Yet again, my re-rankings feature some changes. Although the 49ers are fairly deep at running back, it isn't inconceivable that they draft a back on this top ten list.
You can check out my January top ten here.
Here is my current top ten running backs:
1. Eddie Lacy 5'11" 231 lbs- Alabama Stock: Steady Projection: 1st round
2. Giovani Bernard 5'8" 202 lbs- North Carolina Stock: Steady Projection: 2
3. Montee Ball 5'10" 214 lbs- Wisconsin Stock: Steady Projection: 2
4. Le'Veon Bell 6'1" 230 lbs- Michigan State Stock: Rising Projection: 2-3
5. Johnathan Franklin 5'10" 205 lbs- UCLA Stock: Rising Projection: 2-3
6. Christine Michael 5'10" 220 lbs- Texas A&M Stock: Rising Projection: 3
7. Marcus Lattimore 5'11" 221 lbs- South Carolina Stock: Bargain (injury) Projection: 3-4
8. Andre Ellington 5'9" 199 lbs- Clemson Stock: Falling Projection: 3-4
9. Stepfan Taylor 5'9" 214 lbs- Stanford Stock: Falling Projection: 4
10. Joseph Randle 6'0" 204 lbs- Oklahoma State Stock: Falling Projection: 4-5
The top three spots did not change from my January rankings. I still think Eddie Lacy has a legitimate chance of going in the first round to the Green Bay Packers. Lacy is a throwback who doesn't shy away from contact. He wants to run the defender over. I believe Lacy is every bit as good a prospect as former teammate Trent Richardson, who went third overall.
Montee Ball may have posted a less than impressive forty time of 4.66 at the combine, but that does not bump him down my list. Ball has better game speed than that and he has a lot more pros than cons to his game. He has exceptional burst, great vision, patience in letting blocks develop, and many other positives. Ball is an NFL ready back who could start from day one (probably won't though). Ball rushed for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, impressive numbers.
For Whom The Bell Tolls:
Although Eddie Lacy is physical, Le'Veon Bell is the biggest and baddest dude on the top ten. Bell reminds me of a good version of Brandon Jacobs, that doesn't whine about anything and everything. Last season Bell racked up 1,793 yards (4.69 yards per carry) and 12 rushing touchdowns. With a 4.60 forty, Bell won't be relegated to just short yardage duty, he can be a feature back.
Nick Chiamardas had this to say about Bell:
"Running backs the size of Bell don't come along too often. Guys like him are the last thing defenses want to see on the field in the fourth quarter. There is nothing more demoralizing in the NFL than knowing your opponent is going to run the ball late in a game and there's nothing you can do to stop it. If Bell ends up in the right situation and has the necessary compliments around him, he could very well be the guy terrorizing defenses late in games."
Click here to read Nick's scouting report on Bell.
My biggest riser is Johnathan Franklin. A great performance at the Senior Bowl followed by a solid combine has boosted Franklin's stock quite a bit. Franklin is dangerous running to the outside (4.49 forty) and can run north-south effectively as well. Some may deem him a "change of pace" back, I don't see it that way.
Right behind Franklin at No. 6 is Christine Michael. While Michael overslept two scheduled meetings at the combine (due to illness), and has an injury history, he's a riser for other reasons. During East-West Shrine Game practices, Michael separated himself from some of the other running backs, leading to him toting the rock 13 times in the game. At the combine, Michael had 27 reps of 225 lbs, had a 43 inch vertical jump, and 4.02 twenty yard shuttle (best time of any RB).
Don't Count them out:
Although Stepfan Taylor's stock may be trending downward, that doesn't mean his future in the NFL is doing the same. Taylor ran a 4.76 forty at the combine, a time much slower than I expected. Stepfan ended up improving on this time at his pro day, but was still somewhere between 4.64-4.68. Taylor is as clutch of a running back as you will ever find. Countless times I witnessed Stanford in a crucial third down situation, Taylor got the cal, and then proceeded to deliver. Nothing Taylor does is flashy, but flash doesn't matter when you can still rush for 1,530 yards without it. The combination of risers at running back and Taylor's lackluster off-season results may lead to him being a fourth round selection.
Marcus Lattimore would not hold his current ranking if he was healthy. Lattimore has suffered a couple big knee injuries in his college career, one of which was the same injury Frank Gore also had in college. Gore has been in contact with Lattimore since his injury, offering encouragement and support. I list Lattimore as a possible third round choice because of his upside. It only takes one team to take a chance on him, and I expect that to happen. Root for a guy like this, who has been knocked down and could be down for the count. But he isn't throwing in the towel, he wants to get back up and be better than ever.