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2009 NFL RB Draft Class
Version 2.0 - Combine Primer

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

Best Of The Rest

Key: Name (School - Class) Height Weight

An assortment of prospects with one or more intriguing facets or familiar names, but they victims of a numbers crunch and/or the negatives currently outweigh the positives enough that right now that, at best, they will be undrafted free agents.

Antone Smith (Florida State – 4SR) 5’9” 190
Combine Invite: No
One of the top HS recruits in the country, Smith worked behind future NFL RBs Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington as a true freshman in 2005. In 2006, he backed up Booker, but Booker had an uneven season and Smith was outperforming him at time. After a tough stretch of losing three of four conference games in the second half of the season, the team decided to give more work to Smith. He got his first career start against Western Michigan, but dislocated his right elbow after one start and missed the last two games of the season. It was his show in 2007, but Smith was bothered throughout the season by an assortment of minor injuries. He entered the season with a lingering toe problem, suffered a concussion in the third game, and missed the second half at VaTech and the Maryland game late in the season with a shoulder injury. Other than the game missed due to injury, he started every game and was the feature back. He rushed for 192-819-3 and caught 22 passes for 203 yards. Smith started 2008 with a few nondescript performances against lower-level competition in the first two games, and then had a terrific three-game stretch early in the season, before finishing with more erratic performances in limited opportunities as mobile QB Christian Ponder often provided the main running threat. The highlight of his season was returning to his hometown of Miami and running for a career-high four TDs, including the eventual game-winning 20-yard run late in the fourth quarter, on just under 100 yards in a 41-39 win over the Hurricanes. Smith only rushed for 792 yards on 177 carries, but was a scoring machine. He led the ACC with 15 rushing TDs and 16 total. He was a replacement selection for the Senior Bowl after Arian Foster went down, coming in the Thursday before the game. Foster was the last RB in for the South and dropped an easy screen on his first play. He had just two carries for seven yards in the game.

Smith is a workout warrior and packs muscle on his small frame. Thin through the hips and already with a jacked-up chest and thick hamstrings, he probably can’t carry much more bulk. For a player with alleged elite speed, he didn’t always show it on the field, although the Seminoles didn’t always seem to try to use him properly. It seems to take him time to get up to top speed, which is unusual for a player with track training and a supposed sub-4.4 40 time. A bit of an inefficient runner, there is a lot of movement, but he doesn’t have the elusiveness to fool anyone with it, so it serves no purpose other than advertising he is running hard. He loves to run inside and bounces off arm tackles, but doesn’t have the size to thrive in that role at the next level. Smith has failed to grow, literally and figuratively, to meet the high expectations he had as the bluest of blue chip recruits. He was also a victim of circumstance, as the FSU offense scheme and QB situation has been an issue throughout his collegiate career. I’m surprised he didn’t get a Combine invite, because he still has some untapped potential. I expect he’ll impress at FSU’s Pro Day and gain some momentum heading in the draft as a possible late-round flyer.

Chris Ogbonnaya (Texas – 5SR) 6’0” 220
Combine Invite: Yes
Converted from a WR coming out of HS, Ogbonnaya spent his first three seasons as primarily a special teams player, buried on the depth chart behind Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young. When Charles left for the NFL early after the 2007 season, Ogbonnaya was the dean of a young backfield heading in to the 2008 season. It looked like he was lost in the mix again to start the season when he saw just seven carries in the first four games. However, in the Big 12 season opener at Colorado, he rushed for 71 yards on just nine carries, including a 13-yard TD and a 51-yard run to set up another TD, as well as a career highs of six receptions and 116 yards, including a 65-yard TD on Texas’ first drive. He followed a career day through air with one on the ground in the Red River Shootout the following week. Ogbonnaya had career bests in carries (15) and rushing yards (127), including a career-long 62-yard run, in the victory over then top-ranked Oklahoma. He was the nominal starter for most of the season, but it remained a crowded RBBC and was, above all things, the Colt McCoy Show on offense. In addition to his passing exploits, McCoy was the leading rusher with almost 50 more carries then any RB. Ogbonnaya finished third on the team in carries and rushing yards. His 373 rushing yards were just three behind 3SO RB Vondrell McGee. Where Ogbonnaya really shined was catching the ball out of the backfield, setting a school record for a RB with 46 receptions. He was invited to the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game, but failed to distinguish himself during the week. He had five carries for 12 yards in the game.

