I can’t recall in recent memory, a draft that has been so deep in quality runners. While 2006 produced many solid halfbacks, it is my belief that the players who will chosen in the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds of this draft are of much better talent and have a better shot of becoming legitimate feature backs.
#1 Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Despite what Mike Mayock says, I have difficulty pushing DMac down enough that Mendenhall or Stewart chases him down. Paternity suits and knocks on character aside withstanding, Darren McFadden is still the number one prospect for halfbacks in this draft. His vision, elusiveness and speed will allow him to be a productive NFL runner. Running a 4.27 forty definitely doesn’t hurt.
#2 Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
Mendenhall has had his praises sung by many a scout over the past couple of weeks. He is described as “the entire package” and that may indeed be true. Mendenhall is about as fast as a 225 pound back can be. His rare mix of size, speed and agility allow him to run by you, dance around you or run you over if he so chooses.
#3 Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
The proverbial bowling ball runner, Stewart is an old school coaches dream. A guy who can pound the ball inside 30 times a game and tire out a defense. Stewart may have lost a position on Mendenhall due to Mendenhall’s great combine but make no mistake; Stewart is strong and runs a quick dash for a 230 pound guy. He is easily first round talent and will not be far behind Mendenhall.
#4 Ray Rice, Rutgers
Rice is a meat-and-potatoes kind of runner. His speed and agility good but not great. His size isn’t the best but he packs a lot of weight onto a smaller frame. What he does excel at is running the ball early and often and getting production. Many compare Rice to Frank Gore; a stocky, compact guy who is fast and agile enough to make you miss and leave you in the dust but also physical enough to take 25 handoffs a game and bruise your linebackers. His durability is unquestionable after taking nearly 1000 handoffs in three years without major injury. He should be a steal for a team in the early to mid second round.
#5 Felix Jones, Arkansas
I was very high on Jones until the combine. When north-south speed and big play ability are your calling card, you can’t run a 4.47 and expect scouts not to be disappointed. A few months aso, many postulated whether McFadden was even the best runningback on his own team. Jones is still a supreme talent but he has question marks. He hasn’t carried a full load at the collegiate level and may have difficulty transitioning into an NFL feature back. I still believe that Jones can bounce back and will be an impact player in the NFL but for now, Rice leapfrogs Jones into the 4th spot.