Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

by Doug Farrar

Here's the third installment in our look at the top draft-eligible players. If you haven't read the two quarterback pieces, you can find them here:

Andrew Luck/Jake Locker
Ryan Mallett/Blaine Gabbert

Moving to running backs, as Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout told me this last week, "there's basically Mark Ingram and everyone else." For our purposes, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner was paired with Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, a prototypical bruiser, if you look at height and weight alone.

As always, it's important to being the educated take in the interest of informing my ramblings -- this week, FO compadre Bill Connelly gives his take on both players.

Alabama RB Mark Ingram

2010: 158 carries, 875 yards, 13 TD

21 receptions, 282 yards, 1 TD

One year after helping his Crimson Tide team win the national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy for his trouble, Alabama's Mark Ingram dropped from 1,658 to 875 rushing yards, ended his collegiate career on the All-SEC second team, and prompted questions as to his readiness for the NFL. Alabama coach Nick Saban seemed to believe that Ingram's real problem in his 2010 season (according to the Birmingham Herald) was his new place in the world, and the expectations surrounding him after that great sophomore season. But Ingram overcame the knee injury that cost him the first two games of 2010, he overcame the three losses the Tide had in 2010, and he rebounded from a difficult season to come away with the school's rushing touchdown record -- he broke Shaun Alexander mark with two scores in Alabama's 49-7 beatdown of Michgan State in the Capital One Bowl.

After that game, Saban was unusually talkative. "I remember when Mark first came here, he used to try and run over every defensive player," he told reporters. "He wanted to score a touchdown every time he got the ball. Probably his greatest asset is the competitive spirit that he has. He's a hard worker. He has a tremendous amount of pride in his performance relative to challenging himself to be the best he can be."

Having signed a multi-million dollar deal with GT Sports Marketing (whose president, Gary Takahashi, recently said that "(Ingram is) a national champion. There's nothing tarnished about him like the Auburn kid (Cam Newton)."

Well, alrighty then. Ingram is preparing for the Combine at Sonic Boom in New Orleans, and he heads into the pre-draft process as the only widely viewed first-round prospect running back. I wanted to see what he showed against a touch defensive opponent, so I reviewed Ingram's 11-carry, 41-yard performance against South Carolina (a 35-21 loss), a defense that ranked third in the nation in S%P+ against the run.

The game started for Alabama with a quick pass from quarterback Greg McElroy to Ingram, who hit the running back right past the defensive line for a three-yard gain before South Carolina's defenders converged on him. He kinds of floats through under defenders in his routes on plays like this and turns quickly ahead. Ingram's first carry came three plays later, with the Tide facing second-and-6 at the Gamecocks' 43-yard line. Ingram gained seven yards up the middle out what I would actually call a Wildcat play; yes, it was identified correctly. As Marquis Maze headed across the backfield from right to left and took a fake from Ingram, the South Carolina front brought eight to the box and got blocked out of the way so that Ingram could shoot up the middle.

On this play, I saw two valuable characteristics I had seen from Ingram before. First, he hits that first quick burst with authority. That's impressive enough, but what I really like is his ability to adjust to what he sees in front of him, slow down in a short space, and reassess his opportunities. He's not a lagging, over-patient runner at the hole, and he doesn't sprint himself into tackles. That highly developed sense of speed change will serve him well in the NFL.

The next play, an 11-yard screen to Ingram, showed his "speed awareness" the other way -- he took the quick pass from McElroy, waited for his blockers to get downfield, and then turned on the jets. I don't know that I've ever called a running back "situationally aware" before, but that's what I'd call Ingram. He has a knowledge of what's happening around him that you don't always find with skill players, especially at the collegiate level.

Ingram got bottled up on the next play, and that's where the game started to go south for him. It was a shotgun sprint up the middle, and as Alabama proved to use no deep threat, South Carolina felt more comfortable either stacking the box or using tighter and more underneath coverage looks.

