Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray (AP)
In the final installment in his breakdown of the running backs, Michael DiJulio evaluates the all-purpose or "change-of-pace" runners entering the draft. Another name that has piqued the interest of the Detroit Lions on draft day resides on this list.
Tuesday: All-Around Backs
Wednesday: Power Backs
ALL-PURPOSE BACKS/CHANGE-OF-PACE RUNNERS
KENDALL HUNTER, Oklahoma State
Good News: Patient, but hits hole hard with outstanding acceleration when he locates his lane…Good vision and decisive as a runner…Exceptional quickness and plays faster than his 40 time…Showed tenacity as a blocker despite giving up weight to linebackers.
Bad News: Lacks size and is not an every-down back…Gives good effort as a blocker, but is simply too small to take on NFL defenders…Could contribute as a receiver, but didn’t offer a lot of production in that aspect over the past two seasons…Durability concerns – missed time in 2009 with ankle/foot injuries.
2010 Statistics: Consensus All-American…Gained 1,548 yards with 16 touchdowns on 271 carries (5.71 ypc)…Added 101 yards on 20 receptions (5.05 ypc).
Production…Hunter is the kind of one-cut and go running back that could excel in a zone blocking scheme thanks to his vision and decisiveness. He’s not an every-down back in a traditional scheme, but could be a great change-of-pace guy in a stable. Hunter possesses second-round talent, although his lack of size could push him into the third.
DeMARCO MURRAY, Oklahoma
Good News: Possesses breakaway speed and can contribute in multiple areas…Excellent receiver out of the backfield and has experience returning kickoffs…Good burst and acceleration to explode off his cuts…Solid lateral agility to elude defenders…Runs with determination even though he lacks power...Displays pretty good balance.
Bad News: Runs too high to consistently get the job done inside…Has a linear build more suited for a receiver…Leaves himself susceptible to big hits and has durability concerns…Vision is very average overall.
2010 Statistics: All-Big 12 Conference first-team selection…Gained 1,214 yards with 15 touchdowns on 282 carries (4.30 ypc)…Added 594 yards and five more scores on 71 receptions (8.37 ypc).
Prediction: Murray has a linear build and run too tall to consistently bang it inside. He leaves himself vulnerable to taking big shots at the next level and has already had some trouble staying healthy. He does offer a lot as a receiver, however, and the ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game may entice a team to select him in the second or third round.
RoarReport.com Take: Detroit's interest in Murray has been verified (he visited Allen Park in late March) and why not? The team has had some luck drafting out of the state of Oklahoma, after all (see: Billy Sims, Barry Sanders). But that might be where the genuine interest fades. Although Murray's pass-catching skills and flash are well-documented, so are those of Jahvid Best. The Lions need a power runner and Murray doesn't seem to fit the bill.
SHANE VEREEN, California
Good News: Excellent speed…Decisive runner with nice vision to find the cutback lanes…Solid balance with good burst and acceleration…Great receiver out of the backfield who is used on downfield routes…Reliable as a pass blocker.
Bad News: Doesn’t offer a lot of strength as a runner but keeps his legs churning through contact…May lack the size to be an every-down back at the next level…Has had some ball-security issues.
2010 Statistics: All-Pac-10 second-team selection…Gained 1,167 yards with 13 touchdowns on 231 carries (5.05 ypc)…Added 209 yards with three more scores on 22 receptions (9.50 ypc).
Prediction: Vereen is another back whose vision and decisiveness make him a nice fit in the zone-blocking scheme. He could contribute early as a third-down back thanks to his exceptional receiving ability and solid pass protection. Teams will value his versatility and solid all-around game, likely resulting in a third-round selection.
JACQUIZZ RODGERS, Oregon State
Good News: Well-built despite lack of height…Elusive with exceptionally quick feet…Good vision and knows how to use size to his advantage…Terrific balance and runs with determination…Well-accomplished as a receiver and will contribute in the passing game…Can handle a heavy workload.
Bad News: Durability is always a concern with a player his size, although Rodgers has played in every game over the past two seasons (missed two games in 2008)…Lacks great top-end speed, but is the type player who is quicker than fast…Can dance to the hole a bit too much at times and could be more decisive…Quite a bit of wear for a smaller back (939 touches in three seasons).
2010 Statistics: All-Pac-10 Conference first-team selection…Gained 1,184 yards with 14 touchdowns on 256 carries (4.63 ypc)…Added 287 yards with three more scores on 44 receptions (6.52 ypc).
Prediction: Rodgers may lack great height, but he knows how to use it to his advantage. He patiently hides behind his offensive line and uses his quick feet to find running lanes. Rodgers is also well-accomplished as a receiver and can be an asset in the passing game. He’s very underrated and offers a lot of value in the third or fourth round with a chance to contribute early.
DERRICK LOCKE, Kentucky
Good News: Blazing game speed to break off big gains…Can take the edge on the outside run…Solid vision to locate cutback lanes and has the agility and acceleration to take advantage…Shifty and can make defenders miss…All-purpose back that can contribute as a runner, receiver and returner…Good balance and effort…Can run through a few arm tackles on occasion.
Bad News: Smaller back with legitimate durability concerns…Missed time in each of the past three seasons…Simply lacks power as a runner despite effort…Size is going to prevent him from being very reliable in pass protection on third-down…Not an every-down back.
2010 Statistics: Gained 887 yards with 10 touchdowns on 166 carries (5.34 ypc)…Added 318 yards on 34 receptions (9.35 ypc) and 395 yards on 15 kickoff returns (26.33 avg).
Prediction: Locke is a nifty all-purpose runner who can contribute in multiple areas. Although he lacks size and has a history of injury, getting in a stable of backs might be just what the doctor ordered. A team can get a lot of value out of Locke as a change-of-pace back in the fifth or sixth round, and limiting his carries would give him a better chance of staying healthy.
TAIWAN JONES, Eastern Washington
Good News: Absolute burner with sprinter speed…Excellent agility and change-of-direction skills…Elite acceleration – can plant and explode up field with tremendous burst…Very good balance and can stay on his feet through poor tackle attempts…Good elusiveness to make defenders miss.
Bad News: Slight frame and tall stature won’t allow him to consistently contribute as an inside runner…Major injury concerns – has missed time in four out of the last five seasons dating back to high school (exception was his redshirt year)…Played against lower-level competition…Character concerns regarding maturity.
2010 Statistics: Ranked second in the FCS in rushing yards (145.17 ypg) and all-purpose yards (201.75 ypg)…Totaled 1,742 yards with 14 touchdowns on 221 carries (7.88 ypc)…Added 342 yards with three more scores on 24 receptions (14.25 ypc) and 309 yards on 15 kickoff returns (20.6 avg).
Prediction: Jones might be the biggest wildcard in the draft. He’s a phenomenal talent, but has some legitimate durability questions. Jones suffered a broken foot late in 2010 and has been unable to work out in front of scouts thus far in the pre-draft process. He’s slated to run on April 14th. If he is as fast as everyone expects (potential low 4.3s), his stock could skyrocket into a third-round selection at the latest. If he is unable to run or ends up being slower than expect, he could slip as far as the fifth round. Teams will take a gamble on his kind of talent, but only if he can back it up and prove his health.
NOEL DEVINE, West Virginia
Notes…Explosive runner with fantastic quickness and elusiveness, but has a slight frame and durability concerns.
DA’REL SCOTT, Maryland
Notes…Offers blazing speed in a bigger package, but has a history of injury.
MARIO FANNIN, Auburn
Notes…Good size and an excellent receiver out of the backfield, but produced a disappointing senior campaign that included some fumbling problems.