Before the season, I first took a look at the running backs headed
for the 2008 NFL Draft in this article.
Now that we’re through a third of the season is underway,
let’s look at how this class is evolving. This list isn’t
an order of ranking, but rather grouping them by how their draft
stock has moved relative to where they were before the season began.
Moving Up (Seniors) | Holding
(Seniors) | Moving Down (Seniors)
Moving Up (Underclassmen) | Holding
(Underclassmen) | Moving Down (Underclassmen)
Key: Name (School
- Class) Height Weight
Players improving their draft stock so far this season.
Hart (Michigan – 4SR) 5’9” 193
While his team started the year with two shocking upsets, it hasn’t
been for lack of effort or production by Hart. He has averaged
over 30 carries a game at a clip of over 6 ypc and has scored
six times. Never a player to shrink from the spotlight, Hart guaranteed
victory over Notre Dame (I know, not that impressive) and responded
with a 35-187-2 effort. He almost single-handedly got the Wolverines’
season back on track in a classic Big Ten victory over Penn State.
Against the then top-rated D-I FBS defense, Hart had a career-high
44 carries for 153 yards and a score. Michigan beat Penn State
14-9. Hart is the second-leading rusher in the D-I FBS.
The horrible start by the Wolverines impacted Hart despite his
continued individual success, but he also is the reason the Woverines
are now salvaging their season. What began as a season that seemed
to tarnish perception of the intangibles he adds now can be spun
into a positive about his ability to lead a team to overcome adversity.
The team is still 22-5 when he carries the ball 20 or more times.
Regardless, the biggest issue for the undersized Hart is his questionable
measurables to be a feature runner at the next level. Lacking
top speed, he has no experience as a returner and little involvement
as a receiver, just two receptions this year. So he is not an
appealing candidate as a change of pace back. He needs to keep
up his outstanding production to offset to keep his name up there.
Little (Kentucky – 4SR) 5’10” 195
The key for Little to produce has always just been the ability
to stay healthy. Through the first three games he did, and the
results have been extremely impressive. Little started the season
with three consecutive 100-yard games, highlighted by a 27-151-1
performance against Louisville in the program’s biggest
win in years and capping a 3-0 start. However, injury problems
reared their ugly head at Arkansas. After ten carries for 47 yards
and a score, as well as catching three passes, Little suffered
a deep thigh bruise and sat out most of the second half. Little
is expected back this week when Florida Atlantic comes to Commonwealth
Despite the injury limiting him in the last game, his impressive
start and the success of the Wildcats so far this season make
me believe Little has done nothing but help his stock so far.
HC Rich Brooks is doing all he can to raise Little’s profile,
calling him “…the best all-around back, the most versatile
back out there” after the win over Louisville. The fact
QB Andre Woodson is a top prospect and the team looks to be a
contender in the SEC will only help Little, as well. Little is
assured he will be caught by plenty of scouts and viewed on lots
of game film by all the teams taking a long look at Woodson. Among
the impressive elements to Little’s start this season is
his improved ability to run between the tackles. He appears a
more patient runner and it is paying dividends. He still lacks
the size to likely be a feature back at the next level, but his
improvement as an interior runner will not go unnoticed by scouts.
As he offers more upside as a regular offensive player than Alridge,
Little is currently my top prospect in the niche of returner/change
of pace back.
Forsett (California – 4SR) 5’8” 180
Off to a fast start, Forsett has gone over 100 yards rushing in
three of the first four games and already has scored seven TDs.
In their second game at Colorado State, he suffered a stinger
in his back during the third quarter and did not return (the only
game he did not go over 100 yards), but was fine the following
week. Forsett’s absence the game gave true freshman Jahvid
Best an opportunity to flash his big play ability, as he broke
off a 64-yard TD run. Redshirt freshman James Montgomery, the
primary back-up, also is solid and Cal once again has one of the
most talented backfields in the country. However, Forsett is clearly
the feature back. He is averaging over 20 carries a game despite
not finishing one. He was also hurt in their last game against
Arizona. His thigh was bruised on an incomplete pass in the first
half and he left the game. He sat out the third quarter, but after
Arizona mounted a come back, teammate and top WR prospect DeSean
Jackson begged Forsett to return because his presence is “crucial”
for their offense. Forsett had nine carries for 53 yards, including
a TD, on Cal’s last two possessions to ensure their fourth
Forsett is undersized, but a surprisingly punishing runner for
his size and can carry the load. While his rushing average (well
over 5 ypc for his career) is indicative of his ability to get
to the second level, he isn’t truly a home run hitter. His
longest run last year was 48 yards and this year is 39. His strength
as a runner is his vision and agility. Forsett will continue to
produce big numbers in HC Jeff Tedford’s offense, but his
size is still prohibitive to being a feature runner at the next
level. Forsett doesn’t have much experience as a returner
either, a skill he will need to demonstrate in workouts and at
the Combine to improve his value.
Lattimore (Maryland – 4SR) 5’11” 218
He gained some separation from 5SR Lance Ball and has become the
featured runner for the Terps. He has gone over 100 yards in three
of four games, scored seven TDs, and remains significantly involved
as a receiver.
