is pretty much set. Like pretty much every other prognosticator and draftnik, I expect the Big Three to go in the first 32 picks.

Ronnie Brown (Auburn) 6’0” 233 4.48
Decision to skip Senior Bowl was validated by his Combine and Pro Day performances. As expected, his workouts had the final say in his perceived value. He is almost unanimously viewed as the number one RB in the draft, and considered by some the top player overall. Offers the complete package, has excellent measurables, and is the highest rated RB since Ladainian Tomlinson heading into the draft. Should be a top five pick, as early as second to Miami.

Carnell Williams (Auburn) 5’11” 217 4.50
Like former teammate Ronnie Brown, Cadillac solidified his high rating by working out at the Combine and at Auburn’s Pro Day. He had put on about 10 pounds from his playing weight, but it did not impact his speed at all, repeatedly running a solid 4.5 flat at the Combine. He also displayed excellent hands and all-around ability in drills. He probably has the edge over Benson as the second back taken overall, and could go as early as the fourth (TB) or fifth (Chicago) pick.

Cedric Benson (Texas) 5’11” 222 4.59
Decision to not workout at Combine hurt him, as Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown impressed. He may now be rated behind both on many boards. Reports of his 40 time at the Texas Pro Day range from 4.51 to 4.68, but most seem to have him between 4.55 and 4.6. Overall, it sounds like he didn’t impress. While he’s still one of the top RBs, and despite the fact many downplay the time because he is a power runner, pedestrian speed for the position will likely stop a team for reaching for him too early. In his draft coverage on Yahoo!, Charles Robinson makes an apt comparison to Kevin Jones last year, who fell from early first round consideration after disappointing workouts. I’d expect him to fall to the bottom third of the first round, but if Brown and Williams both go early, and they don’t land Travis Henry, Arizona could grab him.

Day One
These names will be called before ESPN ends coverage on April 23rd.

Marion Barber III (Minnesota) 5'11" 221 4.48
Helped himself running in the 4.5-even range at Minnesota’s Pro Day. After some slower than expected times for some of the other backs in the second tier, he has climbed by default, as well. Classic example of a back that does many things well, but nothing really spectacular. However, with his measurables, the potential is greater to make it as a feature RB. Could go as early as the fourth RB taken and no later than the early third round. The Colts could be a surprise suitor, as the Edge Situation remains tenuous and Barber is comfortable playing on carpet.

Ciatrick Fason (Florida) 6’1” 207 4.57
While he claims to have run a sub-4.5, most reports have him in mid-4.5 range with the wind and mid-4.6 against it in bad weather (for Florida) at the Gators first Pro Day. A better 40 time could have positioned him to be the fourth (or better) RB taken, but if he isn’t, he should be among the next few selected. He came in a bit light, and needs to put on some weight to be an every-down runner, but he has the frame to support it. Jacksonville has been mentioned as interested, despite being deep at RB – although they appear to be moving Greg Jones to FB. Jerry Angelo has displayed a fondness for Gators, so if the Bears don’t go RB with their first pick, he’s a logical second round selection for them.

Eric Shelton (Louisville) 6’2” 246 4.54
When a guy is a few ticks under 6’2”, carrying 246 pounds, and puts up a sub-4.6 time at the Combine, but gets little pub, it tells you how deep this draft class is (or how in love with the Big Three most pundits are). Some reports have him considered one of the top five backs in the draft by at least one team. Baltimore or Dallas with their second or third round pick seem possible fits.

Likely Day One
Now we really start to get into the gray area. Any one of these guys could be the fourth RB selected, but one or two of them could also fall to Day Two.

Johnathan “J.J.” Arrington (California) 5’9” 214 4.46
After a lackluster Senior Bowl, raised his stock considerably at the Combine. He was the fastest RB clocked in Indianapolis, posting sub-4.5 times on both runs. Following a very similar path as Tatum Bell on his way to draft day: tremendous production in breakout season, then off-season questions about size alleviated when he demonstrates breakaway speed at Combine. Pretty much locked up a Day One pick, but how early depends on how concerned some teams may be about his lack of ideal size for a feature back. I could see a team like the Bucs pursuing him in the second or third round if they pass on RB in the first.

