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Trent Richardson a Top 10 talent, maybe not a Top 10 pick

Alabama v Auburn

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates their 42-14 win over the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Alabama running back Trent Richardson sat out pro day after knee surgery, but he’s expected to be at full speed in time to work out for NFL teams before next month’s draft. And anyway, teams have seen more than enough of Richardson to know he’s an elite talent and one of the best running back prospects to come along in years.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be a Top 10 draft pick.

As NFL teams continue to decide that running backs are fungible, there’s a belief in some circles that no running back, no matter how great a prospect, is worth a Top 10 pick. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said after visiting Alabama’s pro day that he has no doubt from watching film of Richardson that Richardson is one of this year’s elite prospects, but not necessarily one of this year’s highest picks.

“I think he’s a Top 10 talent,” Mayock said of Richardson. “That doesn’t mean that I endorse taking him with a Top 10 pick. I have a problem with running backs, and the history of running backs in the last 6-7 years in this league, justifying a pick that high. The last Top 10 pick for a running back that has paid off in my opinion has been Adrian Peterson, who went No. 7 to the Vikings.”

Last year Mark Ingram (who started ahead of Richardson for two years at Alabama) was the first running back off the board, and he lasted until the Saints took him at No. 28. It’s unlikely that Richardson will last that long, but this may be the second straight year that an Alabama running back spends longer than he expected sitting around waiting to hear his name called.

“As talented as Trent Richardson is -- and I believe he is, I believe he is a Top 10 talent in this draft, I’m not convinced he’s going in the Top 10,” Mayock said.

The good news for some running back-needy team is that means Richardson could end up being a steal.