2010 NFL Draft: RB and FB Breakdown
By Lance Epstein
The NFL draft is only four days away. Each day leading up to the draft, I will breakdown one of the seven major positions on the field. Those positions are secondary, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, wide receivers/tight ends, running backs/fullbacks and quarterback.
With each position, I will breakdown the best player at the position, two sleepers, an overrated player, a late-round gem, and the player(s) the Eagles should select. However, at fullback I will breakdown the best player and an overrated player.
Today's installment is the sixth part of the seven part series. I will be breaking down the running back and fullback positions.
Last year, the Eagles saw a changing of the guard at running back. In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected LeSean "Shady" McCoy in the second round in hopes that he would eventually replace the aging and often-injured Brian Westbrook. Little did the Eagles know, that McCoy would be vaulted into action as Westbrook suffered multiple concussions and had reoccurring leg issues as well.
In his rookie season, McCoy set an Eagles rookie rushing record of 637 yards rushing and ran for four touchdowns. Just as impressive, he had 40 receptions out of the backfield for 308 yards.
Still, McCoy has many areas in which he needs to improve heading into 2010 especially since the Eagles released Westbrook. First, he needs to learn how to pass protect better. With Donovan McNabb gone to the Redskins, he will be asked to block blitzers from getting to Kevin Kolb. Kolb is not as shifty as McNabb so his improvement in blocking is necessary for him to be out on the field.
Second, he must protect the ball better. While, he only lost one fumble, he put the ball on the ground numerous times and in the worst situations. Lastly, he has to build more strength in is 21-year old body. At the end of the year, he was worn down from being the starter and playing 16 games compared to only 12 in college. He has to be fresh down the stretch and into the postseason fro the Eagles to have a chance to win.
Besides McCoy, the Eagles also have Leonard Weaver that is a do-it-all fullback. He blocks extremely well as a lead blocker, catches the ball out of the backfield and is a in between the tackles runner that has extremely good footwork. With him signing a new contract extension, do not expect a fullback to be in the Eagles' plans.
Also, the Eagles went out and signed New Orleans Saints running back Mike Bell. Bell gives the Eagles something they do no have, which is a powerful halfback. Of course, Bell is only under a one-year contract, so he might be gone after this season. The Eagles will look to add another piece to the backfield's puzzle in the draft. The question is in which round will they pull the trigger.
The Best: C.J. Spiller, Clemson, 5-11, 196 lbs
Coming into the draft, many experts have compared Spillers skill-set to that of former Eagle Brian Westbrook. He has the ability to take the ball to the end-zone every time he touches it. Spiller has a rare burst that gets him through the hole and once he gets in the open field most defenders do not have the speed to catch up with him. Additionally, Spiller has great footwork, which permits him to fight for extra yards. Despite his lack of power and bulk, Spiller will be the first running back selected. His performance on special teams allows him to play immediately and gives any team that drafts him a dangerous return man.
Deji Karim, Sourthern Illinois, 5-10, 209 lbs
Karim is not supposed to be drafted until the late third and early fourth-round, but he reminds many analysts such as Chris Steuber of Scout.com of Westbrook. Like Westbrook, he went to a small school and put up huge numbers while he was there on offense and special teams. Also similarly to Westbrook, he is a dynamic receiver out of the backfield that can be used to create mismatches against linebackers at the next level. This past season at SIU, he caught 17 passes for 212 yards and ran for 1,694 yards and 18 touchdowns. At his Pro Day, he showed off his speed as he ran a blistering 4.37 40-yard dash. Of course he has injury concerns just like Westbrook as well, but it wouldn't be shocking if the Eagles take him.
Joe McKnight, USC, 5-11, 198 lbs
Coming out of high school, McKight was expected to be the next Reggie Bush for USC. Unfortunately, injuries and a crowded backfield prevented him from reaching those lofty goals. Still, in 2009 he had his best year and stayed completely healthy. McKnight has shown the ability to finish off runs very well and has the hands to be a nice receiver out of the backfield. Like Bush, McKnight is very elusive with good burst but not the typical run-between-the-tackles running back. Of course, he has the talent to succeed but consistency and staying healthy will go a long way in determining if McKnight will be a nice product at the next level.
Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech, 5-11 230 lbs
While Dwyer is built like former All Pro Jerome Bettis, he may not pan out to be as good as him. Dwyer is a big and power running back, which put up good numbers in a run-first, second and third style offense. He does possess good balance, an ability to break arm-tackles and is a adequate one-cut ball carrier. However, he has no experience as a receiver out of the backfield, which teams look for in a featured back. Additionally, he has never had to pick up a blitzer because the Yellow jackets rarely threw the ball. Dwyer will get selected in the second round, but his power style and lack of speed makes him really only a shot-yardage back.
Joique Bell, Wayne State, 5-11, 220 lbs
If Bell did not attend a small school, he might be going as high as the third-round. He has all the physical attributes that point to having a very successful NFL career. Bell possesses good size, speed and agility. At Wayne State, he had three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and a mind-boggling 2,150 yards on the ground. With his size, he has demonstrated that he can break tackles and be a goal-line back as well. Certainly, he will need to refine his blocking technique, but his receiving skills allow him to have the chance to be a big-time sleeper.
Player(s) the Eagles Should Take:
Montario Hardesty, Tennessee, 6-0, 225 lbs
Hardesty might be the running back that rises the most on draft day and becomes a high second-round selection. In college, he was plagued by injuries, but many scouts believe he is better suited to play at the pro level. He does not have the ideal size to be a power back and doesn't have the explosiveness like Spiller. Although, he does an excellent job showing balance, breaking tackles, fighting for extra yards and has a good burst. In addition, he is a patient runner that allows his lineman to develop holes.
Dexter McCluster, Mississippi, 5-9, 172 lbs
McCluster is the ultimate weapon without a pure position. Some list him as a running back, but he is too small to be an every down back. Some list him as a receiver, but his skill-sets are more fitted to play running back. Either way, all the kid does is make plays. Of course because of his size he has ball control issues, but he has the speed to take a screen to the house and elusiveness to make tacklers miss. More importantly, in the third round, he could turn out to be a special teams stud. He has the moves, quickness and burst to be a Eric Metcalf type of return man.
The Best: John Conner, Kentucky, 5-11, 241 lbs
Most people will recognize his name and will link him to The Termintor movie, but he is actually a very good fullback. Conner is a throwback type of fullback that loves to smash heads and can be a nice inside the box runner. His weakness is on the outside, but with his power and explosion to clear the middle, no team will ask him to do that. Also, he has played special teams and has been an adequate performer. Nevertheless, he could become a good fullback in this league.
Overrated: Rashawn Jackson, Viriginia, 6-1, 239 lbs
The thing that most NFL scouts like about Jackson is that he has a rare combination for a fullback in which he can be a running back but block like a fullback. However, he lacks speed the to turn the corner and he is not an explosive blocker like Conner is. He is more of a finesse type of fullback. Fullback is one of the hardest positions to evaluate, but the words finesse and not explosive as a blocker is not something you want to hear scouts say about a fullback.
Tomorrow is the last part of the series, we will breakdown the quarterback position...