Top 30 Running Back Prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft


Update: 11/21/2011

This is our page we will use for our running back rankings from now until the draft. You can see our preseason rankings after the list.

For scouting reports on many of these players head to our scouting report page

1. Trent Richardson
2. Lamar Miller
3. Chris Polk
4. David Wilson
5. Montee Ball
6. Isiah Pead
7. LaMichael James
8. Bernard Pierce (haven’t watched him enough yet)
9. Doug Martin
10. Cierre Wood (moving up more too for me)
11. Cyrus Gray
12. Kenjon Barner Oregon
13. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State
14. Ray Graham Pittsburgh (out for season though)
15. Boom Herron
16. Chris Rainey
17. Edwin Baker
18. Jonathan Franklin, UCLA

19. Andre Ellington, Clemson

1. Trent Richardson, Alabama, 5’11” 224 (Junior)

Keep an eye on Richardson as a potential Heisman trophy candidate. After pairing with Mark Ingram the last two years, Richardson is ready for a full load and could be one of the nation’s most powerful and dominant running backs. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him finish a fully healthy season with more than 2,000 yards on the ground, and I would put him right behind Andrew Luck as the top Heisman candidate as of right now. This is a guy who is relentless, and not just on the field, but off. Richardson is an absolute beast in the weight room, and consistently puts in the time and effort. He averaged over six yards per carry last year, and really developed as a receiver as well. He is one of the best players in the country, and has the potential to be a top 10 pick in the 2012 draft if he declares. He might be the best RB prospect to come along since Adrian Peterson in the class of 2007.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas, 6’0″ 230 (Junior)

Davis was injured during fall camp 2010 & didn’t take over the starting job until game 5.  Still Davis led SEC in rushing with 1,322 yards 6.5 per carry.  Davis made the most improvement physically of any razorbacks adding 10 pounds to his frame, running an unnofficial 4.29 in the 40, and bench pressing 415.  Davis is big, strong, and shifty.  Biggest flaws are consistency to stay healthy.  Also, especially in practice, Davis has trouble holding on to the football.

To me, that scouting report sounds a lot like Darren McFadden or Adrian Peterson. Davis has the absolute ideal size for an NFL running back, and clearly has the requisite speed. Leading the SEC in rushing is not an easy thing to do, especially when your team passes as much as Arkansas did with Ryan Mallett under center. This is a guy who could be a lock first round pick should he stay healthy all season long.

3. LaMichael James, Oregon, 5’9″ 185 (Junior)

If James finishes up his degree this year, I’d expect him to go. He’s one of the most explosive players on college. He’s small, but able to perform herculean runs, he’s mystifyingly quick, and he has track-star speed. His height, the NFL’s anti-spread bias (Despite recent success from Jonathan Stewart and LeGarrett Blount), and the more pass-happy nature of today’s pro game, will probably keep him from being a top 15 picks (If he declares for the draft early).

Ah yes, saving the best for last, I see. James has drawn comparisons to Warrick Dunn, and I see no reason why he can’t have that type of impact in the NFL. He isn’t a big runner, but he is definitely a ball of fire and can score from anywhere on the field. I expect him to be in the first round discussion all season long, provided he stays healthy.

4. Chris Polk, Washington, 5’11” 215 (RS Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

5. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M, 5’10” 198 (Senior)

Gray is a quick twitch running back with excellent speed and burst off the line. This is a kid who is a threat to score literally every time he touches the ball. Led the Aggies with 13 total touchdowns in 2010, 12 of which came on the ground. Not a great inside runner, but he doesn’t hesitate in the backfield so he more than compensates for his lack of natural power. He will remind a lot of people of a LeSean McCoy type of player, and is improving in that regard as a receiver out of the backfield. In fact, he has 61 receptions over the last two years, so he has been an integral part of the Texas A&M passing attack. Probably the best overall senior running back in this class of players. Very good at reading his blocks, and has excellent vision. Always keeping his eyes down field, and great body control in the open field. Always a threat to make something out of nothing. Probably shorter than his listed height. Threw a pretty touchdown pass against LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and has taken snaps at wide receiver as well as quarterback for the Aggies, so could have upside in the NFL as a wildcat quarterback. Plays with a low center of gravity, but could add lower body strength to make him even more effective in the trenches. If he is up to 210 pounds by the NFL Scouting combine, he will likely be a sure-fire first or second round pick in the NFL Draft. Hard nosed guy who typically doesn’t go down on first contact. Workhorse for the Aggies who has great balance.