Ray Lewis’s brother is a nice size/speed combination who
is demonstrating he can be a workhorse. More in the next update
when I’ve had more time to see him, but after omitting him
in the preseason review (as fellow draft enthusiast Robert Wright
pointed out to me), he needs some recognition as moving up draft
Alridge (Houston – 5SR) 5’9” 175
While Mike Hart put up 25-127-0 and no receptions in a loss at
home against the Ducks, Alridge put up 22-205-1 and 3-88-1 in
a loss at Oregon. Alridge then had a solid 18-87-1 and 2-49-1
in a win at Tulane. Colorado State seemed to figure out how to
stop him, stuffing the box with eight defenders and limiting Alridge
to just 62 yards on 15 carries, although he did contribute with
a 57 yard KO return. The Cougars, who have used a QB rotation
to sporadic success so far, need to have a passing game to keep
lanes open for Alridge this year.
While small, the converted WR continues to be one of the most
explosive playmakers in college. The nation’s top returning
rusher in ypc (an amazing 10.1) as a change of pace back last
year, is keeping a fine 6.44 ypc pace as the primary runner this
year. A true home run hitter, he has scored on receptions of 49
and 86 yards, and has a 60-yard TD run. His return duties have
diminished as he has become the focus of the offense, but he has
two nice returns on the only two he has taken this year.
Alridge still flies completely under the radar of the casual
fan and most of the media. While his size makes his potential
to ever be a consistent contributor on offense at the next level
doubtful, he is showing there is a role for him. With elite speed
and big play ability, he is gaining more attention for consideration
at least as a returner at the next level. He will benefit from
the “Devin Hester Effect”, where teams are looking
for this type of player with game-changing ability on special
teams and in a few offensive plays.
(Bloomsburg – 4SR) 6’0” 203
The former Rutgers recruit is thriving again after battling injury
problems in 2006. Through four games, he has over 400 yards at
a 5.1 ypc clip and has scored 12 TDs. Already owning the PSAC
conference career record for TDs and points, he is 413 yards short
of the career rushing record.
While the fact his success has come in DII, Brittingham has completely
dominated the competition and has legit NFL measurables. He also
is solid as a receiver and a returner. Brittingham is the most
intriguing small school prospect this year and I wouldn’t
be surprised if he got a Combine invite.
Players whose value remains unchanged (for better or worse) so
far this season.
Patrick (Oklahoma – 5SR) 6’0” 191
A right ankle sprain cost Patrick the last two weeks of camp and
to miss the first game of the season against North Texas. Redshirt
freshman DeMarco Murray ran for five TDs in the rout and was the
earlier leader of a four-man RBBC. Patrick had a solid, if unspectacular,
7-47-0 against Miami before breaking out with 113 yards on just
eight carries in another rout of Utah State. Even after a 69-yard
TD run in that game, he was upstaged. Murray later had a 92-yard
TD run. In another easy victory at Tulsa, Patrick had his best
game of the season. He finished with 145 yards and 2 scores on
19 carries, as well as his first two receptions of the season.
Still, in addition to Murray remaining in the picture, redshirt
freshman Mossis Madu and sophomore Chris Brown have done nothing
to show they don’t deserve to continue to receive touches,
as well. OC Kevin Wilson has called Brown, more of the north-south
type in the group, his “favorite running back” of
the four. Patrick is actually third on the team in carries, although
leading them in rushing yards.
The 2005 JUCO transfer broke out in Adrian Peterson’s place
last season and rocketed up most media prospect lists. Those who
expected him to roll as a feature back failed to account for all
the talent and potential. Patrick’s numbers will be hurt
by the RBBC, so the best he can hope for during the season is
to keep his draft perception stable with continued success on
the touches he does get. If he has the speed and is as good an
athlete as advertised, Patrick will help himself at the Combine
and during workouts. He is also one of the top kick-coverage players
on special teams, another aspect that adds value to his draft
Torain (Arizona State – 4SR) 6’0” 213
Torain picked up where he left off last season, rushing for 123
yards and 3 TDs on just 17 carries in their season opener against
San Jose State. It was his third straight 100-yard game, going
back to last season. The following week against Colorado, he was
off to a good pace with 17 carries for 91 yards and a score, when
suffered a right ankle sprain and had to leave the game. He sat
missed the following week against SDSU with the ankle, while junior
Keegan Herring posted 19-161-2. Torain was healed and back in
the starting lineup for their victory over Oregon State last week.
Torain rushed for 91 yards and a TD on 26 carries, and caught
two TD passes, including a 48-yarder. Herring had just three carries
in the game. Despite missing a game, he is fourth in D-I FBS in
scoring with seven TDs.
Because he has missed a game and they have yet to face a strong
opponent, Torain hasn’t gained any ground, but he is off
to a strong start and is clearly the feature back. ASU is 4-0
and looking good with a veteran offense, so Torain should start
to get some more recognition, which can be harder to come by for
players in the Pacific time zone. He has solid NFL measurables
and outstanding potential as a receiver, which he flashed in their
victory over Oregon State. It would help for him to be more involved
in that facet of the offense this year. If he can remain healthy,
he is a player who should be climbing draft boards soon. Torain
has more potential at the next level than some of the more heralded
RB names in the PAC-10.
