We asked R44 from Draft Daddy to break down the top college running backs for us. Here is an in-depth look at who may be available in the next draft.
DeAngelo Williams ~ Memphis — This Tiger is college football’s leading active running back in career rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, yards per carry and all-purpose yards. To say Williams has been dominant for the Tigers would be a understatement, to say the least. Had it not been for an injury (broken leg) in Memphis’ final game of the 2004 season, Williams likely would’ve jumped to the NFL early and been a first round selection. By staying for his senior season, however, Williams may have actually put himself in position to go even higher in the draft — the top 10?
Positives: Size and speed. At 5’10” and 220 pounds Williams is built like a mini-tank, who can bulldoze forward for the tough yards on 3rd down, or scamper by LB’s and DB’s for big gains….Williams speed is believed to be in the 4.46 area in the 40 yard dash, so he can move well….Fine receiver out of the backfield. Had 53 receptions as a sophomore and junior, averaging over 11 yards per catch (excellent for a running back )….45 TD’s the last 3 seasons (44 rushing) show he’s got a knack for getting into the end zone….Despite the injury in December of 2004, Williams has been a durable player, missing only 2 games in the last 3 seasons (no games missed in 2004). And remember, this is a player that has had over 800 touches the last 3 seasons, so he can take a beating and get back up….Memphis’ offensive line lost 4 starters from 2004, and he’s still stellar, playing behind a young, inexperienced line this season.
Negatives: This player has been so good, it’s hard to find negatives…..The fact that he played a “mid-major” schedule could be considered a minor negative, as some may feel his numbers were not put up at the highest level of college football…The leg injury last season wasn’t exactly a good thing, but he has recoved without impacting his explosiveness……Really nitpicking: Williams is an average kick returner, averaging and only 22.6 yards per return in his career. That’s not a big deal.
Summary: Williams was recruited by several SEC and Big 10 schools coming out of high school. He wanted to carry the load at Memphis and he did that. We believe, if healthy, he will be among the top 15 selections in the draft. DeAngelo Williams reminds us a bit of former Auburn running back Carnell Williams (except bulkier and a little shorter), who was recently drafted 5th overall.
Gerald Riggs, Jr. ~ Tennessee — After two disappointing seasons, this highly regarded Chattanooga prep star finally flashed his skills in 2004, becoming the first Volunteer running back to rush for 1,000 yards since 2001–had 1,130 yards (5.7 yd avg) and 9 TD’s. Riggs did this, despite having to share time in the backfield with current Jets RB Cedric Houston. Riggs was off to a decent, but not great, start this season, before he suffered a season ending injury in mid-October.
Positves: At 6’0″ and 220 pounds, Riggs has the power to plow throw the line and run over defenders….Excellent speed. Possesses between 4.48 and 4.52 speed in the 40 yard dash, reportedly, so this big fellow can really run and is rarely caught from behind once he breaks free….Riggs actually ran a stellar 10.6 in the 100 meter sprint in high school…Son of former NFL star running back Gerald Riggs, so he has excellent pedigree and excellent guidance. That guidance helped him in 2004, as Riggs, Sr. urged his son to take the game more seriously and focus on preparation and film work. Riggs, Jr. admits he took the advice, and it changed his career for the better….Rarely fumbles (we counted 1 fumble in 201 touches–193 rushes, 8 receptions– in 2004).
Negatives: Not a very accomplished receiver out of the backfield, to this point. So that’s one aspect of his game he may need to improve on before he goes to the next level….After a fantastic 2004 season, Riggs needed to show scouts last season wasn’t a fluke and he’d work hard to improve. However, his season-ending injury and injuries to Vols offensive line this season, made a repeat of 2004 impossible.
Summary: Riggs didn’t have another big season, so will scouts forget his early struggles on and off the field as a freshman and sophomore at Tennessee? Despite the injury, he has enough talent to be selected on Day 1 of the draft if he gets healthy before the Combine and works out well.
Jerious Norwood ~ Mississippi State — Is a fast running back, with quick feet, who can beat defenders in wide-open spaces once he breaks free. His 40 time is unknown (estimated between 4.47 and 4.54), but when watching him play it seems he’s rarely caught from behind, meaning his speed is more than adequate….Even though Norwood’s not real big at 6′ and 200 pounds, teams must account for his toughness and ability to run between the tackles….Norwood loves the game and practices and plays hard all the time. In high school, after practicing or playing in a game, he’d go off to play touch football, while his teammates would relax….Very well conditioned athlete, as you’d expect from a “workout freak”….Is Mississippi State’s all-time leading rusher….Must gain a better feel for the blocking schemes and anticipating where the holes are, but coaches feel that will come….Possesses decent hands as a receiver, but his receiving stats haven’t been very good.
