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We continue our preseason rankings of draft eligible players by position. Today we cover with the running backs.
1. Marcus Lattimore – South Carolina: Marcus Lattimore burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010. He rushed for almost 1,200 yards, had 19 total touchdowns and was a 1st team All-American. Last year, he was on track for a similar season, and then suffered a knee injury that cost him the last 6 games of the season. He is expected to be ready to go for the start of the season. Since receiver Alshon Jeffery has moved on to the Chicago Bears, I would expect Lattimore to get heavy does in the running game.
2. Montee Ball – Wisconsin: Montee Ball led the country with 39 touchdowns in 2011. He was a Heisman trophy finalist and 1st team All-American. Ball is a big, powerful back that is primarily a north – south runner, but he can also bounce it outside. He has become shiftier after losing 20-30 pounds. He keeps his feet moving and his knees high after entering the hole. He has good vision and would be a good fit in a zone running scheme.
3. Ray Graham – Pitt: Graham is the key to the Panther offense. He is a workhorse that averages over 30 touches per game. He has good speed; good feet and can run it inside or outside the tackles. He also catches the ball well out of the backfield.
4. Joseph Randle – Oklahoma State: After Kendall Hunter left for the NFL, Randle took over as the starting running back and he responded with over 1,200 yards rushing. He was a 1st team All-Big 12 selection. Part of Randle’s success is due to the success of the Cowboys passing game. They spread the defense out then hit them with Randle in the running game. Randle will be a very important piece of the offense this year after losing Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the pro game. Expect the Cowboys to lean heavily on Randle early in the year while the new quarterback learns the ropes.
5. Knile Davis – Arkansas: I had Knile Davis as a Heisman dark horse going into the 2011 season. He has a rare blend of size (226 pounds) and speed. In 2010, he led the SEC in rushing (1,322 yards), but he broke his foot prior to the 2011 season and missed the entire year. Davis is back and should be ready to go for the first game of the year. Teaming with quarterback Tyler Wilson, he should give the Razorbacks and extremely potent offensive attack.
by Dwayne Wilton