1. Montee Ball - Denver Broncos (Wisconsin)
5' 11" and 215 lbs
924 carries for 5140 yards and 77 touchdowns (5.4 YPC) (5 fumbles)
59 receptions for 598 yards 6 touchdowns (9.55 Y/C)
Draft position: Broncos Round 2 pick # 58
Ball is expected to enter the season as the Broncos #1 running back and it's hard to argue with that prediction. A highly productive player out of Wisconsin, Ball is going to tote the rock early and often. Peyton Manning will love his new running back and you can expect to see him get some love in the passing game too.
Just excellent vision picking up and running through his lanes. really nice spin move breaking blocks and picking up yardage. Good ability to lower his shoulder and take on tackles. He has a very smooth long stride but doesn't possess top speed. His long stride allows him to cover ground quicker than you think.
Iffy hands in the passing game at times. Doesn't always show great top speed and can be caught from behind by fast defenders (hard to take down however).
Where I project him: Ball will start the season as the #1 RB and that clearly reflects in his current ADP which stands at Round 4. Grab him while ya can as he should anchor that backfield for a few years.
2. Le'Veon Bell - Pittsburgh Steelers (Michigan State)
6' 1" and 230 lbs
671 carries 3346 yards and 33 touchdowns (5.2 YPC) (5 fumbles)
78 receptions for 531 yards and 1 touchdown (7.2 Y/C)
Draft position: Steelers Round 2 pick # 48
Many expect Bell to start the season as the premier back for the Steelers and it's easy to see why. Bell is already a very well rounded back who could contribute immediately. A running back who fits the system and is very good. Win all around so jump early.
Despite reports questioning his vision, I really think he has nice vision. Reads his lanes well. Pretty good in the passing game. If you haven't seen him leap a defender in the Boise State game hit youtube it is FANTASTIC. Has a nice spin move that allows him to break away from contact.
Really needs work on his blocking flashes but very inconsistent. sometimes tripped up easily. Has somewhat an upright running style and needs to work on strength.
Where I project him: Bell is exactly the type of running back the Steelers love and he will get a lot of it early on. He is currently being drafted in round 5 so adjust your draft list accordingly. Like Ball, he is going to be the guy for a while.
3. Eddie Lacy - Green Bay Packers (Alabama)
6' 0" and 220 lbs
355 carries for 2402 yards and 30 touchdowns (7.00 YPC) (6 fumbles)
35 receptions for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns (9.83 Y/C)
Draft position: Packers Round 2 pick #61
Lacy was highly productive at the University of Alabama and it's easy to see why the Packers took him in the second round. They simply had to get more balanced on offense and Lacy is going to be extremely productive for them. I expect him to top the depth chart at running back to begin the season.
He is a big strong powerful runner who was extremely productive his junior year. Good vision and decisiveness hitting the lane. Legs are always churning and he is very hard to take down. Has nice ability to shrug off and avoid tacklers. He isn't afraid to take on tacklers and earn the tough yards.
Isn't known for his blocking ability. There were rumors of conditioning issues prior to the draft. Did not have a good Pro Day. Some issues with ball security.
Where I project him: Lacy will compete with Johnathan Franklin but should get the bulk of the carries plus he should get the goal line carries as well. He is being looked at around Round 5 so plan accordingly.
4. Giovani Bernard - Cincinnati Bengals (North Carolina)
423 carries 2481 yards and 25 touchdowns (6 fumbles)
92 receptions for 852 yards and 6 touchdowns
Draft position: Bengals Round 2 pick #37
A little undersized for my taste but no doubt he was productive in college. One of his strong points is how well he was used in the passing game. Like Tavon Austin, he made some nice plays when he is out in space. Some concerns over how he will translate to the NFL facing bigger, faster and stronger competition.
Plays bigger than his size. Has a nice stiff arm and can break some tackles. Good return skills too. Has a nice spin move. Great acceleration once he hits the edge. Overall good vision reading his lanes.
Sometimes wants to run before the ball gets to him in the passing game. Like many young college players still needs work adjusting to the ball. Doesn't show the ability to track the ball in the passing game. Best used on screens and swing outs. Some issues with ball security. Struggles at punt returns.
Where I project him: His ADP stands at round 4 so target wisely. Like the top 4 he is going to be a mainstay for while so its best to grab while the grabbing is good.
5. Zac Stacy - St. Louis Rams (Vanderbilt)
5' 9" and 208 lbs
581 carries for 3143 yards and 30 touchdowns (9 fumbles) (5.23 YPC)
46 receptions for 415 yards and 0 touchdowns
Draft position: Rams Round 5 pick #160
Jeff Fisher loves a good running game and has never shied away from using a rookie running back so I like Stacy's shot at getting some good playing time early on. Isaiah Pead is likely still the guy but he will miss the first game of the season. Fisher has never been shy about rolling with a 2 back committee either.
Good strong runner especially given his size. Very productive during his college career at Vanderbilt. Has really nice vision and good authority hitting his lanes. Once he gets moving he has really nice speed.
Has to get better at ball security. Does have a history of injuries. A bit undersized but plays bigger. Could struggle to break tackles or break away from bigger stronger defenders in the NFL.
Where I project him: His ADP is round 9 right now but that seems low to me. I know Pead is expected to be the guy but I doubt Fisher will resist playing Stacy. I would target beginning in Round 5.
