Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Tony

Tony's Articles

2006 NFL RB Draft Class
Version 5.0 - Pre-Combine

The list of declared underclassmen is final and all-star games (and just as importantly, all-star practice weeks) are complete. Although the tremendously important look at measurables in the Combine and individual workouts are still left, a lot of players helped or hurt their case with performances at their all-star game (and some were impacted by their lack of invite to one). Here’s a look at where the RBs entering this draft stand at this point. Also there is a review of the participation and performance of the RBs by all-star game and final list of running backs invited to the Combine.

Key: Name (School - Class as of 2005) Height Weight Estimated 40

Blue Chips
Cream of the crop heading into the post-season. This group combines both NFL measurables and significant collegiate success that have them on the path to being the top RBs selected in the 2006 draft.

Reggie Bush (Southern California - 3JR) 5’11” 200 4.45 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PAC-10 1st Team All-Conference, AFCA 1st Team All-American, Walter Camp 1st Team All-American, AP 1st Team All-American, Doak Walker Award winner, Walter Camp Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year, Heisman Trophy winner

All-Star Game: None. Underclassman and expected to be an early pick.

Strengths: One of the most electrifying college players ever. Dynamic playmaker as a runner, receiver, and returner. Outstanding agility and quickness gets him through traffic, and then has the breakaway speed to take any touch the length of the field. He reportedly ran sub-4.40 times for the USC staff in the spring. Probably an itchy trigger finger on the stopwatch, but no doubt he has elite speed. Tremendous receiver both out of the backfield and lining up split to the outside running conventional routes. His ill-advised lateral attempt in the Rose Bowl that will haunt him for years notwithstanding, he doesn’t lose the football.

Weaknesses: He has been surrounded by incredible talent his whole career on one of the greatest three-year runs ever by a college team. In particular, the presence of LenDale White precluded Bush from demonstrating he can find the same success needing to run inside more and proving he can handle carrying the load throughout a season. I have a feeling his height, weight, and speed may come in less than advertised, though it shouldn’t adversely impact his draft status at all.

Outlook: It’s hard to find any angle to imagine him ending up a bust. He is both an elite athlete and an elite football player. He will be the first player selected on April 29th.

Laurence Maroney (Minnesota - 3JR) 5’11” 210 4.51 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Big Ten 1st Team All-Conference, Walter Camp 2nd Team All-American, AP 3rd Team All-American

All-Star Game: None. Underclassman and expected to be an early pick.

Strengths: Classic one-cut runner who plants and explodes through the hole. Brings a very complete running game. Can work with good power and lean between the tackles, but has the vision and body control to bounce outside and hit the home run, despite apparently lacking elite timed speed. Elusiveness and intuition allow him to elude the big hits when tackled. Great ball security.

Weaknesses: Needs work in passing game, as a receiver and blocker. He can take a screen or dump pass and turn it up field, but he is not fluid or crisp in running routes and catching the ball in a pattern. Played in explosive offense behind quality offensive line, which leads to concerns about production being a product of the system.

Outlook: He has been a superstar since his freshman season. In 2003 and 2004, he combined with former teammate, Marion Barber III, to be the only duo in NCAA history to run for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. The success of Barber in the NFL should strengthen the perception of Maroney, since Maroney was recognized as the superior back when the two played together. Finally got a chance to be featured in 2005 and took off strong. He bulked up prior to the season, but lost no quickness or speed. A lingering ankle injury slowed him down at the end of the season. While he is consistently ranked as a top five RB, many draft pundits seem lukewarm on his potential, as far as being a superstar. I believe it is tremendous. Maroney reminds me of Shaun Alexander in how effortlessly he appears to run the ball and in how he knows how to avoid the big hit, never seeming to take a lot of punishment on most tackles.

LenDale White (Southern California - 3JR) 6’2” 235 4.51 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PAC-10 2nd Team All-Conference, AP 3rd Team All-American

All-Star Game: None. Underclassman and expected to be an early pick.

Strengths: Excellent physical tools with ideal measurables to be a workhorse at the next level. Bruising back who runs over people, you cannot arm-tackle him. He also has quick feet as he moves through the line and a little shake to make defenders miss in the open field. Very good speed for a big runner and decent hands.

Weaknesses: Lack of opportunity to showcase himself in an all-star game (as he is an underclassman) is an inconvenience for scouts and GM’s, especially considering he has never had a feature opportunity due to the talent he has played with.

Outlook: He is a hammer with speed, a la Jamal Lewis. More popular players have overshadowed USC’s all-time rushing touchdown leader during his collegiate career, but NFL teams won’t overlook him. White outshined Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart in the Rose Bowl, which gives him visibility and momentum heading into the draft. With impressive workouts, he should emerge as a first round pick.

DeAngelo Williams (Memphis - 4SR) 5’9” 209 4.53 - Career stats

2005 Honors: C-USA 1st Team All-Conference, C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, AFCA 1st Team All-American, Walter Camp 1st Team All-American, AP 2nd Team All-American

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Similar to the decision by Carnell Williams last year, he wisely chose to accept the invitation to the Senior Bowl despite being expected to be a 1st round pick. Similar to the results of Carnell Williams’ decision last year, DeAngelo answered some questions and helped himself by being there. First, the sticker-shock of his smaller than advertised size will wear off by the Combine and people will focus on his results. Second, there were questions about his motivation, especially after choosing to sit out the Tennessee game. His attendance despite high draft expectations will be recognized. Third, and most importantly, he looked good and helped his stock. He did well with his limited touches in the game and showcased his outstanding skill set during practices.

Strengths: The most prolific yard-producer in NCAA history, he finished with a record 7,568 all-purpose yards. Also fourth all-time in rushing yards and had an NCAA-record 34 100-yard games. Compact and well built, he can run with surprising power, but thrives best as a slasher, using his quickness to be elusive in space. Very good receiver and elite return skills. His intangibles are outstanding. Raised in a poor and dangerous area, he spurned becoming involved in gangs and made himself a blue chip prospect. As one of the most highly regarded recruits in Memphis history, he handled the burden of expectations with one record-breaking season after another, and helping lead the Tigers football program back to respectability, without the benefit of an elite supporting cast.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size, although he has a well-defined body. Has not proved himself against much elite competition playing in a mid-major with a usually weak preseason schedule and lower-tier bowl games. This perception, as well as an overall question of his toughness, was highlighted in his decision not to face Tennessee this year due to a sore ankle. Durability a bit of a concern, he has had some type of injury problem each year of his four years.

Outlook: Expected to declare as an underclassman last year, he fractured his right fibula in the GMAC Bowl in 2004. Returned to claim more records and provide an outstanding encore that helped his draft stock, as he carried the team through a challenging season with the loss of the their top two quarterbacks in the first three games. Reminiscent of Brain Westbrook in his measurables, skills, and multi-faceted game, as well as not playing in a marquee program. However, his record-breaking career has not left him overlooked. Despite his accomplishments and talent, his measurables are a little less than desired for a workhorse back. Regardless, he is unanimously recognized as the top senior RB prospect. However, due to the underclassmen that declared, it’s not inconceivable that he fall as far as being the fourth RB drafted. Most draft pundits feel he locked up being the second back taken and possibly a top ten pick at the Senior Bowl, but I still think his Combine and/or individual workout numbers will be pivotal.

Possible Day One
This group has the potential to be Day One picks, but they have concerns in one or more areas regarding measurables, durability, or character. Their collegiate achievement and/or measurables are not enough at this point to guarantee an early pick. They will have to impress teams in their all-star weeks and/or at the combine or in individual workouts to have their name called the first day of the draft.

Brian Calhoun (Wisconsin - 4JR) 5’9” 194 4.41 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Big Ten 1st Team All-Conference, AP 2nd Team All-American

All-Star Game: None. No invitation due to being an underclassman.

Strengths: Strong burst at the snap and elite speed to hit the home run when he gets to the second level. Surprising power for his size keeps him in goal-line packages.

Weaknesses: Undersized to be a feature back at the next level, better suited physically for change of pace role. Possible “product of the system”, as Wisconsin has had other successful RBs recently that failed to translate their success at the next level.

