In July, I first took a look at the running backs headed for the
2007 NFL Draft in this article.
At the end of September, I looked at how the class was evolving
with this update. After the regular
season, I checked back with another
update. Once the list of underclassmen who declared was final
and all-star games were complete, I had this
look at where the class was. Now the Combine is over and most
Pro Days are complete. It’s time for a final look at this
RB class heading in to the draft.
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 largely an exercise in futility. Instead of a formal value
board, I group an RB class in more general terms, under fairly
self-explanatory headings. It’s important to note this is
not a ranking of future value per se, just where I expect them
to be drafted.
Key: Name (School) Height,
Weight, Combine 40 (Pro Day 40, if available)
Both top RB prospects heading in to the Combine worked out there.
Both left with their status solidified and did nothing to change
that at their Pro Days.
Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) 6014 217 4.40
Unlike many top prospects, Peterson didn’t shy away from the
challenge of performing on demand at the Combine; despite learning
hours earlier his half-brother was shot and killed. Included in
his impressive display in Indianapolis was tying for the best 40
time (4.40) and broad jump (10’7”), as well as second-best
vertical (38 ½”). While he didn’t bench, any
concerns about his shoulder were overshadowed by his performance
in the rest of the tests and drills. He sat on most of his numbers
at OU’s Pro Day, just running the 60-yard shuttle. He did
impress catching the ball, about the only thing scouts needed to
see from him after just 24 career receptions in college. While there
is no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect, Peterson is as
close as it gets.
With so many positives, people are still going to look for a reason
to tear him down. Similar to the concerns about Reggie Bush’s
size and ability to carry the load as a feature back at this time
last year, questioning Peterson’s durability is en vogue this
year. However, a review of his injury history doesn’t include
blown ligaments or the degenerative variety that have lingering
concerns. He dislocated his left shoulder in camp prior to his first
year that didn’t stop him from a record-breaking freshman
campaign where he finished second in Heisman voting. In 2005, a
right high ankle sprain impacted him for several games, but only
kept him out of one. While not the same back he was the previous
season, he still went over 1,000 yards at 5.1 ypc. He was back to
form in 2006 when an unlucky fall into the end zone resulted in
a fractured right collarbone that cost him the final seven regular
season games. No one would have blamed him if he just sat the rest
of the season out, but he showed some impressive resolve in returning
for the Fiesta Bowl. Fittingly, his final collegiate carry was a
25-yard TD run in overtime.
Bottom line, Peterson is the most exciting combination of size,
speed, and raw natural talent at RB since Bo Jackson. His grade
is worthy of the top overall pick, but there are bigger needs and
crowded backfields in Oakland and Detroit. Back in January, I had
him in Cleveland when most mocks had him falling to Houston. Cleveland
GM Phil Savage has to strongly be considering taking his fourth
Sooner in his third draft in guiding the team with the third overall
pick, despite adding Jamal Lewis. Of course, you have to forgive
the Browns for being cautious with anyone remotely of injury concern
after the year they had in 2006. Savage was at OU’s Pro Day
and without revealing too much, did mention Peterson’s broken
shoulder blade last fall was of no concern and the one-year deal
for Lewis didn’t affect their draft plans. If he doesn’t
go to Cleveland, there are a string of situations where RB isn’t
a pressing need, but I’d consider Houston with the tenth pick
the absolute floor for him.
Marshawn Lynch (California) 5111 215 4.46
After an unofficial time over 4.50 in his first run, Lynch came
back with a sub-4.5 time on his second and visible sense of satisfaction,
combined with a little relief, about him. He may have recognized
he passed a conceptual line in the sand for separating good speed
from elite speed for RBs, and passed a final hurdle in locking himself
in as a first round pick. Lynch was solid, but unspectacular, in
most of the other tests. Demonstrating his timed speed correlated
to the functional speed he showed as a playmaker (6.6 ypc for his
career) in college increases the likelihood those skills will transfer,
which was the most important thing he could have shown at the Combine.
The other work to take care of there was shedding any lingering
concerns about his character. Last summer his car was shot at in
a drive-by shooting that was apparently a case of mistaken identify.
His mother actually received a call apologizing and saying the shooter
thought Lynch was someone else. Of more serious concern was a recent
allegation of assault by an ex-girlfriend in December. The case
was promptly dismissed for lack of evidence and apparently was an
attempt at extortion. By all accounts, none of these unfortunate
incidents have tarnished perception of his character. With a more
compact build than Peterson, the conventional wisdom is Lynch will
be less prone to big hits, hence injury, over his career. However,
Lynch is also not without some problems in that department the last
couple of years. In his first season as a feature back in 2005,
a broken pinky cost him two games. This past season, he dealt with
a sore back and sprains in both ankles for the second half of the
season. However, neither that nor the loss of two all-conference
linemen stopped him from having his best year in his final season.
