Running Backs


2003 Draft Prospects

 


FIRST ROUND


Musa Smith

6'1" 228 George (4.28) Junior

Pros: Good size and power as a runner. Good north-south guy that has some speed to get outside. Nice acceleration and best when running between the tackles. Has experience as a pass catcher.
Cons: Lacks great breakaway speed and great skills as a receiver.
NFL Forecast: Smith should be a solid feature back in the NFL. I see him as a very productive player that will consistently pound the ball against opposing defenses. Has the makings of a solid power runner that should immediately have a nice impact on the league.
NFL Comparison: Ricky Williams, Dolphins.
Value: Smith is not a great runner, but is a very good one that should qualify for late first round consideration. I would say worthy of a pick between 20-32, but probably nothing more than that.


SECOND ROUND


Willis McGahee

6' 223 Miami FL () Sophomore

Pros: Has great combo of size, speed, power, and acceleration. Best runner in this class.
Cons: Coming off torn ACL which limits what he can do as a rookie. Needs to improve some as a receiver.
NFL Forecast: Is clearly the best in this class, but his injury drops him some since he's damaged goods. His recent off-season workouts have been astounding, making many believe he may be close to 100% by the start of the season which would be a great feat. Considering it takes most 12-18 months before they can return to 100% from this injury, McGahee could do it in 6-8. But I really don't think he's going to be that ready once the season starts, but should still be good. Should become the top player in this class by 2004 however. And that's why you'll draft him.
NFL Comparison: Fred Taylor, Jaguas.
Value: It's hard to take a player that won't contribute much as a rookie in the first round, although McGahee's upside makes him worth it.

Larry Johnson

6'1" 222 Penn State (4.45) Senior

Pros: Has good speed, acceleration, and power. Solid north-south runner with good hands.
Cons: Lacks great outside speed and wiggle. Questionable if he'll be as productive in most NFL systems.
NFL Forecast: Johnson was very potent for the Nittany Lions on screen passes, where he could just catch and run straight up the field. Johnson should be a solid pro, but is going to need some help around him. When in the open field, he's very dangerous, but his toughest task will be getting there. His speed is good, but he doesn't look the type of player that is going to be potent running outside the tackles.
NFL Comparison: Corey Dillon, Bengals.
Value: Because Johnson is somewhat questionable, he's worth an early second round pick.

Lee Suggs

6' 202 Virginia Tech () Senior

Pros: Has excellent combination of power and speed, although he's not a great breakaway threat. Shows more range as a runner than most of the others in the class.
Cons: Injury is a biggest and only concern. Lacks experience as a pass catcher.
NFL Forecast: Suggs is probably the best all-around runner in the class. But his injury, as he tore his ACL a year ago is a concern. I believe he will get over it, but he may never be back to the player he was before. Looked solid this past year in college, but was not the level of his former self. I think he has great potential, but right now he is looking like he'll only be an above average starter.
NFL Comparison: Shaun Alexander, Seahawks.
Value: Suggs potential is good enough to get him late first round consideration, but he's too much of a question mark to go that early. He is a good middle second round prospect though.

Justin Fargas

6'1" 219 Southern California (4.40) Senior

Pros: Has good speed, acceleration, and agility. Runs hard for a player his size and can make hits.
Cons: Lacks size and durability. Lacks a lot of experience as a feature runner in college. Has an injury history.
NFL Forecast: Fargas should be a consistent runner in the NFL, but I'm unsure if he's going to be a gamebreaker type. He looks like he will be a solid runner, but not if he is going to be a great one. Has a lot of upside, and could become the best runner in this class when looking back. I like him, but I think some are a little enamored with him from his workouts more than his play on the field. He's a bit raw in my opinion.
NFL Comparison: Marshall Faulk, Rams.
Value: Fargas' workout quantifies late first round status, but I think he is a solid second round prospect.