Outlook: Although the Badgers running game has been plug-and-produce under HC Barry Alvarez, the Colorado transfer’s debut in 2005 was still extremely impressive. Despite the fact he plays for a coach who historically doesn’t utilize his RBs in the passing game, Calhoun’s receiving talents were too much to not force Alvarez to change his ways. His talent as a receiver led to his former HC, Gary Barnett, asking him to consider a position change to WR (which contributed to his decision to leave Colorado). He was a collegiate Marshall Faulk in 2005, an explosive playmaker and TD-machine on the ground and through the air. Despite being undersized for a feature back (which Faulk also is, by the way), he demonstrated some tremendous durability for as much as they used him. He’ll need to overcome concerns about his size with strong workouts, particularly in demonstrating elite speed, to be a Day One pick, but I’m very high on his skills and potential.

Maurice Drew (UCLA - 3JR) 5’8” 205 4.41 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PAC-10 2nd Team All-Conference (as RB, 1st Team punt returner), Walter Camp 1st Team All-American (kick returner), AP 1st Team All-American

All-Star Game: None. No invitation due to being an underclassman.

Strengths: Outstanding multi-talented player whose tremendous speed and quickness lead to big plays on offense and special teams, where he is an elite return man. Although undersized, he is built well, packing surprising power and bringing excellent leg drive. Amazing quickness and elite breakaway speed.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. Durability became a bit of an issue his final season, as he saw his heaviest workload.

Outlook: If it weren’t for Reggie Bush, everyone would be talking about Drew being the most electrifying player in the country. In addition to his skills running and receiving at RB, he is a blur as a return man, the Dante Hall of college the last three years. He returned 3 punts for TDs this season (on just 15 attempts), setting a PAC-10 record, and had another 65-yard TD punt return against Washington called back on a penalty. He hasn’t been returning kicks this year, but he has 2 kick returns for a TD in his career, as well. Overall, UCLA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards has scored on a play of 40 yards or more 16 times in his career. Lesser recognition in the media won’t effect how scouts view the dynamic player. He is a bit short, but solidly built. He should be a Day One pick, but how early could depend on where his measurables truly show up as.

Jerome Harrison (Washington State - 4SR) 5’9” 199 4.50 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PAC-10 1st Team All-Conference, Walter Camp 2nd Team All-American, AP 1st Team All-American

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Overall, Harrison helped himself during the week. He demonstrated the open field running ability and speed, as well as receiving skills, that make him an attractive change of pace back, but as the lightest back at the Senior Bowl, his size appears prohibitive to being a featured runner. He did look like a classic workhorse back running out the clock on the last drive with a large North lead. He had 38 yards and three first downs on eight consecutive carries, eating up all of the final 4:38 in the game himself.

Strengths: Consistently productive in breakout senior campaign. He was the only NCAA D-IA RB with 100 yards rushing in every game this season, setting a PAC-10 record with 100-plus yards in 14 straight games (dating back to last season), on his way to a school-record 1,900 yards rushing. Home run hitter with nose for the end zone, he had three TD runs over 50 yards and had a school-record 17 total touchdowns. Demonstrated he can carry the load as a feature back. Runs with a low center of gravity and elusiveness.

Weaknesses: Lacks size, bulk, and lower body strength. He needs to do a better job of hanging on to the ball, as fumbling has been a problem for him. Needs to learn how to block in pass protection.

Outlook: Where his speed tests out will have a big impact on his draft position, because he has breakaway speed on the field, but the information out there seems to indicate he lacks elite speed as far as tested 40 time. A comparison to J.J. Arrington, whose PAC-10 record of 100-plus yard games he broke, works well. Both are a bit undersized and were overlooked before emerging as top senior prospects after incredible seasons. Harrison isn’t built as well as Arrington, so he could still be challenged in being a Day One pick despite an overall strong week at the Senior Bowl.

Joseph Addai (LSU - 5SR) 5’11” 210 4.44 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Mixed review on Addai during practice. He is both quick to the edge and has good breakaway speed, but he lacked elusiveness and seemed allergic to running between the tackles. He’ll have a lot of runs for losses if he tries to bounce everything outside in the NFL. He remains superb in the passing game, showing willingness as a blocker and showing excellent receiving skills.

Strengths: Versatile all-purpose back with excellent speed. Outstanding in the passing game, giving him tremendous potential to contribute immediately at the next level. An excellent receiver and polished blocker who can pick up the blitz. His hands and route running are strong enough that he has worked at wide receiver, at times, due to the crowded RB situation.

Weaknesses: Light resume. Primarily used as a third down back most of his career, he has not demonstrated he can handle carrying the load. Prone to untimely injuries. He has good vision, but can be indecisive in hitting the hole, doing too much dancing behind the line or looking to bounce outside.

Outlook: Many draft prognosticators seem to be in love with him, but I don’t see it at this point. He is a nice prospect, but doesn’t seem the lock to have feature back potential that a team is looking for at RB in the first two rounds. Both times he has finally gotten a shot to be The Man, injuries have been a problem. In 2003, a knee injury allowed Justin Vincent to step in and take over. In 2005, Alley Broussard was set to be the workhorse again, before a preseason injury gave Addai an opportunity he gave away after just six games, due to a concussion and lingering ankle injury. However, an invite to Senior Bowl seems indicative NFL teams feel strongly about him. Finished well with a huge game in the Peach Bowl, but I don’t think he blew them away during Senior Bowl practices, especially with his tendency to always try for the corner.

Jerious Norwood (Mississippi State - 4SR) 6’0” 204 4.41 - Career stats

2005 Honors: SEC 2nd Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. No back helped his stock more at Senior Bowl week than Norwood. He displayed unexpected explosiveness and surprisingly good hands, along with the breakaway speed that was expected of him. His return skills were also on display in practice.

Strengths: Speed is his biggest asset; he is a home run threat and can run away from defenders when he gets through the line of scrimmage. Extremely durable, never missed a college game. Could add value as a returner.

Weaknesses: Needs to add some bulk, but has the frame to do it.

Outlook: Consistently productive on poor Bulldog teams that won only four SEC games in his collegiate career. Demonstrated the ability to be a workhorse back, but needs to add bulk and refine his skills in the passing game to get the opportunity at the next level. He is one of the fastest risers since the Senior Bowl and if his speed is timed out as expected, he is looking at a late Day One selection.

Day Two
Questions or weaknesses slightly overshadow the strengths enough that these guys could miss being the early picks they have the skills to be. Upside is limited by one or more of measurables, accomplishments, durability, or character. Combine and workouts could still help some move into Day One, or fall to be undrafted free agents.

Leon Washington (Florida State - 4SR) 5’8” 210 4.50 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Shrine Game. Disappointed at the absence of a Senior Bowl invite, he never let it show, projecting himself well during the week and impressing even more with his performance. Washington helped himself tremendously flashing all the skills that were often absent in the regular season, but made him a top senior prospect coming into 2005.

Strengths: Talented all-purpose back in a year with an abundance of them. Both quickness and speed are excellent. Short, but compact and sturdy with a well-developed body. Very good in passing game, runs crisp routes and finds the hole in the defense to be an outlet when the play breaks down. Role as a return man has decreased since his sophomore year, as his workload in the offense increased, but he has shown great talent in that area.

Weaknesses: Digressed significantly from prior season. Size is a problem. It appears he tried to bulk up heading in to his final season, but it stole some of his stamina and quickness. Durability issues have been a recurring theme in his career. Shoulder problems in the past and ankle problems this year, he hasn’t played a full season since his freshman year. Ball security.

Outlook: Undersized dynamo took a big step back after a breakout 2004 season. Continued to split carries with Lorenzo Booker, but whereas Washington was more productive in 2004, Booker was in 2005. HC Bobby Bowden has said Washington came into the 2005 season overweight and it is why he has struggled, and why Bowden limited his touches. As he appeared to be getting into shape, injury problems kicked in. The offense struggled at time under a freshman QB and injuries problems began to mount on the offensive line as the season wore on. Together, that all worked to ruined what should have been a showcase season for a runner whose versatility, speed, and quickness made him one of the top senior prospects heading into the year. He took a big step toward regaining his draft value by being one of the top performers during the week of practice for the Shrine Game, as well as in the game itself. He has bounced back to again look like an ideal third down back for the next level and locked in as a Day Two pick.

