Ranking Top 26 Running Backs

According to scouts, Le'Veon Bell leads the 20 running backs and Kyle Juszczyk leads the six fullbacks. Our board is weighted toward the bigger running backs and does not include the small backs that the Packers have shied away from under Thompson.

Here is how Packer Report ranks this year's prospects at running back, based on conversations with three scouts, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, and the NFL's longtime lead scout, Dave-Te' Thomas.

1. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State (6-1, 230): He's our Cream of the Crop.

2. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (5-11, 231): Lacy posted big-time production in his first and only season as the Tide's featured back. He rushed for 1,322 (6.5 average) and 17 touchdowns. He added 22 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He rumbled for a career-high 181 yards in the SEC title game against Georgia, then rushed for 140 and scored two total touchdowns in the national championship game against Notre Dame. Even the scouts who like Bell better say Lacy will be the first back drafted. "He's a real good player," a scout said. "He's a guy that's going to run through tackles. For a big guy like him, he has some elusiveness to him. He's not a real shifty guy but he has a subtle patience to his running style. He's a guy that's going to come off the board somewhere in that 22 to 32 range. Mark Ingram went 28 (in 2011) and he's probably a little better than Mark Ingram. I just don't think he's a dynamic difference-maker."

3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin (5-11, 214): Departs as one of the great running backs in college football history. He set an NCAA record with 83 career touchdowns. As a junior, he rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns. His 39 total touchdowns tied Barry Sanders' NCAA record and was more than 42 FBS teams. Rather than enter the draft, he came back and posted 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns for an encore and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top back. Nobody understand why Ball came back for his senior season. "I'm not a Montee Ball fan for the simple reason that I can't have a late-model Corvette with 200,000 miles on it," Thomas said. "It defeats the purpose. I think that his best football was left on the field up in Wisconsin." Added another scout, "Montee's just a solid, jack of all trades, master of none. You'd like for him to be a home run hitter, which he's not. You talk about a guy that he puts it up under his arm and he's going to get you 4 or 5 yards. He's just very natural and has very good vision and really has a natural feel. I could see him coming off the board in the mid- to late second (round)."

4. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (5-9, 214): Taylor has everything the Packers want in a running back. He's tough and smart, and can block and catch. He's also 5-foot-9 and DuHarris is the only back on a Ted Thompson roster to be less than 5-foot-10. Taylor left Stanford as the school's career leader with 4,300 rushing yards, 45 touchdowns and 21 100-yard games. He never missed a game, playing in all 53 and starting 39. Taylor played with Andrew Luck as his quarterback and Jim Harbaugh as his coach but was the unquestioned team leader as a senior in filling those voids. He's more quick than fast can can make defenders miss in the hole. He lacks a second gear, but he's a true three-down back.

5. Knile Davis, Arkansas (5-11, 227): He probably doesn't rank this high on most teams' boards but his size makes him the ideal for the Packers. He rushed for 377 yards and just 3.7 yards per attempt in 2012. He missed all of 2011 with a broken ankle sustained a few weeks before the start of the season. In 2010, he led the SEC with 1,322 rushing yards, including 139 yards against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. He destroyed the Scouting Combine with a 4.37 in the 40 with 31 reps on the bench. "I see a lot of Arian Foster in him," Thomas said. "If it wasn't for that knee injury before the 2011 season, this kid probably would have been a first-round pick in the 2012 draft. Any time a kid's coming back from major reconstructive knee surgery, you've got to give him some time. You go back and look at this year, you look at the first half of the season, you say, ‘My, God, what in the hell is this guy even doing on the football field.' Those last three or four games, I started seeing the Knile Davis of 2010. This is a kid that people are still going to be scared of because they're thinking maybe his best football is behind him. In the sixth, seventh round, if somebody gets him, you might have Arian Foster all over again."

6. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State (6-0, 204): Led the Big 12 with 1,417 rushing yards, was named first-team all-conference and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. In 2011, he added 1,216 yards and his 150 points were the most in school history other than Barry Sanders' prodigious 234. A tremendous receiver, he added 108 career receptions and averaged 25.6 yards on kickoff returns as a true freshman. "Joseph Randle brings something to the table if I can get him in the third or fourth round," Thomas said. "He's got good numbers and everything else but he does not have that breakaway speed. Once a guy gets into the second level, you need to show me that extra gear. You're not going to lower your pads and try to run over people when you're only 205 pounds."

7. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (5-10, 205): Finalist for the Doak Walker Award and a second-team All-American. He set single-season and career school records for rushing and all-purpose yards, finishing with 1,734 yards as a senior and 4,403 for his career. He added 33 receptions for 323 yards as a senior. He was a fumbling machine early in his career but didn't cough it up as a senior after deciding to breath, sleep and eat with a football in his hands at all time. Ran 4.49 at the Combine. "I like him, I really do," a scout said, "but I don't think he can be a bellcow runner. He made himself a lot of money in Mobile and Indy, though (for the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine)."

8. Christine Michael, Texas A&M (5-10, 220): He's our Overrated player.

9. Michael Ford, LSU (5-10, 210): Frustrated by his role at LSU, Ford was an early entrant. He carried 71 times for 392 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. In his last five games, he had just 11 carries. He did average 27.5 yards on 20 kickoff returns. He never matched the expectations coming out of Leesville (La.) High, where he rushed for 2,953 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior Ran 4.50 at the Combine and better at his pro day. "A kid rising up the boards big time, fifth or sixth round," Thomas said. "When you've got a 210-pounder with 4.42 speed ... The problem with Michael is he got caught in the shuffle down there. They had so many four-, five-star running backs that he rarely got a chance to carry the ball. Same thing with Spencer Ware, but I would take Ford over Ware any day of the week."

10. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (5-11, 221): Was one of the nation's best backs and probably would have been a top-five pick until he tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011 and three ligaments in his right knee in 2012. He figured his career was over; instead, he intends on being ready for Week 1. As a true freshman at South Carolina, he was the nation's unanimous Freshman of the Year after rushing for 1,197 yards and setting a school record with 19 touchdowns. In three seasons, he rushed for 2,677 yards and 41 touchdowns. He never had a breakaway speed but he was a patient runner who could move the pile. "If I get him in the mid-rounds, I'll take a gamble, but I'm not going to do what Buffalo did with McGahee a bunch of years ago and take him with a first- or second-round pick," Thomas said. "This is back-to-back years with a major injury. When I've got a running back that starts breaking down — remember the '60s, when Cadillacs were beautiful but once one thing went on it, everything started going? He's a 1960s Cadillac." One scout who saw his knee at the Combine called it "nasty."

11. Michael Hill, Missouri Western (5-10, 204): He's our Sleeper.

12. Latavius Murray, Central Florida (6-2, 223): Even while missing three games due to injury, he rushed for 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior plus caught 27 passes for 231 yards and four more scores. He is sixth in school history with 2,424 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns. Incredibly, he didn't lose a fumble in his final 407 carries dating to 2008. Rocketing up the draft boards after the big guy ran a 4.38, with a 36-inch vertical and 22 reps on the bench at his pro day. With his size, some teams like him at receiver but the Packers see him as a running back.

13. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (5-11, 213): Splitting time with Theo Riddick (and sitting out the opening two games with a suspension), Wood rushed for 742 yards (6.5 average) and four touchdowns in 2012. He ranks seventh in school history with 2,447 rushing yards. In 2010, he rushed for 603 yards and he rumbled for 1,102 and nine touchdowns in 2011. In three seasons, he caught 52 passes.

14. Mike Gillislee, Florida (5-11, 208): Named first-team all-SEC after rushing for 1,152 yards (4.7 average) and scoring 11 total touchdowns as a senior. He gutted Florida State's top-ranked run defense for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 24 attempts. He's just the eighth back in school history to top 1,000 yards and the first since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. He added 16 catches as a senior. In his first three seasons, he never carried more than 58 times. Ran 4.55 at Combine. "I liked his pass protection at the Senior Bowl," a scout said. "He's got a chance to be a solid role player."

15. Matthew Tucker, TCU (6-0, 221): Honorable mention all-Big 12 with 505 rushing yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns. He ranks third in school history with 33 rushing scores. He's solid in pass protection but not much of a receiving threat. He's got the size the Packers covet and decent speed (4.55 at the Combine) but it never quite equated to consistently strong production.