Bernard (Oregon State – 5SR) 5’9” 202
After a typically strong performance (29-165-2) in a season opening
win against Utah, he had just 30 yards on 16 carries in a big
loss at Cincinnati. In a blow out of Utah State the following
week, he had just 54 yards as he was rested after the game was
decided early. He suffered shoulder stingers in the second and
third games of the year, a recurring issue he has said he has
dealt with going back to high school. While it doesn’t seem
to impact his play, it is a bit of a concern that he continues
to have this problem. Bernard bounced back with 24-128-1 at Arizona
State, but the team blew a 19-0 first quarter lead and lost.
Bernard has been one of the most productive backs in the country
the last two years, but he is a bit undersized for a feature back.
He continues to be a key contributor in the passing game. However,
he is averaging less than five yards per catch on those receptions.
OSU was expected to have one of the top OLines in the PAC-10,
but they have struggled a bit since losing preseason All-American
guard Jeremy Perry in the season opener. That has been one challenged,
but the Bearcats executed the game plan to stop OSU, stacking
the line to stop Bernard, in their loss at Cincinnati. The passing
game needs to improve, QB Sean Canfield already has thrown nine
picks, and OLine needs to mesh or it will be a long season for
Boyd (South Carolina – 4SR) 6’1” 214
Boyd is again splitting carries with junior Mike Davis in a solid,
but unspectacular, RBBC. Both went over 100 yards against D-I
FCS South Carolina State, both struggled at LSU last week. Boyd
had just 17 yards on 18 carries in the loss.
Despite possessing good size, Boyd doesn’t have much power
as a rusher. He needs to hit the weight room and has the frame
to add bulk. He has average speed, but good balance and vision.
One of his best assets for the next level is his pass catching
ability and playing in pro-style spread offense under HC Steve
Spurrier. He is an intriguing prospect who won’t post great
numbers this year, but could gain momentum in workouts. His maturity
has been an issue in the past, as well, so showing some senior
leadership this year will help his perception.
Hillis (Arkansas – 4SR) 6’1” 243
Despite lacking the usual measurables and elusiveness for a punt
returner, the success Hillis had last year at times in the role
and the confidence of the staff in hands as the best on the team,
made it seem he could breakout in the role this year. However,
returning punts has been an unmitigated disaster for the Razorbacks
so far this season. In order to protect his health due to his
value on offense, the team decided to go another way to start
the season. After three fumbled punts in the season opener (one
negated by penalty) against Troy and little more success in their
loss at Alabama, Hillis was brought back in to the fold. Hillis
fielded two punts in their loss to Kentucky. He fumbled one and
had a return of zero on another. With the dynamic backfield duo
of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, Hillis is no longer an option
as a runner. He has just six carries for 26 yards. However, he
adds tremendous value, and why he remains on this list, as a blocking
and pass catching fullback. He leads the team with 11 receptions
for 117 yards and 1 TD.
His value hasn’t changed this year, and is unlikely too
because his role isn’t to post numbers. Hillis is a true
multi-purpose threat who can line up at any skill position but
QB, as well as being a productive returner. FB, H-Back, or TE
seems his likely NFL calling. While comparisons to Mike Alstott
and Brian Leonard seem obvious, his strengths and weaknesses differ
significantly. He lacks the speed of either, but unlike both,
Hillis is an outstanding blocker who can be a true FB. Like both,
Hillis is an outstanding receiver for a big man and, like Leonard,
he can do it running routes and not just out of the backfield.
Hillis has Alstott’s size, bigger than Leonard, but isn’t
the short-yardage hammer as a runner that Alstott was. Durability
has been a bit of a problem, so it is important he stay healthy.
His value hasn’t change this year and in the best backfield
in the nation, it won’t. His role isn’t to produce
as a runner. However, his size and variety of talents make him
an intriguing prospect.
Brown (Georgia – 4SR) 5’8” 198
After an amazing return in less than a year from a torn ACL, Brown
won the nominal starting role in what looked to be another year
of a crowded backfield in Georgia. For the second time in his
career, an injury to Kregg Lumpkin gave Brown a huge opportunity.
However, with more carries available, it has been explosive redshirt
freshman Knowshon Moreno who has gotten more work and been more
Due to a crowded backfield and the injury last season, Brown
has been unable to build on the potential he showed as a true
freshman. It won’t be happening this year, but Brown has
still shown some positive things. He has been much more involved
as a receiver and has been a solid kick returner. He offers decent
potential as a role player at the next level. He has an outstanding
work ethic and just enough multi-purpose talent to make him intriguing
on Day Two.
Caulcrick (Michigan State – 5SR) 6’0” 258
Caulcrick is the Thunder to junior Javon Ringer’s lightning
in what has been a successful running game for 4-0 MSU so far
this season. He has six TDs this season, but four came in a season-opening
blowout of UAB.
