Daily Blog • March 15th, 2010

Over the next couple of weeks my daily blog will breakdown the top players at each position for this year's NFL draft. In today's blog, I have included my top running backs complete with strengths, weaknesses and an overall projection of what round each prospect will likely be drafted in.

If you need complete rankings, career statistics, pictures and draft projections for this year's running backs download my 2010 Draft Guide absolutely free! Also included in the draft guide is pro day workout dates, a draft order for the 1st two rounds, combine invitees by position plus college teams with most draft losses!

Keep checking the guide regularly to get all the latest and greatest information on this year's draft as we will be adding new information daily. I will be back on Wednesday with my WR rankings followed by my OL rankings on Friday.

Top RB Prospects for 2010 Draft

1. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Height: 5-11
Weight: 195
40 Time: 4.37

Strengths: Is a threat to score every time he touches the ball running, receiving or returning kicks. Uses a “jump” cut to explode past defenders and leaves them in his tracks. Has great speed and strength and shows good agility and balance. Is a decent receiver out of the backfield especially when matched up one-on-one down the sideline or in the slot. Excellent vision and has the ability to anticipate where the hole is going to be.

Weaknesses: Is prone to taking big hits with his upright running style. Has to improve his pass blocking technique and be more active. Durability is a question as he suffered from nagging injuries throughout his career and shared the workload until his senior season.

Overall: Spiller clearly is the best RB in this year’s draft and has all the tools to become a playmaker at the next level. His versatility as a returner and pass catcher out of the backfield will allow him to make an immediate impact as a rookie. Spiller maybe one of the best talents in the draft and will be drafted in the top 20.

2. Ryan Mathews, Fresno St
Height: 5-10
Weight: 220
40 Time: 4.45

Strengths: Powerful downhill runner that initiates contact on defenders. Picked up a lot of extra yards by falling forward. Pass blocks with an attitude to punish defenders. Squares his shoulders and uses them well both running and blocking.

Weaknesses: Limited pass catching experience (19 career rec). Lacks explosiveness and top end speed. Missed games every year due to injuries. Does not possess the elusiveness to make defenders miss.

Overall: Mathews had an outstanding junior season with 1808 yds (6.1) while playing in the same backfield as other top prospect Lonyae Miller. Mathews has the size and strength to be a consistent starter in the NFL but lacks the “home run” threat. However, he did impress with his sub 4.5 40 time at the combine. Look for him to go early 2nd round to a team looking for a big power back to go along with a fast undersized back.

3. Jahvid Best, California
Height: 5-10
Weight: 199
40 Time: 4.35

Strengths: Has elite speed evidence of his 4.35 40 time at the combine. Can explode through a hole and take it the distance. Shows good patience and vision. Has the ability to make game-changing plays with his speed.

Weaknesses: Suffered a serious concussion late in his senior season that raised some eyebrows. Will have to improve his blocking technique. He also needs to add bulk if he’s going to be able to sustain punishment at the next level.  Doesn’t break many tackles.

Overall: Best is similar to Spiller in speed and explosiveness but doesn’t have the strength and bulk Spiller has. Despite questions about his size and durability, Best can make an instant impact in the return game as a rookie. While he probably will never turn into an every down back in the NFL, Best will get plenty of touches in the slot and as a weapon in the return game. Look for him to get drafted in the early 2nd round.

4. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
Height: 5-11
Weight: 230
40 Time: 4.6

Strengths: Attacks the hole aggressively and runs with authority. Can be explosive bursting thru the hole. Has deceptive speed evidence of his career 6.2 ypc and has the ability to take it the distance. Has exceptional inside running ability.

Weaknesses: Very inexperienced in the passing game both as a blocker and receiver coming from a triple-option offense. Had problems handling pitches. Doesn’t possess great top end speed and ran a poor 40 at the combine. Missed playing time with injuries due to his aggressive running style.

Overall: Dwyer has the size and strength to become a good power back in the NFL. His shortcomings in the passing game as a blocker and receiver due to inexperience will prevent him from being a three-down back early in his career. He is a great short yardage back and has all the physical tools to become a Pro Bowler if he improves his technique.  Expect Dwyer to get selected somewhere in the mid to late 2nd round.

5. Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss
Height: 5-8
Weight: 172
40 Time: 4.58

Strengths: McCluster has the explosiveness and quickness to make something good happen whenever he touches the ball.  Shows good instincts and vision in open space and runs very hard for his size.  Versatile player who primarily played RB in college but also was lined up at receiver.

Weaknesses: Size, Size and Size. Most NFL teams will shy away from McCluster due to his small stature. He also is surprisingly inexperienced in the return game with just 2 punt returns his final two seasons. Had problems securing the ball and will have to improve his routes as he will be used in the slot often.

Overall: McCluster had an outstanding Senior Bowl week and improved his draft stock by showing off his explosiveness and versatility. Was impressive at the combine workouts especially doing 20 reps on the 225 lb bench press. He reminds many scouts of current San Diego Charger Darren Sproles and he can be very effective if he is used in a similar situation. McCluster will be drafted in the late 2nd to early 3rd round.

6. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi St
Height: 6-1
Weight: 245
40 Time: 4.56

Strengths: Great size and runs hard. Can break several tackles in the open field and uses his size to punish DBs.  Is very effective in goal-line and short yardage situations. Carried the workload and showed good durability throughout college with 900+ carries.

Weaknesses: Will have to drop more weight and improve his overall strength. He is going to have to lean more when he runs as he tends to run upright a lot of the time. Also needs to get better in pass protection.

Bottom line: Dixon had an outstanding career at Miss St with 40 career sts and 4,000+ yds. He is used to being able to handle the full workload and can be a workhorse for an NFL team if he gets stronger. He will have to improve his blocking and drop a few lbs though. Dixon will probably get drafted in the 3rd round and would be a great compliment on a team that already has a quick scat back.

7. Toby Gerhart, Stanford
Height: 6-0
Weight: 235
40 Time: 4.58

Strengths: Outstanding inside runner that can follow his blockers in the hole. Uses his shoulders to deliver blows to opposing defenders. Can run thru arm tackles easily and gains a significant amount of yards after contact. Has good vision and can surprisingly cut well especially in traffic. Played in a pro-style offense.

Lacks wiggle and top end finishing speed to become a home run threat. Was used heavily his last two years with 550+ carries and is limited with a knee brace that he has worn since he missed the 2007 season with a knee injury. Has decent hands but will have to improve all phases of the passing game including his route running and his pass blocking.

Overall: Gerhart has the mentality and physical tools to be a good starting back in the NFL. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in aggressiveness and the ability to break tackles down the field especially against undersized DBs. Gerhart will likely get drafted in the 2nd-3rd round and would fit nicely in a West Coast offense where he wouldn’t be put in many blocking situations.

8. Joe McKnight, USC
Height: 6-0
Weight: 198
40 Time: 4.47

Strengths: Has great explosiveness and speed. Can stop and start on a dime which enables him elude would be tacklers. Can hit the hole fast, break it to the outside and outrun defenders. Catches the ball out of the backfield well and is dangerous after the catch. Has great acceleration and has shown the ability to be a dangerous returner.

Weaknesses:  Not an aggressive runner and sometimes avoids contact by running to the outside. Does not like to attack the line of scrimmage and can be indecisive in finding a running lane. Does not pick up many yards after contact and can be tripped up easily. Had ball security and nagging injury concerns throughout college.

Overall: McKnight had the misfortune of being labeled as the next “Reggie Bush” at USC and he never lived up to those lofty expectations. While he doesn’t have the overall skills Bush has, he certainly is an outstanding athlete that is dangerous in the open field. McKnight as expected had a great combine workout which likely put him in the 3rd round range but question marks about his strength and bulk will prevent him from going much higher.

9. Montario Hardesty, Tennessee
Height: 6-0
Weight: 220
40 Time: 4.49

Strengths: Hardesty had a breakout senior season with 1,345 yds (4.8). He shows good vision and uses it to see cutback lanes. Is deceptively fast evidence of his impressive 4.49 40 at the combine. Can be an aggressive runner that attacks the hole and can break tackles.  Has a nice build and is a strong back who gains yards after contact.

Weaknesses:  Despite the quick 40 time at the combine, lacks elite speed and quickness. Runs upright too often and struggled running sideline to sideline against elite SEC defenses. Does not have the elusiveness to make many defenders miss. Durability could be a concern as he was often injured during his first three seasons.

