Skip to main content

Gil Brandt's Analysis By Position: Running Backs


For the first time since 1995 and only the second time since 1986, a running back will most likely be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Times have changed as far as drafting running backs. Back in 1938 and 1941 when there were 10 teams in the NFL, nine running backs were drafted in the first round each of those years.

Included in this group was former Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White of Colorado. In a six-year period from 1969-74, the Dallas Cowboys drafted four running backs in the first round. In the next 31 years (1975-2005), they selected just two running backs in the first round -- Tony Dorsett (1977) and Emmitt Smith (1990).

Over the past 10 years, 29 running backs have been picked in Round 1. Twenty-three backs have been selected with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. However, only one has been taken first overall in the past 19 years -- Ki-Jana Carter by the Bengals in 1995.

Because of the proliferation of multiple-receiver sets, many teams carry only three running backs on their rosters -- two tailbacks and one fullback. Others employ an H-back instead of a fullback. Over the past 11 drafts, no fullback has been selected in the first round, and over the past six drafts, only one fullback has been selected before the third round.

Although teams once used backup running backs to return kickoffs, many teams now have one special player for the job, like Houston's Jerome Mathis and the New York Giants' Willie Ponder.


There were 29 running backs at this year's Combine and only four of the 29 were fullbacks. The average height was 5-foot-101/2 and the tallest was Gilbert Harris of Arizona at 6-1 5/8.

The average weight was 214 pounds and the heaviest was Matt Bernstein, a fullback from Wisconsin, at 260 pounds. LenDale White (238 pounds) was the heaviest halfback.

The fastest halfback was USC's Reggie Bush (4.39 40-yard dash). The fastest fullback was David Kirtman (4.76).

The average bench press reps at 225 pounds was 20. The average vertical jump was 341/2 inches.

1. Reggie Bush, USC (5-10 7/8, 201; 4.35)

Bush did not work out the Combine but did everything at the USC Pro Day. He was clocked in the 40-yard dash in 4.33 and 4.37 with an electric timer and 4.41 and 4.39 by handheld times. He had a 401/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-8 long jump and did 24 lifts. Bush played running back and ran track in high school. He ran for 1,691 yards (12.1 per carry average) and had 27 touchdowns as a senior in 2002 despite missing four games. In 2001, he had 3,135 all-purpose yards and 34 touchdowns. He scored 450 points in his high school career. In track, he ran the 100 meters and posted the fastest high school time in California in 2002 and the third fastest in the state in the 200 meters. Bush played in every game as a freshman at USC in 2003 as a backup tailback. He started two games in 2004 and was named the co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Pac-10. He started all 13 games in 2005, ran for 1,740 yards and had 2,890 all-purpose yards, breaking Marcus Allen's Pac-10 record set in 1981. He won the Heisman Trophy, receiving the highest percentage of votes in history. Bush has the ability to make something happen every time he touches the ball, although Texas did a very good job of stopping him in the Rose Bowl. He has great vision as a runner and a great burst with rare quickness. He runs fast in shorts and seems to run faster in full uniform. He has very good hands (93/4 inches) but has not been asked to run inside or block. His nickname is "The President" and he may be just that some day. He covered the 2003 Super Bowl as a reporter for and did a great job. Bush will be a great player and has the character and work habits to make it happen.

Laurence Maroney, Minnesota (5-11 7/8, 217; 4.47)

Maroney did not work out at the Combine because of a left hamstring problem, which also caused him to miss Minnesota's first Pro Day. On March 26, he ran his 40 at 4.47 and ran a 1.53 in the 100-yard dash, which compares to Reggie Bush. He had a 351/2-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-3 long jump. Maroney played running back in high school and ran for 1,948 yards as a senior with 25 touchdowns. He also played defense and had 15 sacks as a senior. He was MVP of the basketball team for two years and ran on a 4x400-meter relay team that won the Missouri state championship. He finished third in 200 meters. Maroney played as a true freshman at Minnesota in 2003 and ran for 1,121 yards. He started two games in 2004 and ran for 1,348 yards. He started 11 games in 2005 and ran for 1,464 yards, missing one game with an ankle injury and playing in two games at less than 100 percent because of a hamstring injury). Maroney is a very powerful runner with strong legs and has very good quickness and vision. He can carry the ball a lot of times per game and not get worn down -- he will play at 225 pounds. Minnesota head coach Glen Mason and offensive coordinator Mitch Browning talk about Maroney as both a great person and player. If he goes to a zone-blocking team, he may be in the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He had not been asked to block and runs a little high. He caught only four passes his first two seasons but did catch 17 for 170 yards and a touchdown in 2005.