As the complimentary back most of his career, Caulcrick has never
had more than 113 carries or 619 yards in a season, but is on
pace to shatter all his previous career highs this year. He is
the latest in a series of recent super-sized runners trying to
prove they are more than candidates for conversion to FB. He follows
in the footsteps of Greg Jones, Brandon Jacobs, and Michael Bush,
but is not the same level of prospect. He lacks speed and does
not have the skills of a true blocking FB, but is a monster at
the goalline. He remains an intriguing Day Two prospect.
Washington (Southern California – 5SR) 6’0”
Washington was scheduled to start the season-opener against Idaho,
but a shoulder sprain in their final scrimmage left him inactive.
He returned at Nebraska and scored twice, as well as having a
productive game against Washington State.
He is second on the team in carries and the nominal starter,
but as everyone knows, it is a crowded situation in the USC backfield.
I think Stafon Johnson is the most talented of the group and they
are wasting no time getting blue chip true freshman Joe McKnight
involved, so it will be a challenge for Washington to put up big
numbers. Still, he has resurrected his career and remains a prospect
worth tracking as one of the few big backs in the senior class.
“L.V.” Whitworth (Boston College – 5SR)
5’11” 216 and Andre
Callender (Boston College – 5SR) 5’10” 204
Unable to overcome a hamstring injury from camp, Whitworth sat
out the season opener. Callender took over the starting role and
had 49 yards on 14 carries in a win over Wake Forest. Whitworth
returned the following week against NC State, but Callender remained
the starter and turned in the big day, posting 18-158-2 and 2-30-0,
while Whitworth had 59 yards on 15 carries. Whitworth was more
effective and had 2 scores at GA Tech. In a win against Army,
Whitworth had two more carries than Callender, but Callender was
more productive, averaging almost ten ypc. The team is off to
a 4-0 start and both RBs are involved.
Whitworth has slightly better size, while Callender is quicker,
but both are good receivers and have pedestrian speed. A career
of cannibalizing each other’s stats, both remain marginal
prospects unless they surprise in individual workouts.
Polk (Oregon State – 4SR) 6’1” 214
Polk was limited by lingering knee pain from the previous season
during spring practice, but a bigger concern was his academic
eligibility. He worked through camp and missed the first two games
getting his academics in order and letting his knee heal. He returned
for the third game against Idaho State and had a 37-yard TD run
on his first touch of the season.
Polk has little on his resume and a history of injury and academic
problems. His only opportunity to contribute significantly will
be an injury to Yvenson Bernard. However, he is an excellent athlete
with good size and I just have a feeling he is still worth tracking.
Moving Down (Seniors)
Players whose draft stock has been hurt so far this season.
Choice (Georgia Tech – 5SR) 6’0” 205
The former Oklahoma transfer was my top-rated senior back heading
in to the season and he started off well in a big win at Notre
Dame. Choice rushed for almost 200 yards and scored twice, as
well as caught three passes. In an easy win against D-I FCS Samford,
he had 11-110-2 and rested early in the blow out after running
his school-record streak of 100-yard games to nine. Problems began
against Boston College the following week. With BC up 21-0 in
the third quarter and stifling the GT running game, Choice had
just 31 yards on 15 carries. His next carry was his longest run
of the day, 12 yards, but he ended it surprisingly early as he
ran out of bounds. He strained his right hamstring and adding
insult to injury, literally, the run was erased by a holding penalty.
Choice did not return to the game. He didn’t practice until
Thursday the week leading up to their next game at Virginia. He
started, but removed himself after their second offensive serious,
finishing with just five carries for 19 yards. Choice says the
hamstring is healed and he’ll play against Clemson this
As Choice has begun the season battling injury, it is worth recalling
he had a school-record 297 carries last year, fourth in D-I FBS,
his first time as a feature runner. Regardless of whether or not
the workload caught up with him, he needs to stay healthy to show
he can be a workhorse-type back. Choice has been more involved
in the passing game this year, already with eight receptions (compared
to 12 all of last season). Ball security is good, it’s been
over a year since Choice had his last turnover, his only one of
last season. If the hamstring is healed, I expect Choice to bounce
back soon behind a veteran line with four returning starters.
Pinnix (Minnesota – 5SR) 6’0” 205
While OC Mike Dunbar includes elements of a spread offense, HC
Tim Brewster, who spent time with the Denver Broncos, uses a zone-blocking
scheme on runs that is favorable to a one-cut runner like Pinnix.
Pinnix was thriving to begin the season. He started the year with
consecutive 100-yard games and missed a third by eight yards.
With 28 carries in each of the first two games, it looked like
Pinnix would be the workhorse. He was even more involved in the
passing game. However, things started to turn for him in the third
game. In a 42-39 loss at Florida Atlantic, Pinnix lost a fumble
on what should have been a TD run. The team had seven turnovers
in the game, so Pinnix was far from the only problem, but in hindsight,
the coaching staff appeared anxious for a reason to see more of
true freshman Duane Bennett. Bennett had an impressive camp and
beat out redshirt sophomore Jay Thomas to be the number two back.
