2012 NFL Draft Rankings: Running Backs
This running back class is sits roughly at the median between strong and weak in this year’s NFL draft. It’s strong at the top, has a bit of depth, and there will be a grab bag of players in the later rounds with no special projection. What’s left beyond the third round essentially amounts to personal favoritism, and fits nicely with the concept that most RBs in this league are freely replaceable — and that this is alright.
1. Trent Richardson, Alabama, Top five grade
I think its pretty safe to say now that Mark Ingram was overdrafted. The year he won the Heisman, I argued that the award should instead go to Toby Gerhart. The truth is: Ingram wasn’t the best RB playing for Alabama. Freshman Trent Richardson was.
2. David Wilson, Virginia Tech, mid-first round grade
David Wilson has separated himself from the pack, in my opinion, because he demonstrated very smooth receiving skills. He’s also a powerful runner with elusiveness, which is critical to get a first round grade in this day/age as a running back.
3. Doug Martin, Boise State, second round grade
4. LaMichael James, Oregon, second round grade
5. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati, third round grade
6. Lamar Miller, Miami (FL), third round grade
The most critical skill for a running back in the modern game is the ability to make the first guy miss. Those top three guys can do that. I still have questions about Lamar Miller. If he has the wiggle to consistently make one guy miss, he’s the third best back in this class, ahead of Doug Martin. But with unanswered questions about his elusiveness, he slips below Isaiah Pead and LaMichael James.
7. Bernard Pierce, Temple, third round grade
8. Chris Polk, Washington, third round grade
9. Robert Turbin, Utah State, fourth round grade
Chris Polk might be the best receiving back in the class, maybe even better than David Wilson and Trent Richardson. And if Pierce could beat his injury issues, he offers top-of-the-second round type running skills in a mid to late third round pick. But Turbin comes from Utah State’s rare senior class, and after Bobby Wagner is drafted, Turbin is the best (and certainly not the last) piece of that Aggie bunch.
10. Terrence Ganaway, Baylor, fifth round grade
11. Evan Rodriguez (FB), Temple, fifth round grade
12. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M, fifth round grade
13. Tauren Poole, Tennessee, fifth round grade
14. Dan “Boom” Herron, fifth round grade
15. Michael Smith, Utah State, fifth round grade
16. Edwin Baker, Michigan State, sixth round grade
17. Rhett Ellison (FB), USC, sixth round grade
The talent of this class goes about 17 deep in my estimation, which counts two fullbacks and tight ends, and features another Utah State player, Michael Smith. I think Boom Herron might be the guy who we look back at in two or three years as underdrafted out of this class.
18. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State, sixth round grade
19. Brandon Boldin, Mississippi, sixth round grade
20. Bryce Brown, Kansas State, sixth round grade
21. Chris Rainey, Florida, sixth round grade
22. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State, seventh round grade
23. Bradie Ewing (FB), Wisconsin, seventh round grade
My personal evaluation of Ronnie Hillman is that he’s small and doesn’t run away from people, but if you can make the first tackler miss you always have a chance. Chris Rainey can run away from people, but he gets tackled too easily.
24. Chad Diehl (FB), Clemson, seventh round grade
25. Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky, Priority UDFA
26. Jeff Demps, Florida, Priority UDFA
27. Jewel Hampton, Southern Illinois, Priority UDFA
28. Fozzy Whittaker, Texas, Priority UDFA
29. Emil Igwenagu (FB), Massachusetts, Priority UDFA
30. Darrell Scott, South Florida, UDFA
31. Marc Tyler, USC, UDFA
32. Devon Ramsay (FB), North Carolina, UDFA
33. Daryl Richardson, Abilene Christian, UDFA
34. Adonis Thomas, Toledo, UDFA
35. Jason Ford, Illinois, UDFA
36. Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech, UDFA
37. Davin Meggett, Maryland, UDFA