16. Spencer Ware, LSU (5-10, 228): Rushed for 367 yards and caught 18 passes for 230 yards in 11 games. As a sophomore in 2011, Ware earned the starting nod and gained 707 yards and scored eight times to earn second-team honors in the SEC. He missed one game for reportedly failing a drug test. Also in 2011, he started 10 games and played in 21 as an outfielder on the baseball team. "He's a north-south runner who is an interesting guy if he'd ever take advantage of his size," a scout said.

17. George Winn, Cincinnati (5-11, 216): Had less than 400 rushing yards in his collegiate career until a senior campaign of 1,334 yards (5.5 average) and 13 touchdowns to earn second-team honors in the Big East. He even threw a touchdown pass and was a staple on special teams. He had a bad Combine while he tried to battle through a hamstring injury but ran in 4.53 at his pro day.

18. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (5-10, 214): Limited to eight games as a senior because of a sprained knee but rushed for 675 yards and five touchdowns. With 3,329 rushing yards, he ranks fifth in school history. He's got off-the-charts intangibles as a two-time, first-team Academic All-American, the captain of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and one of 15 National Football Foundation scholar-athletes. Ran bad at Indy (4.65) and worse at pro day (4.69). An excellent receiver who could be a quality third-down back if he becomes a better blocker.

19. Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada (5-11, 213): First-team all-Mountain West and second- and third-team All-American accolades from several services. He had a monster season with 1,883 yards (5.0 average) and 24 touchdowns, plus 22 receptions for 170 yards and another score. His 144.9 rushing yards per game ranked second in the nation. He scored seven touchdowns against Hawaii. Solid pass protector but a fumbling machine. Ran 4.62 at Combine.

20. Derrick Washington, Tuskegee (6-0, 230): In three seasons at Missouri, he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. He was a team captain as a junior. The, he was arrested for sexual assault, kicked out of school and sentenced to five years in prison. He served 120 days — he still says he is innocent — and wound up at Tuskegee. After two years out of the game, he averaged 140 rushing yards per game and scored 15 touchdowns to be named Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year and was a finalist for the Harlan Hill Award. School officials vouch for his character. Ran 4.74 at pro day.


1. Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard (6-1, 248): A two-time All-American tight end at Harvard. He caught 52 passes for 706 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior and 37 passes for 512 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. He's not a pile-driving lead blocker but his versatility and athletic ability make him an excellent fit in a John Kuhn type of role. Juszczyk had a pre-draft visit with Green Bay. Was not invivted to the Combine, but had 4.71 with 24 reps at his pro day, and had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl.

2. Lonnie Pryor, Florida State (6-0, 227): Arrived at Florida State with big aspirations of being the next Warrick Dunn after rushing for 2,300 yards as a senior at Okeechobee (Fla.) High but settled into the thankless job as the Seminoles' fullback. He rushed for 376 yards (8.0 average) and eight touchdowns and caught 13 passes as a senior. He capped his career by rumbling for 134 yards and scores of 60 and 37 yards in the Orange Bowl against Northern Illinois. He's Thomas' pick as the No. 1 fullback. Ran in 4.70 with 17 reps at the Combine.

3. Zach Line, SMU (6-1, 232): Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior, when he rushed for 1,278 yards (4.6 average) and 13 touchdowns and added 33 receptions for 269 yards (6.9). Line was the fourth player in C-USA history to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He finished his career with 4,185 yards and 47 rushing touchdowns. He's an interesting prospect given Green Bay's fondness for one-back schemes. Ran in 4.77 with 26 reps at the Combine.

4. Mike James, Florida (5-11, 223): Played running back and fullback as a senior, tallying a career-high 621 yards and six touchdowns. James was selected to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his work in the community. Ran 4.53 with 28 reps at the Combine.

5. Tommy Bohanon, Wake Forest (6-1, 246): He's the best "old-school" fullback in the draft. Caught 23 passes for 208 yards and was second on the team with five touchdowns and six total scores. In 49 career games, he scored 10 touchdowns. Put up 36 reps on the bench at the Combine.

6. Zach Boren, Ohio State (6-0, 238): Played fullback and, by necessity due to injuries in 2012, linebacker for the Buckeyes. In four seasons, he caught 25 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. As a senior, he caught five passes and had 50 tackles and one sack. His brother, Justin Boren, plays for the Broncos. Ran in 5.00 with 25 reps at Combine.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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