The following Saturday night against Purdue, turnovers were a
problem again. Despite another fine start for Pinnix, he had 53
yards on just five carries, after a fumble on the fifth carry
deep in Purdue territory, he was benched. Bennett was explosive,
with 81 yards and a TD on seven carries. Bennett helped the team
attempt another furious late come back, they have been down by
21 in the second half in three of four games, although they ultimately
lost their third game. Bennett is now listed as the co-starter
with Pinnix on the depth chart. With Pinnix also battling turf
toe, Bennett could get the start this week. Mobile QB Adam Weber
also steals some rushing attempts and is second on the team in
carries, behind Pinnix, so far.
After his benching and fumble problems, not to mention battling
turf toe, I have to include Pinnix as moving down, but I expect
him to bounce back. All the media hype in Minny is about Bennett
being the next great Gopher back, after the same being said about
Pinnix a few weeks ago after his fast start. What a difference
a week makes. Pinnix follows a fine lineage of recent Gopher runners,
which already raises awareness of him to NFL scouts. However,
unlike any of those previous who’ve found success in the
NFL, Pinnix is now doing it in his second offensive system, where
the rest all were under the same offense of former HC Glen Mason.
While the Gophers have talent on the OLine, there has been some
shuffling and it features three new starters, including two redshirt
freshmen on the right side. So Pinnix found success early without
an outstanding veteran line or one that had gelled. He lacks the
bulk of Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III, but Pinnix has
good size with a frame to add more weight and already runs with
surprising authority between the tackles. He does not have elite
speed and, as already discussed, ball security has been a problem.
Adding to Pinnix’s draft value in the new iron-fisted Roger
Goodell Era is the fact he is a good kid off the field. Already
a college graduate, he is involved in a number of community and
philanthropic activities off the field. In a weak senior class,
if Pinnix can turn things around quickly, his draft value could
rise back up quickly.
Savage (Oklahoma State – 4SR) 5’9” 190
Returning to his home town of Columbus, GA for their season opener,
Savage’s trip to face the Bulldogs peaked with a five-yard
TD run before halftime to bring the Cowboys within seven. Georgia
would go on to win the game and Savage finished with just 10 carries
for 55 yards. He was already limited by a pulled groin that has
hampered him since camp when he pulled an abdominal muscle in
the game. These injuries would cost him two games. During that
time, true freshman Kendall Hunter would emerge and flash some
outstanding big play skills. Savage returned for their conference
opener against Texas Tech and played a major role in the shoot-out
victory rushing for 25-130-1, the sixth 100-yard game rushing
of his D-I FBS career. Savage got the headlines, but Hunter still
played an important role. He had 113 yards, his second consecutive
100-yard game, and a score on just 14 carries in the victory over
Texas Tech. This should continue to be a RBBC.
The JUCO transfer has very good speed and is a home run hitter.
Two runs over 50 yards contributed to his 6.5 ypc last year. However,
hampered by injuries to start the season, he has a long run of
just 17 yards so far this season and is rarely targeted as a receiver.
The emergence of Hunter will impact his numbers and sophomore
Keith Toston, who was productive last year, should still be in
the picture. Two fumbles in the loss at Troy when Savage was out
got Toston benched in the Texas Tech game. All that considered,
Savage’s draft value is trending down a bit despite his
triumphant return. While Savage hasn’t been used in the
role at OSU, he excelled as a returner in JUCO. If he can get
healthy, he should be back to flashing skills that make him an
exciting prospect, but is limited to a change of pace role at
the next level.
Markey (UCLA – 4SR) 5’11” 204
Markey drew the start to open the season at Stanford and had 20
carries for 71 yards. However, junior Kahlil Bell exploded for
195 yards on 19 carries, including a career-long 59-yard run.
Against BYU, Markey started and had 52 yards on 16 carries, but
Bell was more productive on the same amount of carries. Both ran
for a TD. In a surprising blowout loss at Utah, Markey started
and had just 10 carries for 32 yards. Bell was again more productive,
and got more touches. Against Washington the following week, Bell
got the start after Markey’s struggles the first three games.
Bell posted a nice 27-109-1, but Markey finally had the type of
game he was expected to have. Markey rushed for 193 yards on just
14 carries, highlighted by a 72-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Markey went from the shadow of Maurice Jones-Drew to, unexpectedly,
the shadow of Kahlil Bell. He finally stepped out of it last week,
but even if he regains the starting role, this will remain a job
share as long as both are healthy. While he has not been as involved
in the passing game this year (just three receptions through four
games after leading the team with 35 last year), his 72-yard run
flashed the big play ability he has shown before. He has at least
one run over 50 yards each of his four seasons. So far he has
failed to capitalize on the starting role, but he is talented
slasher who, when at his best, glides through defenses with good
agility and excellent game speed. Although he has been removed
from return duties, he has be a weapon in that role before and
will be factored in to his draft value. Markey has slipped so
far this season, but has already started to turn it around.
