The 2009 NFL Draft: RB Prospects

Next in the multi-part draft breakdown are the running backs. I watch a ton of college football, but I'm not Mel Kiper Jr., so all of these are up for discussion.

Bears fans, let's be honest with ourselves for a minute: Matt Forte is a real good running back. But, I can also tell you that if he continues to carry it 316 times, catch the ball 63 times, and continually block (since, you know, our OL can't), he will be a broken man soon. I believe we all agree that we need to get a 1-b or a #2 running back, however you want to call it. The question is twofold: 1) Do we get one through the draft? and 2) If so, how high do we want to go to grab another?

There are few elite running backs in the 2009 draft and not many in dire need of a RB, which means that we won't be able to grab a sleeper late in the draft; we'll have to pull that trigger earlier than usual. What I will do is detail my top six, list the next four, and throw in a sleeper for good measure.

Chris "Beanie" Wells, Junior, Ohio State

Height: 6'1    Weight: 235 lbs.

 

YEAR

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

2006

104

576

5.5

52

7

2

16

8.0

10

0

0

0

2007

274

1609

5.9

65

15

5

21

4.2

8

0

0

0

2008

207

1197

5.8

59

8

8

47

5.9

21

0

0

0

 

Picking the top three running backs in the 2009 draft is like picking between Miss America, Miss America runner-up, and the Victoria's Secret cover girl for a date; you win either way. I prefer Wells, but I know some of you might like Moreno or McCoy better.

Physically, Wells reigns supreme in this class. According to some accounts, Wells runs a 4.4 (since this is not widely accepted, I'm not linking to the article nor counting it as a legitimate source). Regardless, he is agile and speedy RB; when you take his height and weight into account, he's a force to be reckoned with.

He sheds the first tackler fairly easily. I know many of you will want to write that off as being an elite college player. I would normally agree, but I watched Wells flatten Sergio Kindle twice during the Fiesta Bowl (Background: Sergio Kindle plays for Texas as a OLB/DE hybrid. #1 LB in his recruiting class and came into his own this year. At 6'4", he's not a small boy. You'll hear his name more next year and might be a 1st rounder).

I only see two small flaws with Wells. First, he takes plays off every once in a while (he'll pull a Ceddy and stutter-stutter-run, thus not hitting the hole with his usual explosiveness). Second, he hasn't caught many passes during his time at Ohio State. I never saw his hands as a negative; they are just untested.

I haven't seen or heard anything negative about his character, leadership, work ethic, etc. With all of these players, the psychological portion of the combine will tell us a lot.

Let's take a look at the BGA (big game analyzer):

 

DATE

OPP

RESULT  

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

10/4

@Wisconsin

W 20-17

22

168

7.6

54

1

1

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

10/18

@M. State

W 45-7

31

140

4.5

25

2

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

10/25

Penn State

L 13-6

22

55

2.5

8

0

1

13

13.0

13

0

0

0

11/8

@Northw'n

W 45-10

28

140

5.0

55

2

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

11/22

Michigan

W 42-7

15

134

8.9

59

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

1/05

@Texas

L 24-21

16

106

6.6

26

0

1

21

21.0

21

0

0

0

 

Average: 22.33-123.83 yards, 5.5 YPC, 1 TD. Wells did not play in the USC game, but he displays a lot of strengths through these games. The big stat that jumped out to me is that he didn't fumble once.

Bottom line: Wells would normally benefit from coming out in a weak RB class, but there aren't many top 10 teams in desperate need for a back. I predict he'll fall somewhere between #10 and #25.

Teams likely to draft Wells: Cleveland (#5), Cincinnati (#6), San Diego (#16), Tampa Bay (#19), Philadelphia (#21), Minnesota (#22), Arizona (#31 or #32)

Knowshon Moreno, Sophomore, Georgia

Height: 5'11"     Weight: 207 lbs.

YEAR

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

2007

248

1336

5.4

80

14

20

253

12.7

35

0

0

0

2008

250

1400

5.6

68

16

33

392

11.9

37

2

0

0

As you can see, Moreno had a short career in Athens but definitely made the most of it. At 5'11", he's the perfect size and coupled with his 4.4 speed, Moreno is set up to be a great running back.