Ingram isn't is a bruiser. He has a 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame, and he's obviously spent more than his share of time in the weight room, but he doesn't push the pile -- that's not his game. I see him more as a complementary NFL back working best in a system where an often-used and complex passing game spreads out defenses and lets him use his sense of where the gaps are and his second-level burst to make big gains. His success with direct snap plays shows how quickly he can find a lane, but he didn't have too many against South Carolina, and at the NFL level, that would be even more of a problem.

I like Bill's Ryan Mathews comparison, but Tiki Barber kept coming to my mind.

Bill Connelly: Mark Ingram is a little of everything. He's not the strongest runner in the draft class, but he's strong. He's not the fastest, but he's fast. Really, the only elite trait he seems to possess is his footwork. He takes small, sure steps as he's figuring out his chosen path, then he bursts into the open field. He appears extraordinarily sound in his fundamentals, and because of that, he maximizes his abilities. His efforts were reflected well in our college advanced stats (POE, Highlight Yards).

Ingram is clearly well-rounded and accomplished, having won the Heisman in 2009 despite playing against a strong set of defenses. Besides his footwork, what might appeal to scouts about Ingram is his pass-catching ability. He caught a combined 53 passes for 616 yards and four touchdowns the last two seasons and could quickly thrive as a third-down back at the next level. His junior season did not match his award-winning sophomore campaign, but he should be a steady and serviceable back.

For an NFL comparison, I'd use Ryan Mathews -- he has similar size and well-rounded traits.

Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure

2010: 287 carries, 1,687 yards, 17 TD

17 receptions, 196 yards, 3 TD

While Ingram has apparently labored under the expectations of a nation, Illinois' Mikel LeShoure has encountered different issues -- maturity problems (getting his jaw broken in a fight with his teammate in 2008, and being suspended for violating team rules in 2009), and a relative position under the radar in a running backs class that doesn't promote excitement. From a national perspective, we've probably heard more about Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, who currently projects on's rankings as a mid-round pick, than LeShoure, who may be one good Combine away from top 40 status.

From an on-field view, as Bill notes below, two aspects of Leshoure's game leave the observer wondering about his pro potential -- the spiky nature of his per-game production, and the fact that he could just as easily run a 4.7 40-yard dash as a 4.5.

I wanted to review Leshoure as I did Ingram -- against a tougher run defense. But the Illinois-Ohio State game wasn't accessible, and I settled for his 29-carry, 184-yard, three-touchdown game against Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Baylor finished the regular season 93rd in run defense S&P+, so keep that in mind.

The first thing that stood out when Leshoure lined up for his first rushing attempt out of the I-formation (spinning out of left guard for a two-yard gain before he was tripped up) is how big he is in comparison with the other players. He's listed as 6-foot and 230 pounds, and he looked like an offensive lineman in this game. That was my first watch point -- his size would certainly be less of an asset in the NFL if he couldn't bring other things around it.

Leshoure started his team's second drive from the Illinois 32-yard line with 8:59 left in the first quarter. He took a sprint draw out of an offset Pistol I-formation over the right side for five yards, showing admirable turn-and-go and first-level speed. He bumps past first contact as you'd expect of a back his size, but I don't see a lot of momentum after he gets wrapped up, which might help to explain his inconsistent production. The leg churn common to most great after-contact rushers isn't evident. He runs surprisingly upright as well, which his NFL coaches will probably rectify.

On his next run, which went for 17 yards, he took the ball out of a tight bunch left, hit the hole with surprising speed, got a few foot-fakes in the open field, and bulled his way for a few extra yards after he was wrapped up. It took this run to make me realize who he reminded me of. He's about 15 pounds heavier than Marshawn Lynch, but he has the same kind of hybrid power style. Leshoure is not a typical bowling ball type of power back, though he'll probably be termed as such based solely on the eye test.