Lumpkin (Georgia – 5SR) 6’1” 222
In the third quarter of their season opener against Oklahoma State,
on just his third carry, Lumpkin broke his right thumb. He missed
the next two games before returning for a win at Alabama. He didn’t
have a touch on offense, but contributed on special teams. While
he has been out, senior Thomas Brown and redshirt freshman Knowshon
Moreno have split carries. Moreno has been particularly impressive
and it looks like the rest of the season will be another year
of a three-headed monster in the Bulldog backfield.
With a torn ACL in his history, more injury problems are not
what Lumpkin needed this season. He has ideal size, but less than
average speed and carries durability concerns. It would take a
surprising turnaround and unexpectedly impressive workouts after
the season for Lumpkin to significantly improve his plummeting
Young (Iowa – 5SR) 5’9” 209
As expected, Iowa has opened the season with a full-fledged RBBC
between Young and senior Damian Sims. They were off to a good
start when both went over 100 yards rushing and a score in a win
over Northern Illinois. Young found it a bit more difficult against
Syracuse, posting just 25 yards on 11 carries, but have a 36-yard
TD catch. In a loss at Iowa State, Young had 14 carries for 60
yards and missed most of the second half because he was “dinged
up”, according to HC Kirk Ferentz. Young returned in another
close lose at Wisconsin. Both he and Sims struggled, with Young
finishing with 33 yards on ten carries.
For a player with questionable durability and measurables, a
slow start in a RBBC has his draft value heading down. Young is
unlikely to impress with his workouts, so I don’t see his
McRae (Ohio – 4SR) 5’11” 208
McRae got off to a strong start against D-I FCS Gardner-Webb,
posting 24-142-2. Since then, he has been significantly less productive
against FBS competition. He hasn’t rushed for 100 yards
in their other three games, with a low of 55 yards on 22 carries
in a loss at VaTech, although he did have a TD and caught six
passes. McRae has never rushed for 100 yards, and has a lower
average per carry, in his seven career games against opponents
from major conferences.
McRae should turn it back on when MAC conference play begins
this week, but as a player without much recognition, he drops
for now without a strong start to generate more attention. However,
his team and opposing coaches are well aware of the solid, consistent
threat McRae is. He also is running behind a banged up OLine this
year that isn’t giving him much room to run. McRae is quietly
fourth among active rushers in D-I FBS with over 3,200 yards.
That puts him behind just Mike Hart, Ray Rice, and Steve Slaton,
while just ahead of Darren McFadden…impressive company (although
Hart is the only other senior on the list, so the rest have gotten
there faster). However, McRae’s accomplishments come without
the supporting cast those other teams have, even if they also
face better competition. There is nothing spectacular about his
size, speed, or skills, but he is a solid all-around package.
McRae has good vision and hits the hole quick. He also is an excellent
receiver out of the backfield. He is down a bit for now, but definitely
the type of player a GM or coach could take a liking to and draft
on Day Two.
Charles (Colorado – 4SR) 5’8” 190
On their first offensive series of the season against rival Colorado
State, Charles pulled up lame 15 yards after catching a string
pass and missed the rest of the game with a pulled left hamstring.
He was out the following week in a loss at Arizona State, but
rushed his return the next game against Florida State. He had
just four carries for nine yards, although he did catch five for
41 yards, in 16-6 loss to FSU. The injury appeared to slow him
down and he reported after the game he still wasn’t 100
percent. He appeared to be last week, as he put up 17-123-1 in
a big win against Miami (Ohio). It was his sixth-career 100-yard
A slow start isn’t what an undersized prospect that has
never carried the load needs. His most recent performance was
encouraging, but it will take a lot more to get him back on the
radar. The ineligibility of mobile QB Bernard Jackson brings more
of a pocket pass in Cody Hawkins, which should help Charles’
reception totals that dipped under Jackson last year. Although
he worked on kick returns in the spring, he hasn’t taken
one yet in a game this year. Showing he can add value as a returned
would greatly help his dim prospects for the next level.
Scott (Penn State – 5SR) 5’11” 222
I had high expectations that the former blue chip recruit Scott
and his appealing measurables could end his career well, but he
is literally fumbling his chance away. Scott won the starting
job, but the team started the game in five-receiver sets the first
two games, so Scott didn’t officially get a start until
the third game, although he has been the first RB in for each
of their four games. After going over 100 yards and scoring twice
in there victory over Notre Dame the second game, things looked
good. However, he fumbled twice against Buffalo and once against
Michigan, getting benched both times. While he has five TDs, Scott
has four fumbles on just 57 carries this year. Meanwhile, redshirt
senior Rodney Kinlaw has put in his usual workman’s effort
each game. Kinlaw has five less carries, but has been more productive
than Scott and is likely to see the bulk of work for now.
Despite his ideal size and potential, Scott lacked top speed
before his litany of injuries and now adds ball security to the
concern about his durability. Unless he unexpectedly turns things
around, it’s almost time to write Scott off.