Overall: Coming into his senior season Hardesty was a late round pick at best, but after having a great year and an impressive combine workout Hardesty maybe looking at a 3rd round selection. There are going to be durability concerns as Hardesty was only a full-time starter for just one season however. Hardesty however can easily become a starting back in the NFL if he continues his improvement.

10. Ben Tate, Auburn
Height: 6-0
Weight: 214
40 Time: 4.43

Strengths: Has the vision to see cutback lanes and once he finds it can hit the hole quickly. Consistently runs hard and is a tough runner in between the tackles. Catches the ball out of the backfield well.

Weaknesses: Does not have the ability to make big plays consistently. Needs to become better at breaking tackles for his size and has to improve his strength. Had trouble getting to the outside against speedy SEC defenses. Needs to significantly improve his pass blocking. Runs a little too stiff which hurts his cut-making ability.

Overall: Tate is a good all-round back that does almost everything well but nothing great. He had a nice career at Auburn with 3,000+ yds (4.9) but will have to improve his game in all areas if he wants to be a full-time starter at the next level. Realistically, Tate will be a nice complimentary 3rd down back and will be drafted somewhere in the 4th round.

11. LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
Height: 6-1
Weight: 245
40 Time: 4.8

Strengths: Uses his body to initiate contact and runs through defenders. Fights for every yard and is very effective in goal-line situations. Great size and has a thick muscular build. Is a good blocker that uses good technique and effort.

Weaknesses: Only had 1 year of great production and played in a spread offense where the running lanes will be much different than a pro-style offense. Runs upright which leaves him open to taking hard hits. Does not explode through the hole. Does not have much experience running pass routes.

Overall: Blount came into the season as a 1st-2nd prospect but those hopes were dashed with his post game outburst at Boise St. He has handled himself well since the incident and had a good Senior Bowl week. If can continue his improvement on and off the field, Blount can have a nice NFL career. But with those character issues still out there he is looking at a 4th-5th round selection.

12. Charles Scott, LSU
Height: 5-11
Weight: 235
40 Time: 4.71

Strengths: Great inside runner that gains many yards after contact. Has nice feet for his size and runs with his shoulder square and under control. Has great strength and attacks the line of scrimmage. Is always looking to gain an extra yard or two and is not afraid of contact. Was able to wear down opponents and gain many yards late in games.

Weaknesses: Is not an experienced lead blocker. Will have to improve in all areas of the passing game especially his pass-catching ability. Broken collarbone his senior season will raise some durability questions but he did not have many injury issues his first three seasons. 

Overall: Scott is a tough physical back that will be great in short-yardage and goal-line situations. His inexperience as a receiver and a blocker will likely keep him on the sidelines for many plays early in his NFL career. If he can improve in those two areas Scott can become a starter someday. However, his collarbone injury will likely drop him to the 4th-5th round range.

13. Chris Brown, Oklahoma
Height: 5-10
Weight: 205
40 Time: 4.55

Runs tough for his size and has showed the ability to break tackles.  Follows his blockers well and is good at running through traffic. Catches the ball out of the backfield well especially on screen passes. Attacks the hole aggressively and continues to fight for yards after initial contact.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size and struggles in his blocking. Does not possess elite speed and gets caught from behind easily. Split carries at Oklahoma and does not have the durability to handle the full workload at the next level. 

Overall: Brown does a lot of things well but his size is going to hamper him at the next level. He will have to improve his blocking significantly if he hopes to be on the field consistently. Because of his nice production at Oklahoma (2,923 yds, 42 TDs) Brown will likely get drafted in the 5th-6th round range but will find it tough having a long successful career.

14. Andre Dixon
Height: 6-0
Weight: 200
40 Time: 4.63

Strengths: Has nice size with a good physique. Runs hard inside and has the quickness to elude defenders. Plays with a lot of passion and is not afraid of contact. Does well in the passing game both blocking and receiving.

Weaknesses: Was never the featured back for long stretches playing behind Donald Brown (#1DC Colts LY). Has character issues after being suspended and arrested on more than one occasion. Doesn’t have the ideal speed and acceleration to make big plays. Will have to improve his pass blocking.

