2003 Running Backs Rankings

They're not as weak as the early projections had them, but not as strong as hoped for - that's the best way to characterize this April's running back crop. While there's several multi-dimensional ball handlers, there's just as many with major durability questions.

1. Full Name: Larry Johnson School: Penn State Ht: 6-1 Wt: 225 40: 4.62 Year: 4Sr Number: 5

"After years of the slippery, elusive running backs, Penn State has settled on the power running of Larry Johnson, the Lions top rusher since 2001. Johnson put together a good campaign in 2002, enhancing his draft status and making NFL scouts take notice of him. " Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Big, strong runner starting to come into his own. A patient back with nice vision, waits for blocks to develop and uses an effective straight-arm, staying on his feet after initial contact. Powerful lower body which enables him to break tackles and move the pile of defenders trying to bring him down. Gives effort when blocking, breaks down playing with solid techniques and picking up his assignments, squaring into the oncoming defender. Decent safety valve as a receiver out of the backfield.

The Bad: Overall running lacks quickness, speed, and elusiveness. Runs with an upright style and not fast through the hole.

The Skinny: To his credit, starting to pull the pieces together in 2002, which could result in a first day selection, or at the very least the middle frames, should he run well prior to April.

Projected order in draft: Mid 1st round.

2. Full Name: Lee Suggs School: Virginia Tech Ht: 5-11 Wt: 210 40: 4.43 Year: 5Sr Number: 22

"Entering the 2001 campaign, many considered Lee Suggs the top running back in college football and the number one pro prospect at his position, but a major knee injury during the first game of the season quickly put an end to his year. Suggs is back and showing the same skills he displayed as a junior, but where does he fit in at the next level? " Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Quick, shifty back coming off a major knee injury. Explosive runner with quickness through the hole and a burst of speed in the open field. Patient, waits for his blocks to develop, then sets up defenders and makes them miss, side-stepping opponents with his ability to quickly cut it back. Breaks down well, plays with forward lean and gives effort blocking. Best on the interior as a north-south runner that weaves through the traffic, breaking arm tackles and working his runs.

The Bad: Only average hands, not effective outside of tackle and loses momentum running in anything other than a straight line. Suffered a major knee injury which shelved him for almost all of the 2001 campaign. Quickly got back to form this season, though he presently has the benefit of sharing the ball with another skilled runner.

The Skinny: Instincts and speed make him a quality prospect and high pick next April, assuming test results on his injured knee are negative.

Projected order in draft: Late 1st round.

3. Full Name: Musa Smith School: Georgia Ht: 6-1 Wt: 212 40: NA Year: 3Jr Number: 32

Scouting Report:

Projected order in draft: Early 2rd round.

4. Full Name: Onterrio Smith School: Oregon Ht: 5-11 Wt: 205 40: 4.43 Year: 4Jr Number: 2

"A highly touted recruit at the University of Tennessee, Onterrio Smith was forced off the team after several rules violations but has landed on his feet in Eugene, carrying the ball for the Ducks and helping them to national prominence. Along the way he is establishing himself as one of the best running back prospects in the nation." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Elusive, versatile running back effective carrying the ball or catching it out of the backfield. Quick footed, displays some wiggle in his runs and leaves defenders grasping for air as he makes them miss at the point of attack. Has somewhat of a slashing style and quickly cuts it back against the grain, avoiding piles or opponents altogether. Fast with a burst of speed through the hole or the ability to get outside around tackle, and beats opponents to the corners. Also a patient ball carrier that waits for his blocks to develop. Runs with balance, works hard, and keeps his feet moving up the field. Though an elusive runner, does more north/south running rather than just trying to dance around opponents. Excellent receiver with soft, natural hands and the ability to adjust for the errant throw.

The Bad: Prefers not to block even in a pinch, lacks the classic size for an every-down runner, and has had more than his fair share of problems off the field. Seems to have buckled down and is getting his priorities in order, though there's room for improvement.

The Skinny: A big-time prospect at the next level as he's a back with a little Marshall Faulk in him, and an impact offensive player at the next level if he keeps his focus, concentration, and does the right thing.

Projected order in draft: Mid 2nd round.

5. Full Name: Chris Brown School: Colorado Ht: 6-2 Wt: 230 40: 4.55 Year: 4Jr Number: 22

"Gary Barnett has had a host of talented running backs in his college coaching career and Chris Brown could be the best. A powerful runner with intellect, Brown runs around opponents with as much ferocity as he runs through them." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Big, powerful runner that carries the load and moves the pile. Combines strong hips and lower body, keeps his feet moving up the field, easily adjusting off the first hit. Picks up a lot of yardage off the initial contact and stays off the ground. Rarely tackled by a single opponent, drags defenders and does not go down without a fight. More than just a road-grader - sees the field, follows blocks - an intelligent ball carrier. Displays a short burst through the hole and effectiveness between tackles.

