The power backs are your strong runners who specialize in hammering it inside. Some of these guys have enough talent to be every-down backs, while others may be relegated to short-yardage duties in a committee of ball carriers.
THE POWER BACKS
Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
Good News: Good balance and power…Can run through arm tackles and bowl over defensive backs in the second level…Exceptionally quick feet and nimble for a player his size…Solid vision to find cutback lanes and great burst allows him to take advantage.
Bad News: Runs too high at times…Speed is good for a player his size but not great overall and won't pull away from a lot of NFL defenses…Will need to improve in pass protection…Flashes productivity as a receiver but catches a lot of balls with his body…Suspended in 2009 for violation of team rules
2010 Statistics: Second-team All-American and Texas Bowl MVP…Gained 1,697 yards with 17 touchdowns on 281 carries (6.04 ypc)…Added 193 yards and three more scores on 17 receptions (11.35 ypc).
Prediction: Leshoure is often compared to his Fighting Illini predecessor, Rashard Mendenhall, due to similar running styles. While I don't believe Leshoure is as good a prospect as Mendenhall, he's still explosive for a power back and has the skill set to be an every-down player. Some view him as a potential late first-round pick, but barring a trade, I really don't see any suitors in that area who need to spend that high of a pick on a running back. It's more likely you will see Leshoure chosen in the second round.
Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
Good News: Powerful downhill runner…Runs through arm tackles and can make defenders who don't wrap-up pay with a nice spin move…Good enough balance to stay on feet through contact…Excellent athletic ability for a player his size, showing the agility to plant and cut up field with decent burst…Plenty of experience in the Wildcat and is a threat to throw the ball as a former quarterback…Solid vision but not elite…Reliable receiver.
Bad News: Has been unable to run in front of scouts yet due to a nagging hamstring injury and does not show good speed on tape anyways…Runs too high at times and leaves himself exposed…Legitimate ball-security issues…Questionable pass blocker.
2010 Statistics: Second-team All-Big 12 selection and Kansas State Offensive Most Valuable Player…Gained 1,585 yards with 19 touchdowns on 298 carries (5.32 ypc)…Added 171 yards on 27 receptions (6.33 ypc).
Prediction: Thomas doesn't display great speed on film and scouts have legitimate concerns. Unfortunately he has done nothing to silence his doubters, as a hamstring injury has prevented him from running thus far in the pre-draft process. When he finally works out, a good day will solidify a spot in the second round while a poor performance could drop him as low as the fourth.
Jamie Harper, Clemson
Good News: Flashes the power to put his shoulder down and bowl over defenders…Good balance to stay on his feet through contact…Athletic for his size, showing nice feet to elude tacklers and burst to break the longer run…Impressive receiving ability – shows incredible body control and can adjust to the football…Good amount of tread on the tires (just 311 career carries).
Bad News: Negates his power by running too high…Needs to run with better pad level more consistently…Fast for his size, but average overall speed…Only average lateral agility and vision…Could improve in pass protection and has the size to be effective.
2010 Statistics: Gained 760 yards with seven touchdowns on 197 carries (3.86 ypc)…Added 328 yards with three more scores on 35 receptions (9.37 ypc).
Prediction: Harper is one of the most underrated big backs available in 2011. He needs to improve his pad level to become more consistent as a power runner, but he flashes fantastic strength and possesses uncanny ability as a receiver. He should be able to contribute early as a third-down back and should be selected in the fourth or fifth rounds.
Alex Green, Hawaii
Good News: No-nonsense runner who immediately gets downfield…Powerful and is willing to lower his shoulder into defenders to gain extra yardage…Bursts through the hole without hesitation…Nimble for his size and flashes quick feet to elude defenders from time to time…Soft hands out of the backfield and can contribute as a receiver.
Bad News: Lacks vision and patience…Straight-ahead runner and isn't going to elude a lot of NFL defenders…Good enough speed but lacks a second gear to pull away from the defense…Likely isn't an every-down back at the next level.
2010 Statistics: Only the seventh Hawaii player to gained 1,000 yards rushing or more in a season…Gained 1,199 yards with 18 touchdowns on 146 carries (8.21 ypc)…Added 363 yards with another score on 27 receptions (13.44 ypc).
Prediction: Green doesn't have the vision and patience to be an every-down player in the NFL, but he can be productive in a committee of backs. His added ability as a receiver makes him an attractive option as a third-down back as well. Teams looking to add a power element can find value in Green during the fifth round.
Stevan Ridley, Louisiana State
Good News: Decisive downhill runner who attacks the line of scrimmage…Lowers shoulders into contact and keeps his feet driving…Strong and consistently falls forward…Good feet and lateral agility…Solid vision to locate cutback lanes.
Bad News: Average speed and isn't going to pull away from defenses…Lacks elusiveness…Limited experience as a receiver…Likely not an every-down back in the NFL…Had just one season of production before leaving school.
2010 Statistics: All-SEC first-team selection…Gained 1,147 yards with 15 touchdowns on 249 carries (4.61 ypc)…Added 61 yards on 11 receptions (5.54 ypc).
Prediction: Ridley emerged as the Tigers' top back in 2010 after registering just 67 carries in his previous two seasons combined. He's the Mike Anderson/Reuben Droughns-type of big back that can excel in a zone blocking scheme. If not in a zone scheme, he could offer a power option in a committee of runners, but his value decreases because he's not going to be an every-down player. Ridley should warrant fifth or sixth round consideration.
Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech
Notes…Powerful back with good balance, but played in a triple-option offense that typically hasn't translated well to the next level.
ALLEN BRADFORD, Southern California
Notes…Converted defensive player who can offer power as a physical downhill runner in a committee of ball carriers.
John Clay, Wisconsin
Notes…Huge runner with surprisingly nimble feet, but posted an alarmingly slow 40-yard dash time at the combine.
The Patriots are in need of a running back with Fred Taylor all but retiring and the other veterans…