DeAngelo Williams, Memphis (5-9, 214; 4.42)

Williams jumped and lifted at the Combine and did his running at the Memphis Pro Day, where he ran his two 40s in 4.43 and 4.41 and had a 4.20 short shuttle and 6.68 three-cone drill on March 24. At the Combine, he had a 351/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-1 long jump and 25 lifts. In high school, Williams was named the Arkansas Offensive Player of the Year as a senior when he ran for 939 yards in four playoff games. He also ran track and holds the Arkansas 4-A record in the 100 meters, electronically timed in 10.81. Williams played as a true freshman at Memphis in 2002. He started 11 games in 2003 and started 12 games in 2004, when he had a big game against Louisville with 200 yards on 26 carries. He led the nation in rushing in 2005 with 1,964 yards. Williams has a very strong build and has the traits needed to be a good running back. He's a split-back runner and has good quickness for the position. He played well in the Senior Bowl. He missed nine games with injury prior to 2005 and missed one (at Tennessee) in 2005 with minor injury. He needs to block better but caught the ball well at his Pro Day workout and has size 9 3/8-inch hands. Williams needs to go to a team that runs a lot of misdirection plays and throws to backs. He caught 35 passes in 2004 despite missing two games.

Joseph Addai, LSU (5-111/4, 214; 4.43)

Addai had a complete workout at the Combine and ran his two 40s in 4.40 and 4.46. He had a 381/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-5 long jump, 4.50 short shuttle, 7.09 three-cone drill and 18 strength reps. Addai was a high school quarterback and ran for 1,429 yards as a senior. He also returned kickoffs and ran the 100 and 200 meters for the track team. Addai played two games as a freshman at LSU before being injured in the second game of the season and receiving a medical redshirt. He played but started only seven games over the next three years, then started 12 games in 2005. Addai is a well-built runner with very good quickness. He has good hands and will block and can run inside like he did in the bowl game against Miami this year. He caught 20 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown as a senior and could be used as a third-down, long-yardage back as a rookie. He looked good at the Combine, but there are questions as to why he didn't start more games and his two knee surgeries.

Jerious Norwood, Mississippi St. (5-11 5/8, 210; 4.42)

Norwood had a complete workout at the Combine and ran his two 40s in 4.44 and 4.42. He had a 361/2-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-7 long jump, 4.25 short shuttle, 6.81 three-cone drill and 15 lifts. Norwood played running back in high school and ran for 367 yards in a playoff game, finishing with 2,152 yards as a senior. He also played basketball, baseball and ran track, winning the state championship in the 110-meter high hurdles. Norwood played as a true freshman at Mississippi St. in 2002, playing 12 games with no starts. He started eight games in 2003 and 23 over the next two years, gaining 2,186 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns. Norwood has very thin legs and looks more like a receiver than a running back. He has very good quickness with a good burst. He played well on an overmatched team but will have a hard time as a blocker. His hands (size 9 7/8 inches) looked good at the Combine, and he's a top character person.

Maurice Jones-Drew, UCLA (5-63/4, 207; 4.44)

Jones-Drew had a complete workout at the Combine and ran his two 40s in 4.39 and 4.48. He had a 36-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-8 long jump, 4.38 short shuttle, 7.08 three-cone drill and 16 lifts. Jones-Drew played running back and also ran track in high school. He played as a true freshman at UCLA, starting two games and leading the team in rushing. He started eight games in 2004 but injured his ankle against Washington State, causing him to miss a game vs. Oregon and limiting him to just two carries vs. USC. He ran for 322 yards against Washington, scoring five touchdowns. He started 12 games in 2005, ran for 914 yards and caught 31 passes while averaging 28.7 yards on punt returns with three touchdowns. Jones-Drew has great instincts as a runner and returner. He has thick legs that give him great natural strength as a runner. The question is whether he can be an every-down back in the NFL, but he will scare people every time he touches the ball. He's also a very good person.

LenDale White, USC (6-0 3/8, 238; no 40 time)

White did not work out at the Combine or at USC's Pro Day on April 2 when he said he had a hamstring injury. He also said he has no plans to run prior to the draft. White played running back in high school and is the Colorado career rushing leader with 7,803 yards. He had 51 rushing touchdowns in the final two years of high school. He played at two different high schools -- South High in Denver in 1999 and 2000 and Chatfield High in 2001 and 2002. White played but didn't start at USC in 2003 and started 12 of 13 games in 2004. He played in 13 games in 2005, gaining 1,302 yards. He set a Pac-10 record by scoring 52 rushing touchdowns in 39 games. White is a big back who runs with good body lean and seems to have a knack for scoring touchdowns. He is a good receiver who needs to block better and work harder.

Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin (5-91/4, 201; 4.60)

Calhoun had a complete workout at the Combine and ran his two 40s in 4.58 and 4.62. He had a 311/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-4 long jump, 4.20 short shuttle, 7.05 three-cone drill and 18 lifts. Calhoun was the high school Player of the Year in Wisconsin as a running back and was also a member of the basketball and track teams. He played as a true freshman at Colorado in 2002 and led Colorado in rushing in 2003 with 810 yards. He left Colorado for Wisconsin and didn't play in 2004. He started 13 games in 2005 and rushed for 1,636 yards and 22 touchdowns while catching 53 passes. He gained 216 yards against Auburn in Wisconsin's bowl game. He ran on the Big Ten champion 4x100-meter relay team. Calhoun has very good vision, runs hard and fights for extra yards. He has a burst to get outside and will try to block. He lacks height for the position but does a very good job catching the ball. He did not play well in the last three games of the regular season but played very well against Auburn in the bowl game.

Jerome Harrison, Washington State (5-91/4, 201; 4.49)

Harrison had a complete workout at the Combine, running two 40s in 4.47 and 4.50. He had a 341/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-4 long jump, a 4.07 short shuttle and a 6.77 three-cone drill. He also did 19 lifts. He was a running back in high school who rushed for 2,338 yards and 31 TDs in his senior year. He enrolled at Eastern Michigan, but did not qualify academically and went instead to a junior college in California. He played at Pasadena City College for two years. In 2004, he started five games for Washington State. In 2005, he started 11 games, rushing for 1,900 yards and scoring 16 TDs. He set school records for rushing and TDs in a single season. He had great numbers on a very average team. He has quickness, but is not very big (thin lower body and strong upper body). I doubt he can be a return man, but his production is special.

Leon Washington, Florida State (5-7 7/8, 201; 4.5)

Washington had a complete workout at the Combine. He ran his 40s in 4.42 and 4.56 seconds. He had a 321/2-inch vertical jump, an 8-foot-9 long jump, a 4.37 short shuttle and did 17 strength reps. He played running back, wide receiver and cornerback in high school and was named Mr. Football in Florida in his senior year. He played as a true freshman in 2002 and started the final two contests. He missed four games due to injury in 2003, then started 10 games in 2004. In 2005, he started 10 games, but came back out of shape and did not play well. He has very good quickness and will compete. He catches the ball well (9-inch hands) and looked good at the East-West practice. He's a part-time back at best who can make some plays on draw screens. I question why he hasn't returned kicks.

P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech (5-10 1/8, 214; 4.62)

Daniels had a complete workout at the Combine. He ran his 40s in 4.61 and 4.62 seconds. He had a 33-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-6 long jump, a 4.40 short shuttle, a 7.13 three-cone drill and did 21 strength reps. He was a running back in high school and rushed for 1,600 yards in his senior year. He redshirted in 2001; played but did not start in 2002. He started 12 games in 2003 and led the ACC in rushing (1,447 yards) and scored 10 rushing TDs. He also caught 19 passes, including one for a score. In 2004, he missed four games due to injury. He started 11 games in 2005 and gained 930 yards. He's well built with strength to run inside. He has good quickness for his position, has good vision and instincts. He has good hands and will work hard. He lacks great speed, but makes up for it with his quickness.

Wendell Mathis, Fresno State (5-11 3/8, 210; 4.54)

Mathis had a complete workout at the Combine. He ran two 40s in 4.51 and 4.56, 4.22 in the short shuttle and 6.93 in the three-cone drill. He also had a 33-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-9 long jump and did 20 bench presses. He played running back in high school, rushing for 3,492 yards in his junior and senior year. He also lettered in basketball as a point guard. He entered UCLA in 2001 and was redshirted. He played but did not start in 2002, then transferred to Fresno State in 2003 and had to sit out that year. He started two games in 2004, then made nine starts in 2005 and rushed for 1,313 yards. He runs with good body lean and has good quickness and vision. He lacks all-the-way speed and had problems with fumbles in 2005. He worked out well at the Combine and is a good, solid player. But he'll most likely be a backup player.

Cedric Humes, Virginia Tech (6-0 7/8, 227; 4.68)

Humes had a complete workout at the Combine, running two 40s in 4.61 and 4.75. He had a 301/2-inch vertical jump, an 8-foot-10 long jump, a 7.06 three-cone drill and did 18 lifts. Humes played running back and linebacker in high school and also lettered in basketball and track. He rushed for 1,640 yards and 22 TDs as a senior. He redshirted in 2001, played fullback in 2002 and didn't start in 2003. He started three games in 2004 and nine in 2005. He's a big, strong inside runner, a good blocker and short-yardage runner. His best position may be fullback.

Running backs listed in alphabetical order:

Mike Bell, Arizona (6-01/4, 221; 4.61)

Bell had a complete workout at the Combine. He gained 4,692 yards in high school, which is second best in the Arizona state's history. He ran over 900 yards the past three years at Arizona.

