By: Matt Bove
The 2013 NFL Draft running back class is one of the weakest positions in the draft this season. The only running back I have a first round grade on is Alabama's Eddie Lacy and even he isn't guaranteed to be selected in round one. It seems as the thought that as the NFL has evolved into the passing league that it has become, that all the best athletes are playing wide receiver and cornerback. This was evident at the NFL Combine, as only Knile Davis and Onterio McCalebb ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash and neither are big time prospects. The Packers do have a need at running back, so they will certainly be scouting this position hard.
1. Eddie Lacy- Alabama
Weight: 223 lbs
I normally would not be an advocate of the Packers selecting a running back in round one with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but I would certainly be on board if the Packers selected Lacy with the 26th overall pick in the draft. Lacy would bring the physicality that the Packers have been lacking at running back for awhile now. Lacy is a great between the tackles runner and would solve a lot of Green Bay's 3rd-and-short woes. Lacy is certainly not one of the more elusive running backs you will ever see, but he is a bull running through tackles and has enough elusiveness to get by with that. His one trademark elusive move is his spin move, which he made tacklers in college look foolish on. Lacy will always fall forward and has great balance. He put on an absolute show on the biggest stage in the National Championship game and averaged a stellar 6.8 yards per carry for Alabama last season. Also, what I like about him is that he has only 355 career carries in college, while a lot of the other running backs in this draft were way overworked in college.
2. Giovanni Bernard- North Carolina
Weight: 199 lbs
Bernard ran for 1,228 yards and 6.7 YPC at North Carolina last season. With his size, the obvious question is how effective Bernard can be in between the tackles. With that size comes durability issues, as Bernard missed two games for North Carolina last season. Bernard was great out of the backfield for the Tar Heels, as he caught 92 passes in the last two seasons for them. He lacks the breakaway speed you would like for a running back of his size, but he combines good vision with great elusiveness. The video shows that Bernard is good at setting up his runs and finds his holes to run through with great patience. Just a very natural and smooth runner.
3. Jonathan Franklin- UCLA
Weight: 201 lbs
Franklin set a single season UCLA record last season by running for 1,734 yards. Franklin's foot speed and amazing acceleration immediately jumps out on video. Franklin is lethal on the edge turning up the sideline and away from defenders. He will have huge big play potential at the next level .Franklin's cutting ability is excellent and he does not lose much speed while cutting. His cutting is the key to his tackle breaking because he won't be running many people over at his size. Also, Franklin gets to the line and through the holes very quickly. His biggest issues are fumbles, pass protection and his lack of bulk.
4. Andre Ellington- Clemson
Weight: 197 lbs
Similar to Franklin, Ellington has excellent acceleration on the edge. He only ran a 4.61 at the NFL Combine, but he plays much faster than that. For his size, Ellington is adept at working between the tackles and squeezing through holes. Also for his size, Ellington will not back down and he will be very physical. He had a few great runs where he kept his balance after contact. Given how hard Ellington runs and his size, durability is a question. Also, he needs to improve his patience in allowing blocks to develop.
5. Christine Michael- Texas A&M
Weight: 220 lbs
Michael has great upside but attitude and off the field issues will hurt his draft stock. He overslept and missed some of his team meetings at the NFL Combine. Also, he was in the doghouse his senior season at Texas A&M. On the field, Michael is very quick to the hole and possess excellent vision. Also, he has a great combination of elusiveness and power. He was able to break arm tackles with great balance and he flashed a nice spin move and stiff arm. Michael comes with some risk, but he could end up being a steal.
6. Mike Gillisee- Florida
Gillislee is a sleeper for me, as most draftniks do not have rated this high, but he really stands out watching him. Gillisee carried Florida's offense last season with little talent surrounding him. He showed great vision, some ability to make people miss in the open field and great breakaway speed. He has a quick burst through the hole and can make a lot out of only a small hole. Along with his elusiveness, Gillilsee welcomes contact and does not back down. He does not finish off his runs great at the end and sometimes looks for the home run too much.
7. Montee Ball- Wisconsin
Weight: 215 lbs
Lots of Packers fans are familiar with Ball because of his stellar career at Wisconsin. Ball won't be as successful at the next level, but he should still be solid. He has great size and bulk and uses that strength to fight off tacklers. Ball sets up his blocks well, as he is is very solid in between the tackles. He lacks explosive lateral moves, which will be the reason why he will not be a special NFL running back. Another problem is that he had is that Ball stayed for his senior year at Wisconsin and they rode him hard. He may have too much tread on his tires already to have a very long career.
8. Joseph Randle- Oklahoma St.
Weight: 200 lbs
Randle was very productive at Oklahoma St., but I am not as high on him as a lot of people. A lot of his success was due to the spread offense of Oklahoma St. and he had some huge holes to run through. Also, Randle can run too high at times, is stiff and is not a very natural runner. He is very good at finishing carries with power and falling forward. Randle does have solid speed to turn the corner with, but he loses to many one on one battles. He is very productive as a pass catcher due to the offense he played in.
9. Marcus Lattimore- South Carolina
At this point, I would rather take the risk on Lattimore rather than guys like Stepfan Taylor and Le'Veon Bell, who I don't see a lot of upside for. I wouldn't risk taking Lattimore before the fourth round, but anywhere after he is not a bad risk to take. Lattimore had a gruesome knee injury last season and tore several ligaments. However, it is being reported that he is making a good recovery. When healthy, Lattimore is built like a truck and is a true beast running the football. His physical running style has to due with the injuries Lattimore has had, as he often times is the one delivering blows on defenders. He does must of his damage between the tackles and does not turn the corner much. Lattimore has a nice combo of unexpected foot quickness, cuts and acceleration.
10. Cierre Wood- Notre Dame
Wood is another sleeper for me. I watched every Notre Dame game last season, which has something to do with it, but I really like this kid's potential even though I thought he should have stayed in school another year. Wood shared carries with Theo Riddick at Notre Dame, but I think Wood has more talent and will be better suited for the NFL. He averaged a stellar 6.7 YPC for the Irish in 2012. Wood is a very natural runner and is laterally very elusive with quick feet. He used those quick feet to make sharp steps and side step oncoming tacklers. Also, Wood is very patient in waiting for holes to develop. He is one of my favorite values in this draft.