At Cal’s Pro Day, he weighed three pounds heavier (218) and
sat on his Combine numbers, but impressed with his receiving skills
in position drills.
On film, Lynch’s vision really stands out. He is a patient
runner with good instincts through traffic and excellent at finding
the cutback lane. He is also not only a complete back, but a complete
football player. A top kick returner, he is also a willing special
teams player with five career tackles. A natural receiver both out
of the backfield and split out, he also became the serviceable blocker
a back needs to be in HC Jeff Tedford’s pro-style offense.
If you need him to, he can also throw a pass for you. Lynch says
he can throw a ball 70 yards and QB is his “dream position”.
He completed four of five passes for 55 yards and two scores in
While his ceiling is as high as Atlanta with the eighth overall
pick, he is likely a mid-to-late first rounder. The trade of Willis
McGahee makes Buffalo with the twelfth pick an appealing match,
as well as Green Bay with the sixteenth. I still feel Lynch is underappreciated.
He didn’t put up eye-popping numbers in college because he
never needed to. Cal had one of the deepest backfields in the country
in a top overall offense each of his years. The presence of spotlight-grabbing
skill position players like Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson have
also kept Lynch from getting more press in this draft class. However,
he would be a top RB prospect in any class, any year.
There probably isn’t another first round pick here, but expect
this group to all hear their name called on Day One.
Antonio Pittman (Ohio State) 5106 207 4.40
Pittman seems to continue to fly under the radar, but he had an
outstanding week at the Combine. First he came in about ten solid
pounds heavier than listed and tied Adrian Peterson and Chris Henry
for fastest official 40 time. Also noteworthy was a terrific 6.84
second time in the cone drill, a relevant test of the stop-and-start
and agility skills of a RB. He was three pounds heavier at OSU’s
Pro Day and sat on his Combine numbers, but did position drills.
Prior to the Combine, opinions varied on whether he is really a
top prospect or product of the system. He answered those questions
in terms of his athleticism in February. I like Pittman’s
potential, but I still think he is a little raw. Things came easy
in college, so his toughness and how he responds to challenges remains
to be seen. I don’t think he will fare well if he falls in
to a situation where he has a chance to play a lot as a rookie.
He needs to bulk up and toughen up for a year or two while developing
a hunger for touches again. He reminds me a bit of Ahman Green in
that aspect. Pittman runs with good pad level and leverage inside
despite just being over 200 pounds. With a little more bulk, he
could handle the workhorse part, while still having the breakaway
speed to be a complete feature runner.
Lorenzo Booker (Florida State) 5103 191 4.46
Kept his post-season momentum rolling with an outstanding numbers
at the Combine, including a 4.46 40 time with the fastest 10-yard
split (1.46) among RBs. He stood on his speed numbers at FSU’s
Pro Day, saying he was a bit sick. He struggled with his footing
a bit in the agility drills, which he didn’t do at the Combine,
but nothing that will hurt his draft value.
Booker is up there with Marshawn Lynch for most all-around skilled
back in the draft. He is very natural as a receiver and his elusiveness
adds great RAC potential. A strong runner on the draw play makes
him a perfect fit as a third-down back. His potential as a versatile
playmaker on offense even as just a role player, combined with The
Devin Hester Legacy of teams now not wanting to miss out on a difference-maker
as a returner, make Booker a lock to be a Day One pick.
Brian Leonard (Rutgers) 6014 226 4.52 (DNR)
I wasn’t sure about Leonard’s decision to drop more
than ten pounds after the season to show he can be a feature runner,
but he punctuated a strong Senior Bowl showing with a demonstration
of impressive athleticism at the Combine. A couple very good 40
times, an excellent 6.88 in the cone-drill, and 28 reps on the bench,
best among RBs, were the highlights. Not surprisingly, he stood
by those numbers and just did position drills at his Pro Day.
He isn’t a hammer as a power runner or a strong blocker, but
he is sufficient at both and offers far more skill than most bigger
backs. It will be interesting to see who drafts him and how he would
appear to fit in with their group of backs, as far as whether or
not a shot as a feature back appears a possibility in his future.
With his versatility and blue collar work ethic, it wouldn’t
be a surprise to see the Patriots call his name on Day One. Eagles
are another team that jump out as a perfect fit.