Ogbonnaya is a versatile player who can be used as running back, receiver, or fullback, but doesn’t appear to have potential to excel at more than special teams at the next level. Unlike many feature backs coming out of college, he has extensive special teams experience and excels in coverage. That could help him retain a roster spot with his ability to fill in at several offensive positions in a pinch. An intelligent student, he was a four-time All-Academic first-team selection, so he should have mental capacity to learn multiple positions. He is still a project at any position on offense, but as a runner he is nice physical specimen that lacks vision, instincts, and elusiveness to do much if the hole isn’t there. One of the best pairs of hands for a RB in the class, his receiving is the most advanced part of his offensive game. While he received a Combine invite based on school rather than his resume, all that matters is he got there and his stock could move from UDFA to late-round flyer with a good showing.

Buiker “Anthony” Kimble (Stanford – 5SR) 6’0” 211
Combine Invite: Yes
Recruited as a WR, Kimble took a redshirt in 2004 and was converted to a RB the following spring. He quickly ascended to head the RBBC and started the first six games before injuring his right leg. Kimble would miss two games and see just seven more carries the rest of the season. He finished the season with 244 yards rushing, as the top three RBs were all within ten carries and 26 yards of each other. After battling a staph infection in the spring, Kimble started 11 of 12 games (he missed UCLA with a concussion) in 2006 and split carries evenly with standout freshman Toby Gerhart. Kimble rushed for 470 yards and two TDs on the season. He also threw and completed, for a 57-yard TD, the only pass of his career in a loss at ND. The duo of Kimble and Gerhart was quickly derailed in 2007 when Gerhart blew out his knee in the second game of the season. Kimble capitalized on the opportunity to be the feature back, getting double digit carries in each of the first six games and putting up the first two 100-yard games of his career.

However, he injured his right shoulder in the sixth game and would miss the next four. He returned to rush for 80 yards and both of the team’s scores in a loss to ND. After aggravating the injury, he would miss the season finale and the problem would linger in to the following spring. Kimble finished the season rushing for 509 yards and eight TDs to lead the team in rushing for the second consecutive season. In 2008, Gerhart took over as the feature back and Kimble was relegated to a change of pace role. Because Kimble was able to stay healthy for every game for the first time in his career, he still posted career highs of 120 carries and 717 yards rushing. The highlight of his season was at Washington on 9/27/08, when Gerhart left early with a concussion. Kimble took over and rushed for a career-high 157 yards, including a career-long 83-yard TD run. He also had a 13-yard TD run and caught two passes for 17 yards. Kimble was invited to the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Game and caught an eight-yard TD pass, but rushed for just four yards on six carries.

Despite decent size, Kimble doesn’t run with much power and lacks burst through the line. He has good vision and waits for his blocks to get set up, with decent, but unspectacular, speed in the open field. A converted WR, he has good hands, but didn’t see extensive use in the passing game (he averaged 15 catches per season). He also has some experience as a kick returner. Kimble is a versatile player with appealing size, but no one skill stands out and durability has been a problem. Surprisingly, Kimble received an invite to the Combine, and he needs an impressive performance there to be more than a UDFA.

Brad Lester (Auburn – 5SR) 5’11” 194
Combine Invite: No
Lester flashed his big play ability in the third game of his career as a redshirt freshman in 2005 when returned a kick-off for a 93-yard TD after Ball State’s only score in a blowout. Later in the game, he broke off a 70-yard run and followed it up with a 3-yard TD run during mop-up duty. He actually was given the start over Kenny Irons in their second SEC game of the season at Arkansas. However, Lester suffered a strained right groin seven carries in to the game. Irons would take over again, rush for 182 yards in the game, and go on to lead the SEC in rushing. Lester would miss most of the remainder of the season. He was out the next three games and then missed his first Iron Bowl after returning prematurely the week before. Lester returned to see back-up work in their Capital One Bowl loss to Wisconsin. In all, he had just nine carries after the injury. Coming off the huge year by Irons, Lester looked firmly entrenched as a back-up when the 2006 season began. However, Irons would go through a disappointing season battling lingering injuries. Lester took advantage and rushed for over 500 yards on the season at a clip of 4.9 ypc. He led the team with ten all-purpose touchdowns. Lester also remained an effective secondary option as a kick returner.

