By Kyle Casey, Staff Writer
This year’s group of running back prospects is one of the deepest ones in recent memory. While it’s unknown how many of the top running backs can turn out to be starters in the NFL, at least a dozen of the backs will be key contributors in their rookie year.
Four or five may turn out to be starters in the NFL, while several others will have roles as receivers, third down backs and in goal line formations. With such a deep and talented group of ball carriers, there are bound to be a few late round steals.
Here are a few running backs that could be steals as day three selections in April:
Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt
One of the most well kept secrets in this year’s running back class is Zac Stacy from Vanderbilt. Standing at 5’8, Stacy doesn’t have ideal height. However, his body is built like a fullback, as he weighs around 215 pounds. Stacy showed at Vanderbilt that despite his lack of size he can still carry a heavy workload. In 2012, Stacy carried the ball 207 times, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt in the SEC. He’s also a reliable receiver when given the chance, as he averaged over 20 yards per reception last season. However, his hands are fairly small for a running back, which could limit his catching ability in the NFL. Stacy’s build and playing style is similar to that of Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris. Like Morris, Stacy will likely go on the third day of the draft and could make an impact as a rookie. Stacy would excel in a zone blocking scheme similar to what Morris plays in with the Redskins. At a minimum, Stacy will be a reliable rotational back in the NFL, but has the potential to start for an NFL team if he continues to improve.
Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
Despite the fact that he’s built like a power back, Pittsburgh’s Ray Graham has surprising speed that could give him the ability to make an impact in the NFL. While he struggled to stay healthy in college, Graham showcased his skills as a tough running back who isn’t afraid of contact. His playing style can be compared to former Pittsburgh running and current Philadelphia Eagle LeSean McCoy, given that both backs are quick, agile and tough runners. But what Graham has that McCoy doesn’t is that he has a thicker build and can run between the tackles more efficiently. Graham will likely still be available when the third day of the draft begins, but he may not last very long before being drafted.
Chris Thompson, Florida State
Prior to tearing his ACL midway through the 2012 season, Chris Thompson was one of the most explosive running backs in the country. As both a runner and receiver out of the backfield, Thompson helped carry the Florida State offense. While he’s only 5’8, Thompson showed in college that he is capable of running out of an I-formation, but where he excels most is in the shotgun. Thompson is a threat on draws and delays and has the lethal speed to make him a home run threat on any play. Coming off a major injury, it’s uncertain where or if Thompson will get drafted. If he can prove to teams that he’ll be back to full strength and ready for training camp, he’ll be a steal as a reliable third-down back in the NFL with the potential to have a much larger role if healthy.