Jerome Harrison ~ Washington State — Super impressive JUCO transfer (Pasadena CC), who has rushed for over 2,000 yards in just one and a half seasons in major college football….Racked up 900 yards last season and already gone over the 1,100 yard mark after 8 games this season….At 5’10” and 200 pounds, has decent size for a running back. Displays great vision, quick feet and balance. Seems to have top notch speed, as he can break long runs at any time….Also, despite the smallish frame, he’s a very durable back, evidenced by the nearly 300 touches he has gotten in just 19 Pac-10 games….Could be a player that surprises people, if he displays fine speed (as is expected) in post season workouts…..Is seen as a potential “3rd down back” by some NFL teams.
Leon Washington ~ Florida State — Shares time with junior Lorenzo Booker, so his stats aren’t as good as one would expect from a running back with his talent…..he gained a career-high and team leading 951 rushing yards in 2004, despite limited rushing attempts (138)…..His rushing numbers are down this season, but that could be blamed, in part, to the fact that FSU’s interior offensive line has been ravaged by injuries and their OT’s are both young and inexperienced….Nice hands out of the backfield for this speedy running back, which could be a huge plus at the next level….Could be selected in the 3rd round, or so.
Joseph Addai ~ Louisiana State — Full sized running back, at about 6’1″ and 215 pounds, who has taken advantage of an injury to talented junior Alley Broussard to re-establish himself as the Tigers feature back. Has nice combination of size, speed, hands and toughness. Is also a willing blocker, with a nice pair of hands, who can also help out on special teams coverage. Some critics claim he “runs too high” and doesn’t have the great talent Broussard does, which might be valid points. Nonetheless, his play this season shows he’s a worthy NFL prospect, albeit not an elite prospect at this point.
Mike Bell ~ Arizona — Full sized tailback at 6′ 1″ and 220 pounds, who NFL scouts do like–rated fairly highly by Blesto this summer. Solid runner out of the backfield, but isn’t much of a threat catching the ball….He’s got decent, but not great, speed which means most of his yardage will come between the tackles…Would be an ideal fit for a team like Denver which likes bigger backs, with excellent vision, balance and the ability to make tacklers miss due to power….Appears to be a mid-round selection type, due to a strong junior class. Could move upward a bit, if he runs well before the draft.
Andre Hall ~ South Florida — A player many avid fans don’t know about, but NFL scouts like a lot. Hall, a junior college transfer, toyed with the idea of entering the NFL Draft following his junior season in 2004, but decided to stay in school when the NFL’s Draft Advisory Panel handed him a 3rd to 4th round projection, saying he needed to improve his patience, blocking and “home run” speed…..At 5’9″ and 205 pounds, he possesses decent speed (4.50), excellent vision and soft hands out of the backfield….Coaches also love the way he bursts through holes with incredible quickness….Also, he’s very much a “blue-collar” player, who works hard to improve and will work for extra yards…Probably projects as a mid round draft pick (3rd to 5th round), unless he displays surprising speed at workouts….Lack of ideal size may limit the workload he can handle in the NFL, but he’s a very respected player.
DonTrell Moore ~ New Mexico — NFL scouts are very interested in this Lobos running back, who’s finally starting to pick up his game after a terrible 2004 Bowl Game knee injury. As expected, he started off slowly this season for the Lobos, but the “Emmitt look alike” has rebounded nicely in the last few weeks, running behind a talented New Mexico offensive line…..”They’re [NFL scouts] concerned with his speed, his breakaway speed,” Lobos head coach Rocky Long recently said. “They’re not concerned with his quickness or his lateral movement or his ability to break tackles. He may not be the best pro prospect to come out of New Mexico, but the statistics he has put up make him a pro prospect”.
Taurean Henderson ~ Texas Tech — Solid all-around back, excelling in the Red Raiders “gimmicky offense” this season. After 8 games this season, he’s rushed for over 500 yards, despite only running the ball about 12 times per game (6.2 yard average)….His real value, however, comes as a receiver out of the backfield, who is on pace to collect about 280 career receptions, which is amazing for a college tailback. At 5′ 10″ and 200 pounds, seems to project as a 3rd down back, who can catch the ball out of the backfield, at the next level, more so than a feature back….His receiving ability out of the backfield will sort of remind you of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Wes Welker, a former Red Raiders running back, and current NFL special teams star. Henderson is probably a better runner than Welker was in college, while Welker was always a better return specialist….Likely Day 2 selection.
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Reggie Bush, Southern California — A do-it-all type running back, that can run with great speed and balance. Nice sized at 6′, 200 pounds, he finds the hole quickly and can break long runs with frequency, cutting back and reversing field with ease. Also, a great receiver out of the backfield, who can return kicks and punts too….This Marshall Faulk clone plays at an elite level. Is an explosive running back.