Andre Hall, South Florida (5-81/4, 208; 4.46)

Hall worked out at the Combine, but did no shuttles because of lower back spasms. He played only one year of high school football and ran for 1,742 yards and scored 26 TDs. He played two years at South Florida, rushing for 2,731 yards and 24 TDs. He's the school's all-time rushing leader.

Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech (5-91/2, 204; 4.66)

Henderson had a complete workout at the Combine, but didn't lift. He gained 2,953 yards rushing as a senior in high school and scored 32 TDs. He broke NCAA record for most catches by a running back with 303 (the old mark was 262). He's a very quick third-down back and can run draws well.

Wali Lundy, Virginia (5-11, 214; 4.50)

Lundy worked out at the Combine. He ran for 2,030 yards and 30 TDs as a high school senior. He was also a 1,000-point scorer in basketball. He started seven games as a true freshman and rushed for 826 yards. He seems to be good at a lot of things, but not great at any one.

Dontrell Moore, New Mexico (5-93/4, 210; 4.63)

Moore had a complete workout at the Combine. He ran for over 6,000 yards in high school, including 2,600 yards and 33 TDs as a senior. He was also an all-state cornerback and all-around athlete. He ran for 4,973 yards in four years at New Mexico. He's a solid player that lacks great speed. He can do everything and is a lot like Eagles RB Brian Westbrook, but not as fast.

Gerald Riggs, Tennessee (5-10 7/8, 232; 4.61)

Riggs did not work out at the Combine, but did everything at Tennessee's Pro Day on March 15. He rushed for 4,162 yards and 66 TDs during his junior and senior years in high school. He played six games in 2005 before breaking his leg. He has some ability, but lacks work habits.

Here are some good fullbacks who will be drafted later and could make a team in the NFL.

1. Quadtrine Hill, Miami (Fla.) (6-11/4, 228; 4.58)

Hill had a 38-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-6 long jump and 16 lifts. He was a part-time player who came to Miami as a tailback. He has very good hands, but needs to become a better blocker.

2. David Kirtman, USC (5-111/2, 233; 4.76)

Kirtman had a complete workout at the Combine. He blocked for Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. He's also a very good special teams player and receiver.

3. Garrett Mills, Tulsa (6-1 1/8, 241; 4.68)

Mills had a complete workout at the Combine. He was a three-year starter who caught a lot of passes at tight end. He will be a very good special teams player. He's an H-back type of player.

4. John Pannazzo, Indiana (5-11 3/8, 229; 4.67)

Pannazzo worked out at Indiana's Pro Day. He started every game as a true freshman in 2002 and played linebacker in 2005. He's a very good blocker who can catch passes.

5. Lawrence Vickers, Colorado (6-01/4, 245, 4.88)

Vickers had a complete workout at the Combine. He ran for 4,610 yards (13.4 average per carry) in high school with 70 TDs. He's good but not a great blocker and is a special teams player. His Combine weight was 10 pounds more than his playing weight at Colorado.


Running backs to look for in the 2007 draft:

  1. Lorenzo Booker, Florida St.
  1. Alley Broussard, LSU
  1. Michael Bush, Louisville
  1. Kenneth Darby, Alabama
  1. Tony Hunt, Penn State
  1. Kenny Irons, Auburn
  1. Brian Leonard, Rutgers
  1. Tyrone Moss, Miami, Fla.
  1. Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois
  1. DeShawn Wynn, Florida
  1. Selvin Young, Texas


Critical factors

  1. Character
  1. Ability to learn football
  1. Competitive toughness
  1. Work habits
  1. Athletic ability

Position specifics

  1. Quick start
  1. Outside run
  1. Acceleration, burst
  1. Balance
  1. Inside run
  1. Receiving ability
  1. Pass routes
  1. Blocking ability
  1. Tendency to fumble


DeAngelo Williams set an NCAA record with 34 100-yard games.

In high school in the first-ever battle between the nation's top two teams, Maurice Drew scored all four TDs for DeSalle High School.

At least one running back has been selected in Round 1 since 1967. The streak will continue this year with three to five possibly being selected.

P.J. Daniels' father is a native of Ghana. Daniels was a walk-on at Georgia Tech and earned a scholarship after the 2002 season. He ran a bowl game-record 307 yards and scored four TDs against Tulsa.

Gerald Riggs' father was a first-round draft pick in 1982 (ninth overall). He was traded to Washington in 1989 for a first-round pick (No. 20 overall) and played in three Pro Bowls.

Quadtrine Hill's father, Eddie, was picked in the second round of the 1979 draft (54th overall) by the L.A. Rams and played six seasons in the NFL.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content