Broussard (Missouri Southern State – 5SR) 6’0”
After a tumultuous career at LSU where he previous thought about
quitting, Broussard appeared done with football in July. He indicated
he was going to focus on getting his degree, which he was expected
to complete in December. However, by August he was reportedly
headed to DII North Alabama to continue playing. However, Missouri
Southern DC Daryl Daye, a former LSU player, convinced Broussard
to become a Lion. Broussard is faring well against DII competition,
averaging over 100 ypg while splitting carries with redshirt freshman
It’s a nice story for Broussard that his college football
career may have a happy ending. However, between his health and
weight problems, questions about his commitment, and moving down
to DII competition, he is off the grid as far as consideration
for the next level.
Hamilton (San Diego State – 5SR) 6’0” 225
One of the more promising RB prospects as a freshman in 2003 had
his career derailed by injuries. There was hope he could revive
his career as a fullback, but swelling in his surgically-repaired
left knee continues to give him problems. He has been active for
all their games, but has had little involvement in the offense,
getting just one carry. He is no longer a viable candidate to
Moving Up (Underclassmen)
Players improving their draft stock so far this season.
McFadden (Arkansas – 3JR) 6’2” 205
Already the consensus top RB prospect, assuming he declares, McFadden
doesn’t have a lot of room to go up. However, so far this
season he’s done the two things he needed to in order to
keep his value rising, keep producing similar numbers and stay
healthy. Although his team is struggling, McFadden continues to
prove he’s the best offensive player in football. He leads
the nation in rushing with 173 ypg, rushing for over 150 yards
in each game, and also has a TD pass. He has even scored a TD
taking the direct snap lining up at QB and is more involved in
the passing game (as a receiver. While he has faced some minor
health issues this season, none have impacted his performance.
He had a minor concussion in their loss at Alabama and battled
the flu and heat exhaustion against Kentucky, but still had 208
all-purpose yards in the loss.
There isn’t much more to say about McFadden. He is as good
a prospect as Adrian Peterson last year, which is as good as it
gets. If McFadden remains healthy and enters the draft, he’ll
head to the Combine and individual workouts as the top-rated RB
prospect with potential to be a top-five pick.
Jones (Arkansas – 3JR) 5’11” 195
How does a guy on the same team as Darren McFadden still average
119 rushing yards a game? With an ypc of almost nine! Jones was
four yards shy (at Alabama) of rushing for over 100 yards in each
game this season and, thanks to his incredible kick return skills,
he is second in the nation in all-purpose yards. Jones tied an
SEC record with his fourth career kickoff return for a TD against
Kentucky. It put Arkansas up 29-21 in the fourth quarter before
they eventually crumbled and lost.
Steve Slaton is incredible, and Jones isn’t much bigger,
but Jones could be gaining momentum to be the second RB taken
if he declares. Although, while Jones is not a back-up (this is
a 1a and 1b situation), he isn’t usually asked to get the
tough yards McFadden does and isn’t the same focus of the
defense the McFadden is. However, he is an amazing home run threat.
Aside from doing it on kick returns, he had three runs over 50
yards last year and one so far this year, a 73-yard run against
Kentucky. He isn’t involved in the passing game much, an
area I’d like to more of from him this year. Even if Jones
declares isn’t the second RB taken behind McFadden, he is
making a great case to be a first round pick. The Bears took Devin
Hester, a guy without a position, in the early second round for
his return ability, and the impact was substantial. Now you have
a guy who has legit Day One talent on offense, plus he is an elite
kick returner. He is a great fit to be a feature back in a zone
blocking scheme where he is asked to be a one-cut runner. Jones
has said he plans to return for his senior year, but a lot of
guys say that this time of year.
Stewart (Oregon – 3JR) 5’11” 232
After 67 yards in an easy season-opening win against Houston,
Stewart has scored four TDs and gone over 100 yards in each of
the subsequent three game, including over 160 in his last two
against Fresno State and at Stanford. His nearly 7.75 ypc lead
all backs in the nation with at least 50 carries. He’s broken
off two runs over 50 yards, including an 88-yard TD against Fresno
State. He also continues to be one of the top kick returners in
Stewart has ideal measurables with a thick, solid build, ideal
for a workhorse back. He has track speed and it translates well
in the return game, where he has been one of top kick returners
in the country, but not always out of the backfield. He is a smart
player and selfless to a fault, perhaps lacking the desirable
borderline arrogance of a RB who demands the ball with the game
on the line. If he remains healthy and declares, he may be a more
promising prospect than any senior back.
Charles (Texas – 3JR) 6’1” 203
Charles is off to the best start of his career. He not just put
up back-to-back 100 yard rushing games for the first time in his
career, but did it for three straight. In a blowout of Rice, he
fumbled on the first carry, then ran for 72 yards and three scores
before being rested in the rout.
Running well on an undefeated team, his stock is going up. However,
the more I watch Charles, the more I notice that despite his outstanding
speed, he lacks elusiveness. He doesn’t make people miss
in tight spaces. His quickness through the hole or to the corner
and speed in the open field are assets, but I’m not sure
he has the agility and awareness to succeed as a feature back
at the next level. He also has not been involved much as a receiver
this year, just two receptions. Charles has good size, great speed,
and some excellent skills, but I’m increasingly unconvinced
he’s worth how high he could potentially be drafted.
