Preseason Top 20 College Running Backs

Scout.com NFL Analyst Chris Steuber shares his list of the nation's Top 20 college running backs as they gear up for the 2007 season. Find out who he thinks will draw the attention of NFL Scouts this year.

1. Darren McFadden (6-foot-2, 205-pounds), Arkansas (Jr.)

McFadden provides instant excitement when he's on the field whether he's in the backfield, split out wide, or utilized in Arkansas' "Wildcat" formation where he lines up at quarterback. The versatile McFadden provides the Razorback offense with a playmaker who can take it to the house whenever he touches the ball. In 2006, McFadden rushed for 1,647 yards on 284 carries with 14 touchdowns. It's been reported that his mother already said her son will make the jump to the NFL following the 2007 college football season. If he stays healthy and continues his spectacular play, McFadden will become the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

2. Steve Slaton (5-foot-10, 195-pounds), West Virginia (Jr.)

A shifty, elusive runner, Slaton provides an offense with an explosive playmaker out of the backfield. He's not the biggest back in the nation, but he's the most productive. Slaton's totals over the last two seasons are as impressive as any player in the country. He's carried the ball 453 times for 2,872 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns. Those numbers alone are first-round worthy.

3. Jonathan Stewart (5-foot-11, 230-pounds), Oregon (Jr.)

A strong, physical, speedy back, Stewart is a powerful runner who possesses quick feet and agility that allow him to make the opposition miss. He shows signs of greatness, rushing for over 140-yards in a single game four times in 2006, but he has to become more consistent as a runner. If you look at Stewart's rushing totals (981 yards on 183 attempts with 10 touchdowns) from 2006, you'd ask yourself, "How is he a top-rated running back?" The intangibles he brings to the field are what make him special -- his explosive running skills and his versatility as a return-man on special teams. Expect his production and workload to increase in 2007.

Rutger's Ray Rice
Gregory Shamus, Getty Images
4. Ray Rice (5-foot-9, 200-pounds), Rutgers (Jr.)

A workhorse runner who is efficient and consistent, Rice leaves it all on the field. He displays excellent strength and balance and is able to obtain the tough yards. Since his arrival at Rutgers, Rice was an instrumental part of the program's resurgence. He started as a true freshman and achieved instant success, recording 1,120 rushing yards on 195 carries. Rice had a breakout season in 2006, totaling 1,794 rushing yards on a workman-like 335 carries and 20 touchdowns. If he is able to duplicate his statistics from 2006 this season, Rice is surely a first-round selection.

5. Felix Jones (6-foot-0, 200-pounds), Arkansas (Jr.)

Arkansas has the best running game in the country, featuring Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Not since Auburn's tandem of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams has a team possessed a dynamic duo like this. Everyone knows who McFadden is, but the consensus has never heard of Jones. Splitting time with an all-world runner like McFadden can be tough, but Jones shows a unique blend of size, speed and elusiveness. In 2006, he amassed 1,168 rushing yards on just 154 carries. Arkansas will feature McFadden all season long, but if given an opportunity, Jones will prove he's an elite runner.

6. Mike Hart (5-foot-9, 196-pounds), Michigan (Sr.)

A hardworking, productive runner with excellent vision and skills, Hart has been through a lot at Michigan. He's had some great seasons and battled through injuries during his three-years as a Wolverine. His freshman and junior seasons at Michigan were outstanding, but he suffered a sophomore jinx in 2005 when he suffered a hamstring injury. Hart totaled 3,679 rushing yards on 750 carries and 27 touchdowns during his career in Ann Arbor. Entering his senior season, he looks to have an injury-free, productive season that positions him high on draft boards.

7. Ryan Torain (6-foot-1, 213-pounds), Arizona State (Sr.)

Nicknamed "Train", Torain is the most underrated running back in the country. A former JUCO transfer, his first season with the Sun Devils was a memorable one as he rushed for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns. Torain combines size, speed, strength, and vision to his impressive game and showed flashes of greatness against California last season. He rushed for 191 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown in a 49-21 loss to the Golden Bears. Despite the loss, Torain showed his promise… Choo Choo.

Clemson's J Davis
Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
8. James Davis (5-foot-11, 205-pounds), Clemson (Jr.)

A tremendous runner with excellent strength and speed, Davis has shown the ability to be a playmaker. Davis shares the backfield with sophomore sensation C.J. Spiller, but it's Davis who makes the offensive engine of Clemson run. He rushed for 1,187 yards on 203 carries and 17 touchdowns. He's a scoring machine who will sacrifice his playing time for the team's success.

9. Jamaal Charles (6-foot-1, 200-pounds), Texas (Jr.)

Charles combines speed and elusiveness, making him a dangerous weapon on the football field. He has yet to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark during his first two years with the Longhorns, and with that said, he's decided not to participate in track -- as he's done over the past two years -- and to concentrate solely on football. With Charles' new dedication to football, his production may sky rocket.

10. Ian Johnson (5-foot-11, 194-pounds), Boise State (Jr.)

Known for his game-winning two-point conversion in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, Johnson stormed onto the scene last year, rushing for 1,714 yards and 25 touchdowns while helping Boise State to a 12-0 record. Johnson has excellent skills and a great awareness for the end zone. He's a player to keep an eye on in 2007 as it appears he's on the verge of great accomplishments.

The rest of the list:

11. Tashard Choice (6-foot-1, 205-pounds), Georgia Tech (Sr.)

12. Branden Ore (5-foot-11, 202-pounds), Virginia Tech (Jr.)

13. Albert Young (5-foot-10, 209-pounds), Iowa (Sr.)

14. Tyrell Sutton (5-foot-9, 190-pounds), Northwestern (Jr.)

15. Yvenson Bernard (5-foot-9, 202-pounds), Oregon State (Sr.)

16. Allen Patrick (6-foot, 191-pounds), Oklahoma (Sr.)

17. BenJarvis Green-Ellis (5-foot-11, 225-pounds), Mississippi (Sr.)

18. Jorvorskie Lane (6-foot, 274-pounds), Texas A&M (Jr.)

19. Marlon Lucky (6-foot, 210-pounds), Nebraska (Jr.)

20. Andre Brown (6-foot, 232-pounds), N.C. State (Jr.)


A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. The former publisher of NFLDraftPro.com, Chris has also covered the NFL Draft for the Eagles' official website, PhiladelphiaEagles.com.



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