Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois Fighting Illini
40-Time: (NFL Scouting Combine Time Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 to be added)
Mikel Leshoure set Illini records for rushing yards and touchdowns with 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior in 2010 (6.0 yards per carry). He played in 11 games as a sophomore the previous season, starting three times as he rushed for 734 yards and five touchdowns (6.8 yards per carry) and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention at the end of the year.ball.
Leshoure is a north-south style runner who has good size at 6'0, 230 pounds and quick feet. He does not have elite speed, but he's by no means a slow back. He accelerates quickly and is aggressive as he hits the hole. In Leshoure teams will find tough runner who won't shy away from contact and lowers his shoulders to dish out hits rather than preparing to take a hit.
He's a fluid runner who sees the field well and runs with appropriate pad level. Leshoure carried the football 281 times without a fumble in 2010. In addition to being a solid back with one of the best combinations of size and speed in this year's draft, Leshoure was used as a receiver out of the backfield on occasion at Illinois, catching 17 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns as a junior. He caught 14 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore.
Leshoure does not possess elite speed and may be caught from behind by faster cornerbacks and safeties. His 40 time has been listed from the 4.4s to the 4.6s with 4.5 seeming to be the general consensus. Scouts may also be concerned that Leshoure served as a full-time starter in just one season. Granted it was a successful season and he did play a lot in 2009 as a sophomore, but with just one 1,000 yard season under his belt, some may question whether he's proven he can be an every down, featured back in the NFL.
Leshoure rushed for a school record 330 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern on November 20, 2010 in a game played at Wrigley Field. The 330-yard performance was the highest rushing total of the season, edging Hawaii's Alex Green by three yards (327 yards 11/27/10 vs. New Mexico State). Leshoure went for two touchdowns in the game.
Potential NFL Team, Round
Concerns that Leshoure had just one uber-successful season shouldn't keep a team from drafting him in the first round. As the full-time starter in 2010, Leshoure broke school records, had zero fumbles and showed why he could be a featured back at the next level. Don't be too surprised if Leshoure climbs draft boards similar to Ryan Mathews, who climbed into the top 15 of last year's draft. At the moment, he's likely to be picked somewhere in the second half of the first round or in the second round, but an impressive showing at the Combine and his pro day could catapult Leshoure into the middle of the first round.
A team like the Miami Dolphins, who many predict will select Mark Ingram with the 15th pick, may be interested in Leshoure, while the New Orleans Saints may look for help in the backfield with Reggie Bush struggling to stay healthy. The New England Patriots have two first round picks (17th overall and 28th overall) and could use one of those picks to add Leshoure to their backfield. The Green Bay Packers could have interest in Leshoure at the end of the first round, as could the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Denver Broncos may look his way early in the second round. If Leshoure slips into the second round, don't expect him to be available for the third.
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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