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1. Bishop Sankey, Washington
An every-down back who is a willing blocker, Sankey shows excellent patience in waiting for a hole to develop, and explodes through it when it reveals itself. He turns on a second gear when running downfield and seldom goes down on first contact, consistently churning out yardage. He also runs with excellent balance. He’s still developing as a receiver out of the backfield, but overall, Sankey has a skill set that mirrors current New Orleans running back Mark Ingram.
2. Jeremy Hill, LSU
Off-field concerns may cost Hill a round or two, but he’s a bruising runner who knows how to get north and south. He shows great acceleration as he hits the hole. In addition, he breaks tackles and finishes runs. In conclusion, if a team feels comfortable with Hill off the field, they’re getting a potential two-down starting running back.
3. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Rarely does Hyde ever lose yardage. It's as rare as an Aaron Rodgers interception. Hyde runs hard between the tackles and displays enough quickness to get around the corner. He won‘t offer much as a receiving threat out of the backfield, however. He, Hill, and Sankey all fall into the first group of running backs from this class.
4. Tre Mason, Auburn
Mason has the balance and toughness to start in the pros. He displays the elusiveness to bounce outside and the strength to shed off tacklers. He also does a good job of running north and south. At Auburn, he played in one of the most successful run-oriented offenses of his generation. He could be a product of the system. It’s likely he won’t achieve as much success in the pros as he did in college.
5. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
A patient runner who waits for his hole to develop, Seastrunk lacks the elite speed to get around the corner. He runs hard between the tackles and does a nice job of weaving his way through traffic. He’s also willing to drop his shoulder and finish a run. He’s shifty in space, has good vision, and is an excellent cutback runner. He could push for a starting job in a zone scheme.
6. Devonta Freeman, Florida State
After rushing for 1,016 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, Freeman opted to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft. Freeman is jack-of-all-trades type of player. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and contribute as a pass protector. He also displays enough burst to get outside. Teams will have difficulties keeping him off the field.
7. James White, Wisconsin
White has the agility to make defenders miss and the hands to emerge as a receiver out of the backfield. Despite his size, he’s capable of running between the tackles, though he never handled a full workload at Wisconsin, sharing time with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon III. He’s an excellent cutback runner with the patience and vision to return kicks. He’ll settle in as a change of pace running back.
8. Terrance West, Towson
A strong workout at the combine put West (an FCS star) on NFL radar. He ran the 40 in 4.54 seconds, a good time given he did at 225 pounds. There’s wear and tear on his tires (413 carries in 2013), but he also proved to be one of the more reliable players in FCS. He was named the first ever Jerry Rice Award winner, which is given to the top freshman in FCS.
9. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Elusive in space and a good receiver, Thomas is somewhat comparable to Darren Sproles. The difference between the two (and it’s a big one) is Sproles can run between the tackles, while Thomas cannot. Still, Thomas can return kicks, impact the game as a receiver, and change direction as well as any running back from this class. Durability and toughness, however, are red flags.
10. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Carey has excellent acceleration, but he lacks the long-range speed to be a homerun threat. He was one of the most productive runners in FBS, though, with 16 consecutive games of 100-plus rushing yards. However, he may have some wear on his tires after receiving 300-plus carries the last two years.
Best of the Rest
Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
Marion Grice, Arizona State
Storm Johnson, Central Florida
Charles Sims, West Virginia
Andre Williams, Boston College