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2007 NFL RB Draft Class
Version 5.0

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)

Blue Chips (Seniors)
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 (DNR)
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 (DNR)
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 college.

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.

Likely Day One
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 (DNR)
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 (DNR)
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 position drills.

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.

Borderline Day One
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 (4.42)
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 improvement too.

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 Pro Day.

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.

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.

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 (4.56)
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 (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 (4.62)
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 (4.53)
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).

Borderline Day Two
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 (4.61)
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 4.63 (4.58)
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 (4.73)
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 regularly.

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 Calgary Stampeders.

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.

End Game
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 4.50 (4.46)
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 n/a (4.65)
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 drills.

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 n/a (4.40)
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 DNR (DNR)
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.

Best of the Rest
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 229 4.77
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 indoors).

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 best.

Germaine Race (Pittsburgh State) 5097 218 n/a (4.65)
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 n/a (4.50)
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 (DNR)
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 n/a (4.81)
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.