Bottom line: Dixon had a great senior season with 1,115 yds (4.6) for UConn and will likely get drafted in the 5th-6th round range due to his size and his pass catching ability. His off the field issues however will prevent him from going any higher.

15. Stafon Johnson, USC
Height: 5-11
Weight: 214
40 Time: 4.6

Strengths: Very tough runner that is hard to bring down. Follows his blockers well and shows good vision in finding the open holes. Hits the line of scrimmage hard and gains a lot of yards after initial contact.

Health will have to be evaluated closely after sustaining a major neck injury in a weight lifting accident. Lacks maneuverability and elusiveness to make defenders miss. Does not possess an extra gear and will have to improve his blocking techniques.
Overall: Johnson is an ideal short-yardage back that consistently fights for yards. Before the injury many scouts thought Johnson was the best all-round back in the talented USC backfield. However, the serious injury will be on the minds of many GMs and Johnson unfortunately went from being a 3rd round pick to a 5th-6th round selection.

16. James Starks
Height: 6-1
Weight: 225
40 Time: 4.5

Strengths: Starks is a tough runner that runs hard and very rarely takes the big hit with his low to the ground running style. Uses his feet well to continue fighting for every yard after initial contact. Has nice patience in waiting for holes to open. Does a good job following his blockers especially when he catches the ball out of the backfield.

Weaknesses: Sat out entire ’09 season with a shoulder injury, which brings up durability questions. Does not have great quickness and lacks the home run threat. Will need to improve his pass blocking technique.

Overall: Starks is a tough competitor that plays hard every down. While does not have elite speed, he did run a 4.5 40 at the combine which raised some eyebrows. While his shoulder injury likely cost him a round or two in the draft, look for James to be drafted in the 6th round range.

17. Keiland Williams, LSU
Height: 5-11
Weight: 225
40 Time: 4.55

Strengths: Great physique. Always runs under control and has great balance and agility for his size. Catches the ball out of the backfield well and is a smooth runner in the open field. Decent pass blocker.

Weaknesses: Was never the feature back in a talented backfield in college. Does not possess elite speed. Could improve his ability to gain extra yards after contact. Some scouts question his overall competitiveness and toughness.

Overall: Williams was a nice backup to Charles Scott at LSU but many feel he was just as talented. Because of his good physical tools look for him to be drafted somewhere the 6th round range. While Williams will never become a consistent starter in the NFL, he can be a productive backup just like he was in college.

18. Joique Bell, Wayne St
Height: 5-11
Weight: 223
40 Time: 4.6

Strengths: Nice solid compact back that does everything well. Good size and strength. Used to carrying the workload and has experience catching the ball out of the backfield.

Weaknesses: Did not play against elite competition. Scouts have to wonder how much he has left in the tank after getting nearly 1200 carries in college. Also lacks elite speed to be a home run threat.

Overall: Bell is an interesting prospect that had a nice Senior Bowl week which led to him getting a lot of publicity. His combine workout was not the best but still Bell is looking at a 6th selection.

19. Javarris James, Miami, Fl
Height: 6-0
Weight: 213
40 Time: 4.6

Strengths: Nice runner in between the tackles and has the strength to shake off arm tackles. Good size and has a lot of power. Looks smooth catching the ball.

Weaknesses: Has problems in the open field and does not have the wiggle to make defenders miss. Needs to be more patient with his blockers. Lacks top end speed to be a home run threat. Durability a factor after suffering many injuries in college and was never a feature back.

Bottom line: James despite his good NFL bloodlines (cousin of Edgerrin James) does not have the speed and skills to be a consistent starter in the NFL and his amount of injuries really hampered his college career and draft stock. However, because of his size and his inside running ability look for James to get picked up in the 6th-7th round.

20. Lonyae Miller, Fresno St
Height: 5-11
Weight: 220
40 Time: 4.53

Strengths:  Very strong and shows good quickness and acceleration. Can run away from defenders in the open field. Showed great athleticism in his Senior Bowl and Combine workouts and is a good straight line runner.

Weaknesses: Has to improve his vision. Not very elusive and does not possess the ability to move side to side quickly. Will need to improve in all areas of the passing game including his blocking and pass catching ability. Cuts outside often and needs to be more patient.