Kenny Irons (Auburn) 5103 203 4.45 (DNR)
After beginning his rebound from a disappointing season at the Senior
Bowl, Irons propelled himself back in to second tier with some outstanding
performances in testing. His 40 time, 38” vertical, and over
10’ broad jump were each among the top five for RBs. His 10
yard split and cone drill times, a couple key indicators of quickness
and agility relevant to a RB, were both outstanding, as well. He
also achieved this while coming in five pounds heavier than he was
at the Combine. At Auburn’s Pro Day, he had a below-average
17 reps on the bench. It was the only test he didn’t do at
the Combine. He stood on the rest of Combine numbers and just did
Irons moved back up draft boards, although perhaps not all the way
to the third-rated back he was coming in to the 2006 season. In
a more talented RB class, he wouldn’t rate as high. His size
is the low end of desirable for a feature RB and his skills in all
facets of the passing game need a lot of development. However, Irons
is a natural runner with high-end speed and in a year or two should
have no problem carrying the additional bulk to handle a full workload
of carries. According to Irons, the Packers spent a lot of time
talking to him and a team like that where he could contribute as
part of a RBBC until he adds some weight and learns the passing
game would be a good fit.
This group has the potential to be Day One picks, but they have
some 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. Round Three
is always murky territory. One or two surprises show up by teams
that are really in love with a guy and don’t want to end Day
One without having secured him. So while I feel these guys have
the potential to be chosen by then, only so many RBs get drafted
Day One and these should be victimized by the numbers.
Brandon Jackson (Nebraska) 5097 206 4.54
While he didn’t show he had home run speed at the Combine,
his overall test results were strong. His 4.14 short shuttle and
7.00 cone drill were among the better times among RBs. Going back
over film, his cutback ability and agility really standout to back
up those numbers. With excellent vision and instincts, his shiftiness
allows him to flow well through traffic. He is patient in allowing
his blocks get set up, sometimes dancing too much in the backfield
though, then weaves his way to the second level or stops on a dime
to change direction when the hole is clogged. Jackson also runs
with authority which, combined with his agility, make arm tackles
a waste of time. You better hit and wrap if you want to bring him
down. He shaved more than a tenth of a second on both his 40 runs
at Nebraska’s Pro Day, but the indoor FieldTurf there was
regarded as a fast surface and other players consistently showed
As somewhat of a surprise in declaring in the draft, I had to catch
up on reviewing Jackson and the more I see, the more I like. He
lacks ideal size for feature back and elite speed, but has a very
complete set of skills, including receiving and pass protection.
There are some injury concerns with his shoulders. He has had shoulder
problems each of his three seasons and has had surgery on each.
His 21 reps on the bench at the Combine gave some reassurance they
are in pretty good shape as of right now. Another issue is there
isn’t much on his resume. Last season was the first time he
played extensively and sharing the ball in the Cornhuskers’
backfield resulted in just a total of 188 rushing attempts (and
only 103 more over his other two years). He is a very similar prospect
to Darius Walker, but while Walker brings more collegiate accomplishment,
I like the Jackson’s running skills more.
DeShawn Wynn (Florida) 5103 218 4.47 (DNR)
He pretty much disappeared after the National Championship, not
participating in an all-star game (there was some mention of family
issues he had to attend to), but popped back on the grid at the
Combine. He ran two sub-4.5 times and had the second-fastest 10-yard
split among RBs (1.47). However, between the Combine and Florida’s
Pro Day, his other tests were not as impressive. After dropping
about five pounds from his listed weight to where he was at the
Combine (232), he was all the way down to 218 at Florida’s
Wynn is your textbook high-risk, high-reward pick. A highly-touted
recruit, he had a rollercoaster career in which his dedication,
conditioning, and durability have been questioned. After being undressed
by HC Urban Meyer (along with the rest of Florida’s RBs) prior
to the season, Wynn responded with positive attitude and solid production
that contributed to a National Championship for the Gators (although
durability was again a problem during the season). He has the talent
to be a feature back, but appears to bring too many question marks
for someone to draft him in a spot representative of his potential.
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.
Tony Hunt (Penn State) 6015 234 DNR (4.68)
Showed up in Indianapolis about five pounds lighter than where
he was at the Senior Bowl and looked in good shape. He didn’t
participate in any tests other than the bench, where he had a
decent 24 reps. Not participating appeared to have hurt him a
bit, as Kenny Irons had a good showing and Chris Henry grabbed
the spotlight as not just the most impressive athlete for a big
back, but for all RBs at the Combine. The damage was confirmed
at Penn State’s Pro Day. Hunt not only had two poor 40 times,
but all his athletic test results were sub-par across the board
for a RB. His 4.72 short shuttle and 7.39 cone drill, important
tests of quickness and agility, are among the worst in this class.
Hunt’s proving ground has been on the field and while you
can’t disregard that, his numbers are in the range where
you have to question if he has the athleticism to be a consistently
effective as a runner at the next level. I had been a big supporter
of Hunt and with decent numbers thought he had a shot to go as
high as the third back selected in this class, but now he now
has to be considered more of a short-yardage role player type
and perhaps a FB.
Darius Walker (Notre Dame) 5100 206 4.55
While lacking elite timed speed, Walker demonstrated some fairly
impressive athletic skills at the Combine, including the best
vertical (40 ½”) among all players. His manual timed
speed in the 40 at Notre Dame’s Pro Day practically matched
his Combine times.
