All Things Running Backs

March 23rd, 2011

Might Jacquizz Rodgers be a spark the Bucs are seeking?

Will Cadillac Williams return? Is Kregg Lumpkin a stud-in-waiting? Or do the Bucs need to snatch a running back in the draft to groom behind LeGarrette Blount?

NFL Draft guru Justin “The Commish” Pawlowski, of WDAE-AM. breaks down and ranks running backs below, and includes how the Bucs might consider these guys. It’s all part of the best Bucs-focused draft coverage around. Come back later for The Commish’s inbox podcast. And a new manbeast mock draft is lurking. 

Running Backs:


Mark Ingram – Alabama
5’9’’ – 215 lbs – 4.62
1st Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  Patience and vision are Ingram’s two best qualities.  He has proven to be a reliable back that can carry a full workload and be a leader on the offensive side of the ball.  Ingram also has a compact build and runs low to the ground which helps him to break tackles.

Why The Commish would stay away:  This is more about where I wouldn’t draft him than me just not wanting to draft Ingram.  I say that because I think Ingram has been a great college player and could very well be a very good player in the NFL, but I just don’t think Ingram is flashy enough to be a 1st round draft pick as a running back.  He does not have elite speed or elusiveness to warrant a 1st round selection when there have been numerous backs go undrafted who have gone on to lead the entire league in rushing.  Unless you’re Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson, I just don’t see the value in drafting any running back in the 1st round.

Impact on the Bucs: The only way this happens is if Ingram falls to the Bucs pick in the 2nd round and they select him.  I think Ingram would be an awesome complement to LeGarrette Blount.  Blount proved he can carry a full work load, but Ingram has the leadership and understanding of an offense to provide the Bucs with a good 1-2 punch.  I also think Ingram could be an upgrade in blocking and receiving out of the backfield.

Comparison: Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens

Mikel Leshoure – Illinois
6’0’’ – 227 lbs – 4.59
1st/2nd Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  Leshoure’s biggest strengths are power and vision.  I love a back that can find a crease and then plow his way through.  He’s also very patient for a big back as he allows his blocks to set up in front of him before hitting a hole.  Although Leshoure doesn’t have elite speed, he can hit another gear when he comes to daylight.

Why The Commish would stay away:  I like Leshoure, but he’s not a complete back.  He does lack elite speed.  He is also developing as a pass blocker, but is no where near where he needs to be.  He’s also not a real big threat in the passing game.

Impact on the Bucs:  Leshoure’s skill set reminds me a lot of Legarrette Blount.  I don’t think the Bucs are looking for that type of back again.  They need some speed to pair with Blount’s power.

Comparison:  Chris “Beanie” Wells – Arizona Cardinals

Ryan Williams – Virginia Tech
5’9’’ – 212 lbs – 4.61
2nd Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  The best way to describe Williams’ running style is violent.  His cuts are violent, his yards after contact are violent, and his acceleration is violent.  Williams might end up having the most overall talent of any running back in this draft.

Why The Commish would stay away:  For as violent and flashy as Williams is, his speed is only just average.  Also, I’m weary of any player, but RBs particular, with hamstring issues, and that’s what Williams had last year.  His down year in 2010 due to injuries would probably push me in the direction of drafting another player if there was a debate.

Impact on the Bucs: I’ve actually seen a couple mock drafts that have the Bucs selecting Williams in the 2nd round.  I’m not sure that’s the approach the Bucs would want to take in the 2nd round, but Williams is a very talented back.  If drafted, Williams would be an excellent complement to Blount.  Also, with Williams’ violent running style, he would give the Bucs a legitimate short-yardage back if Blount can’t learn how to get 2 yards!!

Comparison: Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts

Shane Vereen – Cal
5’10’’ – 210 lbs – 4.50
3rd Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  Vereen is in the smaller and shiftier category of running backs, but has the toughness to run between the tackles.  From what I’ve seen, Vereen can be a real threat as a receiver out of the backfield.  He has great elusiveness which also makes him a threat in the return game and on screen passes.

Why The Commish would stay away:  Although Vereen has the toughness to run between the tackles, he does not really have the power or strength to carry the full load and break tackles.  He can also be a liability in the pass game as he’ll need a good coach to teach him proper technique in pass protection.

Impact on the Bucs: I think Vereen could be a legitimate candidate for the Buccaneers’ backfield.  He seems like the type of back the Bucs want and need.  Vereen will need to learn to be a better pass protector, but he can immediately add elusiveness in the backfield and become a threat as a returner for the Bucs.

