The running back class of the 2006 NFL Draft was once considered to be mediocre but now is seen as a very solid group. One of the reasons for this change in thinking was the addition of Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney to the draft pool. The St. Louis native became one of the best rushers in school history during his three-year tenure with the Gophers and hopes to be a team's top pick this April.
Maroney was a four-time all-conference selection at Normandy High School, rushing for 1,948 yards and 25 touchdowns in his senior year. He also lettered in baseball, basketball (twice) and track (three times). His first year in Minnesota was a success, as he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year by coaches and the media, rushing the ball for 1,121 yards and 10 scores. Maroney also flashed his ability as a return specialist, averaging 25.8 yards per kickoff return (second in the conference) that season.
Maroney's sophomore campaign in 2004 brought even more success, when he was named to the Big Ten first-team. He led the team in rushing with 1,348 yards while pairing up with senior rusher Marion Barber III (now of the Dallas Cowboys) to become the only duo in NCAA history to each run for over 1,000 yards in two straight years. This past season, Maroney kept the good times rolling, running behind an effective offensive line scheme that led to 1,464 yards rushing (5.3 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He was widely considered as a viable Heisman Trophy candidate, and despite not winning the award, he announced he would declare for the NFL Draft after the Music City Bowl.
Patience is definitely one of Maroney's biggest assets. He does a great job following his blockers and waiting for his linemen to open up holes. He has great vision, especially when running between the tackles, and that awareness also helps him in the return game.
The junior was extremely productive during his time in school, mostly due to his ability to explode through a hole and take it the distance. The 21-year-old shows great agility, being able to stop on a dime and break out of his cuts with a fantastic burst. Maroney is also very careful with the ball and has not faced any major durability issues as of yet.
One of the bigger things scouts complain about in regard to Maroney is that he may be a system back. He ran in a zone-blocking scheme with the Gophers, which really can make a rusher's statistics skyrocket.
While he can run inside, he is not a power back by any means, and actually has been known to run away from contact at times. Up until his senior year, he never was really a feature back, so there will be some who question whether he can handle a full-time role.
Maroney also has problems in pass protection and does not run with a low center of gravity, despite his size. In the passing game he gives you close to nothing and needs to work on running routes as well as catching the football. He does, in his defense, claim this to be due to the style of offense Minnesota ran during his playing days.
Maroney is definitely one of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects in this year's draft. If he goes to a team that throws him in a system that does not match his skill-set, he will almost certainly flop. However, if he goes to a squad that employs a zone-blocking scheme, such as the Denver Broncos or Atlanta Falcons, Maroney will be a fantastic fit.
Maroney did not work out at his March 6 Pro Day due to a strained hamstring. However, he did hold his own workout March 23 and ran a 4.48 40 time, which clearly helped his stock to some extent. Just a short time ago, it may not have been a stretch to see Maroney go in the middle of the first round. However, the recent signings of running backs Edgerrin James (Arizona Cardinals) and Jamal Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) should cause players such as Maroney as well as others at the position to fall.
At this point, the best fit for the Gopher would be with Indianapolis Colts with their second pick in Round 1 (30th overall), and he shouldn't fall any further than the Green Bay Packers in Round 2.
Sign up for KFFL's Draft Central Complete and you will gain access to Inside the League for the inside scoop ranging from which agents are representing which player to pro day results as well as much more in-depth analysis. You also receive GM Jr.'s Guide NFL Draft Guide, written by a former NFL scout who knows how to study and review players accurately as well as objectively. To top it all off, you will receive free access to KFFL's Hot Off the Wire Complete - the industry's leading NFL news service that brings you much more than news. KFFL works with individuals in the know and not hacks who pretend to know.
About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
Don't miss these great reports....