While not an elite talent, Walker is solid athletically and well-schooled
in a pro-style offense where he was an effective weapon as a receiver
and showed good durability. That makes him an appealing package
at the next level, although probably not as a feature back. It
would help if he had some return skills, but he is a low-risk
Day Two pick for a team who needs depth in their backfield.
Michael Bush (Louisville) 6016 243 DNR
After breaking his right leg in the first half of the first game
of the season, he had a titanium rod and two screws inserted and
it was expected he’d be recovered in time to work out for
Louisville’s Pro Day, if not the Combine. After not much
discussion on his rehab, he came out and said it was going well,
but was still walking with a limp on the sidelines at the Orange
Bowl in January. After that, he declared for the draft and went
to Arizona to continue his rehab. Again, without much news on
his progression, the Combine finally came and he declared the
leg was not fully healed, so he would not work out. Almost another
month passed and just before Louisville’s March 26th Pro
Day, news came that Bush had a second surgery to remove the current
rod and replace it with another because it wasn’t healing
as expected. The recovery time is unknown, but it has been indicated
that he is not expected to be ready to run before the draft.
The latest turn of events significantly hurts Bush’s draft
stock. While there are exceptions (Willis McGahee), players with
uncertain injury concerns have a tendency to fall in the draft,
regardless of their perceived upside (Lee Suggs, Greg Jones, and
Frank Gore). Prior to the latest setback, many continued to contend
Bush would be the third back selected, but I don’t think
he was ever a lock to go that high. You have a small sample set
of backs his size (over 6’ and in the neighborhood of 250)
in NFL history, much less who have succeeded. You have Christian
Okoye and, well, that’s about it. While the freakish size
and athleticism makes for an appealing conceptual package, the
size makes for a big target who will take a lot of hard hits,
so there is a somewhat of a similar bias, or at least caution,
about super sized backs as there is undersized backs. Greg Jones
looked ready to challenge that before injuries kept derailing
him. Brandon Jacobs will be next to try to break the mold this
year. Unlike Jacobs, I wouldn’t have expected Bush to run
a sub-4.6 time, either. Another thing about Bush is he was still
learning to use his size as leverage and to his advantage. A former
HS QB, he was not only still developing as a runner, but as one
who grew significantly the last few years. Despite his size, he
wasn’t a very successful short-yardage runner in 2005. Bush
also has more to his injury history to look at. He broke his right
foot in spring as a freshman and needed a screw inserted to stabilize
it. A bone bruise to his left foot cost him two games in 2005
and after aggravating it, continued to hamper him in spring 2006,
as well. Bottom line, Bush has some incredible potential, but
was still a work-in-progress as a RB before the injury. Lingering
concerns about the current injury and his durability, in general,
will be something GMs will be weighing against his potential before
considering calling his name Day One.
Garrett Wolfe (Northern Illinois) 5074
183 DNR (4.39)
His superb quickness and agility on the field were validated at
the Combine where his 4.08 short shuttle and 6.69 cone times were
the best among RBs. He ran at NIU’s Pro Day, where a sub-4.4
was one of his two 40 times on an indoor track.
Wolfe is the enigma of the RB class, as it is a struggle to find
a comparable player. His diminutive size guarantees he won’t
be considered as a feature back, but he doesn’t offer the
return upside of Darren Sproles (the only recent RB of similar
size drafted recently). He showed some decent hands catching passes
and punt returns at one practice at the Senior Bowl before a hamstring
injury ended his opportunity there. He is two inches shorter than
even Warrick Dunn, and has a thinner frame, so I don’t see
him bulking up much (at least not doing so and not compromising
his agility). Still, Wolfe has been one of the most electrifying
runners in the nation the last two years and while playing for
a mid-major, his production didn’t slip when he faced the
big dogs. Someone will take Wolfe on Day Two for his potential
to be special with the ball in his hands and figure out how to
use him later.
Dwayne Wright (Fresno State) 5114 223 4.66
Disappointing Combine where his test results across the board
were poor. At Fresno State’s Pro Day, he dropped about five
pounds, but only participated in position drills. Some teams tried
to convince him to at least run the 40 again, but he did not.
He ran again San Diego State’s Pro Day, with reported manual
times between 4.58 and 4.62.
His return from a devastating leg injury (torn patellar tendon
in left knee) that cost him most of two years to one of the most
productive runners in the nation was one of the great stories
in 2006. He is a strong power runner, but his speed and athleticism
are limited. It is hard to see him in feature role at the next
level because of that, so he should fall to Day Two, but he has
proven skeptics wrong before.
Kolby Smith (Louisville) 5112 220 4.50
The highlight of the Combine for Smith was his 40 time, as well
as an excellent vertical (38”). His broad jump and shuttle
were average at best, while his cone drill was disappointing.
