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2009 NFL RB Draft Class
Version 2.0 - Combine Primer

Blue Chips | Borderline Day 1 | Early Day 2
Mid-To-Late Round | End Game | Best Of The Rest

Borderline Day 1

Key: Name (School - Class) Height Weight

Two players stand out as teetering between being second-round picks and falling to Day Two due to concern about their measurables and a thin resume. Donald Brown and Shonn Greene blew up in 2008 to be the two most productive runners in FBS, relatively out of nowhere. As underclassmen, neither was eligible for post-season all-star games, so this will be the first chance for teams to really dissect their skills.

Donald Brown II (UConn – 4JR) 5’10” 210
Combine Invite: Yes
In his first collegiate game, Brown gave a glimpse of a future that would come sooner, and then later, than expected. The redshirt freshman came in for the second half in a 52-7 thrashing of FCS (then DI-AA) Rhode Island in the season opener on 8/31/06. He would rush for 118 yards and two scores on just nine carries, including a 53-yard TD. Brown would only see a smattering of touches the next several games, as he deferred to Terry Caulley, who was on his way to setting the school’s career rushing record. However, the injury-prone Caulley suffered an ankle sprain in a loss to WVU midway through the season. Brown, a New Jersey native, got his first start the next game against an unbeaten, 15th-ranked Rutgers team on a nationally-televised Sunday night game. Brown responded by rushing for 199 yards and two third quarter TDs, including a 65-yard dash that pulled the Huskies within four points before a blocked punt return for a TD in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for the Scarlet Knights. After a bye week, Caulley returned, but Brown got the starting nod again against Pittsburgh. Brown carried the ball 43 times for 205 yards and two scores in a double-OT thriller. He scored the final TD in the second OT on an 11-yard run to make the score 45-44, and UConn would get their first Big East win of the season following it up with a successful two-point conversion. Caulley would break a finger during the game and need surgery to insert a pin, causing him to miss another game. Caulley’s continued injury problems and, more so, Brown’s 400+ yards in two games would secure the starting job for Brown the rest of the season. Brown would finish the season with 896 yards rushing, in just five starts, at a 5.6 ypc clip and be recognized with second-team All-Big East honors, the only freshman on the first or second teams. Brown appeared primed to explode with an opportunity to be the starter for the entire year in 2007, but he got off to a slow start as he tried to press too much to make things happen. Fellow 3SO RB Andre Dixon returned from a two-game suspension to start the season and easily went over 100 yards in his first game to help prevent an upset by Temple.

Brown would still be looking for his first 100-yard day of the season when he sprained his left ankle in a win over Akron the fifth game of the season, the second game Dixon would rush for over 100 yards, while scoring both on the ground and through the air. Brown would sit out their first loss of the season, by one point, at Virginia the following week. Brown returned for the next game against Louisville, but was limited and had a costly fumble, returned 32 yards for a TD, on his five carries. Dixon would run for over 100 yards, including the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter. After that performance, HC Randy Edsall replaced Brown and made the Dixon the starter for a face-off with 11th-ranked South Florida. Dixon ran for a career-high 167 yards, adding another 42 on three receptions, to help the Huskies upset the Bulls and earn a national ranking (16th on the AP that week) for the first time in school history. For the second straight season, Rutgers would prove to be the catharsis of the season for Brown. Dixon got the start, but Brown came off the bench in the third quarter with a 33-yard TD run and added a 70-yard run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Brown finished with season highs of 24 carries and 154 yards on the ground. He would see just two carries for one yard in a big loss at Cincinnati the next game before ending the season averaging exactly 100 ypg over the final three games. With a strong second half, he finished with 821 rushing yards on the season, seven behind Dixon. Expectations for the 2008 season were for Brown and Dixon to continue splitting carries, but that abruptly changed when Dixon sprained his ankle in practice the week before the season opener. With Dixon out of the picture, Brown ran for 146 yards, the seventh 100-yard game of his career, and four TDs in an easy win over FCS Hofstra to start the season and the momentum for an incredible season continued to build quickly. Brown rushed for over 200 yards in wins at Temple and against Virginia, as Dixon struggled to return from his ankle injury. He scored his tenth TD of the season in the fourth game of the season, a game-winner over Baylor. He rushed for over 100 yards by halftime in the first five games of the season.

He broke 1,000 yards in the sixth game at North Carolina in their first loss of the season. He rushed for over 100 yards in their first eight games of the season and in all but two of their 13 games. In the International Bowl, Brown put an exclamation point on his amazing season. He single-handedly kept the Huskies in the game in a first half where they had six fumble and lost five. Brown rushed for 207 in the first two quarters, including a 45-yard run for their first score on his 18th TD of the season and a career-long 75-yard run that set up a TD before halftime to pull the Huskies within three points. He finished with a career-high 261 yards and 2,083 for the season, becoming the 14th NCAA player to rush for over 2,000 yards. The nation’s leading rusher was the Big East Offensive POY, as well as a second-team AP and Walter Camp All-American. After saying he’d return for his final season of eligibility two weeks early, the 4JR reported he was turning pro after the bowl victory.