Vernand Morency (Oklahoma State) 5’10” 212 4.66
Another player who made a bad decision in not working out at the Combine. He was in the mid-4.6 range on both his runs on grass at Miami’s Pro Day. However, he was impressive in his workouts. Still has a Day One grade, but his delusions of being a first rounder are over. He’ll be between the fifth and tenth RB selected. Age could be another X-Factor that drops him.

Kevin “Kay-Jay” Harris (West Virginia) 6’0” 236 4.56
Ran mid-4.6 at the Combine, but dropped a few pounds and put up a couple sub-4.6 times at West Virginia’s Pro Day. Concerns about his limited resume and injury history seem to be on the decline as he continues to impress with his effort and receiving skills in workouts. Potential to be a feature back is undeniable, limited resume hurts and age remains an issue.

Borderline Day One/Early Day Two
Victims of a numbers game. In less deep drafts, I think these guys carry a late Day One grade. This year, it would take an uncharacteristically high number of RBs being drafted early for them to make it.

Ryan Moats (Louisiana Tech) 5’8” 210 4.49
He deserves a higher ranking, but his lack of prototype size for a feature back is likely to be held against him enough that he’ll slip to late Day One/early Day Two and end up being one of the steals of the draft, a la Dominack Davis.

Brandon Jacobs (SIU) 6’4” 267 4.56
His freakish measurables seem to be creating more questions than they answer. Some think, despite his speed, he is too big and upright to be a feature runner. Others see the speed at his size and think of potential to utilize them at other positions. Regardless of what an NFL team plans to do with him, it seems unlikely he’ll go later than the fourth round.

Day Two
This group I’m pretty solid on, as far as the likelihood of being Day Two or later picks. The most RBs drafted on Day One (first three rounds) in the last ten years is 11, and we’ve already covered 11 backs, with a good chance a few could slip to Day Two.

Walter Reyes (Syracuse) 5’10” 209 4.49
Perhaps no good RB prospect that deserved more recognition has had a more unfortunate turn of events since the 2003 season. Between untimely illness and injuries he missed a rare national TV appearance by the Orangemen, had to leave their Bowl game early, and missed all-star game opportunities. He was an afterthought to the media at the Combine and for his Pro Day, but his workouts have been decent and his overall college resume is impressive. As he has been throughout his career, he’ll be overlooked at the Draft and fall to Day Two, but he could be one of the steals of the draft.

Cedric Houston (Tennessee - 4SR) 5’11” 225 4.60
Part of a quartet of guys who came to major programs as high school blue chips, pass the eyeball test, and have size to take the pounding of a feature back, but carry plenty of questions and lack breakaway speed. After passing at the Combine, all reports are both his times were very close to a 4.6 flat. He has less risk than Gore, Clarett, or McClendon, so should come off the board first.

Frank Gore (Miami) 5’9” 217 4.65
Reportedly played over 220, showed up under that at the Combine, then was only 208 at Miami’s Pro Day, likely an attempt to help his speed and agility. Still, only ran mid-4.6 twice. With the knee history and now lacking size, if he plans to play around 210, he’s no better than a Day Two pick, which is where the Draft Advisory Committee told him he’d go before the lackluster workouts.

Maurice Clarett (formerly Ohio State) 5’11” 234 4.67
After a terrible Combine, where quitting after his disappointing 40’s hurt him as much as his poor times in them, Clarett bounced back, reportedly running a couple sub-4.7 times at an individual workout. Despite all the baggage, someone will take a flyer on him Day Two.

Tristian “T.A.” McClendon (North Carolina State) 5’10 235 4.63
Freshman wonder that has disappointed since, on and off the field. Perfect size, but disappointing speed he slightly improved from Combine to Pro Day. Sound familiar? He is following a very similar path as Maurice Clarett in trying to make it to the NFL (albeit at least T.A. was on a team the last couple of years). Another guy likely to get a shot just on potential, but I’d be less surprised to see him fall to an undrafted FA than Clarett. Could be considered as a FB-tweener by some teams after displaying some impressive strength (27 reps) at the Combine.

