1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Carlos Hyde is a big, bruising running back who took a gigantic leap forward in his final year as a member of the Ohio State football program, establishing himself in my mind as the top overall player at his position in this class. Hyde showed great quickness, burst, ability to break tackles, and vision in addition to his willingness to take on a full workload.
I think as far as full-time backs go, Hyde is probably the best in this class. He does have some red flags in his past but he seemed to have really grown in 2013 and put together the best season of his career, leading Ohio State in rushing and setting career highs in rushing attempts, yards, receptions, and total touchdowns.
He won’t run the fastest 40 yard dash by any means, but his quickness makes up for it as well as his vision, and while he’s not a burner he’s certainly not easy to take down in the open field.
I don’t view Hyde as an elite level prospect but he’ll certainly be a second round pick, and a guy that can step into the NFL and probably start or at least play a major role in his first year in the league.
2. Bishop Sankey, Washington
This is a compact back at 5’9″ 207 pounds who has great explosiveness and vision, which is probably his best trait overall. Sankey has proven durability throughout his career and demonstrated a very good all-around game that could propel him to the number one spot on this list the more I wrestle with it in my mind. I really like his overall game, athletic ability, and obviously he was extremely productive at Washington.
3. Tre Mason, Auburn
Heisman contender this past season has better than advertised straight-line speed, is powerful, and has excellent one-cut ability. Some have compared his game to that of Ray Rice. I think Mason has the ability to start for an NFL team from day one if he puts the work in and the situation is right. He really would fit well with a team that likes to run a zone/one-cut style game.
4. Jeremy Hill, LSU
Jeremy Hill is a powerful running back with great size who can not only steamroll, but he’s got better speed and vision than you’d anticipate for a guy his size. He moves well laterally and has good quickness. Some off field concerns give pause, but if he maintains strong character on and off the field, he’s going to be a steal in the draft. Love the way he runs hard.
5. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Phenomenal athlete with a heck of a lot of potential. Can be a home run threat. I love also his competitive personality and sort of loud, outspoken style. Some have concerns about his vision and worry he tries to do too much with little, and needs to learn to stick to the script rather than always try to go East and West.
6. Charles Sims, West Virginia
Sims is a favorite of many analysts with his combination of size (6’0″ 214 pounds) and speed (4.48) but as with many taller running backs, there are concerns about the height with which he carries the ball on a consistent basis, needing to keep his pad level lower. I think Sims has potential to be one of the best backs in this class given his ability as a receiver. I wouldn’t put it past him to be a dark-horse starter in his rookie season, or at least a very significant contributor. The more you can do, the better.
7. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Carey is a guy who has been a model of consistency over the past two seasons, but his workload concerns me a bit. The Arizona offense literally ran through this guy, and as a result, he put on a lot of mileage in two seasons as the featured back in their offense.
In 2012 and 2013, Carey toted the rock 652 times, which is a lot for some backs over the course of a career, or at least three seasons. He did it in two.
Regardless of the number of touches he had, Carey was extremely productive. He averaged over 6 yards per carry as a sophomore and over five as a junior. He also rushed for 42 touchdowns and caught 62 passes over the last two seasons, showing great versatility.
At 5’10″ 207 pounds, he’s got a decent but not ideal build and will probably work into a team’s rotation as a rookie. He’s got a very well-rounded skillset for the position.
8. Devonta Freeman, Florida State
Very quick feet and acceleration, which are strong traits considering he’s 5’8″ 206 pounds. He gets to top speed in a hurry and has good vision. Can catch the ball out of the backfield and I think he has a ton of potential having played in a crowded backfield at FSU. Not much mileage on him at this point, and he could very well turn out to be a featured back sooner rather than later.
9. Terrance West, Towson
At 5’9″ 225 pounds, I think West has the ideal build you would want in a running back for today’s passing NFL. He has excellent straight line speed (4.54) for his size and obviously has a powerful lower body. If he can learn to run low on a consistent basis, he could be the best back in this class based on pure talent. It might take him some extra time to develop, having come from a small school.
10. Andre Williams, Boston College
Thick built back who reminds me a lot of Alfred Morris of the Redskins, a guy who was productive in college and has decent overall athletic measurables but gets the job done and could eventually start in the NFL. Williams was a beast this past season at Boston College running the football, but his biggest problem is his lack of catches. He needs to learn how to be a receiver or his playing time in the NFL will be significantly reduced.