6. Montee Ball, Wisconsin, 5’10” 235 (Junior)

One of the things you really hope about Ball is that his weight doesn’t balloon all the way up to 240 pounds, or something crazy like that. Wisconsin had John Clay come out this past year prematurely, and it was mainly because their running back group is so good, they basically had no need for him anymore, and his weight had severely fluctuated. Ball reminds me a lot of Shonn Greene coming out, because he plays with such a low center of gravity and the name of his game is power. Ball has tons of skill, and isn’t just a one-trick pony. He led the team with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2010 to go along with 996 yards and a 6.1 yards per carry average. The crazy part is, he was THIRD on the team in rushing in 2010, and is one of four guys at this point in time who could eventually end up in the NFL. Not a speedy running back, but between the tackles he knows how to make plays. One-cut runner with good vision and burst, and has a nose for the end zone. Consensus Honorable Mention All Big Ten in 2010 season, and returns for his junior season atop the running back depth chart after a season where he played in 12 games and started the final four. Missed the Ohio State game, and really caught fire against Purdue with five games left to play. In the previous eight games, he had 219 yards running the ball, and starting with Purdue, he had 127, 167, 173, 178, and 132 yards to finish the season. Not only that, but he had 14 of his 18 touchdowns in those five games, and is well deserving of the starting position this fall, regardless of who is behind him on the depth chart.

7. Doug Martin, Boise State, 5’9″ 210 (Senior)

Extremely productive running back and will be in his third year starting for the Broncos. Martin is the type of guy who will be an excellent value pick in the draft. He is not the biggest running back, but he is capable of breaking the game wide open with a big run. Powerful running back who is not afraid to stick his shoulder down and challenge anyone willing to take him on. Probably one of the most underrated running backs in the country because Boise State is not a running offense. As pass oriented as the BSU offense is, this guy has been extremely productive from the RB position, and is a solid receiver to boot. Shifty and speedy with a thick lower body, he will be the kind of guy who NFL  teams hate to play against because he gives so much effort and can do so many things for your team. Has incredible potential as a zone runner, and could be a major steal on draft weekend. Over the last two years, he has carried the ball 330 times for 2,025 yards and 27 touchdowns, averaging over six yards per carry in the process. Also had 28 receptions for 338 yards and two more touchdowns last year as a junior. Will not go down without a fight, and seems to pride himself on getting yards after contact.

8. Dan Herron, Ohio State, 5’10” 205 (Senior

Another player who will be suspended to start the season is RB Dan Herron, a guy who had just a huge season for the Buckeyes last year. Herron finished the 2010 campaign with 1,155 yards on 216 carries with 16 touchdowns, and he also added 19 receptions. Aside from the apparent off-field concern, Herron is a nice combination of size, speed, vision, power, and quickness. He isn’t Adrian Peterson by any means, but Herron is the type of guy who can definitely grow and succeed in the NFL. Quicker than fast though when he gets into the open field he is hard to bring down. Not really a change of pace back, but a guy who can make plays for you. I would put him in the fourth round discussion at this point, though some have him rated higher. He has excellent agility, but is not a great zone or outside runner. Power runner between the tackles who is at his best in open space. Definitely the type of back that likes to stick his shoulder down and drive ahead rather than use finesse or speed.

9. Andre Ellington, Clemson, 5’10” 195 (RS Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

10. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati, 5’10” 200 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

11. Tauren Poole, Tennessee, 5’10” 210 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

12. Montel Harris, Boston College, 5’10” 200 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

13. Marc Tyler, USC, 5’11” 228 (RS Senior)

Marc Tyler was a highly touted RB from Oaks Christian high school. His QB at Oaks was Jimmy Clausen. He was supposed to be a major force for the Trojans for years to come. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way we intend for them. This rings especially true for Mark. He suffered a broken leg while in high school and had to have a rod surgically placed in his leg causing him to redshirt the 07 season. He continued to suffer injuries during his time at SC up until last year. He finally became healthy and was given his shot. He did not disappoint. Tyler rushed for 913 yards and 9 touchdowns, impressive numbers for a guy who shared carries with 2 other backs. Tyler has a lot to prove this year and he already is missing time due to a hamstring injury. However, once he is healthy, expect him to make a significant contribution for the Trojans. He displays good speed and vision. He has a lot of potential, but the key for him is his health. I would project him as a mid round selection as of today, but that is certainly going to change between now and draft season.

14. Jeff Demps, Florida, 5’8″ 185 (Senior)

Jeff Demps is flat out one of the fastest men in sports right now, regardless of what level. Demps has Olympic track star speed, and translates that on to the field. Last year, he led the Gators with 551 rushing yards, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Demps has 17 career rushing touchdowns, and has averaged 7.5, 7.0, and 6.0 yards per carry throughout his Gators career. He has had some injuries, which has prevented him from being a top tier runner in college football, but he definitely has game-breaking speed and could be a great change of pace back at the next level, and also has potential possibly as a slot wide receiver and return specialist.Demps is the fastest track athlete in college right now (9.85 second 100 meter dash) and could challenge for the fastest recorded 40 yard dash time in the history of the league at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

15. Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss, 5’11” 221 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

