Top 20 Running Backs in the 2013 NFL Combine

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Ranking the Best RBs at the 2013 NFL Combine

Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports

The 2013 NFL combine is upon us. Over the next week, more than 300 players will show off their skills to NFL scouts in an effort to earn a spot on an NFL roster.

Of those 300+ players, 38 are listed as running backs.

No running back has been drafted number one overall since Ki-Jana Carter in 1995, but there is no doubt that running backs are extremely valuable to NFL teams. A team’s number one back will receive more touches than any other player outside the quarterback. Having a reliable go-to guy in the backfield can make the difference for an offense.

The 2013 draft class doesn’t have a lot of big names, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t guys who can’t be that top back at the next level. Many guys in the past have proven that running backs taken in the later rounds can be just as productive as first-rounders.

Just ask Arian Foster, who wasn’t drafted at all.

There may not be that guy in this class that has number-one type potential, but there are many explosive backs in this draft that could slip to the later rounds and be a great asset for a great price.

Who will these diamonds in the rough be in 2013?

I’ll give you my top 20 running backs in this class, as well as a projection for what round they may go in.

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#20 Denard Robinson

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He’s not technically a running back, but he can’t throw or catch, so I’m listing him as one. Robinson was the best dual-threat quarterback in college football during his four years at Michigan, and like Brad Smith, someone will draft him for his speed.

Projection: 6th round

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#19 Zac Stacy

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Stacy was a second-team All-SEC performer in 2011, and once again rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2012.

Projection: 6th round

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#18 Theo Riddick

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Riddick is a good pass catcher and blocker, making him an ideal fit for a third-down back at the NFL level.

Projection: 6th round

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#17 Cierre Wood

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Wood had a nice 2012 season despite being suspended for two games. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and has decent speed for a guy who weighs 215.

Projection: 5th round

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#16 Michael Ford


Ford was hurt by the committee approach that LSU took in the backfield in 2012. With five guys getting carries, Ford was only able to rack up 392 yards but averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Projection: 5th round

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#15 Ray Graham


Graham was having a monster season in 2011 before he tore his ACL. In 2012, he started off slow but came on strong down the stretch, including 172 yards against Notre Dame.

Projection: 5th round

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#14 Stefphon Jefferson


Jefferson had a remarkable year at Nevada, rushing for 1,883 yards and 24 scores. He proved he’s durable and was a great locker room presence in college.

Projection: 5th round

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#13 Marcus Lattimore


Lattimore is truly one of the saddest stories of 2012. After tearing his knee up in 2011, he returned with a chip on his shoulder in 2012. But his season was once again cut short when he suffered a gruesome knee injury against Tennessee. Lattimore is a driven and high-character guy who will bounce back from this injury.

Projection: 4th round

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#12 Christine Michael


Michael is big and fast, and is coming off a great week at the East-West Shrine. He runs with both power and speed, but didn’t receive a ton of carries at A&M due to a timeshare.

Projection: 4th round

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#11 Jawan Jamison


It’s cliché to fall into the trap of comparing players to former stars of the same team, but Jamison is eerily similar to Ray Rice. They both stand 5-foot-8 and weigh about 200 pounds, and both racked up tons of yardage at Rutgers.

Projection: 4th round

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#10 Johnathan Franklin


Franklin broke out in his senior season, rushing for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also displayed he can be a good pass-catcher: Franklin caught 33 balls for 323 yards and two TDs.

Projection: 4th round

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#9 Kenjon Barner


Barner may very well be the most explosive player in this draft. With blazing speed and amazing agility, Barner will be a playmaker in the NFL whether it be from the backfield or returning kicks.

Projection: 4th round

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#8 Montee Ball


Talk about gaudy career numbers! Ball rushed for 5,140 yards and 77 touchdowns during his four years at Wisconsin. He doesn’t have great speed, but he is a smart runner who has proven himself to be among the nation’s best.

Projection: 3rd round

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#7 Le'Veon Bell


Bell was a workhorse in his junior year at MSU, carrying the ball more than anyone in the FBS. He is a big back that lacks speed, but is durable and seems to fall forward for five yards every carry.

Projection: 3rd round

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#6 Andre Ellington


Ellington put together a strong senior season, and proved to scouts that he can be a good every-down back. He has averaged over 5.0 yards per carry in three straight seasons at Clemson.

Projection: 3rd round

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#5 Mike Gillislee


Gillislee had a nice senior season, proving he’s fast, strong and can block. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards and capped off the regular season by running for 140 yards and two scores against a stout Florida State defense.

Projection: 2nd round

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#4 Stepfan Taylor


Taylor is a bruising runner that I like to compare to Montee Ball. He is a workhorse back that tallied over 1,500 yards rushing for Stanford this year. He also improved as a pass-catcher, notching 41 catches for 287 yards in 2012.

Projection: 2nd round

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#3 Giovani Bernard


Bernard was electric during his career at UNC, racking up 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Bernard averaged a torrid 6.7 yards per carry during his senior season.

Projection: 2nd round

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#2 Eddie Lacy


As a senior, Lacy ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading Alabama to a National Championship. His combination of power and speed is rare, and will make him a possible first round pick.

Projection: 1st round

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#1 Joseph Randle


Surprise! While everyone jumps on the Eddie Lacy bandwagon, I’ll create one of my own: the Joseph Randle-wagon. Ok, the name is bad, but trust me, this kid is anything but. Randle averaged more than 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns over the past two years at Oklahoma State. He became much more physical as a runner this season, adding the ability to gain yards after contact. Combined with his top-end speed, it makes him the best runner in this draft class.

Projection: 1st round, pick #22 (St. Louis Rams)

Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny

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