NFL Draft: Running Backs

March 12th, 2010

Soon to be a Buccaneer?

It’s time to belly up the the computer with a tray of the best wings in the Tampa Bay area and settle in for a draft education.

NFL Draft guru Justin Pawlowski, of WDAE-AM 620, continues his position breakdowns today taking on the running backs class. Last week, he got the position ball rolling with offensive linemen.

In this 2,000-word draft orgasm, Pawlowski details positives and negatives on each player and his potential impact on the Bucs’ roster, plus each potential draft pick is ranked and compared to a current NFL player.

Where else can you get such a written breakdown?

Enjoy. {+++} 

Running Backs

1. CJ Spiller – RB – Clemson
5’10’’ –196 lbs – 4.37
Top 15 pick

Why I’m taking him: Spiller’s one of the most dynamic players and the most dynamic running back in this draft.  He possesses elite speed, making him a threat every time he touches the ball.  He’s incredibly fluid catching the ball out of the backfield and looks like a receiver at times.  Spiller is a shifty running back, but always seems to be moving up the field.  The addition of his ability to return kicks and punts just makes him more valuable.

Why I’m staying away: There isn’t much to dislike about Spiller.  My main concern with Spiller is his size and whether he can carry a full load in the NFL.  There are times where he looks for contact rather than avoiding the big hit. 

Impact on the Bucs roster: Well, I think the Bucs would have major balls to take Spiller with the 3rd pick.  The only way Spiller makes it in a Bucs uniform is if the Bucs trade back from the 3rd pick or back into the 1st round with their latter picks. Running back isn’t the biggest need for the Bucs, and they shouldn’t be looking that direction in the 1st round, but Spiller is the type of player that can make your entire offense look better.

NFL Comparison:   Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans

2.Ryan Matthews – RB – Fresno St
5’11’’ – 218 lbs – 4.45
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: Matthews’ stock rises with each day that passes.  Unlike Spiller, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Matthews is an every down back.  He can pound it between the tackles while still possessing breakaway speed.  When I watch Matthews run, I love his forward lean which always seems to allow him to pick up an extra yard or two.  Matthews is the most balanced every down back in this draft.

Why I’m staying away: While he is the most balanced back in this draft, he isn’t elite to me.  He isn’t overly shifty and doesn’t create a lot on his own.  Matthews is also not much of a receiver out of the backfield.

Impact on the Bucs roster: I’m not certain that Matthews would be the best fit for the Bucs as high as he is going to go in the draft.  Matthews is a solid every down back, but with Carnell Williams, Derrick Ward, and Earnest Graham already fitting that mold, it really doesn’t make sense to add another of the same type of back.

NFL Comparison:   Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys

3. Jahvid Best – RB – Cal
5’10’’ – 199 lbs – 4.35
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: Best is a burner.  His speed is elite, and he has the vision to go with it.  While watching film, Best is a nightmare when matched up with a linebacker.  He has excellent hands and, at times, looks like a receiver running routes.  He isn’t the shiftiest of backs, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Best seems to know when to make one cut and get up the field.

Why I’m staying away: Durability is my major concern with Best.  He suffered a horrific concussion in 2009 against Oregon St.  There is also numerous times where I saw him taking big hits when he could have avoided them.  Sure, it does show toughness, but we aren’t talking about a 230 lb back.  Best will be best as a complement with a power back.

Impact on the Bucs roster: This would be intriguing, wouldn’t it?  There the Bucs sit with their 2nd 2nd round pick and Best is on the board.  Most of us would say no because of the amount of needs elsewhere, but we’ve seen the Bucs do crazier things than draft Best in round 2.  I am, by no means, predicting that the Bucs will be drafting Best, but he would add a dimension to their offense that they haven’t had since Carnell Williams’ first 3 games of his career.  Hell, was that the last time the Bucs had a run longer than 20 yards?  Just kidding, or am I?

NFL Comparison:   Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints

4. Montario Hardesty – RB – Tennessee
5’11’’ – 225 lbs – 4.49
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: Here is another back gaining steam.  Hardesty is another balanced back who could carry the load in the NFL.  He has good size and catches the ball well out of the backfield.  I really like Hardesty’s cut-back ability.  He makes one cut and goes.  There is no dancing.  He also has the speed to break long runs.  Hardesty is one of the more underrated backs now, but could find himself as a solid 2nd round pick once the draft is here.