He ran again on FieldTurf at Louisville’s Pro Day at two
slightly slower times and improved his cone time.
A big part of the RBBC that replaced Michael Bush last season,
Smith’s stock has risen, while Bush’s is in a freefall.
I’m not as high on Smith as others. He has the prototype
size and is a nice all-around package, but I don’t see special
moves or instincts as a runner. Smith is a good enough receiver
and pass blocker to be a third down back, while he could also
be considered as a multi-purpose FB (he saw some work there at
the Senior Bowl). A blue collar type who gets the most out of
his ability, Smith has enough value to be a Day Two pick (it’s
not inconceivable he’s drafted before Bush after the latest
negative injury news). However, I think his upside is limited
and he won’t hold on to a feature role, if he ever gets
a shot at one.
Chris Henry (Arizona) 5112 230 4.40 (DNR)
Henry was the workout warrior surprise of the Combine, including
tying for the fastest time and longest broad jump (10’7”)
by a RB in Indy. His other numbers were among the best by RBs,
as well, including 4.16 shuttle, 6.96 cone, 36” vertical,
and 26 reps on the bench. Not surprisingly, he stood on those
numbers at Arizona’s Pro Day.
Buried on the depth chart most of his collegiate career, considering
2006 a breakout for him is a relative term. He started the first
two games, although he was benched after 6 ineffective carries
at LSU. He was suspended the following week, and then fell back
in to a RBBC before starting, and being featured, the last four
games of the season. With a year of eligibility left, his decision
to enter the NFL draft was surprising considering his limited
collegiate achievement. In addition, there are concerns about
his attitude and dedication. Henry is a project, more athlete
than football player, but some team is going to take a chance
on Day Two on being able to translate his measurables into production
on the football field.
Jackie Battle (Houston) 6020 238 n/a (4.43)
With no invite to the Combine, Battle became the Chris Henry of
Pro Days when he stunned the scouts and personnel from 22 teams
in attendance at the Cougars’ Pro Day in late March. It
started with two 40 times in the low 4.4’s (one scout reportedly
had him at 4.35 and the Houston staff said he once ran a 4.33),
surprising times for a player his size not know as a home run
threat. It didn’t stop there, his 41” vertical, 10’11”
broad jump, and 6.51 cone times were the best by a RB in either
the Combine or Pro Days.
Most scouts and draft pundits had saw a conversion to FB as Battle’s
only chance at the next level. However, his Pro Day revealed a
player whose athleticism shows he may have been misused as primarily
a short-yardage back in a RBBC at Houston. He took advantage of
his opportunities his senior year, and had his most productive
season, but appears vastly underutilized in hindsight. Battle
joins Chris Henry as workout wonders who are climbing as “big
backs” with the recent disappoint developments with the
previous top two in that category (Michael Bush and Tony Hunt).
This group has the upside that indicates they should be drafted,
but they have concerns in one or more areas regarding measurables,
accomplishments, durability, or character. They also face getting
caught in a numbers game – only so many RBs get drafted.
Ahmad Bradshaw (Marshall) 5094 198 4.55
While he didn’t show breakaway track speed at the Combine,
his quickness and agility were highlighted with among the top
times by a RB in the short shuttle (4.09) and cone drill (6.70).
Bradshaw is raw, but his natural running skills and vision offer
a lot of promise. Despite lacking elite timed speed, he is a big
play threat. He adds value as a receiver and has experience as
a returner. He had a few minor legal incidents in his past that
could hurt his draft value, but I think he has enough upside to
be selected on Day Two.
Kenneth Darby (Alabama) 5103 211 4.75
After a disappointing final season and not standing out at the
Senior Bowl, Darby was looking to salvage his draft value at the
Combine. It didn’t happen as his results across the board
were in the bottom five for RBs at the Combine. He showed improvement
at Alabama’s Pro Day, where he shaved significant time off
his short shuttle, cone drill, and 40 time. His ability to show
that kind of improvement once again leads me to believe his problems
are more mental than physical.
No RB without a significant injury has fallen farther since the
2005 season than Darby. Name and program recognition are about
the best things he has going for him right now. A lesser know
player at a mid-major or lower I would have written off by now,
but you can’t overlook what he accomplished in the SEC in
2004 and 2005.
Thomas Clayton (Kansas State) 5102 218
Clayton’s Combine was a mixed bag, with a solid vertical
(36 ½”), broad jump (10’ 1”), and bench
(23), but disappointing 40 times. However, he was strong in drills,
showing good agility, crisp cuts, and very good hands as a receiver.
At KSU’s Pro Day, his short shuttle (4.42) and cone drill
(7.28) were lower than desired, but he shaved some time off his
40 on their FieldTurf.
