By College Football Analyst Taber Small for TonySoftli.com
The value of the RB position in the NFL Draft has increasingly declined the past two years. No running backs were selected in the 1st round of the 2013 and 2014 Draft. NFL teams are throwing the ball more and have found out that they can find productive backs in the mid-late rounds.
The last time a running back was selected in the first round was in 2012 Draft when Cleveland selected Trent Richardson 3rd overall. In that same draft Tampa Bay took Doug Martin with the 31st pick overall and the New York Giants took David Wilson 32nd.
We had to wait until the 54th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for the Tennessee Titans to take Washington Huskies RB Bishop Sankey. The 2015 NFL senior prospects look to be another solid class, but would definitely get a big boost if some talented juniors decide to declare early.
Below are some RB prospects to watch for in the 2015 NFL Draft
1. Karlos Williams, Florida State (6-1/223)
Positives: The converted strong safety has a nice combination of speed, power, and quickness for a back his size. He is a patient runner who waits for the play to develop in front of him then hits the hole with a quick burst of speed and acceleration. Williams runs with tremendous instincts, vision, balance and cutting ability. He shows the speed to get around the corner and possesses the ability to make defenders miss in space or in traffic. Williams is a reliable receiver out of the backfield showing soft hands.
Negatives: He runs upright and needs to run with lower pad level. Williams is a willing blocker in pass protection, but this part of his game still needs further development. He lacks the proper technique at this point and scouts would like to see him pick up his intensity while seeing improvement in this area.
2. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State (5-11/205)
Positives: Langford is a quick and hard running downhill back with good speed. He was the Spartans most consistent offensive player as he set a school record with eight straight 100-yard games down the stretch of the season. Langford rushed for 1,338 yards and showed a great nose for the end zone with 18 TDs. Langford is an instinctive back who runs with impressive balance and body lean. He runs hard between the tackles and doesn’t go down on first contact. Langford runs light on his feet and can easily change direction in traffic or in space. He’s a versatile productive receiver out of the backfield having caught 28 passes last season.
Negatives: He doesn’t have ideal size to take the pounding as an NFL running back. Scouts are not sure if he can be a featured back at the next level. He needs to show better technique in pass protection.
Underclassmen RB to watch
Mike Davis, South Carolina (5-11/217) – Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon receive the majority of the headlines for the 2016 NFL Prospects. But Davis possesses an impressive running skill set to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys. He is a workhorse back with good size, speed and power. He’s a very physical runner who wears down defenses. Davis shows a rare burst of speed and quickness for a back his size. He made an instant impact taking over the starting running back position for the Gamecocks last season after the departure of Marcus Lattimore. Davis is a special talent with the skill set to start at the next level.
Sleeper RB Prospect to watch
Dreamius Smith, West Virginia (6-0/221) – The JUCO transfer was a very good complement back to last year’s Mountaineer starter and 2014 NFL draft pick Charles Sims. I came away just as impressed with Smith on film as I was with Sims. He is a strong explosive back with excellent size for the next level. He runs with impressive vision and balance and is deceptively quick for a back his size. He is your prototypical NFL size back who runs low and hard between the tackles with good body lean. Smith possesses the speed to break long runs and turn the corner. He has shown soft hands in the passing game and possesses the versatility to be a good change of pace back at the next level. I am very interested to see how well he will perform this season as a full time starter.
Small School RB Prospect to watch
Marcus Coker, Stony Brook (6-0/230) – The University of Iowa transfer is a big, strong and physical running back. He also has the rare burst of speed and acceleration for a back his size. As a sophomore for Iowa in 2011, Coker made his mark as one of the best backs in the Big Ten. He finished second in the Big Ten with 1,384 yards on the ground while scoring 15 touchdowns. Coker is also a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield displaying sure hands. He ran into some off field troubles at Iowa right before his expected junior season, which forced him to transfer to Stony Brook. His season ended early last year as he suffered an abdominal injury in his first campaign with the Seawolves. If he can stay healthy and put up big numbers for Stony Brook this year, Coker could play his way into a early to mid-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Follow Taber Small on Twitter: @Tabersmall and NUCSports.com