6. Christine Michael - Seattle Seahawks (Texas A & M)
5' 11" and 220 lbs
529 carries for 2791 yards and 34 touchdowns (5.2 YPC) (14 fumbles)
44 receptions for 323 yards (7.05 Y/C)
Draft position: Seahawks Round 2 pick #62
Michael was one of my favorite running backs going into the draft. Some reported missed meetings with teams were concerning and he had some issues in college as well. Still, the talent is undeniable and he is going to get plenty of opportunities with Pete Carroll running the show in Seattle.
Good strong runner with overall nice vision. Incredibly quick at times to hit his lanes ( can backfire on him). Not afraid to get low and earn tough yards.
Decreasing balls security as his college career developed and he had 6 fumbles his last year in school. Also lost a lot of receptions in the passing game. Inconsistent blocker.
Where I project him: His current ADP is Round 11. This guy is talented and could easily go as early as Round 9.
7. Knile Davis - Kansas City Chiefs (Arkansas)
6. 0" and 226 lbs (4.37 40 time)
349 carries for 1862 yards and 19 touchdowns (12 fumbles) (4.94 YPC)
32 receptions for 297 yards and 1 touchdown (7.84 Y/C)
Draft position: Chiefs Round 3 pick #96
Davis will play second fiddle to Jamaal Charles but that's not necessarily a bad thing given his difficulty staying healthy. He is expected to be the #2 back and should get some quality carries while not being forced to be "the guy."
Has great speed for a running back of his size. Good vision in identifying and moving through his lanes. When he hits an open spot he is usually gone. Nice receiving ability.
Durability is obviously a big factor. Had 8 fumbles in 2012 alone so ball security is questionable. Gets tripped up too easily at times. Could work on his agility and fix some of that I think. Dances around in the backfield too much at times. Doesn't always use his size and speed to his advantage.
Where I project him: I think you have to slap a buyer beware tag on Davis despite his skills and this ADP reflects that at Round 15 which seems about right to me.
8. Joseph Randle - Dallas Cowboys (Oklahoma State Cowboys)
6' 1" and 200 lbs
564 carries for 3085 yards and 40 touchdowns (7 fumbles) (5.5 YPC)
108 receptions for 917 yards and 3 touchdowns (8.57 Y/C)
Draft position: Cowboys Round 5 pick #151
Randle will enter the season behind Murray and right now he is 4th on the depth chart although I expect that to change following training camp. Randle is a complete back and can be used in both the running and the passing game. A slow 40 time dropped him down draft boards but he plays faster than his time would suggest.
Very productive college career at Oklahoma State. Was widely used in both the running and passing game. Incredible blocker. Just a nice overall good back who was highly productive in college.
Slow 40 time really hurt him pre-draft but as I've said he plays faster than his time. Doesn't possess great measurables. Concerns that he is just a system guy.
Where I project him: His current ADP is Round 12 but I think you could start targeting him at Round 10. Not hard to imagine him getting significant carries fairly early on.
9. Johnathan Franklin - Green Bay Packers (University of California)
5' 11" and 195 lbs (4.49 40 time)
788 carries for 4403 yards and 31 touchdowns (19 fumbles) (5.45 YPC)
58 receptions for 517 yards and 3 touchdowns (8.45 Y/C)
Draft position: Packers Round 4 pick #125
It might seem an indictment on the Packers' past running game to include 2 rookie running backs in my top 10 and you are right. The Packers simply needed to get more balanced on offense and their running game has been inconsistent at best lately. Enter 2 very good picks in Eddie Lacy and Franklin who are easily better than anything they had on their roster. They should both get significant looks on their rookie seasons.
Has the speed to be an elite running back in the league. Also very durable during his college career. Excellent in both the running and the passing game. If he gets to the second level he is generally gone.
Absolutely terrible ball security. Needs work on strength has trouble getting the tough yards (though fair to ask whether he will need to with Lacy.) Not a great blocker but willing.
Where I project him: It's a tribute to his skill that his ADP is at Round 9 even though it's certain he will split carries with Lacy. I agree completely.
10. Marcus Lattimore - San Francisco Forty Niners (University of South Carolina)
6' 0" and 218 lbs
555 carries for 2677 yards and 38 touchdowns (3 fumbles) (4.8 YPC)
74 receptions for 767 yards and 3 touchdowns (10.17 Y/C)
Draft position: Niners Round 4 pick # 131
Lattimore is easily the best running back in this draft and it isn't even close. It breaks my heart to put him last but news today indicates he won't even practice until mid season. He can go on either active NFI list or reserve NFI list. If he receives the reserve designation he has until week 9 to practice and week 12 to be placed on the roster. Regardless, it seems unlikely he will play in 2013.
When healthy Lattimore is crazy good. Not only an outstanding running back he is also quite good as a receiving threat.
2 major knee surgeries raise concerns about whether he can return to pre-injury form and durability. Unlikely to play in 2013.
Where I project him: In the face of all appearances that he will sit out 2013, Lattimore's ADP is Round 10. Risk takers like yours truly could begin targeting him earlier although probably not much. I can't imagine I would begin looking until Round 8.
LATE ROUND FLIERS
Mike Gillislee - Miami Dolphins (University of Florida)
A 5th round pick for the Dolphins he will likely start the season at either the 2nd or 3rd spot. I'm not as high as others on him but he is definitely worth a look. His current ADP is Round 16. I might throw a flier here but he's not one of my favorite picks.
Latavius Murray - Oakland Raiders (Central Florida)
Darren McFadden has durability issues and Murray could easily get significant carries but he is too risky for me to give anything more than a late round flier grade. His ADP is at Round 16 currently.
Kenjon Barner - Carolina Panthers (Oregon)
Another late round grade his ADP right now is round 19.