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Packers draft preview: Top running backs

May 5, 2014
 
Green Bay Packers 2014 draft preview: Running back...
Green Bay Packers 2014 draft preview: Running back...: Pete Dougherty and Weston Hodkiewicz look at the running back prospects for the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft. (May 4, 2014)
Ohio State's Carlos Hyde runs for a touchdown against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. / File/Getty Images

1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, 5-1178, 230, Round 2

Four-year player (42 games) averaged 6.1 yards and had 37 touchdowns on 523 carries. “I saw him live against Northwestern, and he had 200 and some yards, and I was amazed,” a scout said. “He’s quick, he’s got change of direction, he presses the line of scrimmage really well with power and vision to backside cut. He’s got good feet for a big guy. Natural receiving skills, hands are probably best (of the back) in the draft.” Another scout said he rated Hyde a little higher than the Packers’ Eddie Lacy coming out last year. “(Hyde) is the perfect package if there is such a thing for a running back,” the scout said. “Low center of gravity, all that stuff. He’s more athletic, he’s not as stiff as Lacy. Lacy wasn’t stiff, but if I had to separate them, I’d say (Hyde’s) body balance and control, he can lateral slide and move like a smaller back. Lacy was a little stiffer, a little more straight line. Even though (Lacy), he had some nice cutting ability and his feet were good, he’s a little bit more muscled up tight.” At the combine ran the 40 in 4.61 seconds, had a 34 ½-inch vertical and did 19 bench reps. “Has some little-man feet for a big guy,” a third scout said. “He has initial burst but not much sustain. He can physically beat you up when you try to tackle him.” Was investigated in ’13 for an assault after an altercation with a woman at a Columbus, Ohio, nightclub, but the woman declined to file charges. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer nevertheless suspended Hyde for the first three games in ’12 for conduct unbecoming of the program.

2. Bishop Sankey, Washington, 5-9½, 202, Round 2

True junior broke Corey Dillon’s season school rushing record last year with 1,780 yards. “I’m watching this guy thinking, ‘Not very big, doesn’t look fast,’ but when you watch him, he’s got the same speed and explosiveness from the first play to the last carry,” one scout said. “The only back I can say I’ve seen do that is LaDainian Tomlinson. It’s very impressive for a guy with that type of size to do that. Another single-back guy. Even though he’s a little smaller in stature, his production, unbelievable. Competitive. Power. He’s a zone toss guy.” Averaged 5.7 yards a carry last season and 5.4 yards for his career. Had 61 receptions for a 9.1-yard average. “He might not have the ideal measureables when you think about the best running backs in the NFL, but there’s no mistaking the way he plays,” a second scout said. “He plays with really good initial quickness with the ball in his hands. He’s a down-and-dirty type player, always fighting for extra yards. He finishes runs. Tremendous balance, hard to knock him off his feet. And he runs with his pads down, doesn’t give the tacklers much of a hitting surface.” At the combine ran the 40 in 4.55 seconds, had a 35-inch vertical and 26 bench reps. “He’s not going to take anybody down, but he can string together certain moves, that makes him very effective,” a third scout said. “You don’t see (good speed) on tape, but you don’t see him getting caught, either, not unless the defender has a big-time angle on him. He’s a good running back.”

3. Tre Mason, Auburn, 5-8½, 207, Round 2

Son of DJ Maseo, member of the hip hop group De La Soul. “A little bowling ball, hard to tackle, hard to see,” a scout said. “I don’t know if he has (Maurice) Jones-Drew or Ray Rice-type speed once he clears the tackles, but I like his toughness. He’s that kind of back.” True junior entry broke Bo Jackson’s school season rushing record last year with 1,816 yards, including a 5.7-yard average and 23 touchdowns. “Smaller guy, compact frame, strong lower body,” another scout said. “His strength and his power is in his legs. Not tall but effective. He body catches and traps balls. His receiving skills is what drops him out of that top three for me because they’re going to have to throw him the ball. I do like his yards after contact. He pumps his legs, he drives, he can carry a defender.” For his career averaged 5.8 yards a carry and as a kickoff returner had a 26.4-yard average and two touchdowns on 42 returns. Ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds at the combine, had a 38-inch vertical and didn’t bench because of a wrist injury. Played in Auburn’s fast-paced, spread offense that often runs off Wing-T type movement. “Right now he’s coming from different angles and it’s kind of a funky offense,” another scout said. “You see his athleticism. His skill set and position attributes are there. But you have to wonder a little bit. It’s not as bad as the Georgia Tech offense where that fullback that ends up trying to be a tailback in the NFL is about a foot off the quarterback’s butt. This guy’s a little different, he’s got vision, he’s got cutting ability and everything. You’d just like to see it (in a more conventional offense) so you can say he’s done it, there’s not going to be any issues.”

4. Jeremy Hill, LSU, 6-058, 233, Rounds 2/3

Sat out what would have been his freshman year in college because of legal issues, is entering the draft after two seasons at LSU. “He’s just a big bruiser,” a scout said. “Big guy, good vision. He has good feet for a big guy, good cutting ability. He’s a little bit of an upright runner, but he drops his pad level on defender approach. He’s powerful enough to drag defenders, productive between the tackles, and when he gets out in the open he has deceptive speed. He’s an all-around good running back.” Playing in a rotation the past two seasons he rushed for 2,156 yards, a 6.2-yard average and 28 touchdowns. In his senior year in high school pled guilty to and was put on probation for pressuring a 14-year-old girl into performing oral sex on him, and last year pled guilty to assault for sucker punching a man outside a bar, which was caught on surveillance video. “He’s tough,” another scout said. “I don’t know about his breakaway speed. He showed good burst, but I don’t if he had the burst to finish at the NFL level. Michael Bush had burst, (Marcus) Lattimore had burst; if you’re looking for a big back to finish, Ronnie Brown had pretty good burst. This guy is quick, he can get around the edge, and he’s good at running with a short burst, I just don’t know if he’s going to have a long burst.” At the combine ran the 40 in 4.64 seconds, had a 29-inch vertical and did 20 bench reps. “He’d be ideal in a one-back offense,” a third scout said. “He’s a load to bring in down in the open field. He doesn’t have explosive speed, but when he gets going he’s moving pretty well. He’s the type of back that wears defenses down.”