He's one of those do-it-all backs. His hands are tested and his vision allows him to find and hit holes faster than most college running backs. Not only that, but he possesses that rare athleticism and agility that allows him to bounce it outside, turn the corner and be gone. He has truly mastered many of the skills that will ensure an easier transition from college to the NFL.

The one negative I noticed about Moreno is he needs to work on his blocking fundamentals; he won't be able to stand up defenders in the NFL using his technique. Regardless, if that's the worst a person can find on the kid, it should tell you a bit on his potential.

As far as I know, Moreno has not had any brushes with the law. He is a good leader and has a strong work ethic, so whichever team gets him won't be getting a Cedric Benson-esque RB.

Let's take a look at the BGA of Moreno:

DATE

OPP

RESULT  

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

9/27

Alabama

L 41-30

9

34

3.8

11

1

3

14

4.7

13

0

0

0

10/18

Vanderbilt

W 24-14

23

172

7.5

22

1

1

10

10.0

10

0

0

0

10/25

@LSU

W 52-38

21

163

7.8

68

1

2

9

4.5

7

0

0

0

11/1

Florida

L 49-10

17

65

3.8

18

0

2

14

7.0

17

0

0

0

11/15

@Auburn

W 17-13

22

131

6.0

20

0

4

58

14.5

35

1

0

0

11/29

Georgia Tech

L 45-42

17

94

5.5

32

1

4

74

18.5

24

0

0

0

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

@Michigan State

W 24-12

23

62

2.7

10

0

6

63

10.5

21

1

0

0

Average: 18.85-103 yards, 5.4 YPC, .6 TD's. Again, pretty good stats for being in the defensively-tough SEC. He never fumbled and caught at least one ball a game, as well as his running duties.

Bottom line: Moreno is in a close race with Chris "Beanie" Wells for the #1 RB in the 2009 draft. Moreno has a unique skill set that will help him transition to the NFL easily. You should see him on the field early next year; he'll be off the board in the 1st round (at worst, mid-2nd).

Teams likely to draft Moreno: Cleveland (#5), Cincinnati (#6), San Diego (#16), Tampa Bay (#19), Philadelphia (#21), Minnesota (#22), Arizona (#31 or #32)

LeSean McCoy, Sophomore, Pittsburgh

Height: 5'11"     Weight: 210 lbs.

YEAR

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

2007

276

1328

4.8

64

14

33

244

7.4

45

1

0

0

2008

308

1488

4.8

58

21

32

305

9.5

34

0

0

0

No, he's not the real McCoy....that's reserved for Colt "The Baby-Faced Assassin" McCoy. However, this McCoy is a good substitute.

I got to watch the 2nd McCoy play a lot this year and I've been pretty impressed. He, like Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno, possess a nice balance of size and speed. Like Wells, he rarely goes down after the first hit and often lays some wood of his own. It is also appealing to GM's that McCoy can catch the ball. Blocking is nothing spectacular and can be taught once he finds a new home.

A couple problems with McCoy exist. First, he loves to bounce it outside and try to hit the home run. That works great in the NCAA ranks, but once he starts going against quicker and stronger defenders, his one-trick pony show is over. When he has run between the tackles, he's seemed tentative, almost as if he's thinking about every step he takes. Again, good coaching and trusting his vision will help to alleviate this problem.

Let's take a look at the BGA of McCoy:

DATE

OPP

RESULT  

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

10/2

@South Florida

W 26-21

28

142

5.1

26

2

3

23

7.7

13

0

0

0

11/22

@Cincinnati

L 28-21

17

82

4.8

16

2

6

45

7.5

21

0

0

0

11/28

West Virginia

W 19-15

33

183

5.5

16

2

2

17

8.5

14

0

0

0

Average: 26-135.6 yards, 5.13 YPC, 2 TD's. Pretty good against subpar competition. South Florida was the only team ranked in the top 25; Cincinnati and WV are rivals to Pittsburgh.

Bottom line: At the very least, he'll be a change-of-pace back; someone who can bounce it outside and can catch out of the backfield. If he works hard, who knows? He's got great size and speed; the rest is up to how much he wants to play.

