Soft at the top but RB class has depth Editor Vic Ketchman comments on the running back crop in this editorial on the 2011 NFL draft.


Consensus opinion is that this is a good draft if you want a good running back, but it's a bad draft if you want a great running back.

Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram heads a class of backs that might only produce one pick in the first round. Some draftniks wonder if even Ingram fits in the first round.

A logjam of running back prospects will present themselves in round two. Those prospects will include Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State, Mikel Leshoure of Illinois, Jordan Todman of UConn, Roy Helu of Nebraska, Daniel Thomas of Kansas State, DeMarco Murray of Oklahoma, Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech, Derrick Locke of Kentucky and Shane Vereen of Cal.

In other words, it may be awhile before a back comes off the board, but once they start to fall, they'll fall fast and furiously. The Packers, of course, pick last in the first round, which is just about where this year's crop of running backs begins to take shape.

Ingram and Leshoure are pounders. Hunter is a creative runner and a top-flight pass-catcher. He would fit nicely in a high-tech offense.

Todman is considered a better pure runner than his predecessor at UConn, Donald Brown, a first-round pick of the Colts two years ago.

Want some explosiveness? Pick Murray, a top pass-catcher who can take it to the house.

Seeking upside? Pick Williams, who had a huge season in 2009 but battled injuries last year. He could be a steal.

How about a guy with some return ability? Locke is your guy; he's been compared to Dexter McCluster.

Evan Royster set records at Penn State and he's a good pass-catcher, but a lack of pop and speed make him a late-rounds prospect.

Wisconsin's John Clay is big and powerful. What might he accomplish if he stays healthy?

Noel Devine was a playmaker and game-changer at West Virginia. He's quick and gets lost behind big blockers. In the open field, he's a magician, but size concerns make him a late-round prospect. Some creative offensive coordinator will find a way to use him.

Then there's Dion Lewis of Pitt, who had a huge freshman season in 2009 that made him a Heisman favorite heading into last season, but then came injuries and Lewis' performance fell off behind a rebuilt offensive line. He had a good workout at the combine and buffed up his 40 time in his pro day. Worth a late-round pick?

There are no Adrian Petersons in this year's crop of running backs, but there are intriguing prospects in nearly every round except, possibly, the first. If you're looking for a bargain, this might be a good year to find one.

Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.

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