Joe Marino’s Senior Running Back Rankings for the 2014 NFL Draft

Though LaDarius Perkins’ production went down from his junior to senior season, he remains a legitimate NFL running back prospect. (Photo: Spruce Derden — USA Today Sports)

6. Ladarius Perkins, Mississippi State (5’10’’, 195 lbs.)

Perkins had a breakout season as a junior in 2012 but hasn’t been able to have the same impact as a senior. When given the opportunities, Perkins has showed a skill set very transferrable to the NFL.

Perkins is best as an off-tackle runner who can turn the corner and explode upfield with excellent acceleration and burst. In the open field, Perkins makes good cuts and displays breakaway speed. He runs hard and is not slowed down by arm tackles. He doesn’t shy away from contact like many backs with similar skillsets.

Perkins is a good receiver out of the backfield. He has made explosive plays running wheel routes and getting mismatches with linebackers down the sideline. He is also an underrated blocker in pass protection. Perkins’ receiving and blocking skills couple to make him a viable third-down back in the NFL.

Perkins has also contributed as a return man during his collegiate career. He is a solid all-around back who can add depth as a Day 3 pick.

7. Branden Oliver, Buffalo (5’8’’, 204 lbs.)

Oliver will have amassed 4,000 career rushing yards if he can rush for 35 yards or more in Buffalo’s bowl game against San Diego State. With 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns, his senior season has been the best of his career.

Oliver has a small but lean and muscular frame. With his low center of gravity and physical running style, Oliver has proven to be difficult to tackle. For a small guy, Oliver is a solid inside-the-tackles runner who reads his blockers well and hits holes very hard. He is able to find small cracks and turn them into positive gains.

Buffalo’s run play designs are very frustrating to watch. It runs many slow-developing inside run plays that limit Oliver’s overall production.

The biggest concern with Oliver is that he does not have much big-play ability or great speed in the open field., though he does have good quickness.

In many ways, Oliver reminds me of former Buffalo Bills running back Travis Henry. He has Day 3 draft value.

8. Marion Grice, Arizona State (6’, 207 lbs.)

Grice has played well for the Sun Devils since transferring to Arizona State from junior college. Grice is a versatile back who can contribute as a receiver and returner and has averaged 5.69 yards per carry in two FBS seasons.

Grice is a one-cut, decisive runner who has been used primarily in a zone blocking scheme. He displays good patience to allow holes to develop and then accelerate upfield. He is a disciplined runner who sticks with play designs.

With 91 receptions over the past two seasons, Grice’s best trait is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He is a reliable safety valve who has great hands. At times, Grice has also made contested catches down the field. His receiving ability should be his calling card in the NFL.

Grice has a great understanding of pass protection and sensing where pressure will come from a defense. That said, he needs to be more physical when pass protecting. He is willing but often lazy when protecting.

Grice doesn’t offer much in terms of yards after contact, breaking tackles or making people miss. He does not have great physical ability, but is very consistent in the things he does well.

Grice is a third-down guy in the mold of former New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk.

9. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford (6’1’’, 226 lbs.)

After three seasons as Stepfan Taylor’s backup, Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney has produced more rushing yards and touchdowns in his senior year than Taylor ever had in any season for the Cardinal. Impressively, Gaffney has totaled 1,618 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns on the season.

Gaffney is a pure power back who has a nose for the end zone in goal-line situations and to move the sticks in short-yardage situations. He has good vision between the tackles to find creases and hit them hard, picking up the yardage his team needs. He is a very physical runner who gets behind his pads and challenges tacklers.

Gaffney does not have great speed and is not much of a threat to break long explosive plays or carry the ball outside.

He has a good understanding of pass protection and where pressure will come from a defense, but he has footwork issues he must clean up before he can be effective as an NFL pass protector.

Gaffney looks like a solid short-yardage back who can add depth to an NFL backfield.

James White has as much big-play ability as any running back in the senior class. (Photo: Jeff Hanisch — USA Today Sports)

10. James White, Wisconsin (5’10’’, 195 lbs.)

White has been part of incredible backfields in his career with the Badgers, playing along with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. Despite sharing carries with both players during his career, White is only 92 yards away from rushing for 4,000 in his career. He has made the most of his attempts, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 45 career rushing touchdowns.

