After an outstanding junior season and a spectacular performance in the International Bowl, Rutgers University running back Ray Rice has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2008 NFL Draft.
Rice played 12 games, rushing for 1,120 yards and five touchdowns, as a true freshman in 2005. In 2006, Rice's production increased along with his utilization. In 13 games, Rice ran for 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns. Rice's statistical uptrend continued last season, which saw Rice register 2,012 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games. He finished his collegiate career with 280 yards and four touchdowns against Ball State in the International Bowl. He finished as Rutgers' all-time leading rusher with 4,926 yards.
The 21-year-old quietly has much to offer to any team seeking help in their backfield, and Rice's stock has jumped a bit as the draft inches closer. He has a small, yet powerful frame, which makes him effective between the tackles. Often compared to Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Rice has a low center of gravity that makes him a difficult assignment for would-be tacklers. He has enough agility to make defenders miss and is very good at generating yards after initial contact.
He ran an official time of 4.42 and an unofficial time of 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, surprising scouts while proving that he has some speed in his game. Rice has proven to be more than a between-the-tackles back, often using his great vision and lateral agility to effectively take the ball outside when necessary. Rice is a workhorse back and should be capable of handling the workload of a full-time starter.
The bruiser is also a willing blocker and displays good technique in blocking situations. He brings solid intangibles to the table along with his physical skills. Rice reportedly displayed good leadership throughout his collegiate career.
Rice's 5-foot-8, 199-pound frame raises some obvious concerns. Along with lacking prototypical size, Rice doesn't have the breakaway speed desired by most NFL scouts – especially for backs of smaller stature. The physical mismatch between Rice and NFL pass rushers presents possible issues in his blocking despite his relative effectiveness in that department.
Even after showing improvement last season, there are still questions surrounding Rice's ability to become a consistent receiver out of the backfield. Before recording 25 receptions last season, he recorded only 12 in his freshman and sophomore years combined. Despite entering the draft a year early, Rice also has a lot of tread on his tires after 910 carries over a three-year span in college.
Expected Draft Placement
With the depth at the running back position in this year's draft, it is difficult to gauge where a player like Rice will be selected. Rice has the collegiate track record and the raw skills to be a high second-round pick; however, his lack of size and speed make it possible for him to slip to the late second or early third round. The Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys are all possible destinations for Rice based on team needs and draft position. However, it depends on where teams place Rice on their draft boards in comparison to other backs such as Tulane running back Matt Forte and University of Texas running back Jamaal Charles.
About Mike Mady
Mike Mady has been a KFFL contributor since 2005.
Don't miss these great reports....