by Russ Bliss (4/24/12)

The NFL is trending away from heavy reliance on a single RB and the college RB's who are likely to be able to become feature RB's are getting fewer and fewer. There is one stud in this class in Trent Richardson, but after him it's a mix of smaller speedy guys who will be part of a tandem, and stockier guys who could become primary RB's, but come with questions about their ability to hold up or be special. Another thing I've noticed is the new trend of RB's to be shorter than in the past. Part of this so they can hide more easily behind offensive lineman and also that shorter, stockier RB's have a lower center of gravity, making it more difficult to get them on the ground. In the 2012 NFL draft, it's likely only one running back will be taken in the first round and be a feature guy.

1) Trent Richardson, Alabama: Richardson is as complete a RB to come out since Adrian Peterson. And more than Peterson, Richardson reminds me a little of Arian Foster. At 5'9", 228 lbs, Richardson is much like a tank. Tough to bring down, breaks tackles, is equally adept running between the tackles or bouncing it to the outside, Richardson also exhibits very good speed, and has excellent hands catching passes. The current NFL may be de-emphasizing the RB position, but Richardson will be a feature RB for whoever drafts him. An excellent candidate to be a top 10 fantasy football RB in 2012, and will be one of the top 6 picks in the NFL draft.

2) Doug Martin, Boise State: Similar in size to Richardson, Martin (5'9", 223 lbs) is a well built RB with good power and instincts. What he lacks is big time speed. He's fast enough, but won't be able to bounce many to the outside in the NFL and while he had a long TD run in his last college game, in the pros he isn't likely to be a breakaway threat. Good hands and has a chance to be a primary RB for an NFL team, but isn't special enough to be an elite RB. Should go in the late first/early second round of the draft.

3) David Wilson, Virginia Tech: Speedy type RB with decent enough size (5'9", 206 lbs) to be a primary RB, but has more of the feel of a complimentary RB in the NFL. Good open field moves allows him to dodge defenders. While strong in the lower body, he tends to dance instead of powering into the hole for the tough yards. Not a good blocker and needs work in that area if he is to be a 3rd down RB. Intriguing skill set and could surprise in the NFL, but likely to be a tandem RB instead of a feature guy. Likely to be drafted anywhere in round 2.

4) Lamar Miller, Miami: Possesses near elite speed and is quick accelerating to it. Also possesses enough size (5'10", 212 lbs) to be the primary RB for a team. Is surprisingly willing to go between the tackles for a speedster type RB and reads his blocks well. Although willing to go inside, durability is a question mark for Miller as he wore down as the 2011 college season got closer to the end. Doesn't always play to his size. Will need to work on conditioning if he is to make it thru a 16 game schedule. Quality RB with big play capability whenever he touches the ball, Miller should at least be a nice complimentary RB with a chance to be a primary guy. Should go in round 2 of the draft.

5) Chris Polk, Washington: A 3 year starter, Polk has logged more mileage on his legs than any of the four RB's listed above him here. A sturdy RB with power who fights for extra yards, Polk plays bigger than his 5'10, 215 lbs would indicate. Very good pass catcher and blocker, but lacks speed and won't outrun defenders often. Has excellent vision and reads his blocks and picks his hole with decisiveness. Not afraid of contact as a runner or blocker. If he were faster, he probably would be ranked higher. Likely to go somewhere between late round 2 to mid round 3.

6) Robert Turbin, Utah State: One of my favorite sleeper RB's in this draft class, I'm higher on Turbin than many others. Turbin has the size (5'10, 222 lbs) and speed to be a feature RB in the league. He came back from a torn ACL suffered in 2010 to rush for 1,517 yards in 2011. Good catching the ball out of the backfield, Turbin has the tools to surprise and succeed in the NFL. Biggest concern is the level of competition he faced in college and an upright running style that leaves him open to big hits. At the very least should be able to be a power type RB in a tandem set in the NFL. Likely to be drafted mid-late round 3.

7) LaMichael James, Oregon: Very productive college career as a 3 year starter. Lacks ideal size (5'8", 194 lbs) but has excellent speed and is very elusive in the open field. While a willing blocker, he lacks the size and strength to really help as a pass protector. Good hands for catching passes but sometimes is careless with the football. Probably not big or strong enough to be a primary RB, but could serve nicely as a complimentary RB and kickoff return man. Expected to be drafted mid-late round 3.

8) Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati: An excellent pass catching RB, Pead also will contribute on special teams as a return man. He has great speed and is dangerous in the open field. But at 5'10", 197 lbs, he lacks strength to push a pile and his maturity has been an issue in college. Considered an underachiever by some, if Pead concentrates on proving that wrong, he could become a dangerous tandem RB in the NFL. Likely to be drafted somewhere between middle of round 3 to the middle of round 4.  

9) Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M: Good enough size (5'10", 206 lbs) for the position, Gray is an excellent pass catcher and while not possessing ideal size or speed, he works at becoming better. Very good kickoff return skills and likely to make his mark doing that early in his career. Considered a strong team player and leader type, Gray works hard and does enough things well to be able to work as a tandem RB in the NFL. Could develop into becoming a primary RB in a couple of years because of his attitude and work ethic. Should go somewhere in round 4 or 5.

10) Bernard Pierce, Temple: Good sized RB (6'0", 218 lbs) with decent enough speed to be a contributor on first and second downs. Very good at finding the hole between the tackles and has a nose for the end zone. But he is very raw as a blocker and has little experience as a pass catcher. In today's NFL, that could be a big stumbling block for him to overcome unless he works hard at improving in those 2 areas. Runs a bit upright, which could be a problem considering he's the tallest RB on this list. Reminds me a lot of Ryan Torain in that he could be a big surprise for a while, but could also flash out quickly if his running style causes him to be injury prone.