The 2014 draft class of running backs is short on star power, which is the reason for it being considered one of the weaker position groups in this draft. That isn’t an entirely fair assessment, however, as it is a really deep class of running backs.
We have only one running back graded in the first two rounds (Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde), but 14 running backs have grades in Rounds 3-5. Moreover, there is a wide range of backs for teams to choose from -- power backs, backs whose games are built on agility and acceleration and hybrid slot-receiver types.
Over the past three drafts, an average of five running backs have been taken in the first two rounds while an average of nine have been drafted in Rounds 3-5. Given that the value in this year’s draft figures to be in the third- through fifth-round range, I wouldn’t be surprised if teams wait for the first domino to fall and then we see a run on five, six or seven running backs.
Let’s take a look at the best prospects in each category and the NFL teams that could be in the market for each and should be able to find great value in the middle rounds, including some potential starters.
Jeremy Hill, LSU (third round)
Andre Williams, Boston College (fourth round)
Storm Johnson, UCF (fourth round)
Terrance West, Towson (fifth round)
Tyler Gaffney, Stanford (fifth round)
Philadelphia Eagles: Getting a back who can spell LeSean McCoy and provide more of a power element could be the goal, and Johnson stands out as a guy who has good speed and excellent lateral agility to go with his size (6-foot, 215 pounds). He also has above-average versatility in the passing game, which is an added bonus. One potential issue is his marginal 2.3 career fumble percentage (according to a study by ESPN Stats & Information's Sharon Katz and Allison Loucks, there is a reasonably strong correlation between collegiate and NFL fumble percentage), but he could be a Day 3 steal if he learns to better protect the football and become a more decisive north-south runner.