Chris Ransom’s Top 25 2012 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings


I don’t expect all of these 25 backs to get drafted, but at least 70 percent of these backs should get drafted.  After running back #10 its hard to project which late round backs declare and which backs go where so I’ll break down the top 10 backs in 2012 with analysis and provide rankings for running backs 11-25.

1. Trent Richardson RB Alabama Trent Richardson may be a top 5 talent.  I doubt he goes in the top 5 unless the Bengals take Richardson.  Trent Richardson may go in the top 10.  I just believe that most teams are set at running back and that  Trent Richardson is a first round pick rather than a top 5 or top 10 pick.

Projected Round 1st Round

2. Knile Davis RB Arkansas Knile Davis could go as early as the late part of the first round.  In the end I believe Knile Davis slides to round 2 because most teams are set at running back in round 1.  Even the teams who need running backs in round 1 have bigger needs to address in round 2.  I’m not sold on Davis as an NFL prospect, but right now he is projected as the top back after Trent Richardson.  If Richardson goes in the top 5 then Davis should be a top 20 pick.

Knile Davis will regress if freshman left tackle Brey Cook fails to fill the shoes of former Razorback left tackle DeMarcus Love.

Projected Round 2nd Round

3. LaMichael James RB Oregon I’m not too high on James.  James sounds like a top notch back because he got to the National Title last year and finished 3rd in the 2010 Heisman TrophyVoting behind #1 overall pick Cam Newton and 2012 frontrunner to go #1 overall Andrew Luck.  I’m not sold on James with his size being undersized.  I think James needs to learn a pro style offense adjusting from a spread no huddle offense to a pro style offense running the football.  I feel like James is more of a back who lacks the physical tools as a power back with pure speed and no elusive ability.  I know James had 1,731 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns on 294 carries.  If your a Ducks fan and you disagree you have every right to criticize me because James is coming off an exceptional season.  I doubt James matches last years numbers or results and I doubt his ball carrier vision adjusts to a pro style offense properly.  I don’t even think James is going to have the most success among the Pac 10 running back prospects in the NFL.  There is a chance that James could be a late first round pick if Richardson is a top 5 pick and if Davis gets drafted in the top 20.  The player I mention next is a Pac 10 rusher who I really have high hopes for.

I know James had over 1,500 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.  The size as a back may cause him to get injured in the NFL.

James is 5 foot 9 185 pounds and is projected to run a 4.35 40 time.  If you think James is the next Barry Sanders because Barry was undersized heading into the league I’m going to call you crazy.  Try not to take my opinion on LaMichael James personally.

Its hard to get a read on James as a prospect.  He is a Heisman Finalist from last season with back to back 1,500 rushing yards and 14 or more rushing touchdowns.  He lacks the ideal size for a back though and did not play in an NFL pro style offense.  I feel like I’m going to nail my evaluation with LaMichael James on the coffin and be totally right or were going to look back in 5 years and listen to people bash me for doubting LaMichael James as a running back prospect.

Projected Round 2nd Round

4. Chris Polk RB Washington Yes, I had high hopes on Jake Locker and have high hopes on Chris Polk.  Besides Locker Polk was the only player on the Huskies offense to have significant success.  I really expet Polk to have a lot of success in the NFL level.  I expect Polk to be the 4th running back drafted in 2012 at this point.

Chris Polk obtained nearly 1,500 rushing yards with one of the worst offensive lines in the country while rushing for 9 rushing touchdown.  Plus Polk is coming off back to back 1,000 yard seasons.

Projected Round 2nd Round

5. Cyrus Gray RB Texas A/M Gray has the physical ability to unleash an effective stiff arm now and then.  Gray did an excellent job stepping up and filling in for Christine Michael when he was injured.  Size is an issue with Cyrus Gray as he is undersized.  Gray runs a 4.46 40 time, rushed for nearly 1,200 rushing yards, had 5.7 yards per carry, and 12 rushing touchdowns.  I’m not sold on Gray yet because Texas A/M runs a shotgun spread offense, but my friend Jeff who also writes for my other site really likes Gray and he’s a former Texas A/M student who recently graduated so he has better insight on Gray than I do.

There won’t be any middle ground with Cyrus Gray.  Scouts are either going to miss out on him while he silences critics or the team who drafts him will regret their decision in 2 years.

Projected Round 3rd Round

6. Tauren Poole RB Tennessee After round 3 there is no clear cut back as to who will be the top running back drafted.  Based on potential the player I like the best is Tauren Poole.  I know Poole is projected to run a 4.50 40 time.  However, Poole rushed for 1,034 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns for a rebuilding Tennessee team that will have an even better offensive line in 2011 with their highly touted offensive line of a sophomore left tackle, and 4 freshman starting gaining another year of experience.  Plus Poole will take pressure off sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray who may contend to be the top quarterback selected in 2013.  I like Poole as a power back and I think he could be a back that a ton of scouts miss out on.  Poole has the physical tools of a power back in the mold of a Michael Turner.  I could see Poole being a pro bowl back with a similar impact that Michael Turner has had for the Atlanta Falcons.  Plus Poole plays in a pro style offense at Tennessee which is another thing to like.

2010 4 star recruit JuJuan James returns as a starting right tackle expected to shift to left tackle in a few years with other 4 star incoming freshman recruits Cameron Clear and Antonio Richardson likely starting out as backups or being redshirted.

Poole’s numbers will only get better with this Tennessee offensive line.

Projected Round 4th Round

7. Daniel Herron RB Ohio State Herron is another back I like because he plays in an NFL pro style offense.  Herron is another back that I like.  Herron rushed for 1,155 rushing yards even though he has one of the best offensive lines blocking in terms of pass blocking and run blocking.  Herron runs a 4.54 40 and weighs 5-10 205 pounds.