Why I’m staying away: I don’t see a “wow” factor with Hardesty.  Not once, when I watched his film did I rewind a play because of how impressive it was.  Hardesty also runs a tad bit upright which will make him susceptible to hits to his mid section.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Hardesty is another back that matches the backs the Bucs already have.  It just wouldn’t make much sense to me if the Bucs draft a running back like this.  If a back is taken by the Bucs, I’d imagine they’d go with a shiftier back like Best or McKnight, or a power back like a couple below.

NFL Comparison:   Matt Forte – Tulane

5. Jonathon Dwyer – RB – Georgia Tech
5’11’’ – 229 lbs – 4.68
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: Dwyer’s my workhorse, who I know can carry the ball 20+ times a game.  He’s proven to be pretty durable and shows great vision when running between the tackles.

Why I’m staying away: This could get long.  Dwyer had one of the worst combines of any running back.  He lacks speed, and struggles both receiving and blocking.  Coming from an option offense, Dwyer was never asked to do much receiving or blocking which has led to his struggles with those aspects of his game.

Impact on the Bucs: Dwyer will also go too early for the Bucs to consider.  Like it or not, the Bucs still run a version of Jon Gruden’s offense which asks it’s running backs to do a little more than just run the ball up the middle.

NFL Comparison: Shonn Greene – New York Jets

6. Toby Gerhart – RB – Stanford
5’11’’ – 231 lbs – 4.55
3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: First thing to like about Gerhart is his toughness.  He generates power and gets tough yards between the tackles.  Gerhart also has a nose for the endzone demonstrated by his 43 TDs the past 2 seasons.  He has very good vision and surprising speed for someone his size.

Why I’m staying away: Gerhart was a workhorse in college and with that comes a lot of mileage of those tires.  He has had some durability issues already as well.  He isn’t much of a receiver out of the backfield and looks clumsy in routes.  Gerhart also runs very upright like Eddie George making him susceptible to big hits.

Impact on the Bucs: Let’s set the record straight here.  Other than Gerhart and Alstott both being white, I really don’t see many similarities when I watch their film.  Alstott always played low to the ground, while Gerhart plays tall.  Alstott was an excellent receiver, while Gerhart struggles at receiving.  Alstott has shorter legs and a longer torso, while Gerhart is the opposite.  Please do all of us a favor, and stop comparing Gerhart to Alstott just because he’s a white running back.  By the way, I wouldn’t take Gerhart if I’m the Bucs.

NFL Comparison:   Eddie George – Tennessee Titans

7. Joe McKnight – RB – USC
5’11’’ – 198 lbs – 4.47
3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: I’m taking McKnight because of the excitement factor every time he touches the ball.  He has excellent vision and great agility to wiggle past defenders.  He’s a big threat as a receiver, and also has added value as a returner.  One thing I really like about McKnight is that he doesn’t waste any cuts.  Every move he makes is for a reason.

Why I’m staying away: McKnight is not an every down back, and probably not even a primary back.  He would be great as a complement to a more balanced back.  He also is not much of a blocker.

Impact on the Bucs: Depending on what round he goes in, I’m not gonna piss and moan if the Bucs were to draft McKnight at the top of round 4.  McKnight would bring a change of pace to the Bucs backfield and some excitement to the offense.  I wouldn’t draft him higher than that though.  The problem is that I think he could go a tad earlier than that.

NFL Comparison:   Leon Washington – New York Jets

8. LeGarrette Blount – RB – Oregon
6’ – 241 lbs – 4.73
4th Round

Why I’m taking him: I love Blount’s toughness and physical nature when he carries the ball.  He is a true power back who lives by running north and south at all times.  He’s the type of back that will run right through a defender.  Blount also brings a swagger and attitude to an offense.

Why I’m staying away: Character issues and lack of elite speed are Blount’s downfalls.  After being suspended for most of 2009 after punching a Boise St player, Blount’s stock immediately fell.  He did work his way back on the field at the end of the year though.  Also, with that lack of speed, you won’t see Blount breaking off many 60 yard runs.

Impact on the Bucs: I have to admit that I like Blount.  I do not condone what he did after the Boise St game, but I love the attitude he brings to the field.  As a late round pick, I’d take a flier on him.  The Bucs running backs seem to lack the killer instinct that Blount possesses.  Hell, the entire Bucs team lacks that!