Darren Sproles (Kansas State) 5’6” 187 4.46
Good receiving skills and outstanding return ability give him more value than your average undersized speedster. He’ll never be a feature back, but he is explosive and can contribute in a variety of ways and will get selected.

Anthony Davis (Wisconsin) 5’7” 200 4.46
Despite being injury-plagued the last two seasons, he’d be a Day One pick in a bigger body. Not as versatile as Sproles or some other undersized runners, he’ll need to improve his blocking and receiving to be a solid third down back.

Alvin Pearman (Virginia) 5’9” 208 4.55
A bit of a riser the last few weeks after being on a rollercoaster the last year. After falling behind Wali Lundy the last few years, Pearman leapfrogged him in the 2004 season and went from standout multi-purpose threat to excelling in a feature role. Left the MPC Computer Bowl with a knee injury that prevented him from showcasing his skills in all-star games and probably contributed to his 4.6+ 40 times at the Combine. A month later, he posted some sub-4.6 times and had an all-around strong performance at VA’s Pro Day, which has him on the rise. He is a Mewelde Moore-type, limited measurables, but excels in the receiving game and as a returner, which should find him work on Sundays.

End Game
An assortment of prospects with one or more intriguing facets, but currently looking like no more than undrafted free agents. Some could sneak into late Day Two, most will be undrafted free agents, and the rest will be in another line of work this fall.

DeWhitt Betterson (Troy) 6’0” 218 4.60
Perhaps the biggest Combine snub, he was a successful workhorse RB with a target on his back in one of the worst passing offenses in the country the last two years. Built on success in all-star barnstorming tour with very good Pro Day, showing better speed than expected. He isn’t getting any hype, but I believe he’s climbing on draft boards and will end up drafted or a highly-pursued UDFA.

Damien Nash (Missouri) 5’10” 218 4.54
Knee problems and Gary Pinkel derailed a once-promising career. Solid workouts, he ran several sub-4.6 40’s, so his speed looks decent and he can catch the ball a little too. Could be the RB with the most potential that doesn’t get drafted.

Alex Haynes (Central Florida) 5’10” 224 4.51
Proved between Combine and Pro Day he’s a solid 4.5 guy. Injury history sabotages achievements as a workhorse back in college. Could sneak into Day Two, but definitely one of the better UDFA options if he isn’t picked.

Derrick Wimbush (Fort Valley State) 6’0” 222 4.65
Shined in the Hula Bowl, but shut out of Combine. Faces the lack of respect and historical challenges of comparison all lower level players get, but he has intriguing size and outstanding collegiate achievement. In classes with less depth, would likely be a seventh round pick, but will end up in an NFL camp as an UDFA if he’s not chosen in the draft. Reports of 40 time vary widely, from 4.5 to 4.8.

DeCori Birmingham (Arkansas) 5’10” 210 4.64
Excellent hands, spent some time as a WR, and solid return skills keep interest in him. Impressive all-star performance was offset by poor Combine, where he ran solidly in the 4.65 range. However, he allegedly was in the 4.55 range at his Pro Day. Game film will reveal he has a knack for the big play, which, along with his versatility, should get him an opportunity as a multi-purpose back. Better speed would make him a Day Two lock, but I have to think he’s leaning more toward UDFA now.

Jabari Davis (Tennessee) 5’11” 243 4.73
Buried in Phil Fulmer’s doghouse in 2004 after a solid history of as a short-yardage back with solid hands and occasional feature work. A tweener who is likely to be looked at as a FB, especially after a disappointing 40 time, although it came shortly after allegedly pulling his hamstring at an early Pro Day (he was reportedly a sub-4.6 guy). I thought Davis got lost in the shuffle in 2004 and has some potential if he gets a shot as an UDFA or in NFL Europe.

