Which big backs do you like?

Bilal Powell crops up as a popular RB among my fellow AA writers. (Pic: Zimbio)

Joel Thorman and I apparently had the same idea today: breaking down some of the running back prospects that we are interested in.

With All Pro Jamaal Charles and scatback-extraordinaire Dexter McCluster on the roster, the Chiefs are set for speedy, change-of-pace jukesters.  Where the Chiefs are sorely lacking is in the short-yardage, between-the-tackles runners.  Thomas Jones has done his damnedest, but he clearly broke down towards the end of the year, and Jackie Battle is not something this team can rely on in the future.

Well, Addicts?  If you had to draft a big back to take over the Thomas Jones role (either sooner, as I’d prefer, or later), who do you like?

We haven’t really delved into the differences between them.  Let’s take a little time to do so.  Tell us who you want (and where you want him) in comments.

This is not an exhaustive list of all RBs, just the bigger ones.  All my projections are based on DraftTek, not my own personal big board.

Mike Leshoure, Illinois (projected: 1st)
6’0″, 227 lbs; 4.5 40 yard dash
281 rushes for 1,600+ yards & 17 TDs in 2010

A superback from Illinois (a program that just churned out Rashard Mendenhall), Leshoure is the whole package.  I’m high as hell on this guy, he is the ideal combination of speed and power, and produced against damn good defenses in the Big 10.  I would project him as Mendenhall 2.0.

Daniel Thomas, Kansas State (projected: 3rd)
6’0″, 230 lbs; 4.6 40 yard dash
298 rushes for 1,500+ yards & 19 TDs in 2010

Super productive bruiser from the Big 12.  Thomas runs angry, but not stupid…. he maintains the balance he needs to put blockers in their ideal position, but once he arrives, he will challenge you for every yard.  Doesn’t exactly have a lot of jukes to his game, but neither does the neighborhood garbage truck, either.  Pretty good receiver.

Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (projected: 3rd)
6’0″, 227 lbs; 4.5 40 yard dash
151 rushes for 800+ yards & 11 TDs in 2010

I’ll let Draft Tek speak for themselves but my impression is that Evans is pretty one-dimensional.  He loves inflicting punishment between the tackles, but he’s not a jukester and he’s not going to burn you.  Not a ton of production, but Ryan Williams takes all the reps at V Tech, and Evans got the goal line carries.  He’s also coming off a torn ACL that will no doubt drop him to the late rounds (I don’t even have a 7th round grade on him). 

Mario Fannin, Auburn (projected: 4th)
5’11″, 227 lbs; 4.37 40 yard dash
61 rushes for about 400 yards & 5 TDs

Fannin raised eyebrows everywhere when he ran that amazing 40 time at the Combine.  Is this a guy on the rise?  Absolutely.  For a guy with his squatty dimensions, he has a fantastic set of quick jukes and is really strong in the passing game.  This is a back for all three downs.  His major problem is a Reggie Bush-like propensity to get too creative, and blow plays up by trying to make too much happen.  That can be coached out of him.

Stanley Havili, USC (projected: 4th)
6’0″, 227 lbs; 4.6 40 yard dash
26 rushes for 166 yards & 1 TD

Even though he’s a fullback, Havili’s listed here because he contains a rare set of gifts.  A decent enough blocker, Havili’s real strength lies with teams that like to get creative with their backfields.  He is a pretty strong runner (was hardly asked to do so…) and an excellent receiver.  He can do everything you ask him to do well, but he’s not a world beater in any one area.

Delone Carter, Syracuse (projected: 4th)
5’9″, 222 lbs; 4.5 40 yard dash
221 rushes for 1,200+ yards & 9 TDs

Productive back with some decent size, Carter has all the speed you need in a big back except the breakaway speed.  I’m also loving his ability in the passing game.  I see a lot of Ray Rice in what Carter is able to do.  He has Rice’s thick legs and he refuses to go down when he’s hit — he’ll always try to pick up that extra yard or two.  Great grit in this guy.

Stevan Ridley, LSU (projected: 5th)
5’11″, 225 lbs; 4.6 40 yard dash
249 rushes for 1,100+ yards & 15 TDs

Ridley weighs 225 pounds, but I’m pretty sure about half of that weight is in his thighs.  This guy has trunks for legs, and it explains (a.) why so many of his 1,100 yards in 2010 were after the contact, and (b.) why he wasn’t exactly setting the Combine on fire.  Ridley is purely a between-the-tackles guy who can push the dogpile forward.  Very little ability to do much else.

Jamie Harper, Clemson (projected: 5th)
5’11″ 233 lbs; 4.6 40 yard dash
197 rushes for 760 yards & 7 TDs

Not exactly a head turner for the average fan, Harper didn’t get rack up great stats in 2010, and his 40 isn’t anything to brag about.  And to be honest, the guy plays a little soft — he’s not a bruiser.  What makes him special is his ability to make all kinds of noise out in the open space.  Good set of jukes on this bigger back.

Roy Helu, Jr., Nebraska (projected: 7th)
6’0″, 219; 4.4 40 yard dash
188 rushes for 1,200+ yards & 11 TDs

I think Helu is one of those backs that look a lot sexier on paper than he does in person.  His size and speed are ideal, he does play with some passion and has a lot of production to his name.  But he’s only really something to behold between the handoff and getting past the defensive line.  After that, he doesn’t really possess the jukes to make big plays.  If you’re looking for a BenJarvus Green-Ellis type of a tough, heady runner who will get the needed yards but not much more, Helu could be your guy.

John Clay, Wisconsin (projected: 7th)
6’1″, 230 lbs; 4.7 40 yard dash
187 rushes for 1,000+ yards & 14 TDs

I love almost everything about that Wisconsin run game, and Clay is no exception.  Clay is listed at 230 on DraftTek, but any picture I’ve seen of him looks like he’s easily 250.  He’s a sledgehammer, pure and simple.  Not going to be a gamebreaker, or really anything other than a rotational short-yardage guy, Clay is who you pick when you believe the other team’s defensive line deserves a beat down.

Allen Bradford, USC (not projected)
5’11″, 242 lbs; 4.5 40 yard dash
110 rushes for about 800 yards & 5 TDs

I look at Allen Bradford and I see a steal, an everydown back, a starter in the National Football League.  I see a midrounder at worst.  What he’s missing, more than anything, is his ability to use that big body the way it was truly meant: between the tackles.  He’s never going to be elite anywhere else but between the tackles.

Bilal Powell, Louisville (not projected)
5’11″, 216 lbs; 4.5 40 yard dash
229 rushes for 1,400+ yards & 11 TDs

Powell is a zone-blocking runner who specializes in picking his hole and bolting.  Isn’t a great jukester but runs low and stays low.  He’s fairly explosive, a pretty good blocker, honestly he comes across as a jack of all trades guy who, despite his fantastic production in college, won’t really be scortching up anybody’s big board.

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