His breakout season ended with disappointment as he was suspended for their Cotton Bowl victory. It was reported, at the time, as an undisclosed violation of team rules. With the departure of Irons, Lester was slated to be the starting tailback entering the 2007 season. Despite practicing in the spring and leading up to the season, rumors began to speculate that Lester was still in trouble and perhaps his career at Auburn was over. HC Tommy Tuberville finally announced he was suspended for the season opener, but didn’t elaborate on the length. Finally, the bizarre saga ended when the nature of his suspension would be revealed as an academic-related issue and it was for a total of six games. It dated back to the Cotton Bowl, so he would also miss the first five games of the season. As usual, due to privacy laws, no specifics were given. The buzz was it was an academic integrity issue, involvement in plagiarism on a school project. Ben Tate, who also impressed as a true freshman the previous season when Irons struggled, and redshirt freshman Mario Fannin worked in place of Lester to start the season. While they posted solid numbers, the offense struggled and the team got off to a disappointing 3-2 start. Lester returned against Vanderbilt in October and while he didn’t start, he would rush for 77 yards and two scores in an easy win. He would return to the starting lineup the following week and while Fannin was phased out, Tate would continue to see significant carries and finish the season leading the team across the board in rushing.

Lester remained the starter the rest of the way, expect when he sat out a game against FCS Tennessee Tech due to a mild groin strain. He finished the season with 530 rushing yards, just 20 more than in 2006, and just three TDs. The entire backfield rotation returned in 2008 and Lester was the nominal starter for a few games, but 3JR Ben Tate would take over most of the carries and 3SO Mario Fannin would eventually pass Lester, as well. Lester took a spill in their third game of the year, a 3-2 win at Mississippi State in their SEC season opener. In an incident that was more scary than serious, Lester fell awkwardly on his head and needed to be carted off the field. He sustained a neck injury, but all the tests for any serious damage were negative and he was ready for LSU the following week. However, against LSU he suffered a knee injury in the third quarter and would miss the next game. He would see more than seven carries just one the rest of the season, finishing with just 289 yards rushing on 80 carries. Lester had been reported as invited to the Senior Bowl, which would have been a surprise, but DNP due to injury. However, no such invite is reported by the Auburn Athletic Department or Senior Bowl.

Fate hasn’t been kind to Lester, although a good part was his own doing. With a stronger groin in Fayetteville in 2005 or some better choices in his academic career, he may already be on an NFL roster. Lester’s terrible performance in his final season was relative to the overall disappointment for the team. The new offense installed in 2008 was one of the worst in FBS, they had no passing game to stop teams from stacking against the run. Auburn failed to make a bowl game for the first time since 1999 and Tuberville was gone when the season was over. More alarming has been that he has failed to be a home run hitter, with no run over 30 yards the last two seasons. He’ll have to stand up to the grilling in interviews about his suspension, which he has refused to talk about in the media, but if his transgression was just a one-time incident related to cheating, it won’t be a major concern. More worrisome will be his history of groin problems, which became a “history” when they resurfaced in 2006. Overall, his durability has been an issue. Like former Auburn star Kenny Irons, Lester a bit of a slight frame, but still was a physical runner and effective between the tackles. He’ll need to add more bulk to do the same at the next level. He has shown good ability as a kick returner, but his opportunities have been limited by the presence of 5SR Tristan Davis, one of the top kick returners in the country. Lester also doesn’t have much experience in the passing game. He will get a look at Auburn’s Pro Day, but is nothing more than a UDFA prospect at this point.

Rodney Ferguson (New Mexico – 5SR) 6’0” 234
Combine Invite: No
After all-time leading rusher DonTrell Moore left, the school didn’t miss a beat when Ferguson stepped in and went for over 1,000 yards in 2006 to lead the MWC in rushing. He went over 1,000 yards and received first-team All-MWC honors again in 2007, but missed their New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada. Ferguson was academically ineligible for the game, and for spring practice, but he more than had his studies in order for the fall, passing 18 hours with a 3.27 GPA for his best academic performance of his collegiate career. He returned to put up his third consecutive 1K rushing season, despite playing with a rookie QB behind an OLine with five new starters and suffering a severe bruise and broken bone in his right shoulder in the fifth game of the season. The durable Ferguson missed the first game of his career due to injury the following week, but played through the pain the rest of the season. He was recognized with first-team All-MWC honors for the second-straight season.

Ferguson is a workhorse and a pounder, but doesn’t have breakaway speed (no career runs over 50 yards). His involvement in the passing game decreased each year, but he is a good weapon as a receiver with surprising hands for a big man. Ball security has been a problem in the past. He had two key fumbles in their 2006 New Mexico Bowl loss to San Jose State, including one at the goal line. Ferguson isn’t the talent DonTrell Moore was, but he has good size for the next level with potential to be converted to a multi-purpose FB. It is disappointing he was completely overlooked for an all-star game and the Combine, but I expect he’ll find his way on a practice squad by the fall.