Comparison: Leon Washington – Seattle Seahawks

Kendall Hunter – Oklahoma St.
5’7’’ – 199 lbs – 4.53
3rd Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  What impresses me most about Hunter is that he is always moving forward.  Whether he takes a pitch outside or is making a cut between the tackles, Hunter is always moving towards the end zone.  Hunter also has tremendous character as he received numerous accolades academically and was a leader on his team.

Why The Commish would stay away:  I don’t think Hunter would be able to be a feature back in the NFL.  Sure, many teams run a 2-back system, but I view Hunter as more of a complement to a bigger feature back.  Hunter is also average as a blocker and needs to improve if he’ll become an elite 3rd down back.

Impact on the Bucs: This is the exact type of back the Bucs are looking for.  Hunter would be a great fit in Greg Olsen’s offense and present the Bucs with a very good 1-2 punch at running back when paired with Blount.  Hunter is elusive and a very good receiver out of the backfield.

Comparison: Lesean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles

Daniel Thomas – Kansas St.
6’0’’ – 230 lbs – DNP
3rd/4th Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  Thomas is a big back with a lot of power, but he is also very nimble with excellent balance.  Thomas is a classic between-the-tackles runner who excels in short-yardage and goal line situations.  Thomas is also a very good receiver out of the backfield and an excellent pass protector.

Why The Commish would stay away:  What worries me most of Thomas is that when I watch him run, I often see him holding the ball away from his body which will lead to many fumbles.  He also lacks elite speed.

Impact on the Bucs: As much as the Bucs want speed at the running back position, Thomas might not have that speed, but he does things well that Blount does not do well.  Thomas is a very good pass protector, has soft hands in the passing game, and is excellent in short-yardage situations.  With that said, I think the Bucs want a back with some speed and elusiveness, and that’s not Thomas.

Comparison:  Matt Forte – Chicago Bears

DeMarco Murray – Oklahoma
6’0’’ – 213 lbs – 4.41
3rd/4th Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  There is a lot to like about Murray.  I like his combination of size and speed.  I also like his vision and ability to work his way through a defense.  He is a very good receiver out of the backfield and could give an offense mismatches when split out wide like a receiver.  Going back to his speed, Murray can bust a long run at any time.  I love a threat like that.  I’ll end with Murray being as determined as any back in this class, having tremendous work ethic, and being a leader.

Why The Commish would stay away:  Before I get into his run style or durability concerns, what worries me most about Murray is that he doesn’t break near the amount of tackles as he should.  I can’t stand a running back that constantly gets tripped up on shoelace tackles.  Murray also has durability issues which might be caused by him running so tall and leaving himself vulnerable to big hits.

Impact on the Bucs: I do think Murray is a talented back and should be under consideration for the Bucs.  He has the speed they’re looking for while also being able to catch the ball and pass protect.  I think Murray is probably as good as any back for the Bucs in this draft.  With having Blount already, the Bucs just need a backup that can come in and do the things that Murray does do well.

Comparison: Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions

Jacquizz Rodgers – Oregon St.
5’6’’ – 196 lbs – 4.64
3rd/4th Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  Rodgers is more quick than he is fast, but his shifty moves prevent him from taking big hits.  Rodgers is also a gifted receiver out of the backfield.

Why The Commish would stay away:  Rodgers lacks the size, bulk, and power to run between the tackles in the NFL.  His lack of strength with also hurt him in pass protection.  I’m also not thrilled about a back his size lacking the elite straight-line speed like he does.  Sure, I know that Dexter McCluster was the same way, but I’m just not sold that Rodgers is in the same category when it comes to shiftiness and playmaking ability.

Impact on the Bucs: Rodgers does fit the mold of the type of back the Bucs supposedly want.  He’s a smaller shiftier back who would complement the bigger Blount well.  The one thing that does concern me about Rodgers and the Bucs is that I don’t think he could shoulder the load if Blount were to go down with an injury.  Other backs like Vereen, Murray, and Hunter will be able to shoulder that load, while Rodgers seems to be a situational back only.

Comparison: Darren Sproles – San Diego Chargers

Delone Carter – Syracuse
5’9’’ – 222 lbs – 4.56
4th Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  I’ve been on the Carter train for a while now.  I view him as Mr. Consistency.  He has good size and runs with good power between the tackles.  He also runs with good leverage and balance.  As a receiver out of the backfield, Carter has displayed soft hands, and with his patience, could be great in the screen game.

Why The Commish would stay away:  Carter is not the flashiest of backs in this draft.  He’s not the biggest, the fastest, or the quickest.  Carter also comes with some character issues including being suspended for spring practice in 2010 for punching a student over a snowball incident.

Impact on the Bucs: Although not what the Bucs are particularly looking for, I like Carter as a running back.  I don’t think he’ll be a target of the Bucs, but if he was drafted by them, Carter would be a very nice backup to Blount.

