Running backs just are not as highly coveted as they were, even just four years ago. That being said, if a team wants to win in the National Football League, they need a workhorse. Let us take a look at the top five running backs coming into this year’s draft beginning with number five and working our way down to the number one back in the upcoming draft.
5. Jeremy Hill, LSU 6’1” 235 Lbs
Hill this past season, rushed for 1401 yards, on 203 attempts, averaging 6.9 yards per carry (YPC) in 2013, to go along with his 16 touchdowns. Doubling his production from 2012 where he had 755 yards on 142 attempts, still averaging 5.3 yards per carry. At 6'1" 235 pounds, Hill has ability to truck defenders; he continually keeps his legs churning up the field even after the initial hit, and frequently gets yards after contact. Hill has deceptive speed, while only recording a 4.55 40 yard dash, Hill attacks holes and has the ability to get up the field in an instant. He is also an effective receiver out of the backfield, even though he only caught 18 balls for 181 yards in 2013. Hill is not without a downside though, having multiple off the field issues. Hill often left the ball exposed to defenders while carrying it with one hand, even when engaging defenders.
Hill is NFL ready. He would be a great fit for multiple teams, and a steal if he drops to the fourth or fifth round. Hill would fit in perfectly with the Atlanta Falcons. With the strong veteran presence in their locker room, Hill's character issues should not be an issue. He is currently projected as a second or third rounder.
4. Bishop Sankey, Washington 5'10" 205 Lbs
He may be the shortest on this list coming onto the scene in 2012, when Jesse Callier tore his ACL early in that season. Sankey earned All-Pac-12 honors that year, while rushing for 1429 yards, on 289 attempts, averaging 110 yards per game. In 2013, despite not having the greatest offensive line and inconsistent QB play, Sankey continued his dominance. Carrying the ball 327 times, he rushed for 1870 yards, and scored 20 touchdowns, breaking Corey "Clock Killin" Dillion’s single season school rushing record. Finishing the season strong, Sankey earned MVP honors at the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.
Breaking a Bowl record by rushing for 205 yards on 30 carries, adding an additional 75 yards in the air off six passes thrown. Sankey also passes blocks like he runs, very well, despite his smaller stature. Sankey is one of the most complete backs coming out of college this year; and would be a great addition to any NFL team. The biggest concern with Sankey, is his size, and that over his final two seasons, he touched the ball 653 times. Is there tread left on his tires? Can his body hold up to the pounding he will undoubtedly take in the NFL? Sankey would fit in great with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are just a few players away from really making a run, and he could be one of them. Currently, he's projected as second to third rounders.
3. Tre Mason, Auburn 5'11" 205 Lbs
Auburn played in the BCS championship this year and Mason was a big reason why. Mason broke Bo Jackson’s single season rushing record, running for 1816 yards. He also broke the school record for touchdowns, scoring 23. Mason finished sixth in the voting for the Heisman, following the 2013 season. Only a few days after he nearly took the Auburn Tigers to a BCS championship, Mason held a press-conference and declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft. Mason is leaving the Tigers having run for 1000 yards in his past two seasons. "I came here to be the best," Mason said. "Breaking Bo Jackson’s record was a goal of mine from the time the season started, and I believe God blessed me with the ability to do that." Bo Jackson rushed for 1786 yards back in 1983.
Mason has natural hands and could also be used as a return specialist. He shows stellar vision and patience when pushing the ball down the field, waiting for blockers to clear the path. Masons only shortcomings are his absence of top-notch speed to pull away from the defense and his less than average size. Maurice Jones-Drew is up there in age and a free agent this year, The Jags would be doing themselves a favor drafting him. They need all the help on offense they can get. He’s currently projected as a second rounder.
2. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, 6'0" 238 Lbs.
Hyde is a bruiser he became the lead back in 2012, amassing 970 yards, scoring 16 touchdowns, while only playing ten games, having missed two games because of an ankle injury. 2013 is where Hyde shined, running for 1521 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns, despite having missed the first three games because of a suspension.
Carlos averaged nearly eight yards per carry in 2013. Hyde is also a viable passing option, being an above average route runner. Hyde will fit right in with any NFL offense. Hyde is not without his issues, he was involved in a bar fight with a woman in downtown Columbus in the summer of 2013. The alleged victim declined to press charges.
Hyde also doesn't take advantage of his size as one would think; instead he tries to bounce the ball outside. Hyde will be the first back off the board. And with the Browns picking twice, having traded away Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first round pick in return, don’t be surprised if he stays in Ohio. Carlos Hyde is projected as a second rounder.
1. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona 5'11" 197 Lbs
During the 2013 season, despite having missed the first game of the season due to a suspension, Carey rushed for 1885 on 349 attempts, including 19 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 157.1 yards per game. Not too shabby. Carey finished second in the Nation in yards in 2013 and he led the country the previous year with 1929 yards, plus 23 touchdowns, and hauled in 36 passes for 303 yards. Mason shows tremendous diligence and has improved his ability to pass block from years prior.
Carey’s, most substantial issue is his character. He was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault as well as disorderly conduct after getting into an altercation with his pregnant ex-girlfriend in December of 2012. Carey was also kicked out of an Arizona basketball game after arguing with police and officials over the seats. Carey has had no major incidents since. If an NFL team can look past those issues, Carey could very well be a first round draft pick and The Tennessee Titans might just be where he lands, Chris Johnson is not getting any younger, it would behoove them to bring Carey in for their immediate future. Currently, he’s projected as a late first to early second rounder.
Last year was the first year in 50 years without a single running back having been selected in the first round. Don't expect that same result this year, with more than a few solid options that are NFL ready, character issues aside. The NFL combine will start on February 19th and end on the 25th, this is where players are interviewed by potential teams, tested on their 40 yard dash times, they bench 225 pounds as many times as they can, among many other things. The outcome from The Combine could affect where some players are drafted. The Draft will air Thursday, May 8th and end on Saturday, May 10th. Tune in to see where these running backs go.
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