White has shown the most big-play potential of any senior running back. He has good open-field speed and the ability to break free on outside run plays. He reads his blocks well and has good upfield burst.

White has a tendency to bounce runs outside while ignoring play designs, which won’t work as well in the NFL as it has in college.

White has displayed his ability to contribute as a receiver out of the backfield with 37 catches as a senior.

White is not a physical runner who looks to pick up yards after contact. He is, however, a big-play threat who has the ability to run away from players.

11. Silas Redd, Southern California (5’10’’, 200 lbs.)

Redd has been a solid back for both Penn State as a freshman and sophomore, and for Southern California in his final two seasons. Redd has battled injuries as a senior, but has proven himself to be a solid draft prospect over the years.

Redd runs behind his blockers with good power for a player of his size. He has good leg drive through contact, which helps him pick up extra yards and finish runs well.

Redd is a shifty player with good lateral movement skills. He has good moves in the open field to spring him for big gains. Redd is a good all-around athlete and is particularly strong considering his size.

Redd has some indecisiveness hitting holes, and his vision is also lacking.

The inability that Redd has displayed to make quick decisions as a runner is worrying. He checks out well in other areas but looks like a Day 3 draft pick at this point.

12. Dri Archer, Kent State (5’8’’, 175 lbs.)

Archer is an offensive weapon who has proven to be a dynamic runner, receiver and kickoff returner during his career for the Golden Flashes. He has 2,342 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns, 1,194 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns, and has also averaged 28.2 yards per kickoff return with four kickoff return touchdowns for his career.

Archer is very undersized but has great speed and versatility. His collegiate playmaking is very similar to that of New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, and that is his NFL upside. Teams can find ways to get him the ball and let his natural playmaking ability take over. That said, he is a situational player with Day 3 draft value.

13. Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State (5’9’’, 210 lbs.)

Flanders has been incredibly productive in his career with the Bearkats with 5,664 rushing yards with 66 touchdowns. He had an impressive 19-carry, 170-yard, two-touchdown performance earlier this season against Texas A&M, looking like he belonged with SEC competition.

Flanders is a bowling-ball type runner who runs physically between-the-tackles. He has good ability to side-step would-be tacklers and make them miss. He finishes runs well and seems to always pick up a few more yards on his way down to the ground.

He is not an overly explosive player but has good strength and can move piles. Like many of these backs, Flanders has the makings of a complementary back and a Day 3 selection.

14. David Fluellen, Toledo (6’, 215 lbs.)

Fluellen is coming off back to back 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Rockets and has averaged more than 6 yards per carry during that two-year span. Fluellen averaged 149.5 yards per scrimmage between games against Missouri and Florida in his senior season.

Fluellen is a physical, one-cut runner who excels between-the-tackles. He has good vision in the hole and finishes runs well. He isn’t overly elusive but has good overall strength.

I am concerned with the length of his stride and inability to cut and change directions quickly. He also has the tendency to string runs out to the sideline and does not have the burst and speed to win on the outside.

Fluellen could be a good complementary power back in the NFL.

15. Roderick McDowell, Clemson (5’10’’, 200 lbs.)

McDowell spent most of his Clemson career backing up star running back Andre Ellington, but with Ellington gone to the NFL, McDowell has fared well as the Tigers feature back in his senior season.

Mcdowell is an athletic runner who has a good spring in his step. He has the ability to win between the tackles with good vision, and outside with his speed. He has good shiftiness and elusiveness in the open field and at the second level.

The biggest concern I have with McDowell is that he stops his feet on contact. He doesn’t shy away from contact, but has to do better at driving his legs through it.

McDowell has more speed than most of the other senior running backs ranked here. His combination of speed and field vision makes him a solid day three prospect.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Andre Williams, Antonio Andrews, Arizona State, Boston College, Branden Oliver, Buffalo, Carlos Hyde, Charles Sims, Clemson, David Fluellen, Dri Archer, James White, Kent State, Ladarius Perkins, Marion Grice, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Positional Rankings, Prospect Rankings, Rajion Neal, Rankings, Roderick McDowell, Running Backs, Sam Houston State, Seniors, Silas Redd, Stanford, Tennessee, Tim Flanders, Toledo, Tyler Gaffney, USC, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin

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