Onterrio Smith

5'10" 220 Oregon State (4.45) Junior

Pros: Has great speed and the ability to be a good homerun hitter at the running back position. Hits holes quickly and shows good vision along with a pair of good hands to be a solid pass catcher.
Cons: Lacks power and will go down after first instance of contact.
NFL Forecast: Smith has good NFL prospects, although he is not as powerful as most NFL scouts would like. But he should be able to immediately contribute as a third down runner and also on kickoff returns. Had two very good years at Oregon as the feature runner, and was a major reason why Maurice Morris' draft stock slipped last April.
NFL Comparison: Charlie Garner, Raiders.
Value: He probably won't go as high as I've rated him since I'm not sure if the weight he's added (about 15 pounds) will really affect his game that much. Has slipped some since regular season, but is still good enough to go in the Top 50 selections.


THIRD ROUND


Chris Brown

6'3" 220 Colorado (4.55) Junior

Pros: Good power and some speed as a runner to get outside.
Cons: Hasn't shown much as a receiver, and looks like he's an interior runner. Has a tall frame which causes him to run upright some.
NFL Forecast: There are questions if Brown will be much more than a complementary back in the pros because of his speed, or lack thereof. Brown has enough speed and should be good, but it's questionable how good he can be. For certain teams, he will be a solid addition as they like the big bruiser types to pound away at defenses. But Brown is not a threat to break any long runs and with his tall frame he's going to take a lot of hits and break down much like Eddie George. If limited early, Brown should have a long career in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Ron Dayne, Giants.
Value: He should be a competent feature back, but it's still unknown if he'll be more than above average.


FOURTH ROUND


Quentin Griffin

5'7" 195 Oklahoma (4.43) Senior

Pros: Shows nice running skills, with good combination of speed and power for a player his size. Has excellent hands.
Cons: Lacks great breakaway speed and lacks size.
NFL Forecast: Griffin will find it hard to make a big impact on the NFL. He's a solid runner, but his size and durability is questionable. He shows he is strong enough to carry 15-20 times a game, but may not be to carry consistently more than that. Because of his skills as a receiver, he will get first crack to make an impact on third downs and he should excel there. As time passes, he should get more opportunities in the feature role.
NFL Comparison: Garrison Hearst, 49ers.
Value: Must be looked upon now as an excellent third down runner with some upside.

LaBrandon Toefield

5'11" 228 LSU (4.56) Junior

Pros: Shows good power as a runner and shows a knack for running between the tackles.
Cons: Lacks breakaway speed and ability to get outside.
NFL Forecast: Toefield is not going to break many long runs nor is he going to break too many tackles. He has good power, but is a "three yards and a cloud of dust"-type. A good guy for offenses who want to pound the football on a consistent basis and want to control the clock. But he's not the type that you want when you are down or need some longer runs.
NFL Comparison: Lamar Smith, Panthers.
Value: It's questionable if he'll be a feature or complementary back, so he can't be a first day selection.

Avon Cobourne

5'8" 205 West Virginia (4.7) Senior

Pros: Good speed and hands as a receiver. Has good power for a player his size.
Cons: Questionable durability and size. Doesn't have great speed for a player his size, and doesn't have that burning breakaway ability.
NFL Forecast: Cobourne is a lesser version of Zereoue since he lacks his speed. But Cobourne should be a solid pro, just like his former Mountaineer counterpart. But because he is not a burner and lacks size, it will be difficult for him to get opportunities in the NFL. He does not excel anywhere, but just is a solid runner. And because of this, it may be hard for him to become a feature back.
NFL Comparison: Amos Zereoue, Steelers.
Value: Cobourne's best area seems to be receiving, so he will be viewed as a third down runner by most. He is worthy of a fourth round pick.

B.J. Askew

6'2" 241 Michigan () Senior

Pros: Is a big powerful runner with good speed. Can also play fullback. Solid receiver.
Cons: Runs a bit upright. Blocking skills are just average to be a NFL fullback.
NFL Forecast: I think Askew is somewhat of a tweener at running back and fullback. I think he could potentially be a solid workhorse running back. Some teams might peg him as a fullback, in the hopes they can turn him into a runner much like a Mike Alstott. He has a long ways to improve as a blocker before he can become a true fullback, and in the mean time might serve as a short-yardage guy until he grows in that area much like the Packers are doing with Najeh Davenport.
NFL Comparison: Eddie George, Titans.
Value: I think as a fullback, he is only worth a sixth round pick, but for a team that is looking for a runner rather than blocker, then he merits a fourth round selection.