Jorvorskie Lane (Texas A&M – 4SR) 6’0” 295
Combine Invite: No
After rolling up 45 TDs in his first three seasons as the top short yardage/goal line runner and moonlighting as a feature back, Lane was demoted to a full-time fullback role under new HC Mike Sherman in 2008 and saw just 35 carries. Despite the disappointing production his final season, he was invited to the Shrine Game. West HC Gene Stallings gave him a prime opportunity to showcase his abilities when the team drove inside the five-yard line on the first drive of the game. Lane was stopped on three consecutive carries, including a loss of one on the final carry, and the team turned the ball over. He did flash his hands on three catches for 13 yards in the game.

Lane is an impressive natural athlete in spite of his supersized self, with incredibly soft hands and a little shake as a runner for such a big man. However, his sideshow act won’t play at the next level and the fact he wasn’t invited to Combine emphasizes that perception. Make no mistake, this isn’t the next Brandon Jacobs. Lane is a load who completely lacks definition and will get pushed around at the next level in his current condition. Whereas he could simply move the pile with his weight in college, he’ll need strength and explosion he lacks to do it on Sundays. He does have the athleticism to be a promising lead blocker if he hits the weight room and takes to the coaching, but anyone using more than a seventh-round flyer on him as a developmental project or expecting him to immediately be a situational short-yardage threat will be disappointed.

Herb Donaldson (Western Illinois – 5SR) 5’11” 225
Combine Invite: No
After playing mostly special teams as a redshirt freshman in 2005, Donaldson exploded his first year as a starter in 2006. He finished the season 233-1,417-18 and was second-team All-Gateway Conference. The highlight was rushing for 328 yards and six TDs in a close win over Indiana State. He broke a FCS (then D-IAA) record with 282 rushing yards and four TDs in the second half. Donaldson provided a consistent encore in 2007, rushing just shy of 1,500 yards at a 6.1 ypc clip. He had his second 300-yard game of his career in a win over Missouri State. His 149.1 ypg were fifth in FCS and he was recognized with first-team All-Gateway Conference and third-team FCS AP All-American honors. In 2008, he opened the season with a rare opportunity against FBS competition and almost led the Leathernecks to an upset of Arkansas. Donaldson rushed for 157 yards and a score on 35 carries, as well as caught a 12-yard pass for his first career receiving TD. He rolled continued rolling through the season to lead all Division I (FCS and FBS) in rushing, with just over 162 ypg, and scoring (12 ppg) on his way to consensus first-team All-American honors and finishing a surprisingly low third in voting for the Walter Payton Trophy, the Heisman of FCS. He finished his career as the Missouri Valley Conference (formerly Gateway) all-time leading rusher.

Having also played defense in HS, Donaldson brings a linebacker’s body and attitude to the offense. He is a big workhorse back who thrives on contact that earned him the nickname “The Beast” with teammates, which opposing defenders in the MVC wouldn’t disagree with. He lacks the athleticism to project as a feature runner at the next level, but has potential in a fullback/short-yardage role. Without a Combine invite and having been overlooked by all-star games, Donaldson faces an uphill battle in getting in front of teams and should be a UDFA, at best.

Courtney Tennial (Tulsa – 6SR) 5’9” 238
Combine Invite: No
In my preseason preview, I indicated Tennial would likely have to convert to FB at the next level. He didn’t have to wait that long. With the breakout of 5SR Tarrion Adams in 2007, Tennial was no longer in the picture for significant carries as he returned from a torn Achilles’ tendon in 2007. His time came at the expense of talented receiving FB 2SO Charles Clay. Tennnial was a short-yardage specialist for much of the season, and saw great success, converting 10 of 13 third- or fourth-and short runs. He only lost yardage on one run, for one yard, in the first game of the season. Tennial also displayed his nose for the end zone, leading the team much of the season before Adams began being more of a workhorse late in the season. He finished second on the team, to Adams, with seven rushing TDs. He finished the season with 45 runs for 220 yards.

It has been a tough road for Tennial, who has not caught the type of breaks a player with potential NFL talent needs to get drafted. He took a redshirt his first year and then his future plans were shattered when Adrian Peterson committed the following year. Tennial didn’t play at all in 2004 and watched Peterson rush for almost 2,000 yards and almost become the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy. The writing was on the wall, in large font and bold, that touches would be impossible to come by any time soon. Tennial moved to Tulsa in 2005 and sat out the season due to transferring to another FBS school. Three years in to his college career, Tennial had yet to touch a football in an actual game. That all changed in 2006 when he had a breakout season with over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 16 TDs. Another setback came when he tore his Achilles’ tendon before the 2007 season and missed the whole year.

While lacking breakaway speed before blowing his Achilles’, he had quick feet and explosion through the line that he still flashed, in limited opportunities. He is a bowling ball through the line, playing at great pad level to shed defenders and make him hard to get a clean hit on. He generates tremendous power to move the pile from a couple tree trunks of thighs, but had some agility, as well. Tennial has unexpectedly decent hands for a stout big man, although he wasn’t used much in the passing game. Ball security has been a big problem in his limited sample set of carries. He looks for a shot as a multi-purpose FB as a UDFA.

