2011: Top 20 Dynasty Rookie RBs

1. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints, 1st round. Ala.: Slightly below-average height, but good bulk. Great burst and peripheral vision. Nice cutback runner. Runs very tough. Will bowl over DBs. Patient. Average speed. Has solid open-field moves. Below-average quickness. Inconsistent hands as receiver. Received degree a year early. Junior who has declared for the 2011 draft. Enters crowded Saints backfield, but is honestly the best of them already. Will have competition for touches, and this may limit his productivity in first year, but should be team’s number-1 RB by end of 2011.

2. Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals, 2nd round. E. Car.: Slightly below-average size. Very good burst. Super-quick change of direction and above-average lateral movement. Average track speed, though seems fairly fast in games. Average upper-body strength. Keeps legs churning in short yardage — running angry in training camp. Keeps balance very well after contact. Willing blocker. R. Soph. who has declared for the 2011 draft. Reminds me of Clinton Portis coming out. With Beanie Wells as his only real competition, should at least share carries right away. Has solid RB1 potential.

3. Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins, 2nd round. Kan. St.: Very good size. Good speed, cutback vision, burst, and upper-body strength. Changes direction smoothly, without wasted lateral movement — always moving forward. One-cut-and-go runner. Patient and waits for blocks. Fair receiver and good after the catch. Was QB at community college before transferring to Kansas St., so may be a good Wildcat QB. After slowing down and having a knee injury late in season, was also a late scratch from Senior Bowl due to hamstring injury that lasted at least through March. Was injured off and on through college. Landed in perfect situation, on a Dolphins team that loves to run the ball and has no definite RB stars on roster. Watch his competition with Kory Sheets and potentially either R. Brown or Ricky Williams. Could have most immediate impact of any rookie, and falls here only because his injury history and running style limit his long-term potential.

4. Delone Carter, RB, Colts, 4th round. Syracuse: Below-average height, but great bulk. Strong hands and upper body. Finishes runs with power. Very hard to tackle and often bowls over guys. Good pass blocker. Gets low and keeps legs churning in short yardage. Good wiggle even on wet turf. Good burst helps him get through even the smallest creases. Average speed. Reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew. Tough as gunner on special teams. Enters backfield with only Donald Brown as real competitor for touches. Should have RB3 impact right away, and has the skills to become team’s number-1 RB by 2011.

5. Roy Helu, Jr. , RB, Redskins, 4th round. Neb.: Good size, speed, burst and quickness. Bounces around well when behind the line to find creases. Tends to fall forward for extra yards. Hands catcher. Willing run blocker (though not great) and good pass blocker but needs to get more solid base to keep from getting bowled over. Having trouble picking up blitz in camp. Below-average vision. Very weak upper body. Suspect ball security — in Big 12 Championship, fumbled once and nearly fumbled again. Played in Senior Bowl. Enters crowded but not necessarily talented backfield and will compete with Torain, Hightower, Williams and fellow rookie Royster for touches. Should win the battle and be team’s starting RB right away. Nice future in this offense and his skills match nicely with team’s philosophy.

6. Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots, 2nd round. Cal.: Average size. Very strong upper body and good stiff-arm. Above-average burst, concentration and hands. Experienced receiver. Average speed and quickness. Smooth runner, but doesn’t make precise cuts. Decisive as KR. Suspect ball security. Comes to decimated Patriots backfield, and should get a lot of work right away. May be 2012 starter if BJGE leaves via FA. Regardless, should be team’s RB2. Could be team’s new Kevin Faulk if BJGE returns. Long-term fantasy RB3 potential.

7. Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers, 4th round. Okla. St.: Short, but has adequate bulk for the size. Similar body type to Ray Rice. Very effective and tenacious at blitz pickup. Above-average speed. Can break tackles. Nice balance after contact. Quick, precise change of direction. Above-average upper-body strength. OK hands, but body catches too many. Also needs to work on routes. Willing run blocker. Played in Senior Bowl. May be Gore’s immediate backup ahead of Dixon because of his pass-protection ability and Dixon’s apparent move to FB. RB2 potential as Gore injury fill-in and eventual replacement.

8. Anthony Allen, RB, Ravens, 7th round. Ga. Tech: Very good size, quickness, explosiveness, and upper-body strength. Workhorse-type RB. Good speed for the size. Lowers shoulders very well when fighting for extra yards. Pops defenders back on impact and doesn’t get knocked back himself, always falling forward. Gives good effort at errant passes. Also plays special teams as a blocker. Suspect ball security. Worked out of B-Back position in school, so running from HB depth will be a learning curve similar to what Jonathan Dwyer had to go through with Steelers in 2010. Played in Senior Bowl. Enters talented backfield, and will never beat out Ray Rice, but should be team’s RB2 right away. If given the chance, should be a quality fantasy RB2.

9. Taiwan Jones, RB, Raiders, 4th round. E. Wash.: Very good height, but should add some bulk. Very good speed, burst and stop-and-start. Good balance. Nice vision and cutback. Not much of a blocker. Very weak upper body. Has durability concerns and a history of fumbling. Broke foot in playoffs in 230-yard effort. Didn’t run at Combine. Junior who has declared for 2011 draft. Similar to Darren McFadden in style and build. Should immediately be RB2 and has RB1 potential if he starts due to injury.

