Posted by Jack Tumen
It’s time to evaluate another position group in the epically deep draft class of 2014. This time, I’m going with running backs. There are some big names coming out this year; but remember, these are my favorite backs in the class, not necessarily the best ones. Let’s have at it, shall we?
5. Jerome Smith – Syracuse
Smith is a guy who largely went under the radar during his collegiate career. He exploded in 2012 with Ryan Nassib as his QB, rushing for 1,171 yards on a 5.2 YPC average and 3 TDs. Last season, he ran for 914 yards in what was more of a committee, with an honest 4.6 YPC average while amassing 12 TDs. He’s a thick, square back who loves contact and has a surprising burst in the open field. His combine numbers weren’t impressive, running a 4.84 40 time and only 14 bench reps. At 5’11”, 220lbs, he’s drawn comparisons to Alfred Morris. Smith could be a day three flier in the draft, but I like him to be a surprise contributor at the next level; maybe with a team like the Steelers. Here’s his highlight reel.
4. Carlos Hyde – Ohio State
This guy is cruisin’ and bruisin’. The 2013 B1G Running Back of the Year comes in at 6’0″, 230lbs with a 4.66 40 and is widely regarded as a top-two back in this draft class. Coming off a year where he missed three games due to suspension, Hyde still managed to run for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs on a whopping 7.3 YPC average, including a 246 yard and 4 TD effort against Illinois. Trying to tackle this guy is like trying to tackle a landslide; you can’t achieve it with arm tackles alone. He’s one of the truer-built NFL backs we’ve seen in a while. Jacksonville, Tennessee and Arizona are three teams that could use his services as a bell-cow.
3. Charles Sims – West Virginia
After spending his first three seasons at his hometown school of Houston, Sims transferred to West Virginia for his senior year where he was a First-Team All-Big 12 selection. He rushed for 1,095 yards and 11 TDs while catching 45 balls for 401 yards and 3 TDs. Although he plays running back, his game is evenly split between RB and wideout. In fact, he really projects better as a wide receiver in the NFL than he does running back. At 6’0″, 214lbs and a 4.48 40 time, Sims is electric and elusive on the football field. His frame is not ideal to carry the load for an NFL offense; he’s lean and runs somewhat upright. However, his experience at the position would make him a valuable asset for an NFL offense looking to acquire a multi-dimensional weapon. Check out his tape.
2. Ka’Deem Carey – Arizona
Out of all the running backs in college football last year, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey was the most fun to watch in my opinion. The guy just looks like a running back; he’s got a cut frame with room to beef up at 5’9″, 207. His 4.70 40 time was slightly disappointing, but turn and burn isn’t his game. Carey is dynamic and bouncy as a runner; able to spin his way out of tackles and uses an array of stutter-steps to create space for himself. His college stats are also ridiculous; 1,885 yards and 19 TDs on 349 attempts as a junior last season. The scary part is that wasn’t even his best season; he went for 1,929 yards and 23 TDs as a sophomore on 46 fewer carries. Choosing to forego his senior year, Carey enters the draft as a top three RB prospect. He’s eerily similar to Giovani Bernard in terms of build and running style.
1. Tre Mason – Auburn
Tre Mason was the keystone of Auburn’s 2013 dream season that came up one miracle short of a national title. As the fixture of Gus Malzahn’s read option offense, Mason carried the rock 317 times for 1,816 yards and 23 TDs while breaking the school’s all-purpose yardage record of 2,137 yards, previously set by Bo Jackson 28 years prior. It seemed like every other play this guy was barreling his way for another breakaway touchdown.
Mason is my favorite running back in this draft class for a few reasons; he’s soft-spoken, runs like a downhill bowling ball and he’s the son of De La Soul’s Vincent Mason; he’s got the music in his blood. At 5’8″, 207lbs with a 4.50 40, we have yet to see him take a handoff from the classic “I” formation, which will be intriguing. For that same reason, he fits perfectly in Denver as Knowshon Moreno’s replacement or down in Carolina with fellow Auburn Tiger, Cam Newton. He will one day be successful as an NFL starter.