5. Andre Williams, Boston College, 5-1138, 230, Rounds 2/3

Last season led the FBS in rushing (2,177 yards) and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back. “He’s a big man now,” one scout said. “He’s a long-gaited strider. A good athlete but he doesn’t have a lot of quick-twitch fiber. He’s a long-stride guy that has speed, but when you want him to stop right there and change direction and burst and get away from a guy, he’s not that guy. The other four (above) are all of that.” Averaged 6.5 yards a carry and rushed for 18 touchdowns last season, and had career marks of 5.3 yards and 28 touchdowns. At the scouting combine ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds and had a 38-inch vertical. Didn’t lift because of a shoulder injury. “He ran the majority of the time against a stacked box,” another scout said. “Their offense had nothing to it and had poor quarterback play. He’ll be an even more productive player in the NFL because of scheme and blocking. He had to do a great deal of it on his own.” Missed two games in ’11 because of ankle and abdominal injuries; had surgery in the spring of ’12 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and missed the final three games in’ 12 because of an abdominal tear.

6. Charles Sims, West Virginia, 6-0, 214, Rounds 3/4

Transferred from Houston last year after receiving his degree in health education and rushed for 1,095 yards and a 5.7-yard average. “I liked him better on film than I did in person (in the offseason),” one scout said. “Very productive. He’s got natural receiving skills. More of a between-the-tackle guy.” In three years at Houston averaged 6.2 yards a carry and scored 37 touchdowns rushing and receiving combined. At the combine ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds and had a 37½-inch vertical. “Looks like Matt Forte of the Bears,” another scout said. “Has the same type of running style. He’s the perfect type of back for a team that runs a zone scheme. He’ll fight for extra yards on contact. He has the size and power to break arm tackles, spins and maintains his balance. Bit of a body catcher. Awareness to handle the passing game.”

7. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, 5-858, 174, Rounds 3/4

Dual-threat back averaged 7.8 yards a carry and 11.5 yards a reception in three years at Oregon. “This guy is lightning,” one scout said. “Change of direction. He’s not an every-down back, not at all. He’s probably a third or fourth (rounder) because of size. Somebody might take him a little earlier because he’s a kick returner.” Scored four touchdowns and averaged 25.8 yards on 73 kickoff returns, and 17.1 yards (one touchdown) on 16 punt returns. Ran the 40 in 4.45 seconds and had a 32-inch vertical jump. “I think they’re all babied (at Oregon), and they have inflated numbers because the West Coast doesn’t have the defenses like the ACC and SEC do,” another scout said. “He’s got skills, he’s just not a big man. I think people were more worried about (quarterback Marcus) Mariota running and throwing the ball than they were about him, that’s what opened holes for him.”

8. Devonta Freeman, Florida State, 5-8¼, 206, Rounds 3/4

Junior entry rushed for 1,016 yards and a 5.9-yard average for last season’s FBS national champions. “He doesn’t have the speed these other guys have,” a scout said. “He’s tough, has a compact running style. I like him, he’s a tough kid. But I think he falls below these other guys.” Averaged 5.6 yards and scored 30 touchdowns in his career. Ran the 40 in 4.55 seconds and had a 31½-inch vertical. “He’s a bowling ball type,” another scout said. “There’s little decision making when he runs; he takes it and heads downhill. Defenders don’t get a clean shot at him because of his height. He’s fearless as a pass blocker, gives up size but makes up for it with effort. He looked awful going through the drills at the combine, but the tape shows he’s a gamer.”

9. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor, 5-9½, 201, Rounds 3/4

In two years at Baylor averaged 7.6 yards a carry and had 18 touchdown runs. “I don’t know, the size and production bother me,” a scout said. “He’s a 5-9 guy and 201. He’s bigger than (De’Anthony) Thomas, but the thing with De’Anthony Thomas, when he hits the edge, he hits the crease, he’s gone. This guy’s the same way, it just takes him a little bit to get going. Thomas has the combination of quickness and speed.” Ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds at the combine. Initially attended Oregon but left after Oregon lost scholarships for paying one of his advisers $25,000. Was slowed by a groin injury for part of last year. “Shifty runner,” another scout said. “He does a nice job of avoiding tacklers, has some pick and slide to his game. But he floats as a pass protector and won’t pick up anyone. I’d call him a 50-50 catcher at best.”

10. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona, 5-938, 207, Rounds 3/4

In the last two seasons in Arizona’s spread offense rushed for 3,814 yards, a 5.7-yard average and 42 touchdowns. “That kid, he’s legit,” a scout said. “Good vision and pad level on contact. He drives his legs on contact, breaks a lot of tackles. He’s a guy that can definitely translate to the NFL because of his vision and pad level on contact. And he has soft hands.” Ran the 40 in only 4.72 seconds at the combine and had a 32 ½-inch vertical. “(He’s) really an upright runner,” another scout said. “He has nice size but he’s not a pile mover. There are plenty of snaps where you see one man bring him down. He also doesn’t have a second gear, not really an explosive player, doesn’t really run away from anyone. He can catch the ball in the flat and turn it up the field. I would not call him a good pass blocker.”

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