Projected round: 1st at best, 2nd at worst

Donald Brown, Junior, Connecticut

Height: 5'10"     Weight: 210 lbs.

YEAR

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

2006

161

896

5.6

65

7

13

66

5.1

13

2

0

0

2007

170

821

4.8

70

8

14

85

6.1

14

0

0

0

2008

367

2083

5.7

75

18

21

125

6.0

27

0

0

0

Donald Brown is an interesting study. He's not the tallest or fastest RB in the draft; not by a long shot. But he's one of those kids who will work hard and put in the time to get better.

Brown split time during his redshirt freshman and sophomore year, so don't be alarmed by the "low" yardage numbers. As you can see, Brown was the go-to guy for the Connecticut offense this year. He led the NCAA FBS schools in yardage this year. He's got decent hands and excellent character attributes.

Brown's weakness is that he's not a burner. He won't put up ridiculous numbers at the combine, but he's shown throughout his time at UConn that he's a football player. 

Let's take a look at Brown's BGA: 

DATE

OPP

RESULT  

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

12/6

Pittsburgh

L 34-10

34

189

5.6

57

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

Int'l Bowl

Buffalo

W 38-20

29

261

9.0

75

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

Average: 31.5-225 yards, 7.14 YPC, 1 TD.

Bottom line: He, like LeSean McCoy, will be an excellent change-of-pace back (or short-yardage guy) that could develop into something more. More work in the weight room and good coaching could accelerate his career in the NFL.

Projected round: 2nd at best, 3rd at worst

Javon Ringer, Senior, Michigan State

Height: 5'9"    Weight: 200 lbs.

YEAR

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

2005

122

817

6.7

59

5

19

138

7.3

25

0

0

0

2006

86

497

5.8

71

1

14

96

6.9

26

1

0

0

2007

245

1447

5.9

80

6

35

295

8.4

28

0

0

0

2008

390

1637

4.2

64

22

28

190

6.8

17

0

0

0

Any of you who have followed college football this year know the name Javon Ringer. An early 2008 Heisman candidate, Ringer put up impressive numbers.

Ringer's running style is the exact opposite of Donald Brown's. Ringer is quick and elusive while Brown doesn't rely on his speed as much. He has excellent hands and possesses great blocking fundamentals.

Ringer's weaknesses: He won't be able to start in the NFL and carry a team. He needs to bulk up a little more and gain some more power. If he's able to do that, he'll be ok, otherwise he'll be relegated to a situational back.

Let's take a look at Ringer's BGA:

DATE

OPP

RESULT  

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

9/20

Notre Dame

W 23-7

39

201

5.2

63

2

1

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

9/27

@Indiana

W 42-29

44

198

4.5

33

1

2

20

10.0

14

0

0

0

10/18

Ohio State

L 45-7

16

67

4.2

16

0

6

19

3.2

7

0

0

0

10/25

@Michigan

W 35-21

37

194

5.2

64

2

2

25

12.5

13

0

0

0

11/22

@Penn State

L 49-18

17

42

2.5

9

1

4

27

6.8

11

0

0

0

Capital One

Georgia

L 24-12

20

47

2.4

7

1

3

30

10.0

17

0

0

0

Average: 28.83-124.83 yards, 4.32 YPC, 1.16 TD's.

Bottom line: Ringer is an excellent candidate as a 3rd down back: Quick, enough power to get the job done, great hands and good blocking. Doesn't get any better than that

Projected round: Late 2nd if he runs a 4.4 at the combine, 3rd otherwise

Shonn Greene, Junior, Iowa

Height: 5'11"    Weight: 235 lbs.

YEAR

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

2005

37

173

4.7

32

1

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

2006

32

205

6.4

25

1

3

23

7.7

12

0

0

0

2008

307

1850

6.0

75

20

8

49

6.1

23

0

0

0

I will admit something early on: I am not a fan of Iowa athletics. Yes, I do live in Cedar Falls, Iowa (and shop at the same HyVee that Kurt Warner once bagged groceries in), but most Iowa fans are completely blind to the true status of their team. I've met, am friends with, and sure that good Iowa fans exist, but for the most part, they're one of the worst college fan bases you can come across.