Cedric Humes (VaTech - 5SR) 6’1” 231 4.52 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. He was probably the most impressive of a comparatively weaker RB group for the North squad. Definitely passed the eyeball test, he also showed some unexpected explosiveness and demonstrated legit breakaway speed with a couple long runs.

Strengths: Outstanding size/speed combination, one of the more appealing packages of measurables at RB in this draft class. Strong and powerful north-south runner who can be a workhorse back.

Weaknesses: Production hasn’t come close to consistently matching measurables and potential. Only missed one game in four years, but untimely injuries have prevented him from breaking out. Lacks agility and elusiveness, runs a bit upright. Has good straight-line speed, but needs time to build up to it, can’t explode off a cut.

Outlook: He looks the part of a feature back and should test out like one, but he has never consistently demonstrated it. After being stuck behind Kevin Jones, he looked like the heir apparent to the recently strong RB tradition at VaTech, when a broken leg in spring practice before the 2004 season began to derail his future. He didn’t miss a game, but he wasn’t right until the end of the season, and Mike Imoh had integrated himself into the picture by then. 2005 started with Humes and Imoh splitting carries, then Humes suffered a broken arm on 10/8/05. He had surgery to install a plate and six screws in the arm and the original prognosis was he’d miss 4-6 weeks. The team had a bye on 10/15 and Humes sat out at Maryland on 10/20, but it would remain the only game he’d miss in his career. Less than three weeks after breaking his arm, with a brace specially designed by the VaTech School of Engineering, Humes demonstrated some remarkable resiliency and returned on 10/27. With Imoh dinged up, Humes finished the season splitting carries with Branden Ore and Humes had a great performance in the Gator Bowl. Humes got himself back on the radar during Senior Bowl week, and if his speed tests out as expected, could continue to be a late riser.

Andre Hall (South Florida - 4SR) 5’9” 205 4.52 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Big East 1st Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Started the week slowly, having to overcome having his equipment lost in transit to Mobile, but mostly was impressive during, especially with his fearlessness to run inside despite his size. Also was solid in pass protection, affirming his upside as a third down back.

Strengths: Very quick and agile back who hits the hole hard with good burst. Good receiver out of the backfield and can add value as a kick returner. Excellent durability as a workhorse runner with a sturdy build.

Weaknesses: Undersized for a feature runner and lacks the elite speed you’d like from a smaller back. Frequently struggled against better competition.

Outlook: Two-time JUCO All-American provided consistently tremendous production in his two years of D-IA ball. Exposure at the Senior Bowl helped, but despite a good week, he could still be looked at as the fourth-best RB on the South roster, due to the strength there at the position. Lacks the speed to overcome his size deficiency at the next level, but has nice set of skills as a change of pace back and special teamer, making him a solid Day Two pick.

DonTrell Moore (New Mexico - 5SR) 5’10” 212 4.53 - Career stats

2005 Honors: MWC 1st Team All-Conference, MWC Offensive Player of the Year

All-Star Game: Shrine Game. Moore was overshadowed by many of the other backs who seemed quicker and faster. He looks fluid and is a natural runner, just not at the speed or with the authority needed for the next level. He was still just under a year removed from major knee surgery during the Shrine Game week, but his amazing regular season performance made expectations much higher for one of the most prolific runners in NCAA history, and he just didn’t live up to them. He appeared smaller than he’s listed and his speed definitely looks like it will disappoint when clocked.

Strengths: Technically a very sound runner, with good footwork, pad level and forward lean. He has been the a workhorse back for four years, becoming the most prolific runner in school and Mountain West Conference history, as well as one of the most productive in NCAA history (only the seventh player in D-IA to run for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons). Displayed tremendous work ethic and resiliency in returning to form in 2005 from a major knee injury at the end of the previous season. Became a reliable and productive receiving option in 2005, after not demonstrating much in that area previously.

Weaknesses: Less than ideal measurables. On the small side to be the workhorse back he was in college, and lacks top-end speed to be a home run threat. In addition to his torn ACL, he has a history of at least minor injuries every year of his career, although he’s always battled through them to have productive seasons.

Outlook: Moore’s triumphant return from knee surgery in February and return to form less than nine months later has not only secured his place in record books, but seemed to have completely salvaged his draft value. However, an unimpressive week at the Shrine Game leaves him in mid-to-late Day Two territory. He lacked elite speed even before the injury, so despite being one of the top senior prospects, barring an unexpected showing at the Combine and in his individual workouts, he is unlikely to move up.

Mike Bell (Arizona - 5SR) 6’0” 215 4.56 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PAC-10 Honorable Mention All-Conference

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Left a solid impression as a hard worker who has legit feature back size and can pound it between the tackles. However, his pure speed seemed lacking, as expected.

Strengths: Consistent and durable workhorse in prototype NFL RB body. Decent hands and understanding of passing game. Loyal, flexible, and resilient intangibles through turbulent years in the program.

Weaknesses: Unable to fully showcase talent in struggling offense throughout his collegiate career. Fell just short of rushing for over 1,000 yards the last three seasons, largely due to lack of supporting cast. Lacks a second-gear in the open field, less than average desired speed. Runs too upright, needs to lower pad level.

Outlook: Highly recruited out of high school, Bell has had the misfortune of having his talents frequently wasted in a program in transition. In a better program, there is no doubt he’d have found more success and recognition, which would have helped his draft value. He was not a disappointment at the Senior Bowl, but he didn’t excite anyone either. He brings a nice all-around package, nothing outstanding, but solid in all facets. Barring an unexpected show of speed in the Combine or workouts, he will be a Day Two pick at best.

Taurean Henderson (Texas Tech - 5SR) 5’9” 205 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Big XII 1st Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: Shrine Game. After a slow start, Henderson got rolling and ended up one of the more impressive backs on the week.

Strengths: Versatility and durability. Outstanding receiver groomed in pro-style offense and knows how to find holes in pass coverage to bail his QB out. Elusive runner with nice shake in the open field.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size without elite speed to compensate.

Outlook: Undersized dynamo is overlooked in the Red Raiders air-based attack, but he has been extremely productive and is one of the most versatile players in NCAA history. He is the only player in NCAA history with over 2,000 yards rushing and receiving in his career and set the NCAA record for receptions by a RB. Many, including myself earlier this year, under appreciated Henderson’s production and accomplishments. While a bit undersized for a feature back, he is a Mewelde Moore-type of player who simply gets the job done running and catching. Ideal third-down back that can be a special team ace. He strengthened that perception at the Shrine game, even demonstrating more impressive running ability than expected. He won’t be a high draft pick, but his productivity probably won’t be forgotten on Day Two.

De’Arrius Howard (Arkansas - 5SR) 6’0” 228 4.54 - Career stats

2005 Awards: None

All-Star Game: Shrine Bowl. His three-touchdown performance left an obvious impression after the game, but he helped himself as much during the week. The most effective runner between the tackles on either squad, and showed some surprising burst and speed for his size, getting to the second level and beyond. With his draft hopes on life support after another season as a back-up, perhaps no one helped their draft aspirations more this all-star season than Howard. His HC at Arkansas, Houston Nutt, was the coach of the East and Nutt clearly worked at highlighting Howard, after burying him for five years.

Strengths: Pounding runner with ideal measurables. Effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Weaknesses: Blank resume. Consistently beaten out and pushed to the background on his own team.

Outlook: The Razorbacks’ top returning rusher from 2004 was once again unable to capitalize on his promising physical potential. First he sat behind Fred Talley, then he failed to overtake the inconsistent Cedric Cobbs, and last year was leap-frogged by DeCori Birmingham. It looked like he would finally get his chance last year, and he started out very well with back-to-back 100 yard games, the first two of his career. Then he struggled at USC and was promptly replaced by true freshmen Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, who went on to have breakout seasons. Howard has some untapped potential that misfortune and probably some lack of motivation on his part, has kept suppressed. He was on the Doak Walker pre-season watch list prior to 2003, before Cobbs took over, so his potential has been recognized. After believing he had little chance to be more than an undrafted free agent, his impressive week, and particularly game performance, at the Shrine Game may have salvaged his draft value. Reminiscent of Tennessee’s Troy Fleming two years ago at The Villages Gridiron Classic, Howard took advantage of his opportunity to be featured for scouts and showed some skills to go with his impressive measurables, which could make the difference between getting his name called and being an undrafted free agent. Lack of a Combine invite still hurts, but their should be a good showing at Arkansas’ Pro Day, giving him a chance to close the deal. If I’m in an NFL front office, I’m still questioning where the desire and urgency he shows now have been the last few years.

