By Brandon Daniel @Brandon_Rant on August 9, 2014
A trend has taken root recently in the NFL deemphasizing the running back position. A premium is not placed on the position anymore, the evidence being no running backs taken in the first round the last two seasons. Teams believe they can get quality players in later rounds. Which backs are the most ready to make the leap? Let’s find out.
Malcolm Brown was a highly-touted Texas high school player who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet in Austin, but he has the talent and size to be a great prospect in the NFL. With new coach Charlie Strong coming to town, bringing an edge and toughness missing in Longhorn football recently, expect Brown to produce to his talent level and climb draft boards in 2015.
Kevin Parks has been a lone bright spot it what has been tough sledding for the Virginia Cavaliers. He’s averaged 4.6 yards per carry over his career and totaled 2,474 yards and 25 touchdowns on some bad teams. He also has proven an ability to catch out of the backfield making him a dynamic threat. He may be limited in production due to the talent around him, but he should be a solid pick up for an NFL team in the second or third round.
The Tigers have had a serious stable of talented running backs the last several seasons, Terrence Magee being one of them. The only thing keeping him from a 1,000 yard was the presence of Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill on the roster. This season he will likely still share carries with fellow senior Kenny Hilliard and hyped freshman Leonard Fournette, but Magee should get enough touches to prove his ability to NFL scouts.
An injury cost Tevin Coleman a 1,000 yard rushing season in 2013, but his whopping 7.3 yards per carry average and 12 touchdowns point to him being a legitimate prospect. Coleman carries great size and speed that NFL teams will love. If he can prove healthy and maybe become more of a threat catching the ball, don’t be surprised if Coleman makes his way into the second round in 2014.
Byron Marshall will be the latest in what is becoming a very long line of Oregon Ducks running backs in the NFL. The Ducks have no shortage of dynamic backs, and Marshall will get even more touches with DeAnthony Thomas gone. Even with Thomas, Marshall still totaled 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns. If he can take advantage of being the focal point in the running game, Marshall will be a coveted piece in 2015.
Mike Davis began his career as the guy replacing Marcus Lattimore, but has blossomed into a great back in his own right. In his first season as the full time starter in 2013, Davis totaling over 1,400 yards in the rugged SEC. Davis will be the feature of the South Carolina offense in 2014 with a chance to show teams he can do it in back-to-back seasons. If he stays healthy, Davis may find himself pushing towards the first-round.
Jeremy Langford was a stud in 2013 for the Spartans, netting 1,445 yards along with 18 touchdowns in his first season of extensive action. He finished the regular season on a hot streak, going over 100 yards in eight straight games. Langford will be counted on again heavily in 2014, giving him one more shot to prove his worth in the NFL. The guess is he will do just that and teams will be hot and heavy after him in 2015.
TJ Yeldon has been a monster from Day 1 in Tuscaloosa. He’s gone over 1,000 yards in both seasons with the Crimson Tide, despite sharing the load in 2012 with Eddie Lacy. With a new quarterback for the Tide, Yeldon will be counted on to be the leader in 2014. The only threats to a strong season for Yeldon are injuries and the presence of budding star Derrick Henry. Yeldon should still get his touches and will turn in another great season.
Melvin Gordon is the latest bowling ball of a back to come through Madison. He was one of the best backs in the nation last season, topping 1,600 yards and averaging almost eight yards per carry. There’s no reason why he can’t repeat that success in 2014, and has a serious shot at leading the country in rushing, maybe even getting on the Heisman ballot. Expect big things from Gordon and expect NFL teams to take a deep interest in 2015.
When healthy, Todd Gurley is in a class all his own at the RB position. A freakish combination of size, speed, strength and athleticism, he will have teams salivating leading up to the draft. He can run between the tackles, bounce it outside, pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield. Even in an injury-plagued year he produced over 1,400 total yards and 16 touchdowns. If he can prove his durability, he’s a sure-fire first-round pick.
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