Corey Lewis (Northern Iowa – 5SR) 6’0” 192
Combine Invite: No
After posting good numbers in mop-up duty as the third RB behind David Horne and Terrance Freeney in 2005, Lewis was poised for a feature role in 2006. He started the season with three consecutive 100-yard games and was on his way to a fourth in a near upset of FBS Iowa State when he suffered a high ankle sprain in his left foot. He would miss the next two games and be limited in two more before ending the season with three more consecutive 100-yard games. Lewis took over in 2007 and had a breakout season as the Panthers went 12-1 finishing 4th in FCS. He rushed for over 100 yards in 8 of 13 games, highlighted by 130 yards rushing and 44 receiving in an upset of FBS Iowa State and a career best 32-220-3 in a first round playoff win over New Hampshire. Lewis earned first-team All-Gateway Conference honors, finishing with 258-1,513-16 on the ground and 54-642-0 through the air. In 2008, he finished with 260-1,314-11 on the ground despite being slowed for a few games by a right ankle sprain in early October and helped the team reach the semi-finals before bowing out in a one-point loss to eventual champion Richmond. Lewis was a second-team All-MVC (Missouri Valley Conference, formerly Gateway) pick and left as the school’s all-time leading rusher.

Expectations were high for Lewis coming in to the 2008 season, but he didn’t generate quiet as much excitement with slightly less production and the emergence of some other small school runners, including being overshadowed by Herb Donaldson in his own conference. The loss of three Little All-American offensive linemen to graduation, including two to the NFL, didn’t impact his production as much as his ankle sprain, but they did decrease his exposure to NFL scouts. Lewis has decent speed and quickness, but has been passed by as the FCS flavor of the week and will be lucky to get a chance as a UDFA.

Jerry Seymour (Glenville State – 5SR) 5’7” 195
Combine Invite: No
I have a massive spreadsheet where I track measurables, stats, profile and story links, etc. for basically every FBS RB, starting once they sign a LOI out of HS, as well as small school runners as they emerge. I have a tab where I move guys who fall off the grid, so I don’t lose the data I collected on them in the unlikely event they resurface. Most sit there until being five years removed from HS, at which point I feel it is safe to assume any unused college eligibility won’t be used towards an NFL career and delete them. It’s quite a collection of former blue chips that have transferred in to oblivion due to academic problems, unfortunate injuries, and infamous “character” issues. When Jerry “Bam Bam” Seymour was charged with murder in the summer of 2005, he moved to the “Status Unknown” tab and I certainly never expected to see him again. But as I was tracking DII names like Xaiver Omon, Jamar Brittingham, and Danny Woodhead last year for the 2008 draft, as well as putting a fast riser for the 2009 draft, Bernard Scott, on my radar, there was Seymour’s name with the top producing runners in the division. A quick check confirmed it was the same Jerry Seymour who first caught my attention in 2003 as the MAC Freshman of the Year after the first of back-to-back 1K seasons with Central Michigan. He had already run afoul of the law in March 2005 for a theft situation when he involved in a bar room brawl with former Chippewa teammate James King in June. Tragically, a young man died and Seymour and King were charged with second-degree murder, among other charges, in the death. Seymour plead no contest to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor. If he had been convicted of a felony, he would have been ineligible for another NCAA scholarship. He was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation when the case wrapped up in 2006.

The Florida native headed to West Virginia to join the DII Pioneers in 2007 and in the season opener, rushed for 220 yards and three TDs in his first football game in almost three years. He finished the season with over 1,700 yards rushing and first-team West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletics Conference recognition. In 2008, he rushed for 2,282 yards, including a school-record 349 yard rushing day at Concord. Seymour shattered the WVIAC single-season rushing record, set just under 2K the previous season by Shepherd RB Dervon Wallace. Seymour led the nation (all levels), with 207.5 ypg – the only runner in college to average 200+ ypg. He was Offensive POY for the conference and a second-team AP Little All-American. He was invited to the East Coast Bowl, a relatively unknown all-star game for sub-FBS players. Seymour rushed seven times for just eight yards for a North squad that was shutout in the game.

There’s no question Seymour has some talent and is an exciting runner on the field, but if the violent crime baggage wasn’t enough reason to avoid Seymour, he is undersized too. Hopefully he is remorseful and rehabilitated and able to be productive member of society going forward, but it seems inconceivable the NFL will be part that future.

Blue Chips