The Big 10 featured some of the best running backs in the country this year. This was partly due to a plethora of run focused offenses that featured the traditional one back attack, allowing single backs to shine. Greene, Royster, Ringer, Wells, Sutton, Sheets, Hill...No one can claim the Big 10 lacked in solid tailbacks.
But the NFL is pickier in its selection: 208 pounds? No goal line carries for you. Would you rather have questions regarding your durability or your talent? Definitely durability. Who's more draft worthy, solid guy who produced or fast guy with potential? So here is a look at the prospects of the Big 10's halfbacks that are entering the draft this year. Wells is the superstar and Thigpen is the sleeper; everyone hopes that Green doesn't fall past the 2nd round.
Chris "Beanie" Wells: Everyone loves this guy, including me. I remember seeing that he was the #1 recruit in the nation coming out and thinking, damn, he's going to give the Big 10 trouble for awhile. My reason for fear: His vicious combination of speed (4.4 45), power (237 lbs), and balance, obvious in high school and obvious at Ohio State. When not injured, he ran through or leaped cornerbacks and stiff armed anyone unfortunate to attempt to try a side takedown. Questions remain about his ability to stay healthy, but teams will bite early on the chance to draft an everydown back with deceptive speed. NFL Back Comparison: Marion Barber. Projected Round Drafted:1
Shonn Greene: A great story always, the humble guy who moved furniture and then won the Doak Walker award with 13 100 yard games and a ton of highlight runs. He runs low and is even more North/South than Wells. No one is overly impressed with his agility and teams want to see whether he wasn't a one year wonder blessed with the Big 10's 2nd best line. But the RB stable isn't particularly deep in this years draft, so Greene's decision to leave early seems like a good decision. NFL Back Comparison: Jonathan Stewart, Lendale White (without the eating problem hopefully). Projected Round Drafted: 2
Javon Ringer: I just don't see this. I know his durability cannot be questioned, I know he scored a bunch of touchdowns (against Eastern Michigan). He blocked well for Brian Hoyer and gave shout outs to his offensive lineman, so his character is a positve. But against top competition, he didn't show an above average ability to break tackles or make people miss. Draft experts say 3/4 round, but only for a team that lacks depth at RB. The great character and durability will make one team dream pick up Ringer late. NFL Back Comparison: Steve Slaton. Projected Round Drafted: 4
Tyrell Sutton: Northwestern's jackrabbit showed tremendous all around skill, catching the ball out of the backfield and running between the tackles well for a smaller back. Sutton and Ringer are almost interchangeable except that Sutton got injured twice in his last two years ay NW, missing 10 games overall. The pro's will love his hands, but will obviously question his durability. NFL Back Comparison: Brian Westbrook. Projected Round Drafted: 5/6
Marcus Thigpen: I saw this one coming awhile back, calling him the Todd Helton of the Big 10 (i.e. home run hitter who know one knows). This track star is bound to knock a 4.3 out at the combine and shoot onto the draft board as a late pick. He won't play running back like he did at Indiana unless he adds weight to his 193 lb frame, but his speed will get him on a roster to be a kick returner. NFL Back Comparison: Michael Bennett (4.39 guy from Wisky about 4 years ago), Chris Johnson. Projected Round Drafted: 5/6
PJ Hill: No one is really high on him because of the perceived lack of speed and the fact that he's injury prone. However, Hill has got a little bit of shake for a big man and someone will take a chance on him. Over the holidays, Hill ran for 140 against a solid Florida State defense, showing the ability to hit a hole and make a linebacker miss. Big men with swiveling hips usually get chances in the NFL, even if they're slow. NFL Back Comparison: Ron Dayne. Projected Round Drafted: 7
Kory Sheets: With all these graduations and defections of backs, there are going to be a lot of young men fighting for playing time at the running back spot in the Big 10. Purdue needed Sheets in 2008 because he was the only constant. Sure he shot his mouth off once and got some bad press, but he was the teams only gamebreaker and other than Thigpen, scored the most long touchdowns of any back on this draft board. Remember the dream shake he gave a Central defender on the way to a game winning TD? Hopefully some NFL team does to. NFL Back Comparison: Matt Forte. Projected Round Drafted: 7/FA