The Dolphins are in the running back market - this we all know. Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and Patrick Cobbs are all free agents. There's a good chance none of the three will return to Miami. And with no beginning in sight to free agency. it's essentially a guarantee that the Dolphins will draft at least one running back in next week's draft.
So as I did last week for the quarterback position, I wanted to share with you how I would rank the available running backs in the draft. Below is my running back draft board.
2011 NFL DRAFT RANKINGS: RUNNING BACKS
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama
Like all of you, I've read all of the reports about Ingram's stock falling. I've heard about the knee concerns. I've heard how he lacks top-end speed. But I've also watched him play and there isn't a back in this draft as instinctive as Ingram is. He's got a great initial burst as well. The question about Ingram, though, is if he's that much better than the other backs in the draft to warrant being picked in the mid to late first. I say no.
2. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
If you want to know which back I would target in the late first or early second, Leshoure would be the guy. I think he presents more upside than Ingram. He's got an outstanding combination of speed and power. He's got low to mid 4.5 speed, which is good enough for a 230 pound back. He can make defenders miss and is more durable with less wear on his body than Ingram.
3. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
Though he's only 5'7, Hunter can indeed be a workhorse back. He's got a build similar to Maurice Jones-Drew, tipping the scales at 200 pounds. He can elude defenders and has more speed than either of the two backs ranked ahead of him (was timed in low to mid 4.4s by many at the Combine). He's also a very good receiver out of the backfield and a willing blocker when asked to pick up the blitz. He's likely a kid that will out perform his draft position.
4. Jordan Todman, UCONN
I despite everything about UCONN. So it should tell you a lot about how I feel about Todman that I have him ranked so high. He's a kid with great speed (4.40 at the Combine). He's quick and will make defenders miss. He runs between the tackles and can get to the corner. And many scouts consider Todman a superior talent to former UCONN back Donald Brown, who was a first round pick.
5. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
I like his vision and instincts. I think he runs with good power and can break tackles. But I worry about his ability to outrun defenders at the next level and his durability. He had an immensely productive 2009 season but was slowed by nagging injuries in 2010. Will this be a trend as he gets more tread on his tires?
Best of the rest...
6. Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington - He's flying up draft boards after running his 40 in the low 4.3s at his Pro Day. He was a very productive kid at Eastern Washington, running for nearly 3,000 yards in two years to go with over 900 receiving yards. He does run upright, though, which is a concern. He could be a poor man's Darren McFadden, which would be a solid mid-round pick by some team.
7. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma - Good speed. Extremely versatile. But has a running style that could result in an injury-plagued career. A boom or bust kind of player, in my opinion.
8. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State - He's quick and can make defenders miss as well as anyone. But at 5'5, 196 and a timed 40 of just 4.64 at the Combine, I worry about his upside at the next level.
9. Delone Carter, Syracuse - Carter has a good combination of power and speed. He's got good vision and I think he's being undervalued by many in the draft process.
10. Shane Vereen, Cal - Vereen is an explosive back who can also be an asset as a receiver and possibly as a returner. Probably not an every down back - but a kid who will definitely find a role on some team as a change of pace kind of back.