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The Running Back; a player that gets a large majority of Fantasy Football enthusiasts excited. We all understand the basic logic of drafting talented “stud” Running Backs to our Fantasy teams but I believe there is something more to it. When we draft players like Jamaal Charles, CJ Spiller, Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden we do it knowing there is inherent injury risk but we continue to keep drafting these players.  Why? I can’t speak for everyone but for me it’s one of the most exciting things to watch in football when that player breaks an electrifying 90 yard run and your team goes from hopeless to winner in a matter of seconds. Not saying that other positions aren’t important but your fantasy Running Backs can be true game changers. So why get so excited about this draft class?  The position of Running Back in the NFL is not that much different than the position played in college for these players, it’s not like Wide Receiver where there are multiple routes to learn and timing to establish with the Quarterback. The proof of this was seen last year in NFL rookies early on like Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris. Then with the frequent injuries at the position, David Wilson and Bryce Brown were given opportunities late in the season and did not disappoint. The game is changing so get ready for these young talented athletes to make a huge impact on the NFL and on your Fantasy Teams. Many are saying that the talent pool of Running Backs in this year’s draft lies mostly with the Underclassman but lets take a look at some of the under appreciated upperclassman that were asked to display their skills in this year’s Senior Bowl and how they might affect 2013 fantasy football after the 2013 NFL Draft.

Stefan Taylor Stanford: Nothing particularly exciting about Taylor in terms of physical abilities when watching him on film but what I did notice is Taylor’s sound fundamentals, instinctive vision, the ability to run hard downhill and he has a great nose for the end zone. He should be able to jump right into a rotation of running backs on any team and prove his worth. The major problem with him is his low ceiling and long term potential. What he offers in his flawless play he lacks in natural ability I wouldn’t be surprised if he scores in the lower half of running backs at the upcoming NFL combine. Taylor could go to a pass heavy team that needs a solid goal line and great pass protecting back. Possible teams that could be interested in Taylor would be Denver, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or Indianapolis.  Here’s Stefan Taylor in action.

Senior Bowl Stats:

5 Rushes 41 Yards 1 TD

Height 5’11” Weight 215

John Franklin UCLA: Another well-balanced running back that is as impressive at running between the tackles as he is running the edge and catching passes in space. Like Taylor, Franklin’s nothing particularly special athletically speaking and his 40 time clocked at 4.6 seconds is considered slow for a running back his size. The time doesn’t portray his explosiveness.  Franklin is really great at the start of his runs but lacks a second gear limiting his ability to break the big run. A full combine assessment should help to either prove or dismiss the claims that he lacks natural athletic ability needed in the NFL. Possible teams for Franklin are Cincinnati, New York Jets, or Arizona.  Here’s John Franklin hard at work.

Senior Bowl Stats:

6 Rushes 15 Yards 0 TD

1 Catch 6 Yards 0 TD

Height 5’11” Weight 195

Mike Gillislee Florida: The most impressive of all running backs in the Senior Bowl was Mike Gillislee. I’ve been watching him since the beginning of last year and his natural running ability and excellent lateral movement makes him a nightmare in open space. Even more impressive is the fact that he was able to look so good against some of the toughest defenses in the SEC and in college football. There are flaws in his game, though. Gillislee is quite the opposite of Taylor because of what he has in natural talent he lacks in fundamentals. The most noticeable of these is in his ball carrying skills. When watching him he rarely has the awareness to switch the ball to his arm closest to the sideline, something that is taught at even the most basic level. He also carries the ball high and awkward and rarely uses the five point contact approach when he is tackled.  He will most likely end up on a team that is willing to take a chance on a very talented back that still needs a lot of work. I would like to see him in a complimentary role in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Dallas, or Pittsburgh.   Here’s a bit of Mike Gillislee doing his thing.

Senior Bowl Stats:

10 Rushes 46 Yards 0 TD

Height 5’11” Weight 210

Kenjon Barner Oregon: Anyone who watched an Oregon game this year will tell you Barner is impressive. I agree but there are some issues to address before we label him as an impact player in the NFL. He has the breakaway speed, that extra gear, but a lot of what I saw on film was a product of a perfectly executed Chip Kelly offense against some fairly weak teams. This was tested at the Senior Bowl and Barner had a very difficult time running between the tackles and was given the tag by experts and scouts as not an every down back. I am impressed with his ability to catch the ball and there is no denying that he is elusive in the open field and great at getting around the edge. Barner will most likely end up as a complimentary back to provide a receiving threat in the backfield. Who knows, maybe Chip Kelly will push the Eagles to aggressively pursue him in the draft.  Here’s a bit of Kenjon Barner playing in that face-paced Oregon attack.

Senior Bowl Stats:

3 Rushes 13 Yards 0 TD

7 Catches 59 Yards 0 TD

Height 5’11” Weight 192

Mike James Miami: When referencing running backs that attended “The U” we think of names like Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, and Willis McGahee. Is Mike James in this class? I really don’t think so, he was somewhat of a goal line specialist with  6 touchdowns last year but with a career rushing total of under 1,500 yards with his best year of 642 yards and his longest career run of 32 yards he is a reach at best. The one thing that he does having going for him is his he has a lot of experience at Fullback and on Special Teams which would allow someone to take a chance with him. Teams will monitor James closely in the combine to see if his athletic ability can make up for the many questions surrounding his ability to be a competitive running back in the NFL.  Here’s a taste of what Mike James can do.

Senior Bowl Stats:

6 Rushes 10 Yards 0 TD

Height 5’11” Weight 222

  1. Dom V says:

    Stepfan Taylor and Kenjon Barner could be a good players in the league, although isn’t Giovanni Bernard supposed to be the #1 RB in the draft? I do realize he didn’t play in the Senior Bowl though haha. Hard to imagine the running back class being as fantasy productive as last year, but you never know..

  2. murph says:

    Hey Dom yeah Bernard is in my top three this is just an assessment of those who participated in the Senior Bowl. Most wont go in the early rounds but they aren’t getting much attention. Hard to think any class will be as good as last year but like you said you never know. Full rankings will be out after the combine.

    • Dom V says:

      @murph: yeah the combine will probably change some things for how little attention these guys are getting.

      • murph says:

        @Dom V: It will help seperate a few individuals Pro Day is where we get great clarity.

        • Dom V says:

          @murph: Yeah a lot of time for these guys to increase their perceived value.

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