Clayton’s times in drills don’t jibe with his functional
speed and quickness. He is a natural runner who moves well and
can breakaway once he is in the second level. He had several long
runs on a low number of collegiate carries. However, he hardly
has the resume to offset concerns about his test results. After
looking like a breakout player early in 2005, the FSU transfer
has had his last two seasons derailed by a relatively minor legal
incident. It has created an exaggerated perception of character
issues for Clayton that I don’t think will really impact
his draft value much. The real problem is it has kept him off
the field from showing what he can do. I believe he has shown
enough that someone will pick him up on Day Two where he has a
nice chance to be a value pick that becomes a solid NFL back-up.
Tyrone Moss (Miami) 5901 231 4.75 (4.65)
Unimpressive numbers across the board at the Combine were highlighted
by one of the 40 times and among the least bench reps (16) by
a RB. While he weighed in at 231, the speed and burst he seemed
to have regained at the Shrine Game was absent by comparison to
peers in Indianapolis. He did little more to help himself at Miami’s
Pro Day. Moss was down to 226 pounds, but his 40 time barely improved
when clocked manually.
Moss’s draft prospects remain on life support after a discouraging
post-season followed his disappointing last season. Frank Gore
had a lot of similar questions about the health of his knee(s)
coming in to the draft and lasted until the third round. However,
Moss never displayed nearly the same talent. The Miami RB legacy
and belief the knee still needs to approve may convince some team
to take an end-game flier on him, but it wouldn’t be a complete
surprise to not see him drafted at all.
Justise Hairston (Central Connecticut State)
6011 222 n/a (4.58)
Yahoo’s John Murphy reported some eye-popping physical test
numbers for Hairston from a private workout with the Eagles in
March that would have been among the best across the board at
the Combine. CCSU’s Pro Day had eight teams (Jaguars, Bengals,
Eagles, Packers, Patriots, 49ers, Browns and Falcons), pretty
much exclusively to see Hairston, and he performed well again.
His 39” vertical and 4.15 in short shuttle were among the
best to-date among RBs. His 6.94 cone and 10’4” broad
jump were also very solid. Reports of his two 40 times ran from
4.53 to 4.60, while Murphy had him at 4.47 with the Eagles.
After leading D-IAA in rushing and all-purpose yards, the Rutgers
transfer was a Combine snub. His barnstorming of all-star games
(Hula Bowl and Texas vs. The Nation) helped get him some notice.
His strong workouts keep him on the rise. In a thin RB class where
many of the big backs are failing to impress with their athleticism,
Hairston may be the quietest fast riser in the country right now.
Selvin Young (Texas) 5111 207 DNR (4.58)
Under the category of “least surprising things in the world”
was news that Young would not work out at the Combine because
of injury (a strained quad, suffered in the second Senior Bowl
practice a month earlier, which kept him out of that game). I
noted in my last update I wouldn’t have been surprised to
see him come up lame on one of his 40 runs at the Combine. He
one-upped me by not even running. However, he displayed some impressive
athleticism at Texas’ Pro Day. The only disappointing test
was his 40 times, for which reports ranged from 4.58 to 4.62.
Young has always passed the eyeball test. Good size and chiseled
physique, he definitely looks the part. He also seems to have
all the skills to play the part. The problem is he can’t
stay on the field long enough to consistently prove it. His durability
has been a disaster. Still, he brings good intangibles. He was
a leader on their National Championship team and attitude has
never been a problem when he has had to accept lesser roles (although
it leaves a question of his desire in the first place). He isn’t
reliable enough to be considered as a feature back, but he is
a strong enough runner to be considered for a short-yardage role
and is even a good enough receiver to be considered for a move
to WR, plus he has excelled as a returner.
Jason Snelling (Virginia) 5111 230 4.79
Originally a 215 lb tailback, Snelling bulked up and moved to
fullback his first three seasons to avoid being buried on the
depth chart. This past season, he returned to tailback for the
Cavs and had a successful year. His physical tests between the
Combine and his Pro Day indicate his NFL future is headed towards
FB, although his 15 reps on the bench show he needs to add some
upper body strength if he’s going to be handling blocking
The versatile big man lacks the physical skills to project as
a success being featured in a one-back set, but he could be a
multi-purpose FB and H-Back, as he has very good hands. Outstanding
contributor on special teams helps his draft value, as well.
Jon Cornish (Kansas) 5114 202 4.62 (4.52)
He dropped four pounds and more than a tenth of a second off his
40 time at Kansas’ Pro Day. He also improved his vertical,
but showed some disappointing strength on the bench (just seven
reps). He added a 4.27 short shuttle and stood on his cone drill
(7.09) from the Combine, both good numbers.
Cornish is a hard worker and solid, but unspectacular, in all
phases of the running game. However, he doesn’t demonstrate
the suddenness or elusiveness to predict success as a runner at
the next level. His best potential may be as a special teams player.
