By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
Marc continues his pre-draft running back rankings. Based on history, Tannanbaum likes to take runners in the mid-late rounds, so plenty of these players are potential Jets. Click to find out who rounds out the bottom half of the list.
7. Joseph Randle OK ST
Strengths: Randle has decent speed but is very smooth in and out of cuts and seems to glide when changing directions. He is also a capable blocker and terrific receiver.
Weaknesses: He needs to bulk up considerably and lacks the power needed to break tackles when running inside.
The Take Home: Randle is often overlooked, but was an important piece of a high powered Cowboys attack. He has good vision and uses a potent slide-step to avoid defenders. He looses no speed when changing directions but seems to glide rather than make explosive stop and start cuts. He’s not a physical back but is tough and more than willing to sustain contact.
He was a productive pass catcher and shows great hands and vision to find creases in the defense. Randle is a gifted athlete who will be one of the top backs in the Big 12 and the nation this year. He needs to bulk up to handle the physicality of the pro game, but has the lateral agility and receiving skills to be a versatile NFL running back.
8. Cierre Wood NOTRE DAME
Strengths: Wood has a solid, well-built frame complemented by quick acceleration and burst. He has the lateral agility to avoid defenders in tight spaces.
Weaknesses: He has been suspended for the first two games of this season. He could improve his stamina.
The Take Home: An underrated prospect Cierre Wood has impressive burst allowing him to shoot through holes and fly past defenders in tight spaces meaning he can get downfield with just a little opening. He has terrific straight-line speed, around 4.48 according to nfldraftscout.com, with more power and strength than one would expect from a back with his speed and frame. He has good agility as well and can slide laterally to avoid defenders. He needs to show scouts he has matured off the field, but with his straight-line speed, ability to explode up-field quickly and build capable to sustaining hits he has the on field talent of a pro back.
9. Eddie Lacy ALABAMA
Strengths: Lacy is a very powerful back capable of breaking tackles and is athletic enough to avoid defenders and hit his second gear quickly.
Weaknesses: He has been a bit injury prone thus far, and clearly profited from an elite offensive line and the benefit of coming in off bench well rested against relatively worn down defenses.
The Take Home: Lacy is an incredibly strong and powerful back with more athleticism than you’d expect from a between the tackles type runner. He has the leg drive and solid stiff arm to break tackles and seems to sense and avoid defenders in tight spaces, often spinning by tacklers.
He has the skills to be a punishing pro runner, but won’t have it as easy as he did with the Crimson Tide playing behind essentially an NFL quality offensive line and coming in to relieve Trent Richardson after he had already beaten down the opponent. The fact that he does have an explosive lower body, runs violently and shows decent speed to mix it up outside means he certainly has a place on an NFL team.
10. Ray Graham PITT
Strengths: His superior lateral agility allows him to create space and avoid defenders even in tight spaces. He is a productive return-man and shows great vision as a runner.
Weaknesses: He is undersized and lacks the top end speed to break away from defenders. He is also coming off an ACL injury.
The Take Home: While his injured knee creates uncertainty about his ability to return to prior form, Graham is still a prospect worth watching. He lacks the elite speed one would assume a successful back of his stature would possess he has amazing agility and can juke defenders with a devastating jump cut. If healthy he could easily appear higher on this list. Scouts will monitor his health, but he has an NFL future if fully recovered.
11. Kenjon Barner OREGON
Strengths: Barner is burner with 4.39 speed, lighting quick acceleration and stop on a dime type change-of-direction. He has good hands and the skill-set that makes him a good option out of the backfield and as a return-man.
Weaknesses: He is very undersized and is almost incapable of effectively running between the tackles.
The Take Home: Barner has been in the shadow of fellow speedy Duck, LaMichael James but was productive in his own right. Barner has blazing speed and while he won’t break many arm tackles he prefers to avoid them altogether. He can stop and accelerate up-field before defenders can get a hand on him.
With his hands and receiving ability, along with his electric speed and vision as a return-man he is poised to be a dynamic all-purpose threat capable of breaking a big one on every touch. He will almost certainly be limited as a change of pace back, but that suits him game very well.
12. Michael Dyer ARKANSAS BAPTIST
Strengths: Dyer has a complete package as a runner with the build of a power back and the quickness to burst through holes.
Weaknesses: Dyer ran into off-the-field issues and left two schools within a year’s time. He has never been a stellar receiver when on the field.
The Take Home: Whenever you leave two programs in less than a year your character and maturity will be questioned and draft stock will plummet. From a talent perspective Dyer is NFL quality without question. He is very strong and sheds tacklers with ease, but also possesses the agility to avoid defenders altogether. He also has great speed most power backs lack (timed around 4.50) making him especially dangerous and is more than happy to stiff arm a defender to the turf. He will attend Arkansas Baptist but almost certainly not play football this year. Questions about his maturity are abundant, but so is his talent.
13. Giovani Bernard UNC
Strengths: Bernard is very patient and plays with a strong base and excellent balance. He is a reliable receiver and shows great shiftiness in the open field and crowded areas.
Weaknesses: He is not a particularly explosive runner or home run threat and lacks elite straight-line speed.
The Take Home: Bernard has been very productive for the Tar Heels without being a real burner or explosive athlete. He is a patient runner who allows his blockers to get in position and open up holes. He has tremendous lateral agility and immobilizes defenders with his stutter-steps and hesitation.
Using his strong base and great balance, he plays with a low center of gravity and can pick his way throw traffic and stay on his feet. He doesn’t have the flashy game his numbers might indicate but is productive and patient in the running game with the good hands and shiftiness to be threat out of the backfield.
14. Stepfan Taylor STANFORD
Strengths: Taylor has been incredibly productive while showing nice strength, leg drive and cutting ability. He is also a good blocker and solid receiver.
Weaknesses: Taylor doesn’t have any traits that “wow” scouts with only average athleticism and speed.
The Take Home: While not the most gifted athlete Taylor gets on the list and makes him name by being incredibly solid and well-rounded. He is by no means overly fast, running around 4.58, or particularly explosive in terms of acceleration or agility. Despite that less than stellar description he simply got it done for the Cardinal and provided balance to the Andrew Luck led offense.
Taking most of his carries out of heavy or power formations Taylor showed the toughness and leg drive to pick up yards up the middle and even make some big plays busting it outside. He runs extremely hard searching for extra yards on every play and makes sharp, clean cuts. His value is mainly in his versatility as a blocker and receiver and can play on any given down.
Other notables to watch:
Spencer Ware LSU 5’11 223- He is an incredibly tough runner who plays violently and seeks out contact, often breaking several tackles even in crowded areas. He is not the fastest back and is losing time in the LSU backfield as they deploy several talented backs throughout the game.
Silas Redd USC 5’10 200- A very productive and powerful back with surprising speed to boot was one of many former Nittany Lions to flee the troubled program.
Johnathan Franklin UCLA 5’10 205-Franklin has very good speed and can breakaway from defenders if given the sideline or a sizeable hole. He has put up some huge performances so far this season, but fumbles too often to get a top grade.
Cameron Marshall ARIZONA ST 5’11 223-Marshall has been very productive for the Sun Devils running with the power many backs lack. His high center of gravity and average straight-line speed limits his potential.
Onterio McCalebb AUBURN 5’11 173- A very speed but very much undersized McCalebb has solid return-man value.
Rex Burkhead NEBRASKA 5’11 210- Burkhead is limited athletically but is very strong with quick feet and a tireless worker.