NFL Scouting Combine preview: Running backs
NFL Scouting Combine preview: Running backs
With the NFL Scouting Combine about to begin -- and the NFL Draft just about two months away -- we'll take a daily look at the collegiate talent available at positions where the Patriots might be looking for help. Today we take a look at some of the best running backs hoping to make a good impression in Indy this week.
NFL SCOUTING COMBINE PREVIEW
If there’s one thing at which the Patriots are great, it’s drafting running backs in the first round.
“Do it again!” people cry when remembering the Patriots’ 2006 selection of Laurence Maroney with the 21st overall pick. “That was good!”
In all seriousness, picking running backs in the first round is risky because it’s much easier to find value at the position later in the draft. With that having been said, there is room on New England’s roster for a lead back if the Pats opt to not retain 30-year-old free agent LeGarrette Blount.
Would they really fill that early in the draft? They have drafted backs high since Maroney -- Shane Vereen in the second, Stevan Ridley in the third -- so it’s not worth ruling out, even if we’re skeptical over here.
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Tale of the tape: 6-foot-1, 235 pounds
The good: Hard runner who’s plenty explosive. Todd McShay says he’s the best running back prospect he's seen since Adrian Peterson. Even though he wasn’t utilized heavily in the passing game, he still showed the ability to break off massive plays there as well.
The bad: Could have a chronic ankle issue, which caused him to miss time this past season. Power backs can be impatient, but ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. notes that it’s an area in which he’s improved.
The fit: It’s hard to imagine the Patriots targeting and getting the player, but if they did he would immediately be their top weapon in the running game. His presence would all but end Blount’s days in New England.
Available at 32? Nah, fam. Fournette’s going top-10 and possibly top-five.
Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Tale of the tape: 5-foot-11, 213 pounds
The good: Downhill runner who put up big numbers in college. Very productive in the red zone and has proven capable of shedding tacklers.
The bad: Had 13 fumbles over three seasons in college, but his biggest questions may be about his off-the-field behavior. Cook was suspended for the team in 2015 after being arrested for allegedly punching a woman in the face several times. He was found not guilty of battery.
The fit: The Pats like versatility and that’s what Cook brings. He’s good in the passing game, reeling in as many as seven passes in a game as a junior.
Available at 32? Not unless his personality scares teams away. Cook should go in the top 20, if not the first half of the draft.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Tale of the tape: 6-foot-0, 197 pounds
The good: Elusive, flashy playmaker who led Stanford in both rushing and receiving yards as a sophomore in 2015. Can be lined up in a number of places to create matchup problems.
The bad: Not a powerful runner. People were in a huff because he sat out of the Sun Bowl to protect his draft value, but who cares?
The fit: There’s tons that Josh McDaniels would do with McCaffrey, but you wonder if there might be something of a redundancy with Dion Lewis and James White already on the roster. The Pats could probably use a power back more than another weapon in the passing game.
Available at 32? Quite possibly. At this point McCaffrey looks like a late-first or second-rounder.
Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
Tale of the tape: 5-foot-10, 215 pounds
The good: Versatile back who can make a difference in the passing game. Had 304 all-purpose yards in a double-overtime loss to Texas A&M last season.
The bad: Not considered the smartest runner, making some of the wrong cuts at the wrong times. Durability may come into question this week, as he dealt with a knee injury last season as a junior. A top recruit out of high school, Kamara was suspended twice (one off an arrest) at Alabama before transferring to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before making his way to Tennessee.
The fit: The Patriots have successfully utilized backs like Kamara before, but he too raises the question of whether the Pats need a pass-catcher or a more of a power-runner.
Available at 32? Yeah, most likely. Kamara’s probably a second-round prospect, so if someone wants to grab him in the late first, it’s hard to see the Patriots being that team.
Tale of the tape: 6-foot-1, 249 pounds
The good: Powerful runner with good enough speed for his size. Had no problem being the guy at Texas, as he finished second in the nation with 2,208 rushing yards as a junior.
The bad: Lost six of seven fumbles as junior. Did not catch the ball much in college, totaling 13 receptions in three seasons at Texas.
The fit: If the Pats want a long-term replacement for Blount, this is the kind of guy worth looking at. The biggest question they’d need to answer is whether his fumbles as a junior could be corrected. You didn’t hear this from me, but Bill Belichick really hates fumbles.
Available at 32? Yes. At this point the earliest Foreman should be considered is in the second round.
Jeremy McNichols, Boise St.
Tale of the tape: 5-foot-9, 212 pounds
The good: No-nonsense runner who put up big rushing totals as a sophomore (1,337 yards) and junior (1,709; sixth in the nation) while also contributing heavily in the passing game.
The bad: Had eight fumbles over his final two seasons at Boise St. Size is unremarkable and he isn’t particularly fast.
The fit: McNichols probably wouldn’t be a lead back in New England and he would have his work cut out for him in trying to take targets in the passing game from Lewis and White.
Available at 32? Yeah, like crazy. McNichols is probably a mid-round pick.