A fitness nut and workout warrior, Brown definitely passes the eyeball test with an ideal size and build for a running back at the next level. He has good lower body strength and excellent vision, combined with a vicious stiff-arm that Buffalo coach Turner Gill labeled “a pretty deadly weapon” among his compliments for Brown before he dismantled Gill’s Bulls in the International Bowl. Despite reportedly timed electronically with a 4.41 40 last spring and having broken several long runs in his career, Brown doesn’t look like he has elite speed (e.g. being caught from behind on his 75-yard run late in the first half of the International Bowl). Not a very efficient runner in the open field, some unnecessary movements. He could use a track coach to refine his running style. What he definitely has outstanding burst through the line once he picks his hole. And it was surprising when holes were there, because there was little passing threat to take the bulls-eye off of Brown. QB Tyler Lorenzen missed four games with a broken foot and the offense threw for a total of three TDs in the regular season.

Brown is this year’s version of Matt Forte, a great physical package who came out of relative obscurity at a mid-major to post incredible numbers far beyond the solid, but unspectacular, production he had prior to his final season. With a solid Combine he looks like a solid second or third round pick.

Shonn Greene (Iowa – 4JR) 5’11” 233
Combine Invite: Yes
The New Jersey native spent a year at Milford Academy prep school after originally being an academic DNQ at Iowa in 2005. He arrived at Iowa in 2005 and spent two years playing special teams and seeing minimal action in the offense behind Albert Young. In 2007, he lost his scholarship due to grades and enrolled at Kirkwood College, a JUCO in Iowa City. Greene was completely out of football, working at a furniture store for $8/hour and studying full time. He returned to Iowa in August 2008 with Young and Damian Sims out of the picture and quickly ascended the depth chart. Greene got his first career start in the season opener against FCS Maine and scored a TD on Iowa’s first possession of the game. He finished with the second 100-yard game of his career. And that would be the theme for the season, Greene was the only FBS back to rush for 100 yards in every game. He needed nine carries to top 100 yards in the first quarter of a 42-0 win against Florida International in their second game. He rushed for 147 yards and a TD in a one-point loss at Pitt in a face-off with RB LeSean McCoy. McCoy rushed for 78 yards and the eventual game-winning TD. At Michigan State in a match-up with RB Javon Ringer, Greene rushed for 157 yards, but was stopped on a fourth-and-one late in the game on Iowa’s final play in a three-point loss. Ringer was held under 100 yards. He hurt his ankle at Indiana in a blowout of the Hoosiers, but it didn’t slow his roll, posting another 100-yard game, and was clearly a non-factor against Wisconsin the next game. Greene had career highs of 217 yards and four TDs, including one for 52 yards, in a victory over the Badgers.

In a huge upset of Penn State, he rushed for 117 yard and two of the team’s three TDs. The next week, he had the second 200-yard game of the season, highlight by a career-long 75 yard run. He flashed his agility and surprising speed on the run, spinning away from a weak attempt at an arm tackle before racing down the left sideline. Later in the game he also showed his power, bowling over a defender on a 14-yard TD run. Anyone who hadn’t heard of or seen him before got a fine display in a rout of South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. Greene, the game’s MVP, ran for 121 yard and three scores. After an amazing regular season, Greene helped ensure notoriety for himself by sealing it with a great effort in the spotlight and then declaring for the draft immediately after the game. As his record-breaking season wound down, Greene picked up some serious hardware. He was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and won the Silver Football as the Big Ten’s top overall player. He beat out fellow finalists Javon Ringer and Knowshon Moreno for the Doak Walker award as the nation’s top running back. He joined Ringer on both the AP and Walter Camp All-American first-team at RB.

A bruising runner who is rarely brought down on first contact, Greene usually buries his head in the first defender who squares up on him and flattens him. The tendency to put his head down could be a problem at the next level. It limits his vision, so even if he breaks the tackle, he isn’t viewing the field, and the second and third man in get there a lot faster in the NFL. Also, the move opens him up to a potentially serious injury. Something else he’ll need to work on taking the handoff and holding the ball. He keeps two hands on the ball for a step or two longer than most RBs after accepting it from the QB, even when he heads outside, where the unnatural movement slows him from getting to full speed quicker. Greene runs low through the line with great pad level and forward lean. A north-south runner, he doesn’t care about looking for another lane until after a defender has already engaged. A non-factor in the pass game, he has only 11 career receptions. The offensive line was in a state of disarray in 2007, but pulled together with a mix of young and old and a few new starters this year. Four of them received all-conference recognition, but you have to give Greene a lot of credit there, as opposed to the other way around.

He’ll turn 24 before the start of next season, so it is hardly a surprise Greene made the jump, especially after his amazing season. With two years lost to academics, he’s the equivalent of a fifth-year senior. Greene is clearly the flavor of the week, deservedly so, but talk of being a first-round pick and all his accolades will fade when under the technical scrutiny of scouts. His speed is surprising, but not elite. I don’t expect him to excel at the Combine. Rudi Johnson is a good comparable on a few levels, and he was a fourth-round pick. Greene is probably an early Day Two pick.

Early Day 2