The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis may have changed our perception of things in regards to a deep running back class. Usually 40 times are highly overrated at this event, but the running back position is a much different ball-game. You either have the speed and cutback ability, or you don't.
This article is going to give you my updated ranking of running backs following their performances at the combine. I will embed video of highlights of each player in order for you to get a better sense of how they play on the field.
1. Trent Richardson, Alabama 40 time: Did not participate
The gap has narrowed between Richardson and the rest of the running back class. This has to do with an injury to the former Alabama back and great performances by other players behind him on the list. With that said, Richardson still has to be considered the consensus No. 1 back in the draft. In fact, I would argue that he is the best prospect at this position since Adrian Peterson came out a few seasons back.
Projected top 10 pick
2. Lamar Miller, Miami (F) 40 time: 4.40
I had Miller as a top 20 pick prior to his dazzling performance at the combine. He is now entrenched in as the second best back in the 2012 NFL Draft. More than the 4.40 speed, Miller was really good in the running back specific drills in Indianapolis.
Look for teams like the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals to take a deep look at Miller in the first round.
Projected top 20 pick
3. Doug Martin, Boise State 40 time: 4.55
Martin might not have track star speed when competing in the generic drills, but he is much faster on field than you would imagine. The former Boise State star impressed in the weight room a great deal, putting up 28 reps in the bench press.
He was considered a late second-early third round pick at the end of the college football season. I now view Martin as a late first round pick with mid first round value. A combination of great performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine solidified his status in my opinion.
Projected late first round pick
4. Chris Polk, Washington 40 time: 4.57
He ran a much better40 than I expected after looking extremely slow during Senior Bowl week. This is sure to help Polk's draft stock a great deal. He has the vision and strength to be an every down back in the NFL. I was just worried that he wouldn't have the speed to break it to the outside.
Polk was also solid in the running back specific drills, showing tremendous cutback ability and soft hands. The former Washington star cemented his status as a second round pick in April.
Projected second round pick
5. Robert Turbin, Utah State 40 time: 4.50
This small school back has been extremely impressive on tape. He has great strength and an ability to break tackles after initial contact. There was some concern that he was playing against low-level competition, but that was quieted during the NFL Combine. Turbin looked awesome in the running back drills, competing against the top backs in the draft.
He is going to be a real steal, expect to hear much more about Turbin the closer we get to April. He has the looks of an every down back at the next level.
Projected late second-early third round pick
6. David Wilson 40 time: 4.49
The former Virginia Tech back is still extremely raw and could have used another year of seasoning in college, but the talent is definitely there. Wilson probably has as much upside as any back in the draft. It is just going to take some time for him to get used to the nuances of the NFL.
He showed tremendous athletic ability in the generic skills, ran a solid 40 and proved that he can cut it in the NFL. You will have to worry about receiving and blocking ability, two things that scouts take a deep look at.
Projected late second-early third round pick
7. LaMichael James, Oregon 40 time: 4.45
It wasn't a surprise that this speedy back ran the fastest 40 time of any player at his position in the combine. While James has shown himself to be extremely athletic, he still doesn't have the necessary build to be an every down back at the next level.
With the dwindled importance of taking a back in the early rounds, a player of his build will see his value dramatically drop. However, make no mistake about it, James is a barn burner that will have an impact in the NFL Best case scenario is a combination of Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles. Worst case scenario is that he best represents just one of them in terms of ability.
Projected third round pick.
This is an extremely deep class of the running backs, probably one of the deepest in recent memory. While teams have taken a stance that they can get that talented back in the mid-rounds, this season might be a little different.
There are a myriad of different organizations that are either looking for their running back of the future or someone to slot in immediately. By my estimation this number runs upwards towards a dozen.
If that is the case you will probably see six or seven backs selected in the first two rounds, with two or three going in the initial round.