Manuel White (UCLA) 6’2” 244 4.62
Dropped a few pounds from the Combine to UCLA’s Pro Day a month later, and posted a couple sub-4.65 times in the 40. RB trapped in a FB body, he’s a true tweener who has been more of a runner than a blocker in his collegiate career.

Ryan Grant (ND) 6’1” 215 4.54
Better athlete than football player. It looks like his football achievement was a fluke in 2002. A GM who puts too much stock in measurables could reach for him late on Day Two, but I’ve seen nothing the last two years that shows he has the skills or motivation to succeed at the next level.

DeAndra Cobb (Michigan State) 5’10” 196 4.49
Return ability could land him a roster spot. Very good speed helps his case.

Lionel Gates (Louisville) 6'0" 222 4.66
Improved from some brutal 4.7+ times at the Combine to a 4.66 at Louisville’s Pro Day. Still, he has to impress on game film, where he displayed potential as a two-way threat and earned his carries in a backfield crowded with talent. I thought he’d be one of the risers leading up to the draft, but poor all-star and workout performances have his professional road looking like it will go through being an UDFA. Good NFL Europe candidate.

Noah Herron (Northwestern) 5’11” 224 4.74
Unlikely to make at anything other than FB tweener, but some scouts have been impressed with running style and hands for a big man. A bit reminiscent of Nick Goings. Could be a Day Two pick of a team who thinks he can make it as a FB.

Marvin Townes (East Carolina) 5’11” 199 4.48
After a breakout 2003, hampered by injuries for a tremendously disappointing 2004. Reappeared on the radar after a strong Pro Day. Good hands, some thought to him getting a shot at WR. Some time in NFL Europe could figure out what position, if any, he can play.

Nehemiah Broughton (The Citadel) 5’11” 250 4.61
The “Nemo-sapien” didn’t have the great workout many expected and looks like he is solely being considered as a FB at the next level. FBs usually go Day Two, at best, and although he’s gotten some pub, right now he’s just a tweener learning to block.

Lydell Ross (Ohio State) 5’11” 226 4.65
Apparently refused to publicize his 40 times because they were so disappointing. Allegedly ran both at 4.65 or greater…what is in the water in Columbus? Also claims to have a knee injury, contributing to his slow times. In a downward spiral since his freshman year and nothing so far has salvaged his draft stock.

Dominique Dorsey (UNLV) 5’7” 170 4.56
A Combine snub, he followed the path of former teammate Larry Croom, barnstorming the all-star circuit. Trained with sprint champion Maurice Greene and had a good showing at UNLV’s Pro Day. Like Croom, he’s no more than UDFA material, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear his name in the future. Great developmental prospect to send over to NFL Europe.

Marty Johnson (Utah) 6’0’ 236 4.70
Combine snub has talent, but history of legal and injury problems. Decent workout at Utah Pro Day, but displayed only FB speed.

Ray Hudson (Alabama) 5’10” 192 4.55
Fractured right knee ended breakout campaign in 2004. His knee isn’t 100% yet, so he hasn’t run. There seems to be some hype around him lately, but I don’t see it. Could just be an aggressive agent. Maybe a team like Denver would take a flyer on him in the seventh, otherwise, UDFA at best.

Bobby Purify (Colorado) 6’0” 210 4.74
Showed a lot of heart in 2004, but he has a horrible injury history, a big part of why he is left with pedestrian speed. He has flashed ability to run, but the durability isn’t there and with the wear and tear on his body already, it’s unlikely to return.

Clenton Crossley (South Florida) 5’9” 234 4.62
Competent at RB or FB with solid hands. Multi-purpose special teams player.

Marcus Williams (Maine) 5’10” 226 4.48
D-IAA standout with good measurables might get some looks as an UDFA after a solid Pro Day.

Derrick Johnese (Northwestern LA State) 5’9” 208 4.42
Rare underclassmen from D-IAA to declare early, good quicks and straight-line speed, could be looked at as a return specialist.