FIFTH ROUND


Dahrran Diedrick

6' 228 Nebraska (4.63) Senior

Pros: Has good combo of size, speed, and acceleration.
Cons: Lacks vision as a runner and not a threat to break long runs.
NFL Forecast: Could have a productive pro career much like former Cornhusker Ahman Green. Plays the I-back position in Nebraska's offense, which has produced some solid players that usually translate well to the league. Should be a solid feature back, and does not look like he will function particularly well in offense that don't use a lot of I formations.
NFL Comparison: Ahman Green, Packers.
Value: Based on his lineage, it would not be a stretch to nab him in the fourth round, but he is limited somewhat as a runner.

Earnest Graham

5'9" 225 Florida () Senior

Pros: Graham is a complete runner. He can run, catch, and block. Despite his lack of size, packs some power as a runner. His hands are good and he knows the passing game well from his career at Florida. He blocks well, and can even block downfield for receivers. He hits the hole well and has good vision.
Cons: Does not have breakaway speed. He has some power, but not a lot. He should be more elusive for his size, but runs north to south. He's not going to run away from anybody.
NFL Forecast: Graham is very similar to Emmitt Smith when he entered the league. Graham probably won't be as good a pro as Smith, but should be good. With a good line, he'll be productive. Without one, he won't be more than an above average backup. At the least, he has a very bright future as a third down back. He was a good back at Florida due to the aid of the system, but won't be a good NFL starter unless he plays in a similar scheme.
NFL Comparison: Emmitt Smith, Cardinals.
Value: Graham is probably one of the more NFL ready runners, but he is not that talented.

Sultan McCullough

5'11" 202 Southern California (4.31) Senior

Pros: Great speed, fastest runner in the class. A lot of agility, elusiveness, and acceleration to make the big plays.
Cons: Not looking like a great pass catcher and lacks size and durability to be much more than a change of pace runner.
NFL Forecast: McCullough basically is just a change of pace guy. He has great speed, but does not have power to be more than a situational guy. He will go down on the first hit. Needs to improve as a pass catcher also if he wants more opportunities in the NFL, since backups must be able to catch the ball.
NFL Comparison: Warrick Dunn, Falcons.
Value: Great speed makes him almost worth a fourth rounder, but then you see his limitations and it drops him a round.

Malaefou Mackenzie

5'10" 233 Southern California (4.48) Senior

Pros: Good power, size, and decent speed as a runner. Should be good in between the tackles. Could develop as a fullback. Has good hands.
Cons: Lacks breakaway speed and wiggle. Has lots of room to improve as a blocker.
NFL Forecast: Mackenzie should be a good short-yardage guy, but I don't think he'll ever be a feature guy. He has good skills to be a solid backup. Unless a team prefers the "three yards and a cloud of dust" approach to their running game, then he won't be very effective in the feature role. If he does make the switch to fullback, then he will probably not be a starter, but fill a reserve role.
NFL Comparison: Zack Crockett, Raiders.
Value: If a team is looking for a short-yardage guy strictly, then it would not be a reach to get him in the late fourth. But otherwise he is a decent late fifth round candidate.


SIXTH ROUND


Nick Maddox

5'11" 211 Florida State (4.65) Senior

Pros: Good speed and wiggle ability. Will make tacklers miss. Has nice acceleration and decent vision. Is a solid receiver.
Cons: Really lacks the skills to be a feature back. Not a great runner.
NFL Forecast: Maddox should be a good third down back and have a successful career catching passes and running between 5-10 times a game. He could be a top backup or just an average one, depending on if a team is willing to use him. He is basically a lesser version of ex-Seminole Travis Minor.
NFL Comparison: Travis Minor, Dolphins.
Value: Sixth rounder because he is a reserve and nothing more, although I wouldn't be a reach if he went in the late fifth.