Gerald Riggs Jr. (Tennessee - 4SR) 6’0” 218 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None. I didn’t hear that Riggs declined any invitations, so I was a bit surprised he didn’t receive any. He likely would have had to decline due to recovering from his season-ending injury, and maybe that is why none of the games bothered, but I would have expected him to at least have been given the option by one of the games.

Strengths: Physical runner with prototypical size and build to be a feature back at the next level. Good cutback ability for a big back. Keeps his legs moving and has good lean to break tackles and get the extra yard inside, as well as with a good stiff arm in the open field.

Weaknesses: Light resume due to injury problems and RBBC prior to his final season. Inconsistency has contributed to him not getting a shot to carry the load sooner. He has demonstrated he can run with tremendous authority, like on his game-winning OT TD against LSU, but can disappear the next game with what appears to be a lack of interest in running hard every time. Lacked elite speed prior to season-ending leg injury, now will have to demonstrate he hasn’t lost any of it, or his cutback ability, in the Combine and workouts.

Outlook: One of the nation’s top recruits in 2002, he had a challenging career as a Vol. After waiting three years, during which time he contemplated transferring, he finally got the sole feature role as a senior in 2005. Then he seriously injured his right leg and ankle in their sixth game. A fractured ankle and ligament damage on 10/22/05 ended his collegiate career. Not having a chance to showcase himself at an all-star game hurts him tremendously. He’ll have had about four months to heal before the Combine, where he will have a lot to prove in workouts. He has the size and power to start in the NFL, but lacks breakaway speed, making him a borderline Day One selection before the injury. He is dropping like a stone at this point and needs to hope the injury doesn’t hamper his Combine performance, much less prohibit it, to regain his draft value. Regardless, his size and upside make it unlikely he goes undrafted. Someone will want to take a chance on locking him up for a few years and hope he emerges, as opposed to taking a chance at waiting to get him as an UDFA.

Cornell Brockington (UConn) 5’11” 203 4.55 - Career Stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None. No invitation due to being an underclassman.

Strengths: Good size and decent speed. Extremely productive the one time he was given a feature opportunity.

Weaknesses: Being passed by not one, but two players on his own team, after being 1st Team All Big East the previous year, will raise some questions.

Outlook: After a breakout 2004, he was pushed out of the picture by the return of 2003 Freshman All-American Terry Caulley from a serious knee injury and emergence of Lou Allen. Brockington finished third on the team in carries and rushing yards. Not wanting to be a reserve again, rightfully so, after the skills he demonstrated, nor move further off the NFL radar, he was left with two options – transfer or declare. Apparently he liked what he heard from the NFL underclassmen advisory committee, so he is making the jump. It wasn’t a bad decision, a superb year against lower-tier competition by transferring down is unlikely to add much value. The bottom line is he needs to find a team who likes what they saw in his 04 film and he aces his workouts. I think he does and ends up a Day Two pick

Chris Barclay (Wake Forest - 4SR) 5’10” 180 4.50 - Career stats

2005 Honors: ACC 1st Team All-Conference, ACC Offensive Player of the Year

All-Star Game: Las Vegas All-American Classic. Solid enough during the week to get the start, but unspectacular overall.

Strengths: Slippery runner with breakaway speed. Extremely durable, never missed a college game due to injury (missed one in four years, due to a suspension in 2005). Intelligent player who can add value as a kick returner and decent receiver out of the backfield.

Weaknesses: Undersized and doesn’t have a frame to carry much more bulk. Overlooked from lack of publicity. Some discipline issues almost cost him his job in 2005.

Outlook: One of the most underrated RBs in the country; he posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons on his way to re-writing the school’s rushing records. Barclay digressed a bit in 2004 after his breakout true sophomore campaign and started 2005 with a suspension and losing his starting job. However, he quickly worked his way back and finished as the conference’s offensive player of the year. An undersized slasher, he does have breakaway speed, but will face discrimination in getting a chance to be a feature back at the next level due to his size. His consistent and significant production over his career hasn’t gotten much recognition at a mediocre Wake Forest program. A lower-tier all-star game and a Combine snub do nothing to help that situation. I can’t help but think someone will sneak him in late Day Two and have a steal as a kick returner and change of pace back.

Prince “P.J.” Daniels Jr. (Georgia Tech - 5SR) 5’10” 211 4.56 - Career stats

2005 Honors: ACC 2nd Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: Hula Bowl. Helped himself with a solid week and strong performance in the game, emphasizing his effectiveness between the tackles.

Strengths: Physical north-south runner with a well-built frame who delivers the blow and moves the pile when he runs. Worked to improve himself in passing game to the point you can say he has decent hands and blocking skills.

Weaknesses: Lacks top speed and agility. Back-up Tashard Choice was frequently more effective when given the chance.

Outlook: Former walk-on exploded in 2003, leading the ACC with one of the best seasons rushing the football in school and conference history. Struggled through injury-plagued 2004 (variety of leg problems) and 2005 (shoulder and sternum), but still led the team in rushing both years. He doesn’t possess tremendous physical gifts, so he is unlikely to help himself at the Combine and in workouts. However, he’s thrived on being a hard worker, smart, and coachable. A team looking for “character” guys will be the type to take a late round flyer on him.

End Game
Names likely left to be considered late Day Two as fliers, needing breakout Combine and/or workouts performance to move up. Most are undrafted free agents at this point.

Wali Lundy (Virginia - 4SR) 5’10” 214 4.61 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Shrine Bowl. Participated in practice, but left before the game to return home to attend to personal matters.

Strengths: Multi-talented threat with a tremendous nose for the end zone (ACC all-time career TD leader with 52). Very good short-yardage runner with power for his size, vision to find the crease, and explosion to get through to the second level.

Weaknesses: Durability and fumbling. His production as a receiver has decreased each year, after an incredible 58-435-4 as a true freshman. Lacks quickness to beat defenders to the corner and straight-line speed to hit the home run if he gets in the open field.

Outlook: One of the biggest disappointments of the year, after being one of the most productive runners in the nation his first three seasons. Coming into 2005, Lundy was fifth in career rushing yards among active D-IA players. He and DonTrell Moore were the only two players in the country with three seasons of 800+ rushing yards. His 10 100-yard games were the most by any active player in the ACC. He had scored 22 TDs in his last 14 games and his 41 TDs were third among active college players. His problems actually began mid-season in 2004, when inconsistency and fumbling landed him in HC Al Groh’s doghouse, allowing Alvin Pearman to break out and propel himself to being a fourth round pick. Lundy will now be lucky to go that high. However, 2005 started off well, as his problems with Groh appeared to be behind him. Groh complemented the off-season Lundy had and named him a team captain. He looked in great shape at the Spring Game, but left early after turning his ankle, and then sprained his foot in the season opener. It took him half the season to recover, and he was off the radar by then. Lacking ideal size and speed, his mysterious absence from the Shrine Game won’t help stop his freefall. This looks like Walter Reyes all over again.

Wendell Mathis (Fresno State - 5SR) 6’0” 211 4.58 - Career stats

2005 Honors: WAC 1st Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: None. I was a bit surprised his former teammate Bryson Sumlin got one and Mathis didn’t, or at least that he didn’t accept.

Strengths: Power runner inside, shifty through the hole and sheds tackles to into the second level. Good in short-yardage and goal line.

Weaknesses: Lacks bulk to be power runner at next level. Lacks breakaway speed.

Outlook: The UCLA transfer has been a very successful runner between the tackles and took on a workhorse role in 2005, despite carries being spread in a talented backfield. Primarily a north-south runner, but will have to bulk up to play that way at the next level. He’ll look good on film and has a Combine invite, so his is still a name that could climb.