NFL Comparison:   LenDale White – Tennessee Titans

9. Ben Tate – RB – Auburn
5’11’’ – 220 lbs – 4.43
4th Round

Why I’m taking him: Not many backs have had as good an offseason as Tate has had.  He has tested very well and has his stock fluctuating right now.  I really like the combination of Tate’s size and speed.  He can bust it between the tackles while still being able to break long runs. 

Why I’m staying away: I view Tate as a solid reliable back, but not elite by any means.  Tate is the type of back a team can use until they find a better more talented back.

Impact on the Bucs: I’m not on the edge of my seat hoping the Bucs draft Ben Tate in April.  Once we get into the late 4th and into the 5th round, I don’t think anyone can pound there fist and say that any pick is the wrong pick.  As a matter of fact, that’s about the point where I see Tate going in the draft.

NFL Comparison:   Rudi Johnson – Cincinnati Bengals (in his prime)

 10.  Anthony Dixon– RB – Mississippi St
6’1’’ – 233 lbs – 4.66
5th Round

Why I’m taking him: As a 4 year starter at Mississippi St, Dixon has a ton of valuable experience in the top conference in college football.  He is a big power back who has just enough wiggle to get through a hole.  He also does a very good job in blocking.  Dixon is tough and has proven to play through injuries.
Why I’m staying away: My main concern with Dixon is his fluctuating weight and the fact that coaches wanted to try him at full back at the senior bowl.  Also, being a 4 year starter, how much mileage are on those tires?

Impact on the Bucs: I see Dixon as a later round pick, and if that’s the case, I’d have no problem with the Bucs drafting him.  Last year, I said I’d take Rashad Jennings in the 3rd or 4th round.  He was also a power back.  Jennings got selected in the 7th round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.  It was just recently reported that the Jaguars were extremely pleased with Jennings and that he’ll be their back up to Maurice Jones-Drew next year.  I see similarities between Dixon and Jennings.

NFL Comparison:   Jamal Lewis – Cleveland Browns (formerly)

12 Responses to “NFL Draft: Running Backs”

  1. Rob Says:

    I can’t believe you want money for your infantile coverage.

    Goodbye forever.

  2. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Rob – Hate to break it to you, but the subscription draft coverage is quite intelligent and comprehensive.

  3. justin F Says:

    im a lifelong bucs fan but the bucs are so cheap right now and hardly ever make any moves and always blow it in the draft why would anyone in this economy pay anything extra for bucs news

  4. Lester Says:

    We fantasy geeks like to know everything. Enjoyed the combine preview, mock drafts and the agent interview particulerly

  5. airick38 Says:

    I agree with you about Blount. This kid would’ve been a 2nd rounder if not for the Boise St. game. Yeah he has some character issues, but there are several players like that currently on the Bucs roster. Obviously the Bucs would have to cut a RB but I think Blount, like you said would bring a toughness that few on this team have. I wouldn’t mind if the Bucs use their 4th rounder on him.

    And don’t worry about Rob. I am very pleased with your coverage on the draft and with 5 weeks until the draft I’m sure the best is yet to come.

  6. Joe Says:


    Thanks for the kind words. Joe appreciates them.

    Joe is also sure Justin appreciates them as well. Thanks for your support.

  7. zeta Says:

    Some people will complain about what they haven’t even seen. Typical Bucs fan. To be objective, I’d give the draft subscription so far a B+. It’s much better than I thought it would be but I don’t get a boner every time. I know there’s many weeks to go thogu

  8. Joe Says:


    Joe is humbled. Thank you. Joe is sure Justin is equally impressed.

    When Joe launched this very site some two years ago, his core tenant was to inform and entertain.


    As for your lack of, ahem, excitement, Joe reached out to Rachel Watson to participate in Joe’s draft coverage. Sadly, as usual, she resisted Joe’s advances.

  9. sunrisejeff Says:

    Got to say I just signed up for the draft coverage and for $10 this really can’t be beat. Nice breakdowns and I look forward to reading more as the draft gets closer.

  10. Joe Says:


    Thanks a bunch for the compliments. Glad you are enjoying the coverage.

  11. Joe Says:

    Re: Justin’s wife:

    Justin outkicked his coverage.

  12. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    4 to 5 hours a day??

    Well that beats the hell out of Dumbinik’s 5 minutes a day ….