10. Mikel LeShoure, RB, Lions, 2nd round. Ill.: Above-average size, with very good quickness and good speed and for the size. Strong lower body — runs slightly upright, but still has the strength to break tackles. Good vision on cutbacks. Good spin move. Smooth runner. Lowers shoulders to deliver hits. Always falls forward. Willing pass blocker. Keeps shoulders squared. Average upper-body strength. Fair receiver. Needs to go more N-S than E-W in short yardage. Junior who has declared for 2011 draft. Has been compared several times to Steven Jackson. Will eventually pair with Jahvid Best for great 1-2 punch, but may even be more productive than Best if used as a grinder on 1st and 2nd down. Ruptured Achilles tendon in training camp and is out for 2011.

11. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons, 5th round. Ore. St.: Very short (5’5-3/4”), but solid bulk. Very good balance and vision. Finishes with surprising pop. Breaks a lot of arm tackles. Moves very well laterally. Only 1 fumble in college career. Good body control as receiver. Only average speed and quickness, which is surprising for a back his size. Junior who has declared for 2011 draft. Has Warrick Dunn-like skill set and enters Dunn’s former backfield. Has nice long-term potential in system once Turner is gone. Should be their 3rd-down back in 2011. Could be eventual fantasy RB2.

12. Alex Green*, RB, Packers, 3rd round. Hi.: Very good size and track speed. Above-average game speed. Makes quick decisions. Good power. Gets low in short yardage. Very compact stride allows him to change direction fairly quickly. Average upper-body strength. Fair receiver who adjusts well. Fights for extra yards and doesn’t seem to like to step out of bounds. Keeps legs churning and keeps balance fairly well after contact. Suspect ball security. Enters crowded backfield, with Grant and Starks likely ahead of him, but should be at least their RB2 by end of 2011. Has low-end RB1 potential once he’s starting.

13. Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots, 3rd round. La. St.: Very good size. Below-average straight-line speed, but average quickness. Junior who has declared for 2011 draft. Red flag for intelligence, since was ruled academically ineligible. Determined runner. Slightly off-balance. Strong, with powerful hands. Above-average vision for cutback. Fair pass blocker. At NFL Combine. Similar to BJGE and is good insurance in case team doesn’t re-sign him. If BJGE doesn’t re-sign, then he really could be team’s RB1, which makes him a fantasy RB3

14. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys, 3rd round. Okla.: Above-average size, but could stand to pack some muscle on his thin lower body. More of a WR build than a RB. Very good straight-line speed. Good burst. Makes quick decisions. Tends to run too upright, but still exceptionally hard to bring down. Average hands and upper-body strength. Has good body control, but not much change of direction, which showed in his slow performance in quickness drills at Combine. Can pass block, though tends to lower his head and lunge and miss. Looks like a fair 3rd-down back, though needs to work on hands and blocking. Should be team’s RB3, but not likely to beat out Felix Jones or Tashard Choice for touches in 2011. Reported to training camp with a pulled hamstring. Eventual fantasy RB3 potential.

15. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets, 4th round. Louisville: Average size. Very good cutback vision and burst and seems perfect for a zone-blocking type of run offense. Experienced receiver. Athletic with good body control and showed quick spin move in Senior Bowl game. Adequate speed. Balanced runner, though runs a little upright. Maybe too much dancing in backfield, though seemed much more decisive in Senior Bowl game. Offers YAC as receiver. Below-average upper-body strength. Small-ish hands. Not terribly creative when there are no obvious holes. Hurt hamstring at Combine and Pro Day. Will compete with Joe McKnight for RB3 spot and should stick on roster as RB4. Could be team’s RB2 by 2012 but has limited upside. Fantasy upside is RB5.

16. Da’Rel Scott, RB, Giants, 7th round. Md.: Above-average size. Very good straight-line speed. Patient, but has good burst when he makes decisions. Strong. Stays low through line. Demonstrates nice jump-cut and burst. OK tracking ball over inside shoulder. Gets good leverage in pass blocking but doesn’t stay squared to defender. Durability is an issue. Below-average change of direction. Played in Senior Bowl. With team potentially losing RBs to FA, could be team’s RB2 fairly soon, and has long-term fantasy high-end RB3 potential.

17. Darren Evans, RB, Colts, UDFA. Va. Tech: Great size. Decisive runner who hits with power. Fairly quick, balanced, and agile. Strong upper body. Average speed. Questionable hands. Junior who has declared for the 2011 draft. Titans have shown interest.

18. Chad Spann, RB, Colts, UDFA. N. Ill.: Very short, but very good bulk for the size. Ray Rice size. Excellent balance. Very quick change of direction. Nice burst and stop-and-start to pop through small creases. Good power and quick feet. Always seems to be moving forward. Adequate speed. Not much of a blocker. Questionable hands. Played in NFLPA Game. Chargers have shown interest.

19. Brandon Saine, RB, Packers, UDFA. Ohio St.: Above-average size. Good acceleration and above-average speed. Strong lower body. Runs over pads. Lowers shoulder to deliver hits. Protects ball through hole. Nimble feet which he uses to pick his way through traffic. Patient, and has nice burst once he makes his decision. Nice receiver with WR hands. Average change of direction and upper-body strength. Runs too upright in short yardage. Reminds me of Beanie Wells, though not as fast. Chargers have shown interest.

20. Isaac Odim, RB, Chargers, UDFA. Minn.-Duluth: Great size. Very intelligent. DNP in 2010 bowl game due to midseason injury. Still did enough in just a few games to earn conference player of the year award. 7.2 career YPC. Similar to Ben Tate or Toby Gerhart. Character red flag due to high school sexual assault charges. Above-average explosiveness. Average speed, but good short-area burst. Average upper-body strength. Packers have shown interest.

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