Josh Katzenstein's top 10 running backs in NFL draft
Go through the gallery for Josh Katzenstein's top 10 running backs in the NFL draft.
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1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: Gordon was a joy to watch in college because he was a home-run threat each time he touched the ball. He plays with great balance and vision, and if he sees a hole, he accelerates through it and quickly reaches top speed. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he’s big enough to take hits in the NFL. If he improves as a receiver, the Jamaal Charles comparisons will be valid.
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2. Todd Gurley, Georgia: The margin between Gurley and Gordon is small, but Gurley should be a first-round pick, even after tearing his ACL in November. Gurley proved in college he could be an all-around player with some ability as a receiver and kick returner. He’s 6-foot-1, 222 pounds and runs with both power and speed. If he stays healthy, he’ll be one of the top backs in the NFL.
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3. Jay Ajayi, Boise State: There’s a good chance Ajayi will be this year’s Le’Veon Bell or Jeremy Hill, a first-round quality player who fell to the second because of his position. The 6-foot, 221-pound Ajayi can do everything NFL teams want from a back. He can run inside and outside, catch the ball and block. His footwork and physicality are tough to match in this class, but his seven fumbles last year are a negative.
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4. Tevin Coleman, Indiana: If speed is the desire, Coleman could be a top target. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound prospect ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, and he’s a flat-out burner on tape. He also has experience returning kickoffs. As much of a threat as Coleman is, he doesn’t do much to dodge or break tacklers, and he isn’t as proven as a receiver.
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5. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Abdullah has ridiculous burst and quickness, both as a runner and returner. He also plays strong and breaks tackles despite his size, and he has return experience. His long speed doesn’t match his quickness as his 4.53-second 40-yard dash was actually an improvement from his combine time. The biggest issue is his 23 fumbles in college.
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6. Duke Johnson, Miami: The 5-foot-9, 207-pound Johnson is yet another explosive player who is proven as a runner, receiver and returner. He’s not nearly as polished as an inside runner as other prospects and struggles in pass protection. He also doesn’t make the big play every time it’s there. He ran a 4.5-second 40 at his pro day and should be a Day 2 pick.
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7. David Cobb, Minnesota: The 5-foot-10, 229-pound Cobb is a bigger back who always plays physically. With a 4.81-second 40-yard dash at the combine, he lacks ideal long speed, but he doesn’t need it as often as he pushes piles forward. He has good balance and can break tackles. He’s unproven as a receiver, but could still be a third- or fourth-round pick.
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8. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State: Few players helped themselves at the combine as much as Langford, as his 4.42-second 40-yard dash makes it easier to overlook some other flaws in his game. The 6-foot, 208-pound Langford was highly productive, but didn’t have much success running physically. As a former receiver and a solid blocker, though, Langford could develop into a three-down option.
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9. Javorius "Buck" Allen, USC: Allen doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of some of the other top backs, but he fits what most NFL teams look for at the position. At 6-foot, 221-pounds, he can run with power and burst, and he had 41 catches for 458 yards in 2014. He had some drops and needs to improve his vision, but he could slip into Round 3 or go early Day 3.
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10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Yeldon can do everything NFL teams want, but he doesn’t excel in one particular area. Derrick Henry established himself as the better back for the Crimson Tide last year. Yeldon has some burst and can avoid tackles, but doesn’t play as big as his size.
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