Terrence Whitehead (Oregon - 4SR) 5’10” 220 4.60 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PAC-10 Honorable Mention All-Conference

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Unspectacular week of practice, but was decent. Just nothing to set himself apart among his peers.

Strengths: Fundamentally sound power runner who breaks tackles. Decent receiver out of the backfield.

Weaknesses: Lacks burst and a second gear. Durability has been a bit of a problem.

Outlook: Largely overlooked due to some bigger names in the PAC-10, but Whitehead put together another very good year and helped the Ducks put together a surprisingly good season. He was impressive enough to hold off blue chip true freshman Jonathan Stewart. He has everything riding on the Combine and his individual workout, at this point.

Damien Rhodes (Syracuse - 4SR) 6’0” 211 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Decent size with frame to add more bulk. Strong runner with some elusiveness in open field.

Weaknesses: Still raw and underdeveloped as a runner. Lacks instincts and vision to compliment his physical abilities.

Outlook: After living in Walter Reyes’ record-breaking shadow for three years, he was unable to live to up the high upside as the feature RB he had shown glimpses of as a back-up. He is a good physical specimen, but hasn’t shown the skills or instincts to be a good runner. A “better athlete than football player” type. His special teams ability, beyond just as a kick returner, will find him work on Sundays, but his upside as a RB leaves him a late Day Two pick at best. No all-star or Combine invitation hurts his chances.

Jerod Void (Purdue - 5SR) 6’1” 216 4.54 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Ideal measurables for a feature back. Good top end speed, can run away from defenders in second level. Excellent receiver groomed in pro spread system. Outstanding all-around special teams player, can return both punts and kicks, as well as a good tackler and punt blocker.

Weaknesses: Lacks initial quickness and burst, needs time to build up to top speed. Runs too upright and lacks elusiveness, opening himself up to big hits. Needs to add thickness, but has the frame that can handle it. Doesn’t run with enough power for his size.

Outlook: After building his freshman and sophomore season as an emerging all-purpose runner with an excellent nose for the end zone, he digressed in 2004. He started 2005 out strong before derailing his season with a dislocated shoulder in the fourth game. Kory Sheets stepped up while he was out, flashing some big play ability. Void wouldn’t carry the load again until the last few games of the year, before Sheets outshined him again in the season finale. Void is a good athlete and football player, but lacks the instincts and fundamental of a running back. He is a bit like a wide receiver rushing the ball. However, he has nice potential and measurables, with hands and the ability to contribute in a variety of ways on special teams that should give him a chance to play on Sundays. Lack of invitation to an all-star game or Combine hurts his chances of being drafted.

Lawrence Vickers (Colorado) 6’0” 239 4.76 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Big XII Honorable Mention All-Conference

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week. Demonstrated his versatility and helped himself in being recognized as one of the more complete FB prospects in the draft. Blocking was a bit inconsistent, but sufficient.

Strengths: Better than average runner and excellent receiver and route-runner for a big back. Physical and aggressive as a runner and blocker, good short-yardage runner who can move the pile. Very good special teams player.

Weaknesses: Lacks speed and elusiveness to be a feature RB at the next level. Needs to be more consistent as a blocker to be a full-time FB.

Outlook: His position at Colorado was called V-Back, for his versatility, which is a fitting description of his abilities. His blocking still needs work, but Vickers is one of, if not the, top offensive threats (rushing and receiving) at FB in this draft, so he should be one of the first selected, which still means a mid-to-late Day Two pick.

Quadtrine Hill (Miami) 6’2” 228 4.61 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Las Vegas All-American Classic. Successfully capitalized on opportunity to demonstrate his talent as a runner and receiver, leading the East in rushing and catching a TD.

Strengths: Solid in all facets of either offensive backfield position: running, receiving, and blocking. Very good hands and awareness in passing game for a FB. Smart team player who has learned to swallow his ego and is willing to contribute however he is asked.

Weaknesses: Light resume. Underutilized and underexposed as a role player. Needs to bulk up to handle the run blocking responsibilities of a fullback at the next level. Lacks sufficient speed and elusiveness for a feature RB role.

Outlook: Tweener in the truest sense of the word, he has bounced between tailback and fullback the last four years. The result is a multi-talented player who can add value as a runner and is more ready to contribute on special teams than a player who spent his career as a feature runner, but needs to bulk up to be a fullback at the next level. Helped himself with an opportunity to showcase his running skills at the Las Vegas All-American Classic. His flexibility adds value. He doesn’t have the speed and skills to ever be a feature back, and needs to add size to be a true FB, but he is a good fit for single-back third down sets, depth at both backfield spots, and could be an excellent special teamer. Look for someone to take a chance on him late on Day Two based on that. Lack of a Combine invite hurts his draft value less than most players, because, as usual, there will be reps from all NFL teams at Miami’s Pro Day.

Garrett Mills (Tulsa) 6’1” 236 4.70 - Career stats

2005 Honors: C-USA 1st Team All-Conference, Walter Camp 2nd Team All-American, AP 3rd Team All-American

All-Star Game: Senior Bowl. Height and weight official as of game week.

Strengths: Excellent receiver who catches the ball with his hands. Good body control and reactions in the passing game. Strong work ethic, dedicated to his craft.

Weaknesses: Primarily a TE in college, needs to learn all facets of blocking from the FB position and add strength to perform in it.

Outlook: The well-decorated collegiate TE set the NCAA record for reception at the position in 2005. However, he is not big enough for the role at the next level. He would be best suited to play H-Back, but is then limited offenses heavy with such sets. So he got a look as a FB in the Senior Bowl and will workout as one at the Combine. He’s the type who will work hard enough to be a good special teams player and his upside catching the ball should give him a shot as a late Day Two pick.

Best of the Rest
An assortment of prospects with one or more intriguing facets, but the negatives currently outweigh the positives enough that right now, they will be undrafted free agents, at best, and many will be in another line of work this fall.

J.R. Lemon (Stanford - 5SR) 6’1” 225 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Magnolia Gridiron Classic and Las Vegas Classic. Only saw a handful of touches in either game, but was one of the more physically impressive RB specimens during both practice weeks.

Strengths: Ideal measurables and build for a feature RB, definitely passes the eyeball test. Tremendous all-around athleticism and an intelligent player.

Weaknesses: Durability, consistency, and experience. Lacks vision and instincts.

Outlook: Tons of potential, but has never been able to put it together. After appearing to emerge in 2004 and finishing as the teams leading rusher, a hamstring injury kept him out of most of training camp and the first three games. He also didn’t seem to click with new HC Walt Harris, and he returned to finish off his final season as the least effective part of a three-headed RB monster. He has flashed some talent, but the times have been too few and far between. It’s hard to tell if he just lacks the “it” to be a quality feature runner, or injuries and turbulent changes to the team in his collegiate career have prevented him from being able to capitalize on his potential. He could blow teams away in workouts, but currently does not have a Combine invite, so he barnstormed a couple of all-star games and still has Stanford’s Pro Day. However, he’s too much of a question mark to be more than an undrafted free agent right now.

Quinton Ganther (Utah - 4SR) 5’10” 216 4.57 - Career stats

2005 Honors: MWC 2nd Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: Hula Bowl.

Strengths: Strong legs and upper body giving him explosive quickness and cutting ability.

Weaknesses: Lacks second gear. Sparse resume.

Outlook: JUCO transfer moved into a feature role for the first time at the D-IA level in 2005 and helped keep the Utes respectable after losing HC Urban Meyer and 1st overall pick QB Alex Smith, among others. An invite to the Combine shows Ganther is on the NFL radar, and he passes the eyeball test, but he has a lot to prove. He should be impressive in strength testing and execute drills well, but his speed is expected to disappoint. An undrafted free agent, unless he wows them at the Combine and in workouts.

Lonta Hobbs (TCU - 4SR) 5’10” 220 4.53 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Very good measurables and build. Technically sound, running with good pad level and lean. Very good in short-yardage with a nose for the end zone.

Weaknesses: Durability a major concern. Unpolished in the passing game.