The Bad: Lacks the great breakaway speed, not an elusive runner and best between tackles.

The Skinny: Good size for the next level as an interior runner and can complete the equation this year by proving he can handle the duties as an every-down ball carrier. Best if he stays in college but should he leave, pre-draft speed will dictate much.

Projected order in draft: Mid 2nd round.

6. Full Name: Artose Pinner School: Kentucky Ht: 5-9 Wt: 229 40: NA Year: 4Sr Number: 22

Scouting Report:

Projected order in draft: Early 3rd round.

7. Full Name: Domanick Davis School: LSU Ht: 5-8 Wt: 210 40: 4.59 Year: 4Sr Number: 31

"The talent level at Baton Rouge is getting to be enormous, so much so that productive seniors must sit on the bench to make way for up and coming youngsters that may hold more upside. Such is the case with Domanick Davis, a skilled runner and solid pro prospect who may just slip through the cracks next April." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Quick, versatile skill player overshadowed by the bigger names on his team. Tremendous footwork with the ability to set up defenders, quickly cut it back and makes opponents miss. Sees the field, finds the hole, and displays a burst of speed through it. Patient, waiting for his blocks to develop and elusive enough to scamper outside around tackle and get to the corners. Also strings together several moves in one carry. Plays much faster than his forty time. Impacts the game as a return specialist and nice receiver out of the backfield, though his stats would not lead you to that conclusion.

The Bad: Has a compact build with a strong lower body but does not show the ability to pick up much yardage off initial contact or break tackles.

The Skinny: A player that will fall through the cracks next April but a prospect that has a definite future at the next level as a third down back, return specialist, and an occasional primary ball carrier.

Projected order in draft: Mid 3rd round.

8. Full Name: Justin Fargas School: USC Ht: 6-0 Wt: 227 40: NA Year: SR Number: 25

Scouting Report:

Projected order in draft: Late 3rd round.

9. Full Name: Earnest Graham School: Florida Ht: 5-8 Wt: 215 40: 4.57 Year: 5Sr Number: 5

"Known as a school that is pass the ball first, second, and sometimes third, Earnest Graham has been an exceptional back for the Gators three years running and displays a lot of skill for the next level." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Productive ball carrier that's been the Gators' feature back three years running. Smart, instinctive, and possesses excellent running skills. Patient back that waits for his blocks to develop, sees the field and finds the open hole in the defense. Will pick and choose his spots, works to set up defenders and displays a small stutter-step which he uses to avoid opponents or bounce it to the outside. Runs with forward lean, keeps his feet moving up the field and picks up yardage off initial contact. Aggressive, uses an effective straight-arm and works to finish his runs. Solid receiver out of the backfield and a reliable safety valve. Adequate when called upon to block.

The Bad: Lacks a burst and open-field speed, and cannot run to daylight. Shorter than what one wants in an every-down ball carrier.

The Skinny: Desire, natural skills, and productivity will help him be successful at the next level but, unless he turns in a blistering forty-time prior to April, a marginal first day selection.

Projected order in draft: Early 4th round.

10. Full Name: Cecil Sapp School: Colorado State Ht: 5-10 Wt: 228 40: 4.57 Year: 5Sr Number: 32

"Always known as one that had tremendous innate skills, Cecil Sapp's career at Colorado State has been characterized by injury and sharing the ball in the Ram backfield. After a tremendous 2002 campaign, Sapp has pushed himself into the early reaches of the draft's first day." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview

Scouting Report:

The Good: Big, powerful ball carrier with terrific overall running skills. Displays vision, seeing the field and finding the hole. Weaves his way through the traffic, getting to the open spot on the field and picking up positive yardage. Displays wiggle and some shake-n-bake in a small area and sets up defenders, making them miss. Strong enough to redirect off the initial hit to gain yardage after initial contact, and tough to knock off his feet. Plays a fast game for a bigger back, exploding through the hole, running well in the open.

The Bad: Because of injuries and depth at the position, has only one complete season under his belt. Not used much as a receiver out of the backfield.

The Skinny: Showed us a lot of skill based on the '00 tape and is coming off a tremendous campaign in 2002 which, combined with good pre-draft workouts, could catapult him towards the early part of round two.

Projected order in draft: Early 4th round.

To view the entire list of Running Backs available for the 2003 NFL Draft, click here.

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