Let’s dispense with the intros and get right to it.
Montee Ball 5’10” 214 (4.66 40) – Any back in Peyton Manning’s backfield has to be mentioned due to the upside in this offense. Let’s not forget how Knowshon Moreno was completely ignored both on draft day and even on waivers late in the season before his tremendous impact over weeks 14-16 (21.6 points per game – 3rd among RB’s). Ball is too slow to break long runs and he’s not big enough to be a bruiser in the NFL, which makes him somebody else’s problem on draft day. Just about any back could produce in this system, but right now there are just too many chefs in the kitchen to invest the relatively high draft pick that Ball will likely command come September. If he becomes the man at some point, that will change everything.
Stepfan Taylor 5’9” 214 – (4.76 40) – Taylor displays quick lateral movement on the run, making quick cuts to exploit any hole. A strong lower body helps him get extra yards after contact. A lack of speed limits his upside. He’s good in pass protection, has good hands and could carve out a role as a change of pace back. If you expect much more than that you may be disappointed.
Jonathan Franklin 5’10” 205 – (4.46 40) – The back can bring it, good speed and excellent vision. He has the ability to instinctively read defenders and when their balance is shifted, so as to make his cuts at the perfect moment. The question is how many touches will he get? Green Bay hates running, and Franklin will have to share the scraps with Eddie Lacy and Dujuan Harris.
Chris Thompson 5’8” 187 – The college tape of this young back looks great: explosive and fast, ability to outrun opposing cornerbacks, outstanding yards after first contact and enough strength to break tackles. The question will be health and his rehab from a torn ACL. Everyone expects Alfred Morris to be the bell cow this year, and everyone might be right, but the lessons of history teach us that it is foolish to assume anything with Mike Shanahan. On draft day in 2012, Alfred Morris got no respect and was ripped as a slow plodder. We all know how that turned out. When it comes to the Washington backfield, remember, you just never know. Watch Thompson this preseason to see how he is used and how well he fares. The writing was written on the wall for those that watched Morris in the preseason last year. He was the strongest back over those four games. No speed, but nobody broke as many tackles. Yes, I know they were exhibition games, but I’m just sayin’.
Latavius Murray 6’2” 223 (4.38 40) – Murray obviously has great speed for his size. When looking at his tape, he doesn’t jump off the screen at you, but he runs well, working north and south and with good cuts. The lack of competition in the Oakland backfield makes him attractive as the potential backup to iron man Darren McFadden. The path to playing is not that rigid, and getting an opportunity is the biggest part of the battle.
Knile Davis 5’10” 227 (4.37 40) – Many are pooh-poohing Davis’ 4.37 40 at the combine due to unimpressive tape. I’d like to be profound here but I have to agree. I don’t see a speed demon on tape. I see….just a guy. Having said all that, when one considers some of the scrubs left on the board in the 20th round of 12 and 14-team drafts, Davis looks attractive. He was very injury prone in college. What if the tape I’m looking at shows him at less than 100 percent? Remember, we want to buy low and sell high, and the price doesn’t get any cheaper than what Knile Davis is going for in the drafts I’ve participated in (was the 332nd pick). He should be the clear No. 2 behind Jamaal Charles and could earn a decent number of carries even if Charles stays healthy.