If he doesn’t get a shot in the NFL, the Canadian native
was already selected in the second round of the CFL draft by the
Danny Ware (Georgia) 6000 225 DNR (4.61)
An ankle injury prevented him from working out at the Combine,
other than 21 reps on the bench. At Georgia’s Pro Day, he
ran two 40’s reported between 4.60 and 4.65 on a rubber
track. He reported tweaking his hamstring while running, but continued
to perform in position drills. Other notable numbers were his
6.96 in the cone drill and moving up to 25 bench reps.
Similar to LSU’s Justin Vincent, he career went in reverse
after a breakout true freshman campaign. However, Ware has displayed
better athleticism and definitely passes the eyeball test, as
he appeared in outstanding shape. Ware has the potential to be
a selected earlier in Day Two than expected based on his upside,
but he could also go undrafted.
Names likely left to be considered late Day Two as fliers, but
more likely to get a chance as priority undrafted free agent (UDFA).
Ramonce Taylor (formerly Texas) 5101 195
With all his past issues and having not played in a year, I was
surprised Taylor was asked to the Combine. His participation in
the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game and a Combine invite have
kept him on the draft radar. His 40 time and 6.98 around the cones
were his most impressive performances at the Combine. He had an
open workout the day before Texas’ Pro Day with mixed results.
He ran the 40 a couple more times for a wash, as he improved it
by about as much with the wind as it increased against the wind.
His short shuttle and cone times were significantly poorer compared
to his Combine times.
Taylor brings speed, electrifying elusiveness, and all-purpose
talent that, in a vacuum, leave little doubt he should be drafted.
However, between his academic problems throughout college and
the five years probation he is on for a felony drug arrest, he
will have most teams concerned about the whole package they are
getting. He is trying to bring this baggage in to the NFL at a
bad point in time, as well. The NFL continues to deal with multiple
off-field issues this off-season that continue to build so much
negative publicity both teams and league are being forced to address.
Justin Vincent (Louisiana State) 5106 219
While he didn’t get a Combine invite, scores of NFL personnel
were at LSU’s Pro Day to see JaMarcus Russell and the other
top Tiger prospects. Vincent didn’t exactly shine in the
physical tests, although his 7.09 on the cone drill showed solid
acceleration and agility. He worked well through the position
work, including being one of Russell’s targets on passing
The 2003 Sugar Bowl/National Championship MVP took a step back
his sophomore year that he never bounced back from. His freefall
culminated with a torn ACL in the 2006 Peach Bowl which impeded
his efforts to salvage any draft value his final season. One benefit
of his struggles as a runner is he ended up playing extensively
on special teams where he was outstanding on coverage teams. He
could earn a spot based on that with his potential as a runner
making him worth keeping around.
D.D. Terry (Sam Houston State) 6005 196
Despite an outstanding year for the Bearkats, Terry didn’t
show up on the grid until word spread (since only half the teams
in the league were there to see it in person) about the athletic
display he put on at SHSU’s Pro Day. The highlight by the
sprint champion was running around 4.4 flat in both his 40’s.
The only place he didn’t impress was 12 reps on the bench.
The JUCO transfer came to SHSU for football and track. A backup
safety in 2004, he moved to linebacker in 2005, but only started
the last five games. Due to injuries, he got an unexpected chance
at RB at fall practice. He went on to rush for over 1,300, on
over 6 ypc, and 15 scores, including 85 yards on 21 carries against
Texas. The Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year is
still raw and got by at a lower level of competition with his
outstanding physical skills. He is still more athlete than RB,
but now that he is on the radar, he will be a project for some
team as a late flier or priority UDFA.
Ronnie McGill (North Carolina) 5107 213
Attended the Combine, but as he is still recovering from a torn
left ACL he suffered in his final collegiate game at Duke, he
was mostly there to meet and greet. He did get measured and looked
in good shape. Actually did jump on the bench there and pumped
out a solid 22 reps. He didn’t work out at North Carolina’s
Pro Day, either.
McGill was not expected to be overly impressive in the physical
tests, so he didn’t lose as much as some other players might
have gained if not for missing working out. While he flashed potential
on a number of occasions, his collegiate resume is thin because
of his durability. He is not just injury-prone, he should have
a medical team dedicated to him each game (and in the off-season,
as he tore his pec lifting before the 2005 season). However, he
is a hard worker and likable player with some upside if he can
stay healthy for a stretch. He should get an opportunity to develop
somewhere as an UDFA.
Marcus O’Keith (California) 5110
198 n/a (4.45)
A long shot favorite of this column, I was surprised Marcus didn’t
appear in any of the all-star games and disappointed he didn’t
get a Combine invite. However, with 22 teams on hand at Cal’s
Pro Day to watch the other higher-rated prospects on the team,
he may have caught someone’s eye with his two sub-4.5 40
times and decent other workout numbers. A solid kick returner
and hard-working special teamer, O’Keith may never get a
chance as a RB at the next level, but he will at least be on a
practice squad this fall.