Outlook: After exploding on the scene and re-writing the school’s record book as a true freshman, he has digressed every year since, mostly due to injuries. A groin injury wiped out almost all of 2005 and he has fallen off the draft radar, but should get a chance as an undrafted free agent.

Demetris Summers (3JR - formerly South Carolina) 6’0” 210 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None. No invitation due to being underclassman and not enrolled in a school.

Strengths: Showed great potential at one time, a natural runner. Decent speed and excellent size, definitely passes the eyeball test.

Weaknesses: Discipline, maturity, and experience. Off-field issues ended his collegiate career before he was even old enough to enter the draft. Did not play football in 2005.

Outlook: Not a sequel to the Maurice Clarett Story, but more of a spin-off. One of the top RB recruits in the country in 2003, he burst on the scene as a true freshman. He led the team in rushing and was an SEC All-Freshman with what appeared to be a bright future. Once again led the team in rushing in 2004, but failed to improve through an injury-plagued season. Then he was kicked off the team by new HC Steve Spurrier in March 2005, after a second failed drug test. Poor grades made transferring options a problem. So Summers hired a trainer and planned to work out all year to prepare for the 2006 draft. I haven’t seen an update on how he is progressing, but assume this is still his plan. While Summers was impressive his freshman year, he was no Maurice Clarett, and his play declined in 2004. He’ll be lucky to get a shot as an undrafted free agent.

Ryan Gilbert (Houston - 5SR) 5’10” 230 4.60 - Career stats

2005 Honors: C-USA 1st Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Thick legs provide power and explosiveness for this bruising runner, who flashes a bit more speed than expected. Very good receiver for a big man.

Weaknesses: Light resume, back-up who got his shot due to injury.

Outlook: The LSU transfer was a pleasant surprise in Conference USA after emerging from a RBBC when 5SR Anthony Evans went down. Build and powerful running style is reminiscent of another former Cougar, Antowain Smith. Gilbert wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the beginning of the season, but appears to have worked an invitation to the Combine, so he has an opportunity to impress. Upside as a short-yardage FB with good hands, which would help him get drafted late Day Two, if a team felt he could handle the blocking aspect. That’s the only reason I assume he got a Combine invite, because I don’t see him being drafted with the intent of having him just in the RB rotation.

Kejuan Jones (Oklahoma - 5SR) 5’9” 190 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Thick legs give him excellent power for a smaller back. Excellent in short-yardage and goal-line situations, hits the hole hard and fast. Tough, intelligent, and unselfish team player.

Weaknesses: Lack of size. More quick than fast on the field, although his timed speed should be decent. Lacks patience to let blocks develop.

Outlook: After being the featured back in 2003, he took a back seat to the Adrian Peterson Experience. Demonstrated being a tremendous team player in not complaining about being passed over. Accepted his role and produced in it. As Peterson struggled with injuries in his sophomore campaign, his value was shown again in 2005. He’s been overlooked and is undersized, but I think he’d make an outstanding third down back at the next level. His rare combination of receiving ability and short-yardage power make him ideal for the role, if he can develop as a pass blocker and add value on special teams. No invites to all-star games or the Combine will make it tough for him to get drafted, though.

Albert “A.J.” Harris (Northern Illinois - 4SR) 6’1” 220 4.42 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Physically and from a measurables standpoint, the ideal prototype feature back. Breakaway speed for any size back.

Weaknesses: Light resume. Better athlete than football player.

Outlook: Despite tremendously impressive physical characteristics, Harris was stuck behind Michael Turner, then passed by Garrett Wolfe, and based on the production of each, it’s hard to argue. He has been productive when given the opportunity, but those opportunities have been few and far between. He won’t be drafted, but he has Willie Parker potential - an undrafted free agent career back-up in college who, through an unlikely string of breaks, gets a shot out of necessity and impresses as an unknown.

Cory Ross (Nebraska - 5SR) 5’6” 198 4.52 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Big XII Honorable Mention All-Conference

All-Star Game: Shrine Game. Unable to capitalize on opportunity for prime exposure as he was overshadowed by other backs that were more impressive during the week and in the game.

Strengths: Built very thick with incredible lower body strength that provide excellent burst. Quick and elusive runner with surprising power and good linear speed. Improved receiving skills shown in almost doubling his output from previous season in catching the ball.

Weaknesses: Extremely undersized. Dances in the backfield too much at times instead of hitting the hole.

Outlook: After breakout 2004, this bowling ball started 2005 strong and ended strong, but was ineffective as a RB during much of a season in which he had a lot to prove to build his draft value. He is not as talented as Quentin Griffin, who managed to get drafted early Day Two, despite his diminutive stature. Ross lacks elite speed and does not offer tremendous upside in other areas (i.e. as a returner) to give enough reason to overlook his size.

Tyler Ebell (UTEP) 5’8” 190 4.48 - Career stats

2005 Honor: None

All-Star Game: Hula Bowl. In his first game action since mid-season, he was overshadowed on the East squad by P.J. Daniels, who was the most impressive back on either team.

Strengths: Speed. Multi-purpose threat, solid receiver and good return man.

Weaknesses: Size. Durability. Off the radar after sitting out 2004 due to transferring then missing the second half of 2005 with an undisclosed injury.

Outlook: After some tremendous production at the start of his college career, some Bruin fans questioned Ebell being passed over by Maurice Drew at UCLA in 2003, which ultimately led to Ebell’s decision to transfer. However, as both enter the draft, Drew’s value has been rising while Ebell has been forgotten. A highly-regarded recruit, he was already a poor man’s Drew as an all-purpose threat before Drew was on the scene. He sat out 2004 due to transferring to another D-IA school, and started 2005 strong before a mystery injury ended his season early. Lack of a Combine invite hurts his chances to showcase his skills, but if he is healthy and gets a chance in individual workouts, he could have a few teams chasing him as an undrafted free agent.

William Leroy “P.J.” Pope Jr. (Bowling Green - 4SR) 5’9” 216 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Hula Bowl. Effective with his limited touches in the game, but didn’t stand out during the week.

Strengths: Outstanding production prior to 2005. Thick frame and strong for his size.

Weaknesses: Undersized, lacks speed, and was injured most of 2005. Ball security has been a problem. Production was helped by being product of high-powered collegiate offense.

Outlook: Tremendously productive bowling ball rolled through back-to-back All-MAC 1,000 yard rushing seasons for the first time in school history in 2003 and 2004. However, he went down in the season opener at Wisconsin with two sprained ankles and wasn’t effective most of the season. Pope was surpassed by B.J. Lane, his long-time back up and an equally uninspiring NFL prospect. A decent showing in the Hula Bowl, but if he ever was on any draft board prior to the season, he’s been scratched off after an injury-plagued 2005.

Patrick Cobbs (North Texas - 5SR) 5’8” 190 4.60 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Sun Belt 1st Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: Hula Bowl. Undistinguished week and game performance did nothing to put his name back in the minds of NFL teams.

Strengths: 2003 NCAA D-IA rushing champion. Excellent quickness and good power for his size. Adds value as a return man.

Weaknesses: Undersized and success was against primarily mid-major competition. Missed 2004 with injury, during which a true freshman was able to replicate his accomplishments, taking away some of their significance as the system obviously contributed significantly to the results. Struggled in a job-sharing role in 2005, which hurts his perception as even a part-time player, since he doesn’t have the measurables to be a feature runner at the next level.

Outlook: After leading D-IA in rushing in 2003, Cobbs was expected to again be one of the most productive RBs in the nation in 2004. However, an early knee injury resulted in him missing the rest of the season and taking a redshirt. His replacement, Jamario Thomas, filled in more than adequately as a true freshman. In an unexpected encore to Cobbs’ own out-of-nowhere emergence, Thomas amazingly ended up leading the nation in rushing for 2004. The much-anticipated combination of this dynamic duo in 2005 was tremendously disappointing. Neither was able to get momentum going in any game splitting carries and the team was knocked hard off their perch above the Sun Belt Conference. It wasn’t until Thomas was shut down with a hamstring injury, eight games into the season, that Cobbs again flashed his 2003 form, ending the season strong with four consecutive 100-yard games. Lacking ideal measurables before the injury and subsequent disappointing start to the 2005 season, Cobbs will likely be an undrafted free agent.