Mendenhall (Illinois – 3JR) 5’11” 205
In the preseason review, I mentioned Mendenhall has the talent
to emerge as one of the best RBs in the country this year, and
he has begun to do so. He has just 33 yards on 11 carries, but
had two TDs, in a loss to Missouri where the Illini struggled.
Since then, Illinois and Mendenhall have been on a tear. He has
rolled up 139, 150, and 214 rushing yards in his last three games.
He also is involved in the passing game.
Mendenhall has very good measurables and finally with a shot
as a feature back, he is complimenting them with great numbers.
There is a lot of talent in this junior class so what he does
depends on all of who declares, but he is starting to climb draft
Davis (Clemson – 3JR) 5’11” 208
While still splitting carries with sophomore stud C.J. Spiller,
Davis has gotten off to a great start this season. He posted 100
yards on a stout Florida State defense in the season opener. In
their last game at North Carolina State, he posted 24-166-1 rushing
and 4-13-1 receiving. He has scored one rushing TD in each of
their four games. A nice inside-outside combination runner, Davis
is helping himself so far this year even with Spiller being force-fed
Lucky (Nebraska – 3JR) 6’0” 210
Lucky’s stats are skewed by 30-233-3 day in a beat down
of Nevada in their season opener. He disappeared against USC.
He just missed 100 yards rushing in a win at Wake Forest and got
100 in a win against Ball State. Most impressive has been his
team-leading 24 receptions so far. The excellent offensive line
has contributed significantly and Lucky appears to have a bit
more hop in his step this year.
Smith (Central Florida – 3JR) 6’1” 211
After a breakout true freshman season, Smith’s production
regressed as he battled injuries last year. He was right back
on track with 200-yard rushing day to open the season at NC State.
He followed the up with an impressive 27-149-2 in a near upset
at Texas. Smith is an enticing size/speed combo who has propelled
himself back in to the picture with his start to the season.
Players whose value remains unchanged (for better or worse) so
far this season.
Slaton (West Virginia – 3JR) 5’10” 190
Another outstanding and incredibly consistent start for Slaton,
with over 100 rushing yards in each of their four victories. He
has also been a big play receiver with seven catches for 115 yards
and a score.
A slasher with elite speed and good hands, even though he is
a bit undersized, Slaton is more physical than expected in the
interior. If he declares, he is the leading candidate to be the
second back chosen behind Darren McFadden.
“Ray” Rice (Rutgers – 3JR) 5’9”
Against some mediocre to poor competition in the first three games,
Rice has padded his stats. He went over 175 yards rushing in each
of the first two victories against Buffalo and Navy. He rushed
for 72 yards in the first half against D-I FCS Norfolk State before
being rested the entire second half. Rice is fifth in rushing
and first in scoring (9 TDs, but he’s only played in three
games so far) in D-I FBS. Adding to his achievements, he set the
school’s career rushing record against Navy.
Although short, he is built well with thick upper legs. He runs
at excellent pad level, running and cutting at full speed with
a low center of gravity. Rice is a strong enough runner and has
shown the stamina to be a feature runner at the next level, but
his speed is also a question mark. He has been more involved in
the passing game so far this season with five receptions, already
more than the four he had all last season.
Johnson (Boise State – 4JR) 5’11” 194
He broke 100 yards and scored three times in an easy win over
D-I FCS Weber State. After that, he put up almost identical numbers
in a loss at Washington (20-80-0) and a win over Wyoming (24-83-0).
He dialed it back up in a win against Southern Mississippi Thursday
night, rushing for 111 yards and three more TDs. Johnson has also
been significantly more involved in the passing game, already
setting a new career-high for a season with ten.
After the best season by an RB in school history last year, Johnson
is in an unenviable position. He has set the bar too high, and
anything less seems like a let down. His performance against Southern
Miss was the first time he was reminiscent of the runner he was
last year, moving well in space and finding the end zone.
Moving Down (Underclassmen)
Players whose draft stock has been hurt so far this season.
Ore (Virginia Tech – 4JR) 5’11” 202
VaTech ranks near the bottom nationally in total offense as they
struggle through a QB change and a young offensive line that lost
lynchpin RT Ed Wang before the season. The impact is Ore has found
little success so far this season. He is averaging just 3.2 ypc
and hasn’t rushed for more than 82 yards in any game. He
bruised his ribs against Ohio his second game of the season and
they still bothered him in his last game against D-I FCS William
and Mary, where he managed just 25 yards on ten carries.
Ore has excellent lateral movement and agility, a solid cutback
runner with good vision. However, he can dance behind the line
too much and runs very upright through the hole despite being
under 6’ tall. He breaks tackles well with a solid stiff
arm and great leg drive, although he’ll need to bulk up
to succeed doing it at the next level. While he broke a few big
plays last year, he does not appear to have breakaway speed. So
he remains a solid prospect, but the outlook for success is dim
this year, which may make him less likely to declare.
Brown (North Carolina State – 3JR) 6’0”
Brown has assumed the feature role and put up unspectacular numbers
while the team is struggling. He has stepped up his role as a
receiver and remains appealing for his ideal size.