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2008 NFL RB Draft Class
Version 2.0

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

Moving Up (Seniors)
Players improving their draft stock so far this season.

Mike 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.

Rafael 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 Stadium.

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.

Justin 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 victory.

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.

Keon 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 boards.

Anthony 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.

Jamar Brittingham (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.

Holding (Seniors)
Players whose value remains unchanged (for better or worse) so far this season.

Allen 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 stock.

Ryan 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.

Yvenson 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 Bernard.

Cory 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.

Peyton 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.

Thomas 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 productive.

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.

Jehuu 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.

Chauncey Washington (Southern California – 5SR) 6’0” 216
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.

Lennox “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.

Clinton 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.

Tashard 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 week.

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.

Amir 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.

Dantrell 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.

Chris 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.

Kregg 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 draft stock.

Albert 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 outlook promising.

Kalvin 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.

Hugh 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 rushing game.

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.

Austin 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.

Alley Broussard (Missouri Southern State – 5SR) 6’0” 250
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 Renard Johnson.

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.

Lynell 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 be drafted.

Moving Up (Underclassmen)
Players improving their draft stock so far this season.

Darren 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.

Felix 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.

Jonathan 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 the country.

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.

Jamaal 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.

Rashard 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 boards.

James 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 his reps.

Marlon 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.

Kevin 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.

Holding (Underclassmen)
Players whose value remains unchanged (for better or worse) so far this season.

Steve 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.

Raymell “Ray” Rice (Rutgers – 3JR) 5’9” 200
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.

Ian 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.

Branden 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.

Andre Brown (North Carolina State – 3JR) 6’0” 232
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.