In today's NFL, first-round draft choices of running backs is becoming a rarity. The position's role has evolved -- or devolved, depending on your point of view -- to a level that has almost become a plug-and-play situation for most teams. It doesn't necessarily matter the name of the player in the backfield. Thus, teams can wait on the position and find value after the opening day of the draft.
This year's class has several intriguing prospects, including several bell cows, a handful of third-down, change-of-pace products, and an abundance of undersized choices who struggle to distinguish themselves.
The best back in the class?
Tre Mason, Auburn: A compact runner whose vision is his best asset, Mason does not shy from contact. He is more powerful than his 5-foot-9, 207-pound frame suggests, and he doesn't have a ton of mileage on his legs. Mason is decisive and agile. He would be an ideal fit for a zone-blocking system in the NFL, where he can use his one-cut-and-go style to get down the field. He's not exceptionally fast by any means, but a 4.50-second 40 time means he will be tough to catch if he has a step on most defenders. While I would love to see Mason catch the ball more to better understand his ability in this area, I'd be surprised if he slid into Round 3. He will be a starter, in time, in the NFL.
Bishop Sankey, Washington: A versatile offensive threat, possessing soft hands and a natural ability to find the open lane, Sankey has a lot of appeal in this passing league. He measures 5-foot-10, 209 pounds, and has been extremely durable in the face of a monster workload (653 touches 2012-13). He is a bit thin and may not hold up to a regular beating in the NFL, but smart coaching staffs won't use him in that manner. Sankey has a nose for the end zone and plays bigger than his frame. His role in the NFL inflates his draft stock. I don't believe he is the most talented running back, and he may not have the most prolific career, but it is a matter of immediate impact for many teams. Sankey is unlikely to slide out of Round 2 and could even be the first back off the board.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: (First name pronounced as "Lake") Seastrunk relies too much on raw athletic prowess at this point. Standing 5-foot-10, 201 pounds, he is on the lean side, but his lower-body explosiveness is nothing short of impressive. Some may peg him as a change-of-pacer, which is where he may start his NFL career, but the explosive Seastrunk, who oddly has no special teams experience to speak of, has to prove he can catch the football (nine career NCAA receptions). I am higher on him than most people; it may take some time, but between his intelligence and athletic talents, Seastrunk has what it takes to excel in the right situation. He's a Round 3 grade with a world of upside in his corner.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: Carey is a three-down back at the next level because of his soft hands and system-versatility. He has a good build at 5-foot-9, 207 pounds and has a little bit of everything in his running style. Carey shows strong ability to find cutback lanes, make jump-cuts to get there, and cause defenders to miss. His hands will be an asset in the pros, but standing out in pass protection is what will endear him to a coaching staff in a pass-friendly league. That said, he has to do a better job of protecting the football. He was highly productive for the Wildcats but has a lot of wear and tear on his body in the last two years. Carey also has some explaining to do about several off-field alleged incidents. If he can pass this test, I see late second-round stock.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Hyde is an interesting prospect. He attended a military school in 2009 before transferring to Ohio State, and he improved his play as his college career wore on. Hyde has a bruising running style that matches his 6-foot, 230-pound frame. He won't win any races, although the senior is a quick enough to get to the edge in most situations. An alleged off-the-field incident with a female patron at a nightclub cost him three games in 2013. Hyde still managed to rush for 1,527 yards and 18 total touchdowns on the year. He is a two-down pounder in the NFL and could land with a cold-weather team. However, he profiles for a short-lived career. Despite being among the most talented prospects at his position, I have my doubts about Hyde's draft stock. He'll probably fall into the early third round.
More RBs on Page 2
Also See: QB | WR | TE
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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