16. Jason Ford, Illinois, 6’0″ 235 (Senior)

Ford is a big, strong, powerful running back who will take over this year for the departed Mikel LeShoure at the running back position. Since he came to Champaign, he has carried the ball 277 times for 1,362 yards and 19 touchdowns, including eight as a freshman and seven this past year as a junior. Averaged a career high 6.1 yards per carry as a sophomore in 2009, and in 2010, averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Ford was arrested over the Spring for suspicion of driving with a suspended license, but it appears as though he will still be slated to start in the fall. He will be expected to carry the full load as he and QB Nathan Scheelhaase will combine for one of the top rushing attacks in the Big Ten, and they will be two guys that are very tough to stop. As a senior, Ford needs to really improve in the passing game, or at least as much as the Illinois offense will allow him to. He could be an asset in the NFL, because while he’s not the fastest back, he knows how to make people miss, and his 19 career touchdowns are evidence that he knows how to find paydirt.

17. Bryce Brown, Kansas State, 6’0″ 218 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

18. David Wilson, Virginia Tech, 5’11” 200 (Junior)

Tech’s best big-play threat and the focal point of the 2011 offensive attack. A Percy Harvin-type who returns kicks, lines up in the slot, and out of the backfield. Was the third-string back last year but still put up 619 yards (5.5/carry) and 5 rushing TDs. Chipped in four TD receptions and two kicks returned for TDs. Deceptively strong and apparently unstoppable in the spring. Tech didn’t start efficiently using him until mid-season in 2010, but he was arguably the best player on the team at that point. His stock should explode this year.

This kid could be a breakout star in 2011, and it would not shock me to see him lead the conference in rushing. That often happens when a productive backup takes over for a very productive back like Ryan Williams. I have seen in  countless times, over and over again. I love running backs who can split out wide and be every down backs. That gives an offense so much versatility. I think he will need a huge year to leave early, but he is a top of the line NFL prospect for the next couple of years. I mentioned he is a three down contributor earlier, but I think he is four down. He is also a fantastic return man. Simply put–he is a playmaker and could be the best overall player on Virginia Tech’s roster.

19. Bernard Pierce, Temple, 6’0″ 218 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

20. Jermaine Thomas, Florida State, 5’11” 187 (Senior)

Has some minor off-field issues as well as some injury history, which could contribute to why he is not currently the top RB on the FSU depth chart. However, he is a tough change of pace back with a ton of speed who can be very productive if he makes it to the right situation. Had only one game last year where he ran for over 100 yards, and never really showed his true form last year, though he did average just under six yards per carry. His best year came as a sophomore where he ran the ball 163 times for 832 yards and nine touchdowns. As a sophomore, also had one of the most incredible personal efforts you will see when he ran into a wall on the right sideline, reversed field completely, and gained about 25 yards the other direction. Needs to work on his overall strength, but he definitely has a ton of speed.

21. Lamar Miller, Miami (FL), 5’11” 210 (RS Sophomore)

**No scouting report yet available**

22. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA, 5’10” 198 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

23. Caleb King, Georgia, 5’11” 225 (RS Senior)

Big, inside the tackles running back who is slippery and doesn’t go down easily. Not overly fast but his speed is somewhat deceptive, and he can make people miss in the open field. Biggest downside to King is that he will be a 24 year old rookie, but the upside is that he won’t have  too much tread on his tires, even though he is going to have a full year as the Georgia featured back. As a junior, he had 430 yards on 80 carries with two touchdowns. As a sophomore, he carried a much bigger load with 114 carries for 594 yards and seven scores. In terms of his NFL ability, he really needs to improve in the passing game, where he only has 12 receptions over the last two seasons.

UPDATE (7/8/11): King has been declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season

24. Edwin Baker, Michigan State, 5’9″ 210 (RS Junior)

Very compact running back with a low center of gravity who rarely goes down on first contact. Is one of the more punishing runners in a very talented group at MSU, and is a guy who can make people miss in the open field. Not overly speedy, but he has a nose for the end zone. Averaged nearly 6 yards per carry last season as the Spartans’ primary back, and had 1,201 yards rushing to go along with 13 touchdowns on the ground. Only the sixth runner in school history to get over 1,000 yards in a single season. Was named first team All Big Ten by the media, honorable mention by the coaches, and 2nd team by Phil Steele. I am not so sure he will leave early this season, but it’s possible because MSU’s backfield could get crowded. Baker really stands out because of his ability in between the tackles, but you would like to see him get better in the passing game.

25. Larry Caper, Michigan State, 5’11” 220 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

26. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford, 5’11” 210 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

27. Bryce Beall, Houston, 5’11” 210 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

28. Eddie Lacy, Alabama, 5’11” 220 (RS Sophomore)

**No scouting report yet available**

29. Kenjon Barner, Oregon, 5’11” 180 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

30. Ed Wesley, TCU, 5’9″ 200 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**