Draft Grades for Top 10 by Position - Running Backs

By Lance Zierlein
March 21, 2013

In his Drafting the Top 10 by Position Series, Lance Zierlein examines running backs.

Running Back Rankings

Running Back School Round
Eddie Lacy Alabama 1st/2nd
Johnathan Franklin UCLA 2nd
Montee Ball Wisconsin 2nd
Giovanni Bernard North Carolina 3rd
Mike Gillislee Florida 3rd
Joseph Randle Oklahoma St. 3rd
Christine Michael Texas A&M 3rd/4th
Andre Ellington Clemson 3rd/4th
Stepfan Taylor Stanford 3rd/4th
Le'Veon Bell Michigan St. 4th


There is really solid depth at the running back position in my opinion.  I don't see a back in this draft that I want to draft in the first round, but Eddie Lacy gets the closest to that.  The problem with Lacy is that it feels like his value might be a little inflated based on the last game we saw him play (Notre Dame).  There are some long-term durability concerns I've heard teams voice about him.

You can tell me that Johnathan Franklin isn't a big guy and I'll tell you that he plays much bigger than listed weight. Franklin is an extremely competitive runner who looks to get the most out of all of his carries and he's got the burst and long speed that compliments his toughness after first contact.

I'm not usually a fan of Big 10 RBs, but I do like Montee Ball.  He's consistent, durable and productive and I like his running tempo and his ability to cash checks near the goal line.  Giovani Bernard is smaller than he looks on tape and he runs behind his pads better than most 202 pound RBs will.  I love his ability to make plays in space despite not having big speed and his return ability is a plus that teams will tap into early in his career.

Mike Gillislee really opened my eyes at the Senior Bowl practices where he showed me a little more speed to the perimeter than I thought he had and a just a little more wiggle.  He's a straight-ahead runner who gets plus yardage and who would be a nice fit for teams who are serious about running the ball with a physical mindset.

I like Joseph Randle, but it is really hard to grade him since the Oklahoma State offense created so many open spaces for him to run through.  I see burst and decent size and I think he's a good value where I have him slated.

Christine Michael has 2nd round talent, but his baggage might drag him down into the 3rd or 4th round range.  He has recovered from his ACL injury and he has the top size/explosiveness combination of any back in this draft.  The character is a legitimate concern though.

Andre Ellington is looking more and more like a third down back to me who can handle some backup reps.  He's great as a pass catcher and pass protector and that is where his value lies.  Stepfan Taylor will smack you and has the same no-nonsense attacking sensibilities that Gillislee has, but he just seems limited athletically.  Le'Veon Bell is a bit of a wildcard.  He looked like a classic Big 10 grinder, but his tests at combine show a little more athleticism.  I don't always see it in pads though which is why I gave him this grade.