I have some pretty serious questions about Leshoure's ability to transition to the NFL without some mechanical fixes. Right now, he's often a man among boys from a physical perspective, and he tends to struggle when that isn't the case. My sense is that if he can get his base lower when he's running and do more than drag defenders behind him, some team could use him as an intriguing power back. But in the same way I've seen Lynch get caught most of the season behind a bad line and in a system that doesn't really fit his specific attributes, I fear that Leshoure might get the nod from a team expecting a traditional power back and getting something else. We're going to have to think a bit outside the box with this guy.

Bill Connelly: I've got to say, few running back prospects intrigue me as much as Mikel LeShoure. At the collegiate level, he possessed both power to run through arm tackles and speed to avoid getting caught from behind. His movement is fluid, and his cuts are decisive. A preliminary glance at his advanced statistics reflects well on his quality of running, and his size and stature are appealing. He can catch the ball well too. I just can't tell how fast he truly is. Anywhere between a 4.4 and 4.8 40 time isn't going to surprise me. If he posts a strong speed score, I'm sold.

Heading into his junior season, the knock on LeShoure was his consistency. He averaged a robust 6.8 yards per carry at Illinois in 2009, but he was all-or-nothing. Eleven carries for 184 yards against Fresno state, and nine for 14 against Cincinnati. Fifteen for 122 against Purdue, and 10 for 25 against Minnesota. That changed in 2010. He did suffer from a late-October slump (184 yards in 54 carries against Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue), but in all, he posted at least 77 rushing yards in 12 of 13 games, at least 106 in nine, and more than 140 in each of his last four games. In five games after November 1, he put up 917 yards and 11 touchdowns on 123 carries (7.5 per carry). Again, it all comes down to 40 time with him. He seems to have all the tools you could want otherwise.

I would say that he's a LeGarrette Blount type, only with slightly less upside and infinitely more sanity.


36 comments, Last at 23 Jan 2011, 6:47am

1 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I think the rules have rendered running back the least important position on offense, if not offense and defense combined. Unless a running back has the speed and elusiveness to go the distance everytime he takes a handoff, and the power to be effective in short yardage, teams should not consider taking a running back in the first round. Very, very, few running backs have that combination against NFL defenses. Even then, as Adrian Peterson shows, if a superb running back, who combines elite speed, elusiveness, and power, is not committed to being an effective pass blocker, he potentially handcuffs an offense.

I think I'd rather have an All Pro center than an All Pro running back, and I'd almost certainly rather have a center who performed at the 80th percentile among starting centers than a running back who was similarly ranked among starting running backs. If asked what is more dangerous to a team's success, a poor center, or a poor running back, it is not even close; the poor center stands a much better chance of getting his offensive coordinator fired.

5 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

While I don't disagree with you in principal, I do think Ingram is worth a first round pick, and I do expect that some NFL team will agree with me and take him in the 1st. I wouldn't use a top 20 pick on him - largely for the points you already made - but if I'm a team picking in the 20s, I probably have most of my other needs filled, and I can take him at a point where he's clearly the best player on the board and I'm getting value in that regard even if I'm spending a premium pick on a less important position. I could see New England making him heir apparant to Kevin Faulk if he lasts that long. An even better fit would be Green Bay - again, if he lasts that long. If he goes to a traditional West Coast team, the Brian Westbrook comparisons will be inevitable.

7 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

The context of the existing roster is important of course, and there is a world of difference between the 25th player picked and the 15th, so I don't necessarily disagree. However, if I'm Ted Thompson, and I have the choice of making a significant upgrade at offensive line, or running back, I'm choosing the former. If Rodgers starts getting outstanding pass protection, with that set of receivers, hell, they could win 10 games while putting a third string tight end in the backfield.

14 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Having witnessed the difference in offensive efficiency created by replacing the three headed monster-in-my-pocket of Slaton/Brown/Moats with Arian Foster, behind almost the same line, I'm going to say that running back fungibility can be overstated . . .

That said, obviously both running back and center are positions at which good players can often be acquired without expending high draft picks. I guess I'd rather use a first round pick on a center than a pure runner, but rather a back with great receiving skills than a center. And if I knew for certain a back was going to turn into Marshall Faulk, I'd happily take him #1 overall, whereas if I knew a center was going to be Dermontti Dawson, I still wouldn't pick him in the top 5.

