While Wednesday had been reserved for the weekly Senior Bowl roster confirmation release today it will go down as the biggest day yet in Underclassmen declaring. Per Richie Cirminiello of College Football News (a Fox/Scout affiliate) Arkansas RB Knile Davis will be entering the 2013 NFL Draft. Then just seconds later Tony Pauline reported that RB’s Eddie Lacy of Alabama and Gio Bernard of UNC will join Davis along with OT DJ Fluker who is Lacy’s collegiate teammate at Alabama.
With four new additions, the official tracker stands at 11 declared underclassmen and another 23 players who have submitted their name to the NFL for evaluation. Click Here for the most up to date tracker.
As far as prospects go let’s start with the RB’s…
Gio Bernard is the guy who many talent evaluators are excited about. He has great balance, vision, and speed for the next level and has shown that he appears fully recovered from his past knee injury (2010-ACL) injury unlike fellow early entrant Marcus Lattimore. Now that comes with an asterisk because Pauline who reported Bernard was leaving school also reported that his medical may get flagged as well which means Bernard is taking a rather large risk leaving early. Now in addition to that Bernard is only a redshirt sophomore so he has limited tape and no long term collegiate production to work off of.
That all being said when you watch Bernard you see a potentially electric playmaker who is a nice blend of speed and power. He’s not going to be bruising back in the NFL but he’s a guy who can run over the CB and fall forward for that extra yard or two you need for the first down. I think Bernard most closely compares to LeSean McCoy of the Eagles because he’s dangerous in so many different ways.
Right now we project Bernard to be our #2 ranked RB and to go somewhere between Round 1 and 2 depending on how his medical checks out.
Moving on to Knile Davis, the Arkansas Razorback prospect is making a decision here that many people may be questioning. Davis did not look anywhere close to the prospect he was in 2010 as a redshirt Sophomore before he suffered an ankle injury. Davis looked a step slow this season and still seemed to be struggling with the mental aspect of trusting his ankle and cutting on it.
To Davis’s credit he still ripped off a few nice runs and that will give NFL teams hope for the future. Davis is a big back with an incredible balance and power when fully healthy. Like Bernard he’s a versatile runner who can catch the football just as well as he can run it. Unlike Bernard, Davis is thicker and better built for contact. He’s 6’0, 225 lbs with a well filled out frame and thighs that are as wide as your head.
Davis reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in his style and ability. He’s more versatile than Lynch with his pass catching ability but he runs in a similar way and has a really strong lower body like Lynch. Davis will need to clear all the medical tests plus convince a team he’s mentally ready to trust his ankle.
Right now we put Davis as our 7th ranked RB and with a Day 3 grade.
We saved for the best for last when it came to the underclassmen RB’s and that’s Eddie Lacy of Alabama. Lacy just got through tormenting UGA in the SEC championship game and is one of the most powerful backs I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I’m not sure it’s possible to take Lacy straight down to the turf, he always seems to fall forward after contact.
He’s got a bowling ball style of running to him that allows him to take on contact, run right through it, and act like it never happened. Lacy isn’t just a power back though, he’s got another gear in the open field that allows him to pull away in the open field when he puts on the burners.
Lacy isn’t as gifted a pass catcher as his fellow early entrants but he’s just that more of a dominant runner. Lacy will need to fine tune some pass blocking technique as well, but there is no big flaw in his game.
It’s an easy call for us to put Eddie Lacy as our top RB in this class and say he’s a 1st Round pick.
Last but not least is the man who has been opening up holes for Lacy all year in OT DJ Fluker. We see Fluker as RT only prospect at the next level. You don’t traditionally see a lot of RT prospects declare early but when you have dominated like Fluker has there aren’t many reasons to stick around.
Fluker is a mauler on the outside which is rare in an OT. He absolutely dominates the defensive end on running plays and seems to take great joy in physically manhandling the opponent. He’s aggressive in his play but stays under control and does not lose his technique. He’s got strong hands and delivers a solid punch to speed rushers. He is pretty light on his feet but not quick enough to be considered on the left side.
Fluker’s biggest issue has always been with elite caliber pass rushers who have great speed and athleticism. Fulker is better when he bends his knees, anchors down, and just completely owns your bull rush. When he has to slide laterally or quickly change directions he can get into some trouble and give up pressure. In the NFL he’ll be a perfect fit on a power running team who loves big men who dominate the line of scrimmage.
We see Fluker atop our current OT rankings but with the expected entrance of juniors like Lewan and Joeckel we don’t expect him to stay there. We do though expect Fluker to still be drafted in Round 1.