Laurence Maroney, Minnesota — Running behind one of the elite offensive lines in college football, Maroney is poised to have his third consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season for the Gophers….At 5’11 and 200 pounds, he runs with great speed, power, balance and vision. Also, has proven he can catch the ball out of the backfield this season….An elite NFL prospect.
Len Dale White, Southern California — While Reggie Bush brings the pure speed and explosiveness, White, at 6’2″ and 235 pounds, brings the power to USC’s backfield….While Bush runs mostly outside, White runs between the tackles. Teams know where this Colorado native is going to run most of the time, but still can’t catch him. Is very fast for a big back, rushing for 1,103 and 15 TD’s as a sophomore in 2004….Decent receiver out of the backfield….Publicly voiced his displeasure this season over his lack of touches early this season, but seems happy enough with his current situation now.
Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin — Running behind an elite offensive line, led by All-American left tackle Joe Thomas, this former Colorado transfer has become one of the nations elite running backs this season….Speed is Calhoun’s best quality. As a matter of fact, he was part of the Badgers Big Ten champion 4×100-meter relay team last spring….At 5′ 10″ and 195 pounds, he’s also an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. Runs better around the ends, than between the tackles.
Maurice Drew, UCLA — Smallish back at 5′ 8″ and 205 pounds, but has breakaway speed, displays excellent balance and possesses outstanding leg strength….Fine all purpose back, who averaged 14.6 yards per reception out of the backfield in 2004. He also excels as a kickoff returner for the Bruins….Idolizes NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. In many ways, he’s a smaller version of Los Angeles area rival Reggie Bush, but not quite at Bush’s elite level at this point….Has stated publicly he will not enter the draft early.
Alley Broussard, LSU — Full sized power running back at 6′ 1″, 235 pounds, who will miss the season for the Tigers after suffering an injury to his right knee during the summer….Led LSU in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2004, despite sharing time with Joseph Addai and Justin Vincent in 2004….Adds very little as a receiver out of the backfield, perhaps his only minor negative prior to the injury…We were told by a respected draft insider that Broussard has serious first round potential at some point, if can come back strong and regain his form after the knee injury.
Brian Leonard, Rutgers — A combination fullback/halfback at 6′ 2″ and 235 pounds, who may well be the best receiving running back to play in college football in recent seasons. Led all backs in America with 61 receptions (518 yards 2 TD’s) in 2004, as a sophomore. As a freshman, he reeled in 53 receptions (488 yards 5 TD’s) for the Scarlet Knights….Possessing outstanding speed and acceleration for a player his size, he can also run the ball too, gaining 1,612 yards as freshman and sophomore….Is a redshirt junior, who should be a valuable NFL player at some point. Reminds us a bit of NFL veteran Cory Schlesinger of the Detroit Lions, except Leonard is bigger, faster and had been much more productive on the college level.
Lorenzo Booker, Florida State — Shares time with senior Leon Washington, so his stats aren’t as gaudy as one would expect from a running back with his talent…..Decent size at 5′ 11″ and 190 pounds, who has solid hands out of the backfield….Regarded as the nation’s top prospect at tailback coming out of high school, he possesses excellent speed and athletic ability.
Michael Bush, Louisville — Rushed 132 times for 734 yards and 7 TDs in 2004, despite sharing playing time with current NFL back Eric Shelton….At 6′ 3″, 240 pounds, he brings a nice combination of speed and power to the table for the Cards….Decent receiver out of the backfield. Is a former high school quarterback, so watch out for him on trick plays….Will need to show a lot, as NFL teams seem leery of taller running backs that tend to “run high”.
Thomas Clayton, Kansas State — Florida State transfer, who went to KSU due to the presence of Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker in Tallahassee….Is a full-sized back at 6′ and 225 pounds, who seems to possess the type of breakaway speed NFL teams like (reportedly ran a 4.32 40 coming out of high school)….Started off white-hot this season, but his performance has turned ice cold in October, leaving scouts to wonder why a player this physically gifted is so inconsistent….Has had some off-field issues at Kansas State, so that’s something to consider.
Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois — Running behind one of the elite lines in the nation, Wolfe, who shares time with talented senior A.J Harris, is small tailback, with the knack for breaking long runs….Amazing 2004 season, rushing for 1,656 yards and 18 TD’s for the Huskies….At only 5′ 7″ and 180 pounds, speed is his best quality, evidenced by his 4.45 40 yard time in front of NFL scouts at NIU’s last Pro Day….Has dealt with nagging injuries this season, which have limited his playing time in October.