Overall: Despite being the backup to Ryan Mathews, Miller had a productive career and has been rising on many draft boards with a solid Senior Bowl week and an impressive combine where he finished 1st among RBs with 26 reps on the bench and also ran a 4.53 40. He will have to improve his blocking and overall vision but he is now likely a 6th-7th round pick and is one of the more interesting prospects at the RB position.

5 Others To Watch

21. Keith Toston, Oklahoma St
Height: 6-0
Weight: 210
40 Time: 4.7

Tough runner who took advantage of added playing time his senior season. Lacks explosiveness and has had ball security issues. 

22. Andre Anderson
Height: 5-11
Weight: 205
40 Time: 4.55
Competitive runner that gains many yards after contact. Lacks speed to be a starter but can become a quality backup at the next level.

23. Brandon Minor, Michigan
Height: 6-0
Weight: 220
40 Time: 4.6
North-South runner that breaks many tackles in the open field, Shoulder injury cost him a the chance to be a 4th-5th round selection.

24. Pat Paschall, North Dakota St
Height: 5-11
Weight: 206
40 Time: 4.7

Tough instinctive runner who likes to break it to the outside. Did reasonably well during Shrine Bowl practices.

25. Darius Marshall, Marshall
Height: 5-10
Weight: 190
40 Time: 4.65
Patient runner who was very productive in college. Will have to improve his blocking to see the field at the next level.


1. Rashawn Jackson, Virginia
Height: 6-1
Weight: 239
40 Time: 4.7

Strengths: Tough physical runner that can catch the ball out of the backfield well. Does a nice job as a blocker and has the ability to keep defenders tied up. Nice athleticism for his size.

Weaknesses: Does not have a lot of experience. Will need to add weight to his solid frame.  Needs to play with a nastier attitude and initiate contact.

Overall: Jackson has all the skills to be a solid fullback in the NFL. He has enough athleticism to be a special teams contributor as a rookie and is looking at a 5th round selection.

2. John Conner, Kentucky
Height: 5-11
Weight: 246
40 Time: 4.72

Strengths: Strong hard working player that enjoys contact. Does a good job as a lead blocker and can stand up linebackers in the hole. Nice inside running ability. 

Weaknesses: Will need to work on his blocking technique and struggles with faster LBs. Limited experience as a receiver.

Overall: Conner is a blue-collar type of player that fights for every yard and consistently shows the ability to tie up LBs in the hole. He will have to continue to improve his blocking ability and try to improve his overall speed and quickness. Conner is looking at 5th-6th round consideration because of his attitude and toughness.

3. Manase Tonga, BYU
Height: 5-11
Weight: 240
40 Time:

Strengths: Really nice receiver that has surprisingly good quickness in the open field. Good inside runner that always fights for extra yards. Plays with a lot of emotion and was one of the leaders on the team.

Weaknesses: Did have some off the field issues that cost him an entire season. Will need to work on his blocking technique.

Overall: Tonga would fit nicely in a West Coast offense at the next level because of his receiving capabilities. While he will have to become a better blocker if he wants to be a consistent starter, look for Tonga to get drafted in the 6th round.

4. Richard Dickson, LSU
Height: 6-3
Weight: 245
40 Time: 4.81

Strengths: Experienced receiver that has good body control to make several catches. Not afraid to go up and get the ball in traffic. Nice runner in the open field.

Weaknesses: Will have to adjust to new position as he played TE throughout college career. Lacks the speed to separate from defenders. Will need to improve his strength.

Overall: Dickson projects more as a FB prospect at the next level because he lacks the size and strength to serve as a blocker at the TE position. He will need a year to adjust but he is probably worth 6th-7th round consideration.

5. Jack Corcoran, Rutgers
Height: 6-1
Weight: 230
40 Time: 4.63

Strengths:  Great lead blocker that paved the way for RBs like Ray Rice and Brian Leonard while in college. Underrated as a receiver. State wrestling champion.

Weaknesses: Not much of a runner and lacks the speed and explosiveness to make any big plays with his legs.

Overall: Corcoran’s limited running ability will probably drop him to the 7th round. However, he plays with great leverage and would be a great lead blocker for any team at the next level.