First round offensive lineman left tackle Mike Adams and center Michael Brewster were key lineman for the buckeyes in 2010.  Pryor got sacked for less than 20 times for the first time ever while Herron’s numbers looked really good.  Adams will be suspended for the first 5 games so I want to see how Herron will do to start the year if he’s not one of the suspended players.

Projected Round 4th Round

8. Isaiah Pead RB Cincinnati Pead is 5 foot 11 200 pound back who runs a 4.41 40 time.  Pead averaged 6.6 yards per carry while rushing for over 1,000 rushing yards.  Pead plays in a shotgun spread no huddle offense and I feel like his ball carrier vision needs some improvement.

Projected Round 4th Round

9. Doug Martin RB Boise State Martin plays in a shotgun no huddle offense plus Nate Potter opens up the lanes for Martin with his run blocking ability.

Projected Round 4th Round

10. Brandon Bolden RB Ole Miss I love Bolden as an NFL prospect.  I could see him having the best career among these backs in a few years.  People are going to call the 5 foot 11 220 pound back overrated.  Plus Arkansas fans are going to give me a lot of criticism for predicting that Bolden will have a better career than Knile Davis when I bashed Mallett all year and I was praying the Patriots would not draft him after praising GM’s for passing on Mallett.  Besides DJ Williams none of the Razorbacks offensive players have wowed me from a talent standpoint in the 2011 NFL Draft or 2012 NFL Draft.  I loved McFadden, but was kind of skeptical about the Felix Jones pick at the time.  Greg Childs has a chance, but I have mixed feelings about him.

I love Bolden’s size and physical ability as a power back.  I think Bolden could be a really great back and its not just the physical tools.  I love Bolden’s ball carrier vision and football IQ.

The reason why Bolden falls to round 5 is because he runs a 4.57 40 time and because he has bookend tackles at Ole Miss with a late round gem at left tackle in Bradley Sowell along with potential first round right tackle Bobbie Massie.  Bolden also rushed for only 976 rushing yards with this premium bookend tandem which is a thing that scouts are knocking because you should be able to rush for 1,200 rushing yards with that tandem.

One more thing that scouts are looking at is what Bolden did against NFL caliber SEC defenses in 2010.  Bolden failed to eclipse rush for 40 rushing yards against NFL caliber SEC defensive lines with first round prospects.  Both Auburn and Alabama held Bolden to 32 rushing yards.

You should ignore the stats because Bolden only got 163 carries at Ole Miss.  If Bolden had 200 or more carries he would have easily exceeded 1,300 rushing yards.

One more thing I like about Brandon Bolden is that he averages 10.5 yards a catch.  At the bear minimum Bolden can tally 105 receiving yards for every 10 receptions he gets.  Bolden had 344 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns in 2010.

Bolden will excel as a goal line back.  He had 14 rushing touchdowns.  Against Auburn Bolden had 6 carries for 32 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns.

The main reason I love Bolden as a back because he is clutch.  9 of Bolden’s 14 rushing touchdowns came in his final 5 games of the season.

Projected Round 5th Round

After Bolden its impossible to determine who goes where due to underclassmen and depth of running backs in the late rounds.

11. Bernard Pierce RB Temple 5th Round Prospect May return to school.

12. Jeff Demps RB Florida 5th Round Prospect who runs a 4.25 40 who should be a 5th round pick.

13. Marc Tyler RB USC 6th Round Prospect He takes pressure off Matt Barkley by running the football.

14. Washaun Ealey RB Georgia 6th Round Prospect Underclassmen who should return.

15. Christine Harris RB Texas A/M 6th Round Prospect Harris will likely return to school at Texas A/M.

16. Montel Harris RB Boston College 6th Round Prospect Harris is an underrated sleeper who isn’t getting enough recognition.  Harris is an underrated sleeper.

17. Bryce Brown RB Kansas State 6th round Prospect Brown is a sophomore redshirt with limited playing time as a true freshman at Tennessee before he transferred to Kansas State.  Brown should return to Kansas State and is probably the underclassmen with the best chance of returning.  I feel foolish for putting Brown on this list right now.

18. Lance Dunbar RB North Texas 6th round Prospect Dunbar may not get drafted because he goes to North Texas.  I expect him to be a late 7th round pick at the latest though.

19. Vick Ballard RB Mississippi State 6th round prospect Ballard was a product of Sherrod’s run blocking at Ole Miss.  I don’t see him surprising anyone without Sherrod.

20. Jason Ford RB Illinois 7th Round Prospect Ford sat behind Mikel LeShoure.  I think Ford could be that next Illinois back following Leshoure, Mendenhall, and Thomas as an Illini back to make it in the NFL.

There is no guarantee that backs 21-25 get drafted.  In fact I could see these backs getting undrafted depending on which underclassmen declare.

21. Caleb King RB Georgia 7th round prospect King is a 7th round prospect that has seen limited carries at Georgia and is mainly a #2 back.

22. Jermaine Thomas RB Florida State 7th round prospect Thomas may or may not get drafted.  Its really hard to tell what happens with him at this point.

23. Michael Shaw RB Michigan 7th round prospect Shaw is undersized and is not even the #1 back in the Wolverines backfield.  That honor belongs to junior Vincent Smith.

24. Victor Anderson RB Louisville 7th round prospect Anderson could be a late round pick if he can bounce back from 2 poor seasons after being considered a highly promising player for Louisville heading into his sophomore season.

25. Bryce Beall RB Houston 7th round prospect I doubt Beall gets drafted, but I wanted to have a suitable number of running back candidates to put in this conversation. 25 is a suitable number plus Beall is a 7th round pick in some 2012 7 Round Mock’s that I have read.