Commentary

Personnel Points: Richardson excels

The Alabama running back was among players who impressed Mel last weekend

Originally Published: October 17, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Trent RichardsonSam Greenwood/Getty ImagesTrent Richardson has separated himself as the top running back in the draft.

Each week, Mel Kiper gives updates on another group of prospects who have caught his eye, some well-known, others well under the radar.


Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, TEs, Stanford Cardinal

The Cardinal have the best talent top to bottom at the tight end position of any team in the country. In their 44-14 win against the Washington State Cougars, the position produced 11 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns. After enjoying a career game (six catches for 173 yards and three touchdowns) in the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech last season, Fleener entered his senior year with a chance to secure a high spot in the draft with a very good season. He hasn't disappointed through the first half of the 2011 campaign.

Against the Cougars, Fleener had four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. One of the fastest players on the team, Fleener's speed has translated into big plays. Through six games, he has 16 catches for a whopping 23.9-yard average and six TDs. Fleener's ability to consistently stretch the deep middle will no doubt make him a hot commodity come April. When my revised top-5 rankings for seniors come out later this week, expect to see the talented 6-foot-6, 245-pounder elevated to the top spot at the tight end position.

Behind Fleener are sophomores Ertz and Toilolo. Ertz actually has more catches this season (20) than Fleener, but the player I'm intrigued by is Toilolo. At 6-8, 262, he is a very inviting target who displayed both good hands and athletic ability against the Cougars. Like Fleener, he's shown the ability to make big plays in the vertical passing game this season (21.9 yards per catch). And when he keeps the pads low, he can be a very good blocker at the point of attack.


Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide


To read more about which players Mel was impressed with this past weekend, including how high Trent Richardson's stock is now, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst