2013 Draft Countdown: Running backs
Draft lacking horses
The running back group – like the quarterbacks – doesn’t have a can’t-miss, top-10 prospect. Or even a top-20 prospect. The depth of the position is OK, there’s just not a lot of elite talent at the top. But given the success of teams unearthing lead running backs later in the draft or even in undrafted free agency, there are players there who can undeniably make NFL impacts.
Patriots pecking order: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington, James Develin
Ridley and Vereen, both entering their third seasons, form an explosive 1-2 tandem. Bolden -- whose 2012 was marred by a PED suspension -- is a bigger back than the other two and runs with ferocity. Washington should fill the role of Danny Woodhead to some extent, although Vereen also has overlap with many of the things Woodhead did.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Very powerfully built at 5-foot-11, 231 pounds. Ran for 1,322 and 17 touchdowns for Alabama his junior year after being fairly quiet his first two seasons. Combines elusiveness – and a nasty spin move – with straight-on force to make a back that can be a bell-cow type. Experts believe teams should be wary of his one-season production, but that can also be a plus at Lacy’s spot since he hasn’t been beaten down.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Ran for 1,923 yards as a junior and 1,830 as a senior against Big-10 competition. Elusive, tough, gifted, a respected leader and a hard worker, Ball is a very safe pick for somebody.
Andre Ellington, Clemson
He’s a little smaller – 5-9, 199 – but that’s not a big limitation for running backs given the versatility they need to show between the running and passing games. Has great acceleration and can leave defenders lunging at air. Very good pass catcher. Has return ability.
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Great competitor and leader who ran for 4,403 yards in his career with the Bruins. His frame – 5-10, 205 – isn’t built for a huge workload and his style of running also invites injury because he refuses to go down.
Given the Patriots have their top two backs in place and – with Bolden and Washington – would appear to have their backups and change-up backs in the fold, it’s unlikely the Patriots will make a running back a pick in any of the first three rounds. If they do make a move, it’s often for an SEC back who proved his ability in college football’s toughest conference. A player like LSU’s Spencer Ware – 5-10, 228 – who would be a short-yardage bull would likely fit the bill but New England is probably staying out of the running back harvest.