As you can see, Shonn Greene had a stellar campaign this year and finished the year with over one hundred rushing yards in every game. He's not going to wow you with his 40 time, but he does possess good speed for a back of his size. 2008 was Greene's first season of being the starting RB, so he has much fresher legs than many guys on this list.

There are a couple negatives with Greene. First, Iowa's scheme didn't require Greene to pick up blitzing linebackers, so he is untested there. He has good size to adequately block in the NFL, but good coaching is essential. Also, as you can tell by the previous chart, his hands are mostly untested. Greene does come with some character issues; he was suspended for the 2007 season due to academic reasons. He hasn't had any problems since then, so the academic slipup could be a non-issue. There was a rumor that Greene told a newspaper that the only reason he went to Iowa is to go to the NFL. I couldn't find a link, so I'm leaving it as strictly a rumor. If it is true, he's either a budding capitalist or an idiot; we all know DI football players are there to reach the NFL, you don't need to come out and say it, especially after having to drop out of Iowa for a year.

Let's take a look at Greene's BGA:

DATE

OPP

RESULT  

ATT

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

REC

YDS

AVG

LNG

TD

FUM

LST

9/13

Iowa State

W 17-5

20

120

6.0

31

1

1

15

15.0

15

0

0

0

10/18

Wisconsin

W 38-16

25

217

8.7

52

4

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

11/22

@Minnesota

W 55-0

22

144

6.5

37

2

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

OUTBACK BOWL

South Carolina

W 31-10

29

121

4.2

11

3

0

0

0.0

0

0

0

0

Average: 19-150.5 yards, 6.35 YPC, 2.5 TD's. Great numbers, yes, but please take a look at who is included in this group: Iowa State (which couldn't get a Big XII win), Wisconsin (who struggled for the majority of the season), Minnesota (who started strong and was thoroughly destroyed in the latter part of their year), and South Carolina (a decent but not great SEC team). Regardless, running for 150 yards in a game is impressive.

Bottom line: Greene is a great #2 running back; however, he has only shown one solid year of running thus far. I'm wary of the Bears taking him, but they could pick worse people. Definitely a second round pick; Arizona would be the only team to pick him in the 1st round.

Projected round: 2nd, could slip to 3rd with poor combine showing. 

Didn't make the cut but constitute solid prospects:

James Davis, Senior, Clemson

Davis was a productive player in college. There are some minor character concerns (guaranteeing a win and questioning his offensive role) and he lacks top-end speed. However, this is a player the Bears could go after. He can catch out of the backfield and block. One of the safest RB picks in the draft.

Jeremiah Johnson, Senior, Oregon

Johnson's a boom-or-bust pick. He's been clocked in the 4.5, is agile and finds the hole quickly. The problems with Johnson are many: wears down late in games, doesn't run hard inside, sometimes pulls a Ceddy and stutter-steps, and isn't a great receiver out of the backfield. He'll be gone by the fourth round, but I'd love for the Bears to avoid this guy.

P.J. Hill, Junior, Wisconsin

Think of Ron Dayne and you essentially have P.J. Hill. He is a pretty decent blocker, has a great pair of hands, and can deliver a bigger blow than defenders do on him. Hill won't be a starting RB in the NFL, but he could compliment Forte nicely as a short-yardage back. Another possibility is a move to FB. Look for him to get off the boards in the 5th and 6th rounds.

Glen Coffee, Junior, Alabama

Coffee scares me a little bit. He's a decent runner with good vision and agility, yet there are times that he completely whiffs on assignments. Coffee cannot be counted on as a blocker yet (watch the Sugar Bowl and you'll see what I mean), so his impact will come early on as a ST contributor.

Sleeper:

Rashad Jennings, Senior, Liberty

Someone on WCG alerted me to this guy, so whoever it was gets some serious props from me.

Do you like Matt Forte? Would you like another Forte on the roster? If you say yes to these questions, Jennings is your man. Big, strong, productive, doesn't go down after the first hit, hits the hole immediately, lacks the top-end speed and won't burn past most defenders. Sound like someone familiar?

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