2014 NFL Draft Positional Breakdowns: Running Backs

Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde is the best running back in this year’s draft class. (Photo: Robert Mayer — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino

Considering the way the NFL has become a passing league, running back is not the highly valued position that it once was. With many successful starting running backs having been selected later in the draft in recent years, many teams are no longer valuing running backs as early-round selection.

First round running backs may be a thing of the past and there is no running back in this class with enough value to warrant a first round selection. That said, there are plenty of players who have the skills needed to be starters or at least be a solid complimentary runner.

Leading the way this year is Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, who finished his career as OSU’s all-time leader in yards per carry after averaging 6.1 yards per attempt for his career. For a team looking for a workhorse back with power and the ability to pick up chunks of yards, Hyde would be a worthwhile selection in the second round.

Second Round Grades

1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Hyde is an excellent north-south power back with a powerful lower body. He gets the most out of his carries and is a load for opposing defenses to deal with. Hyde projects as a solid eight-year starter.

2. Charles Sims, West Virginia: Sims is one of the top receiving threats out of the backfield in this draft class. His skill set is reminiscent to that of Chicago Bears star running back Matt Forte. Sims is a balanced player who can contribute on every down.

Third Round

3. Tre Mason, Auburn: Mason carried his team to a SEC Championship and a BCS National Championship Game appearance in 2013. Mason is a patient runner with great vision and he always finishes his runs.

4. Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State: A former top recruit of the University of Georgia, Crowell is a talented runner with excellent power and vision. With a knack for plowing over tacklers, Crowell is reminiscent of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.

5. Bishop Sankey, Washington: Sankey has great vision and quickness and possibly the best change-of-direction skills of any back in this draft class. I would like to see him do more as a runner after contact, but he certainly knows how to make people miss.

6. Devonta Freeman, Florida State: Freeman is a decisive runner with excellent vision and burst to and through the hole. He is another Day 2 draft selection with starter upside.

7. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona: Carey has great vision, quickness and breaks his share of tackles despite not having the size of a typical power back. He was one of the nation’s most productive backs over the last two seasons.

Lache Seastrunk is one of many potential mid-round values among running backs in this year’s draft class. (Photo: Jerome Miron — USA Today Sports)

Fourth Round

8. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: Seastrunk’s game is predicated on his ability to see the field and react. While he isn’t a bad between-the-tackles runner, Seastrunk is dynamic in the open field. He makes excellent cuts in space and doesn’t lose speed when changing directions. He has terrific balance and can make people miss with his creativity. He has good burst and acceleration when getting downfield.

9. Terrance West, Towson: West is a workhorse back that excels between the tackles with his physical, downhill running style. He has good vision and runs behind his pads while also showing the ability to pickup chunks of yardage. West is a small-school sleeper with upside.

10. James White, Wisconsin: 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 downfield burst.

11. Marion Grice, Arizona State: 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 downfield. 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.

12. Andre Williams, Boston College: Williams is a typical power back who runs with great forward lean and a strong lower body. He stays the course of plays and takes available yards while falling forward to gain additional yardage.

Fifth Round

13. Rajion Neal, Tennessee: Neal is a good between-the-tackles back who runs very hard and behind his pads. He has excellent forward lean, leg drive and pad level. He looks to maximize every carry and pick up additional yards after contact. He carried the Tennessee offense in 2013 and is a potential steal in this class.

14. Storm Johnson, Central Florida: Johnson is a tough, physical runner who loves contact. In the open field, Johnson looks to challenge tacklers and is not the type of runner who is going to slip out of bounds without being forced. He has good burst to and through holes and has good speed in the open field to pick up chunks of yardage.

15. Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern: McKinnon contributed in a variety of ways in college, where he played quarterback, running back, receiver, wing back and defensive back. McKinnon is an explosive athlete who needs to carve out a niche, but his talent is apparent when he steps onto the football field.

16. Dri Archer, Kent State: Archer is very undersized but has great speed and versatility. 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.

Sixth Round

Buffalo’s Branden Oliver is a potential late-round pick with the skill set to be a productive NFL running back. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

17. George Atkinson, Notre Dame: Atkinson didn’t get a large number of touches at Notre Dame, but his talent could be seen when he had the ball. A good athlete, Atkinson was one of the most impressive prospects at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. He has sleeper potential later in the draft.

18. Branden Oliver, Buffalo: 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.

19. David Fluellen, Toledo: 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. He could be a good complementary power back in the NFL.

20. Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State: Bibbs had a monster junior season for the Rams and has a solid, muscular, compact build. Bibbs has solid vision and is a decisive, one cut runner. He needs work as a pass catcher and blocker.

21. Zurlon Tipton, Central Michigan: Tipton is a big powerful runner who is tough to tackle and can contribute on third downs in short-yardage situations and as a receiver and pass protector. He needs to improve his pad level when running, but Tipton could be a solid weapon in the NFL.

Seventh Round

22. Jeremy Hill, LSU: Hill is a talented, physical downhill runner who is tough to tackle and has solid athletic ability. He has off-field concerns to consider, but his talent is obvious.

23. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina: Taliaferro may be the best pass protector in the draft class. He is a patient runner who has good power and seems to always fall forward. Coming from a small school, Taliaferro must show he belongs, but his skillset is intriguing.

24. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon: Thomas is an extremely undersized gadget player who was able to contribute as a runner, receiver and returner at Oregon. A situational player, Thomas could appeal to a team with a creative offensive system.

25. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford: 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.

Top Undrafted Free Agents

26. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
27. James Wilder Jr., Florida State
28. Damien Williams, Oklahoma
29. Jerome Smith, Syracuse
30. Henry Josey, Missouri
31. Ben Malena, Texas A&M
32. Roderick McDowell, Clemson
33. Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State
34. Alfred Blue, LSU
35. John Spooney, Brown
36. Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
37. Silas Redd , Southern Cal
38. Brendan Bigelow, Cal
39. Zach Bauman, Northern Arizona
40. Darrin Reaves, UAB
41. Timothy Cornett, UNLV
42. Jeff Scott, Mississippi
43. Kyle Harbridge, St. Francis (Pa)
44. Kedrick Rhodes, West Alabama
45. Senorise Perry, Louisville

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alfred Blue, Andre Williams, Antonio Andrews, Ben Malena, Bishop Sankey, Branden Oliver, Brendan Bigelow, Carlos Hyde, Charles Sims, Damien Williams, Darrin Reaves, David Fluellen, De'Anthony Thomas, Devonta Freeman, Dri Archer, George Atkinson, Halfbacks, Henry Josey, Isaiah Crowell, James White, James Wilder Jr., Jeff Scott, Jeremy Hill, Jerick McKinnon, Jerome Smith, John Spooney, Ka'Deem Carey, Kapri Bibbs, Kedrick Rhodes, Kyle Harbridge, Lache Seastrunk, Ladarius Perkins, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Marion Grice, NFL Draft, Positional Breakdowns, Rajion Neal, Rankings, Roderick McDowell, Running Backs, Senorise Perry, Silas Redd, Storm Johnson, Tailbacks, Terrance West, Tim Flanders, Timothy Cornett, Tre Mason, Tyler Gaffney, Zach Bauman, Zurlon Tipton

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