This year’s crop of running backs in the 2014 NFL Draft isn’t the most impressive group, especially after last year’s class produced some difference makers like Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, and Giovani Bernard. But there are some talented players available at that position that should be able to contribute as rookies. Let’s take a look at the top-10 running backs available in this year’s NFL Draft.
10. Terrance West, Towson – Few have heard of West because he went to a small school, but he put up incredible numbers at the FCS level, running for over 2,500 yards and scoring 42 touchdowns in 2013. He doesn’t have a great burst of speed, nor does he get to the edge with ease, but he has good patience, vision, and toughness, and that helps him be productive without having high-end speed or talent, and it gives him a good chance to be an NFL contributor.
9. Devonta Freeman, Florida State – Freeman is a small but durable back that doesn’t shy away from contact. He has some of the quickest feet of any back available, and makes incredibly sharp cuts, which are accentuated by great acceleration, allowing him to run away from defenders. However, he doesn’t project as a starter in the NFL, so he won’t come off the board until the middle rounds.
8. Charles Sims, West Virginia – Sims is one of the most versatile backs in this year’s draft, as he’s an excellent pass catcher and can be utilized on screens just as easily as he’s utilized out of the backfield. Like a lot of West Virginia’s recent skill players, he’s quick, shifty, and has great acceleration. He doesn’t have an ideal body type for a running back, which will keep him from being a team’s primary back, but he’ll be a useful player both on offense and special teams, giving him good value in the middle rounds.
7. Andre Williams, Boston College – Williams had an exceptional senior season, rushing for over 2,000 yards and becoming a Heisman finalist. He’s as big and as physical as they come, which makes him difficult to tackle and allows him to pick up yards after contact. The drawback with Williams is that he’s not that versatile; he doesn’t catch passes out of the backfield and it takes him a while to reach his full speed. There are also questions about his injury history, a player who had five games of over 200 yards last year will be able to contribute to a team in the NFL.
6. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor – Seastrunk was a small but explosive player for a dynamic Baylor offense last season. He’s small, but he’s compact, and he runs low to the ground with great balance, which makes him tough to tackle. Seastrunk doesn’t have the size or durability to be an every-down back, but he’s a phenomenal athlete who will be a threat every time he touches the ball, and whichever team drafts him will find a way to get him a few touches every game.
5. Bishop Sankey, Washington – Sankey is going to be a perfect fit for a team that’s looking to split time evenly between two different running backs. He’s more durable than his size indicates and he’s more than capable of running between the tackles, but he’s better suited to be a changeup back because of his burst of speed, lateral quickness, and jump-cutting ability. Sankey is an all-purpose back that does just about everything well, and while he probably won’t be a feature back in the NFL, he will be a frequent contributor.
4. Jeremy Hill, LSU – Hill had a rather uneven college career because of some off-field issues and a loaded LSU backfield that made it tough to get consistent carries at times. However, he is a potentially dominant runner and one of the best backs in the draft. He is a powerful runner that shows surprising lateral quickness and cutting ability that makes him tough to bring down. He’s also a talented pass catcher for such a big back and looks comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield. He’ll have some questions he’ll have to answer in the NFL, but he has the talent to be a workhorse running back that steamrolls defenses with his power and becomes a feature back.
3. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State – Hyde is a power back with just enough of a burst to get through the line of scrimmage before the gap closes and just enough speed to get to the outside when he needs to. He’s a north-south runner that can take hits and get yards after contact. He won’t fit in with teams that want to spread the field, but there were plenty of power backs playing deep in the playoffs this past season, and Hyde looks like he could quickly join that group of backs.
2. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona – Carey possesses a lot of the skills frequently seen in feature backs, and he also puts high amounts of energy into each run, fighting for every yard he can get. He’s not afraid to be physical and take on tacklers, but he also has great moves in the open field to blow by defenders. He’s coming off a season in which he had nearly 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns; he looks like the total package.
1. Tre Mason, Auburn – After helping carry Auburn to the BCS Title Game, Mason’s stock soared all the way to the top spot, albeit in a rather unimpressive collection of running backs. He’s a little small for the position, but he has a strong lower body, which allows him to do everything that bigger backs do. He’s quite reminiscent of Ray Rice when he was coming out of college, and Mason could end up having that kind of impact in the NFL.