Clifton Dawson (Harvard) 5095 212 n/a (4.54)
A Combine snub, Dawson was left with Harvard’s lightly-attended
Pro Day to market himself. While he failed to break 4.5 in the
40, he had impressive numbers in most of the other tests. Dawson
is a willing special teams player and capable kick returner, but
the Ontario native is more likely to be in the CFL next year (he
was already drafted in the sixth round by the Toronto Argonauts).
He can also probably find a pretty good job outside football with
his economics degree from Harvard.
An assortment of prospects with one or more intriguing facets
or familiar names, but they victims of a numbers crunch and/or
the negatives currently outweigh the positives enough that right
now that, at best, they will be undrafted free agents, and the
rest will be in another league or line of work this fall.
Gary Russell (formerly Minnesota) 5103
After admitting in his press conference at the Combine his academic
problems that resulted in his dismissal from Minnesota were due
to him being “lazy”, he showed he hadn’t learned
a lesson. He appeared about fifteen pounds over his playing weight
and in poor shape. His athletic test results were embarrassing,
particularly for a player who had literally nothing else to do
the last six months but prepare for that event. It was the same
story a month early at the Texas vs. The Nation game. He was out
of shape there too, and stuffed on all three runs in the game.
He has scheduled an open personal workout for April 2nd at Capitol
University in Columbus, but even vast improvement there should
have little impact on his status. His lack of work ethic makes
devoting the time and practice squad spot to look at him as even
a developmental prospect questionable.
Arkee Whitlock (Southern Illinois) 5092
203 n/a (4.60)
Without a Combine invite, Whitlock had just the Salukis’
Pro Day as a final showcase. Other than some impressive acceleration
in the cone drill (7.07), he was unspectacular in the physical
tests. He failed to break 4.6 in two runs on a fast track (rubber
The man who once started in front of Brandon Jacobs doesn’t
appear headed to the same field with him on Sundays. He will likely
be looking for a shot on a practice squad and in NFL Europa, at
Germaine Race (Pittsburgh State) 5097 218
With no Combine invite, he attended Kansas’ Pro Day and
other than an impressive 7.00 in the cone-drill, had disappointing
numbers. It is hard enough for a DII prospect to get a shot, much
less one with athleticism that doesn’t appear it will translate
at the next level. The all-time, all-division college scoring
and TD leader, and all-time DII rushing leader, has been an intriguing
story the last few years, but it appears unlikely to have a chapter
in the NFL.
Courtney Lewis (Texas A&M) 5107 189
Showed up about fifteen pounds under his listed weight at the
Aggies’ Pro Day, but also showed he still had speed with
two 40’s both around 4.5 flat. His quickness and acceleration
were solid, but his other physical tests were unimpressive.
The former Freshman All-American digressed each year and practically
disappeared his final season. I was surprised he even showed up
for the Pro Day. Academics and injuries contributed to his downfall,
but he has never shown any sign of the desire to think he could
put it all together some day. He will be out of football for good
in a year.
Nate Ilaoa (Hawaii) 5087 245 4.77 (DNR)
Other than an impressive 25 reps on the bench and a 7.10 cone
time, Ilaoa had fairly sub-par numbers at the Combine, which I
was surprised he was invited to in the first place.
While an interesting story, this bowling bowl nicknamed Nasti
appears to have little chance of being drafted. He doesn’t
appear to have the athletic skills to overcome his size and weight
limitations to translate his game at the next level. With durability
a question mark, as well, UDFA should be the only way he has a
chance to prove his skeptics wrong again.
Pierre Thomas (Illinois) 5104 209 n/a (4.65)
The versatile Thomas failed to break 4.65 in his two 40 times
at Illinois’ Pro Day. His other test numbers weren’t
bad, but for a player whose only hope was to make a NFL roster
was as a return specialist and change of pace back, his lack of
breakaway speed is a problem.
Alonzo Coleman (Hampton) 5097 206 4.49
An outstanding D-IAA career was highlight by becoming one of the
few to run for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. A surprise
Combine invite, he got some attention with his 40 times and 27
reps on the bench. He still faces long odds getting drafted as
a sub-D-IA prospect.
Steve Baylark (Massachusetts) 5104 229
After failing to impress at the Shrine Game, his draft dreams
died with an unimpressive Pro Day where he went over 4.8 on both
his 40 times. Despite playing at a lower level, his collegiate
credentials are impressive. In 2006, he and Alonzo Coleman (Hampton)
became just the third and fourth players in D-IAA history to run
for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. If he ends up anywhere
as an UDFA, don’t be surprised if it is Chicago. The two
previous players to accomplish that in D-IAA, Jerry Azumah and
Adrian Peterson, were Bears. Cedric Benson, one of the few runners
to accomplish it at the D-1A level, is also a Bear.