Cecil Sapp

5'11" 228 Colorado State (4.54) Senior

Pros: Shows good ability as an inside runner and has nice combination of speed and power.
Cons: Dances a bit too much in the backfield, and is more of a north-south runner.
NFL Forecast: Sapp probably won't ever be a feature back, but he should be able to contribute as a situational guy off the bench. Should be a good short-yardage back in the league. He could become a feature guy, but it will probably be because the talent around him is good enough to support him.
NFL Comparison: Robert Holcombe, Titans.
Value: Has good upside, but is too limited to be selected higher than the sixth round.


SEVENTH ROUND


Brock Forsey

5'11" 200 Boise State (4.69) Senior

Pros: Has great combination of speed, agility, and power for a player his size. Has solid hands and is a solid kickoff returner.
Cons: His durability to carry a load is questionable, and he is neither lightning fast or overly elusive. Lacks upside.
NFL Forecast: Forsey should have a bright future as a backup in the NFL. He does have some ability to start, but I feel won't unless he plays in the right system, and unfortunately for him there are few systems designed for a player of his abilities to excel. Was very productive in college, and should be the same in the NFL, although only as a reserve.
NFL Comparison: James Allen, ex-Texan.
Value: Forsey is definitely good enough to be drafted, but will have to be a late round pick because he only addresses depth, and does not present much prospects as a feature guy.


UNDRAFTED


Kevin Galbreath

5'9" 195 North Texas (4.62) Senior

Pros: Has good speed and acceleration. Has nice vision and hits holes quickly. Shows nice power for a player his size and can be dangerous in the open field.
Cons: Lacks agility and is more of a north-south runner than many of the players his size. Does not have much experience in the passing game, and will have to prove himself there.
NFL Outlook: Most scouts will see that Galbreath is not a feature back because of his lack of size. Will have to prove himself in the passing game in order to get shots. But he has nice potential, just will need to do the right thing at the right time in order to stick. Probably won't be a starter, but could be an excellent reserve if anything.
Value: Galbreath projects to the bench in the NFL, which automatically puts him in the latter rounds of the draft. If Galbreath was a better receiver, he might even get a seventh round grade from me.

Tarence Williams

5'10" 180 Wake Forest (4.50) Senior

Pros: Has good speed, agility, and acceleration to hit the hole.
Cons: Not a gifted runner. Lacks size, power, and durability to be more than part-time player. Questionable receiving skills.
NFL Forecast: Williams could do well as a backup in the pros, but his lack of size will scare most teams off. He shows enough ability to be a competent reserve, although he does not excel in any area. Has only two receptions to his name as a collegiate player, so he will need to prove himself there to have any shot at the pros. I really see him making it in Canada.
NFL Comparison: Derrick Blaylock, Chiefs.
Value: Williams probably is a good enough runner to get late seventh round attention, but is too limited to have a pick spent on him.

DeMarco McCleskey

5'10" 212 Cincinnati (4.62) Senior

Pros: Best feature are his abilities as a receiver. Can be a threat once he gets into the open field.
Cons: Very patient runner that lets play develop ahead of him. Does not have good accelearation or top speed. Lacks power for a player his size.
NFL Forecast: McCleskey will have to strike it as a third down back, because he lacks the skills to be more than an occasional runner in the NFL. But he's not a great receiver anyway. He looks like he'll have to make it in a league outside the NFL.
Value: He's undrafted because he brings little to the table.

Fred Talley

5'9" 188 Arkansas (4.40) Senior

Pros: Has good speed and can make plays in the open field with his agility. Has good enough hands to contribute in the passing game.
Cons: Lacks vision and power as a runner. Will dance a bit in the backfield. Only really effective on screens and draws. Does not have a lot of experience as a pass catcher.
NFL Forecast: Talley doesn't have much NFL upside since he is really just a draw/screen guy. He could have a somewhat very limited role ina n offense. But I see Talley making his shot in the NFL on returns because of his speed and ability in the open field. But lacks a lot of experience there since he was only a part-time returner at Arkansas. I see him potentially having an impact on the CFL or Arena Leagues, but not the pros.
NFL Comparison: Dante Hall, Chiefs.
Value: Talley is a project, and could make an impact in the league on returns, but very unlikely to do anything in the NFL otherwise.


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