Chris Taylor (Indiana - 4SR) 5’11” 216 4.46 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Magnolia Gridiron Classic and Las Vegas Classic. Only saw three carries during the Magnolia Classic, but helped his marginal draft value as much as possible with a solid practice week in which he reportedly posted a 4.50 40 time. Didn’t accomplish much more in the Las Vegas Classic.

Strengths: Speed.

Weaknesses: Light resume as durability has been a problem over the years and he has been beaten out by better backs.

Outlook: When 2004 leading rusher Benjarvus Green-Ellis transferred prior to the 2005 season, it finally opened the door for Taylor and Yamar Washington. After a strong spring, Taylor took the lead of the RBBC and was more productive than Washington throughout the season. Taylor was solid, but unspectacular, in his only season with significant work. He has decent build and measurables, with speed his biggest asset. Unable to increase his exposure significantly in a couple lower-tier all-star games, he remains, at best, an undrafted free agent prospect.

Shermar Bracey (Arkansas State - 4SR) 6’1” 227 4.56 - Career stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Powerful runner with ideal size and decent speed, can surprise you with a long run. Very productive, when given the opportunity.

Weaknesses: Light resume due to always being a back-up. Flashes of talent he showed, when given a chance, were against mid-major competition. Runs too upright, not very technically sound overall.

Outlook: Antonio Warren’s back-up had some big games in mop-up time or when Warren was injured, but never had an opportunity to show what he could do as a feature runner. He has more impressive measurables than Warren, which could get him a look as an undrafted free agent, possibly as a FB.

Antonio Warren (Arkansas State - 5SR) 5’10” 201 4.64 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Sun Belt 1st Team All-Conference

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Productive runner put together back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and was sixth in the nation in rushing after four games, before an ankle sprain derailed his season.

Weaknesses: Sub-par measurables. Impressive production against mid-major competition. Durability an issue.

Outlook: The quiet star of the Sun Belt has been consistently successful since emerging from a RBBC in 2004. However, he doesn’t have the physical skills to succeed at the next level. Unlikely to even make it as an undrafted free agent. His back-up at ASU, Shermar Bracey, may have a better shot because of superior size and speed.

Derrick Ross (Tarleton State - 4SR) 5’10” 238 4.65 - Career stats

2005 Honors: Lone Star Conference 1st Team All-Conference, Lone Star Conference South Division Offensive Back of the Year

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Powerful runner with great size who ran over and dominated DII competition.

Weaknesses: Domination was of DII competition. Unpolished from learning in a DII program and lacks even average speed for the NFL, where he’ll no longer be able to run over people.

Outlook: Late rising small school prospect is too slow and unpolished for a feature RB role. Could be looked at as a FB. Surprisingly received an invite to Combine, showing there is some interest in taking a closer look at him, but is unlikely to be drafted.

Martin Hicks (Winston-Salem State) 5’9” 180 4.55 - Career stats

2005 Honors: CIAA 1st Team All-Conference, CIAA Offensive Player of the Year

All-Star Game: Cactus Bowl. Took advantage of his sole opportunity to be noticed by NFL scouts and outshined a more famous DII RB prospect, Antoine Bagwell.

Strengths: Extremely productive collegiate career.

Weaknesses: Production was an unknown in DII.

Outlook: A blip on the radar after a nice Cactus Bowl game. Unlikely to even be picked up as an undrafted free agent.

Antoine Bagwell (California University of Pennsylvania) 5’11” 185 4.54 - Career stats

2005 Honors: PSAC West 1st Team All-Star, PSAC West Offensive Player of the Year, AFCA 1st team All-American, AP 2nd Team Little All-American

All-Star Game: Cactus Bowl and Hula Bowl. Overshadowed by Martin Hicks in practice and during the game against DII competition. Did not standout against DI-A competition at Hula Bowl.

Strengths: Tremendous acceleration through the hole, wastes no time getting to top speed. Record-setting production in just two years.

Weaknesses: Achievement against lower level of competition. Needs to get stronger and add more weight. Missed out on the type of physical development you get in a year-around training program in a D-IA program.

Outlook: Received a scholarship to Nebraska, but left after Frank Solich was fired, also was currently playing DB and wanted to be a RB again. So he went to JUCO and found an opportunity in DII. Recognition of his consideration of a legitimate NFL prospect is demonstrated in him being a rare DII player invited to play in one of the predominantly Division I all-star games, the Hula Bowl. However, he was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, much less against peer competition in the Cactus Bowl. His size and speed are not outstanding, so as he left no impression during his all-star tour, he’ll be lucky to be an undrafted free agent.

Seymore Shaw (Central Oklahoma - 5SR) 5’11” 220 4.59 - Career Stats

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: None

Strengths: Punishing north-south runner with ideal size to be a workhorse back.

Weaknesses: Legal and behavior problems. Played Division II his last season.

Outlook: Once looked at as the heir to Tatum Bell’s starting spot and next great Cowboy RB, an untimely injury cost him a shot and he was passed by Vernand Morency, who went on to have a breakout 2004 and be drafted by the Houston Texans. With the path to starter no longer blocked in 2005, off-field troubles also surfaced again prior to the season. He came to OSU with baggage due to an arrest in high school for striking a girl and was only a partial qualifier due to academics. This time, another female acquaintance had a protective order slapped on him in late May 2005 and he is still facing a litany of charges from an incident involving her. This led to an indefinite suspension in June, shortly after which Shaw decided to transfer to Central Oklahoma (DII). Already in his last year of eligibility, Shaw couldn’t transfer to another D-IA program and play. After missing two games due to injury, he has been passed by fellow senior Kevin McKenzie, a former Tulsa transfer. Shaw rushed for 149-631-5 (4.2 ypc) in 8 games, while McKenzie has 169-839-7 (5.0 ypc) in 10 games. Regardless of his decent success this year, it’s at a much lower level and he’s never shown he can carry the load at the D-IA level, plus he comes with a lot of baggage. Unlikely to get a chance as an undrafted free agent, much less get drafted.

B.J. Mitchell (Nevada - 4SR) 5’8” 208 4.65 - Career stats

2005 Honors: WAC 1st Team All-Conference, WAC Offensive Player of the Year

Strengths: Strong and well-built, with surprising power for his size. Great work ethic.

Weaknesses: Size and speed.

Outlook: After backing up Chance Kretschmer for three years, Mitchell earned the feature role and had a breakout season, leading the conference in rushing and helping the team to a share of the WAC title for their first time since joining the conference. He is a product of hard work and succeeded as a physical runner, but he is to small to thrive that way at the next level and lacks speed to offset his size deficiency. He won’t be drafted and is unlikely to even get a shot as an undrafted free agent.

Anthony Sherrell (Eastern Michigan) 5’9” 195 4.55 - Career stats:

2005 Honors: None

All-Star Game: Magnolia Gridiron Classis. Did not standout among the collection of prospects fighting for a moment of recognition by any NFL scout.

Strengths: Fundamentally sound runner with sturdy build. Good receiver out of the backfield.

Weaknesses: Size. Not able to move the pile or much for picking up yards after contact. Declining production since breakout sophomore season. Passed by youth and moved out of game plan on his own team in 2005. Pass blocking skills inept for a player whose upside is change of pace runner in the NFL. Academics and attitude were major problems.

Outlook: Steadily declined after tremendous 2003 when he posted over 1,500 yards rushing. Academic problems plagued him throughout career. He never clicked with the HC Jeff Genyk and his staff that started at EMU in 2004 and considered transferring to D-IAA after the season. However, he appeared to have straightened out his school work, graduating in August 2005 to earn his final year of eligibility, and looked to be ready to try to recapture his 2003 form. He and Genyk never got on the same page and Sherrell was demoted and didn’t even suit up for some games. Now his draft value has hit rock bottom and he’ll be lucky to be an undrafted free agent, but he did flash some skills in 2003 as one of the most productive RBs in the country.