Comparison: Curtis Martin – New York Jets

Jordan Todman – UConn
5’9’’ – 203 lbs – 4.40
4th Round

Why The Commish would draft him:  I really like Todman’s running style.  He has very good straight-line speed with the elusiveness and quickness to go with it.  He has good vision and does a good job with cut back runs.  Todman has good balance and runs low to the ground.

Why The Commish would stay away:  As much as I like Todman’s running style, I just wish he was a couple inches taller and about 10-15 lbs heavier.  He just doesn’t have the bulk or strength to be a feature back in the NFL.  I also have questions about his ability to be a good 3rd down back because he slightly above average catching the football and, again, doesn’t have good strength for pass protection.

Impact on the Bucs: Todman’s running style and speed are good, but he might not be the ideal fit for a 3rd down back.  As much as the Bucs would like speed at the running back position, I’m sure they’d love a good blocker and receiver there too.

Comparison: Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants

14 Responses to “All Things Running Backs”

  1. IMHO... Says:

    any RB who doesn’t run under 4.5 shouldn’t get a look. Personally I like Shane Vereen, but im kinda stuck on Noel Devine and his size and skillset. Although he has some off field issues, I believe Raheem is tha right coach 2 relate 2 him and could be a nice steal in tha late rds. Murray is about complete of a back u can get, minus his injuries.

  2. Jamie Says:

    It seems like, given his size and speed combo, as well as his excellent hands, DeMarco Murray ought to be in consideration for the late 2nd/early 3rd. You mention he runs too upright like AP, and that he doesn’t grind out the yards. But is that enough to keep him relegated to the 4th round?

    Personally, I like Murray, we could use a top notch receiver to complement Blount.

    I loved watching Jacquizz Rogers tear up the PAC 10, but his measurables seem pretty unimpressive given his size.

  3. Dave Says:

    I agree that Vereen, Murray, and Hunter as well as Rogers and Locke are good fits for the Bucs. I just don’t see them using a pick on a RB until round 4 or later.

  4. McSid Says:

    I’m kinda seeing the Bucs taking Noel Devine in the sixth. He has some durability issues but with Blount, Earnest, Lumpkin and possibly Caddy we have the depth. And he is a local kid as well.

  5. Bucworld Says:

    I hope that we select the best player available and not try and force picks because of needs. I have the feeling that Ryan Williams will turn out to be a good player and we will pass on him for a need pick. Jacquizz Rogers would be a nice pick up in the late rounds. If all of the play making DE’s are gone at 20, I say we trade down for a 1st and 3rd round pick and select a G/Pouncey in the first.

  6. jarrett Says:

    pawloski i enjoyed this it was well done but i really think you should watch a little more leshoure tapes. He actually is a more than adequate as a pass catcher. Great hands not just for a big guy

  7. RastaMon Says:

    The RB barn is barren… if we take 2 in the 1st 3 rounds…
    it’ll buy time for the late round undrafted DE’s to recognize their opportuntiny
    picking up cheap sacks caused by the powerful interior Buc line..
    Winning football is about Running the ball better than the opponent can defend it
    then stopping the opponents ability to run the ball That day…
    which is what Jon Gruden did not respect…..
    oh…those 3rd and short multi shift formations ending with a late developing 6 yard incomplete pass…..
    We need a dark alley …butt stomping RUNNING GAME
    all else will fall into place…game day paying fans

  8. jvato24 Says:

    I disagree with Justin completely that Kendall Hunter is not a good blocker .. He took on DEs at the senior Bowl and stoned them .. He is aggressive at blocking

  9. JDouble Says:

    I like Jacquizz Rodgers and Delone Carter….but where is Chad Spann? Allen Bradford? Nic Grisby? Mario Fannin?

  10. JDouble Says:

    BTW Justin….you comparisons are whack.

  11. Hawaiian Buc Says:

    Although I don’t want us to draft a RB in the first round, I do have an argument as to why a team should draft a non-flashy player like a Mark Ingram. Not too long ago, there was this RB from the SEC who had similar attributes, and the scouts said the exact same thing, even though he was a great player in college. He wasn’t a 4.5 guy either, but there was one NFL team that drafted him anyway, despite the critics. They went on to win 3 Super Bowls, and he is now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. But nah, don’t bother looking at him unless he runs a 4.2, because we all know that always translates into a great NFL player.

  12. Hawaiian Buc Says:

    And to be clear, I am not saying Mark Ingram is the next Emmit Smith, especially before he has ever played a down in the NFL. My point is that flashy players don’t always make the best players. A running back’s game is more about vision and balance versus speed.

  13. Teddy Says:

    Didn’t we already have one failed experiment with a Jacquizz?

  14. Architek Says:

    Nice Teddy