NFL Scouting Combine Preview: RBs

Without the infusion of underclassmen like Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, the 2008 RB draft class would be mediocre. So how do McFadden, Jones and the nation's other top running backs rank among the 32 that have been invited to showcase their skills at the NFL Combine? Find out inside.

1. *Darren McFadden, Arkansas, 6-2, 210

McFadden is the top prospect in the entire 2008 draft class, and with his ability to provide instant offense, he will be highly sought after by many teams. It’s been rumored that the Dallas Cowboys are interested in packaging their two first round picks in an attempt to acquire McFadden. These rumors have circulated due to the alumni ties Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has with the University of Arkansas. Scouts and team personnel from around the league will want to see McFadden participate in as many drills as possible, but at this time it’s unknown what drills he intends on performing.

2. *Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois, 5-11, 215

After just one season as the starting running back at Illinois, Mendenhall decided to forego his final season and enter the draft. Mendenhall is a strong runner who displays elusiveness and playmaking ability. There are mixed reviews on his speed, and scouts will pay close attention to his performance in the 40-yard dash.

Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart watches the action against Arizona State.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

3. *Jonathan Stewart, Oregon, 5-11, 230

Stewart is a punishing runner who can bull-rush a defender or juke them out of their shoes. He’s a complete back who has good hands and has experience as a return man. At the Combine, Stewart will be judged on his lateral movement and his straight-line speed. 

4. *Felix Jones, Arkansas, 6-0, 207

The compliment to McFadden, Jones may benefit from not being a featured back at any point during his time at Arkansas. Despite sharing the load with McFadden over the last three years, Jones has only averaged 129 carries, but has an amazing 7.5 YPC during that span. Jones is just as fast as McFadden and also offers a team a potential return man.

5. *Jamaal Charles, Texas, 6-1, 205

Charles is an outstanding athlete who has tremendous ability and was brilliant down the stretch for Texas this past season. He has a lot of skills, but he has some issues protecting the ball. He will perform very well in the forty since he’s a former track star. But scouts want to see him show consistent hands and vision during drills.

6. Chris Johnson, East Carolina, 5-10, 201

There isn’t a faster RB in the country, and Johnson may be the best all-around runner in the draft. Johnson has all the tools to be an elite RB at the next level, and he showed that potential during Senior Bowl practice. He only participated in two practices in Mobile before leaving with an injured left shoulder. His performance in Indianapolis, with all the underclassmen talent at the RB position, will either rise or drop his name on draft boards. It’s as simple as that.

7. Matt Forte, Tulane, 6-1, 223

The running back who made the most money in Mobile was Tulane’s Matt Forte. During practice sessions and in the game, he showed that he’s a multidimensional running back with good speed, great hands and tremendous vision. With a similar workout in Indianapolis, Forte will solidify his status as a second-round selection.

8. *Steve Slaton, West Virginia, 5-10, 200

After a bit of a down year at West Virginia last season, Slaton decided to forego his senior season. He had a great sophomore season, but didn’t have the same explosion this past year. He will have to show good speed and quickness during drills and show scouts that he’s strong enough to be a featured back.

9. *Kevin Smith, Central Florida, 6-0, 215

The nation’s leading rusher, Smith has fluid hips and a knack for gaining tough yards. He doesn’t possess top straight-line speed, and that will hurt his draft stock this April. He’s shifty in the open field, but he will have to run a solid forty to gain momentum in the draft.

10. *Ray Rice, Rutgers, 5-9, 195

Rice is a very good north/south runner who has excellent vision and can handle a workload. The biggest question about Rice’s game is his speed. He’s not the fastest runner and doesn’t possess breakaway speed. The forty will be the biggest obstacle for Rice to overcome at the Combine.

11. Mike Hart, Michigan, 5-9, 200

Just like Rice, Hart is not a fast runner, but he’s displayed the ability to carry the ball early and often. Hart has a lot of tread on his body after totaling 1,015 carries during his four-year career at Michigan. That wear and tear will play a factor in his professional career and will have teams wary of his future. Hart is an intelligent player who has a passion for the game and who will impress teams during interviews at the Combine.

12. Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech, 5-11, 209

Choice is a quick-footed runner who possesses excellent vision. He performed well in Mobile during practices and showed good explosion through the line. He lacks the second gear and isn’t a game-breaker. Choice will give maximum effort at the Combine, but he has to run well to elevate his draft stock.

13. Anthony Alridge, Houston, 5-9, 172

Alridge is a scat back who has tremendous speed and will probably be drafted as a wide receiver. He’s a bit small to play RB at the next level, but he has a lot of value as a return man. The problem with Alridge playing receiver is that he tends to drop easy balls and isn’t consistent in the passing game. He will sparkle in running drills, but it’s in positional drills where he’s going to have to show his ability. 

14. Justin Forsett, California, 5-8, 184

A true little big-man, Forsett is a tough runner who has excellent pass catching ability. He displayed great quickness and vision at the Senior Bowl and ran with balance. At his size he should run faster. But his quick feet and positive attitude will win over scouts in Indianapolis.

15. Cory Boyd, South Carolina, 6-0, 220

Boyd is a big runner who runs tough between the tackles and shows good quickness on the edge. He performed well during East-West Shrine practices, but wasn’t consistent catching the ball. He’s not a shifty runner, but breaks tackles and is tough to bring down. Boyd has some character concerns and will have to address those issues during interviews at the Combine.

16. Dantrell Savage, Oklahoma State, 5-9, 195

17. Allen Patrick, Oklahoma, 6-0, 205

18. Thomas Brown, Georgia, 5-8, 198

19. Xavier Omon, Northwest Missouri State, 5-11, 221

20. Kalvin McRae, Ohio, 5-11, 208

21. Jalen Parmele, Toledo, 5-11, 226

22. Rafael Little, Kentucky, 5-9, 192

23. Ryan Torain, Arizona State, 6-0, 213

24. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ole Miss, 5-10, 220

25. Chauncey Washington, USC, 6-0, 221

26. Yvenson Bernard, Oregon State, 5-9, 202

27. Chad Simpson, Morgan State, 5-10, 210

28. Jehuu Caulcrick, Michigan State, 6-0, 260

29. Kregg Lumpkin, Georgia, 6-0, 223

30. Marcus Thomas, UTEP, 6-1, 215

31. Lex Hilliard, Montana, 6-0, 242

32. Calvin Dawson, Louisiana-Monroe, 5-9, 200

* Underclassmen

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.

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