Athletic Quarterbacks
Every year there are a few QB prospects with terrific athleticism (read: running ability), but suspect upside as a passer. They usually are considered for other positions, such as wide receiver or defensive back, but despite their running skills and speed, they never seem considered for RB. In case someone gives it a try this year, here are the top athletes at QB who are likely to be considered at other positions. Vince Young won’t be asked to be anything else, so I didn’t bother including him. McNeal probably has the best chance of this group to remain looked at as a QB. Robinson played RB (as well as WR) at times in college.

Reggie McNeal (Texas A&M - 4SR) 6’2” 196 4.40 - Career stats

Brad Smith (Missouri - 4SR) 6’2” 210 4.52 - Career stats

Michael Robinson (Penn State - 5SR) 6’1” 220 4.56 - Career stats

Marcus Vick (Virginia Tech - 4JR) 6’0” 215 4.45 - Career stats

D.J. Shockley (Georgia) 6’1” 205 4.60 - Career stats

All-Star Games
A quick recap of participation by RB prospects in this year’s all-star games.

Senior Bowl - 1/28/06
It’s interesting to note over the last six years, an average of 90 of 100 participants (537 total) have been drafted. Last year, 83 of 100, including 10 in the first round. This year, 26 Pro Bowl players were Senior Bowl veterans.

DeAngelo Williams, Memphis - 3 carries for 31 yards and took a screen pass 28 yards.
Joseph Addai, LSU - 1 carry for 3 yards.
Andre Hall, South Florida - just 1 yard on 2 carries.
Jerious Norwood, Mississippi State - 4 carries for 7 yards.
D.J. Shockley, Georgia - QB lost 3 yards on 1 carry.
Garrett Mills, Tulsa - FB/TE tweener had no touches in the game.

Jerome Harrison, Washington State - 54 yards on a game-high 11 carries, including 8 consecutive carries to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
Cedric Humes, Virginia Tech - 19 yards on 5 carries and the only rushing TD in the game. Also returned a kick 20 yards.
Terrence Whitehead, Oregon - 6 carries for 32 yards.
Mike Bell, Arizona - 5 carries for 22 yards.
Michael Robinson, Penn State - QB completed just 1 pass, but was the game’s leading rusher with 63 yards on 9 carries.
Lawrence Vickers, Colorado - FB had 4 carries for 19 yards.

East-West Shrine Game - 1/21/06

Leon Washington, FSU - leading receiver for East (6-26-0), as well as 9-44-0 on the ground.

De’Arrius Howard, Arkansas - led the East in rushing (61 yards on 15 carries) and scoring, running for three TDs. Stopped from scoring what would have been the winning TD from the one-yard line on the last play of the game.

Wali Lundy, Virginia - participated in practice, but not in game, after leaving to attend to personal matters at home.

Brandon Kennedy, Arkansas

Nick Hartigan, Brown

Cory Ross, Nebraska - 18 yards on 6 carries and an 18-yard reception.

Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech - rushed for 32 yards on a team-high 7 carries, including a TD.

DonTrell Moore, New Mexico - just 16 yards on 5 carries, but scored a TD and had a 6-yard reception.

Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M - QB ran for 32 yards on just 4 carries (8.0 ypc)

Gilbert Harris, Arizona - just 1 yard on 1 carry for FB, but caught 2 passes for 13 yards.

David Kirtman, USC

Adrian Byrd, New Mexico

Hula Bowl - 1/21/06

Quinton Ganther, Utah - West leading rusher with 8-37-0.
Patrick Cobbs, North Texas - 19 yards on 6 carries and caught a 13-yard pass.
Brad Smith, Missouri - QB lost 4 yards on 8 carries overall, despite a 15-yard TD run.
B.J. Mitchell, Nevada - just 10 yards on 4 carries.
Victor Mann, KSU - FB had 12 yards on 3 carries.

P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech - leading rusher for game with 54 yards on 12 carries.
Tyler Ebell, UTEP - 6 carries for 23 yards.
P.J Pope, Bowling Green - ran for 16 yards on 3 carries and caught 2 passes for 21 yards.
Antoine Bagwell, California University of PA - 9 yards on 3 carries.
Shawn Willis, Oklahoma State - FB had 11 yards on 5 carries.

Las Vegas All-American Classic - 1/14/06

Quadtrine Hill, Miami - leading rusher for the East (and game) with 9-52-1. Scored a second TD on a 17-yard reception.

Chris Barclay, Wake Forest - starter for East had 16 yards on 8 carries and a 10-yard reception. Also returned a kick for 26 yards.

Chris Taylor, Indiana - 6 carries for 19 yards.

James Coleman, FSU - FB got 4 carries, but just 4 yards. One was a TD, but also lost a fumble.

Shelton Sampson, Northwestern State - 17 yards on 8 carries and a fumble.

Bryson Sumlin, Fresno State - starter for West had 3 yards on 2 carries and a 5-yard reception.

J.R. Lemon, Stanford - just 3 yards on 6 carries. Also a 10-yard reception.

John David Washington, Morehouse - leading rusher for West with 27 yards on 4 carries.

Joe Rubin, Portland State - lost 2 yards on 4 carries.

Naufahu Tahi, BYU - FB had 1 carry for 7 yards and a reception for 4 yards.

Cactus Bowl (DII) - 1/6/06

Antoine Bagwell, California University of PA - East starter had 30 yards on 8 carries.

Martin Hicks, Winston-Salem State - led the East with 76 yards on 15 carries, including a 25-yard TD run.

Jamar Day, Nebraska-Omaha - posted 9-25-1 and 3-20-0.

Rashon Myles, Abilene Christian -West starter had 45 yards on 12 carries.

Wes Beschorner, South Dakota - back-up QB was the game’s leading rusher with 12-87-1 and MVP.

Magnolia Grid-Iron Classic (D-IA v. D-IAA, more or less) - 12/24/05

I-A and NAIA
Chris Taylor, Indiana - just 7 yards on 3 carries.
Anthony Sherrell, Eastern Michigan - led the I-A RBs with 18 yards rushing.
J.R. Lemon, Stanford - 15 yards on 2 carries.
Steven Jyles, Louisiana-Monroe - QB led I-A squad with 31 yards on 3 carries and was MVP.
De De Dorsey, Lindenwood - just 2 carries for 7 yards.
Kasey Young , Western New Mexico - FB lost 3 yards on 3 carries and lost a fumble.

Keldrick Williams, Alabama State - game’s leading rusher with 67 yards on 8 carries.
Sean Treasure, Minnesota State - 38 yards on 8 carries.
Terrence Freeney, Northern Iowa - managed just 4 yards on 5 carries.

The following is the final list of running backs, and potential running backs, that are invited to the Combine. It is rare a RB not invited to the Combine goes on Day One. The Combine will be held 2/22/06 – 2/28/06 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, IN.

Addai, Joseph (LSU)
Bell, Mike (Arizona)
Bernstein, Matt (Wisconsin) – FB
Bush, Reggie (USC)
Calhoun, Brian (Wisconsin)
Daniels, P.J. (Georgia Tech)
Drew, Maurice (UCLA)
Ganther, Quinton (Utah)
Gilbert, Ryan (Houston)
Hall, Andre (South Florida)
Harris, Gilbert (Arizona) - FB
Harrison, Jerome (Washington)
Henderson, Taurean (Texas Tech)
Humes, Cedric (Virginia Tech)
Kirtman, David (USC) - FB
Lundy, Wali (Virginia)
Maroney, Laurence (Minnesota)
Mathis, Wendell (Fresno State)
McNeal, Reggie (Texas A&M) - QB
Mills, Garrett (Tulsa) – TE/FB
Moore, DonTrell (New Mexico)
Norwood, Jerious (Mississippi)
Riggs Jr., Gerald (Tennessee)
Robinson, Michael (Penn State) - QB
Ross, Cory (Nebraska)
Ross, Derrick (Tarleton State) - FB
Shockley, D.J. (Georgia) - QB
Smith, Brad (Missouri) - QB
Tahi, Naufahu (BYU) - FB
Vickers, Lawrence (Colorado) - FB
Washington, Leon (FSU)
White, LenDale (USC)
Whitehead, Terrence (Oregon)
Williams, DeAngelo (Memphis)