16 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Yeah, if we know we are choosing between two HOF players at those respective positions, and we know the HOF running back excels in the passing game, receiving and blocking, I might take the running back, if I could convince myself to ignore longevity issues. Other than that, give me the center, and if there is substantial uncertainty regarding the ability to predict the college player's performance in the NFL, give me the center. I really do think bad center play is more dangerous to a coach's career than bad running back play. Factor in longevity differences, and I think it is accurate to say that centers are undervalued in the NFL market, and running backs may still be a bit overvalued.

17 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Interesting thoughts, Will. I don't mean this to refute any of your points, I'm just sort of thinking on the fly...

What I see in the difference between running backs and centers is in the ceilings and floors of the two positions.

I think with running backs, if you get an elite running back (as you note, in ALL facets of the game, not just carrying the ball), he can really carry your offense or elevate it to new levels. Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Marshall Faulk are classic examples; more recent, you could look at LaDainian Tomlinson, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles (maybe), and Adrian Peterson (if he could pass block) as guys who either carried and offense or took it to the next level.

If you get a low-end running back, he can't really torpedo your team that much. (Brandon Jackson is pretty bad, but the Packers' offense still hums along; historically, the 2007 Patriots had the awful Laurence Maroney and the serviceable Sammy Morris; the 90's Packers used Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens; the 2009 Saints got by with a hobbled Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, and this year's version was using Chris Ivory and Julius Jones! By "low-end", I don't mean worst-of-the-worst, as there are always better RBs available somewhere, but RBs that you can acquire as a replacement. This leads me to believe that the floor for running backs isn't that low.

Centers, however, seem to be the inverse. Even the greatest center in the world won't transform a bad offense into a passable one, or a decent one into a great one. However, if you step down in centers, he sure can cause your line to be a mess. You often cite how the Vikings went from Matt Birk (a very good center) to a replacement, and their line fell apart.

I suspect that's why you see more RBs taken early; coaches hope that they're finding the back that makes their offense. Whereas a center can only help so much, even if he is the best around.

18 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I don't necessarily disagree, but perhaps it is the case that NFL teams are still reaching too much with regard to drafting running backs, because they still think that they can coach any running back into being a good pass blocker, where the reality is that running backs, given their quickly looming expiration dates, really don't have huge incentive to concentrate on that aspect of their game.

20 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Your examples for a RB not handcuffing the offense all include QBs playing at basically a HOF level. A HOF QB can hide a lot of problems on the offense. However, if you only have a "good" QB--a guy like Eli Manning or Tony Romo--the offensive performance seems much more dependent on the rushing attack.

I think there is a broader point here that the ability to produce in the passing game (both blocking and receiving) has become much more important to running backs, and judging them simply on how effective they are at running is outdated.

23 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Yes, it may be the case that what we are talking about here is running backs being evaluated with outdated priorities. I love watching Adrian Peterson run, but the guy is just flat overrated, given how he can't be trusted to be on the field in some situations, given his pass blocking.

21 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

And yet with Arian Foster, the team didn't do any better than they did the previous year.

With AP, the Vikings haven't had particular success.

With Barry Sanders, the Lions weren't particularly great.

There's only one team I can think of that genuinely started and ended (at least on offense) with the running back, and that was the Bears with Payton. Every other team had a great RB as a weapon but ultimately lived or died by far more conventional means.

A center, at least, will be longer-lasting and more likely to produce similar results over a similar period of time; witness someone like Jeff Saturday.

22 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Winning seasons the Lions had with Sanders: 5
Winning seasons the Lions had post Sanders: 1

Winning percentage with Sanders: 49%
Winning percentage post Sanders: 29%

Edit: Also, the Texans not winning any more games might have had something to do with their defense failing from 6% DVOA to 20%.

24 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Right. The Texans' offense has gone from 13.2% (11th) a year ago to 26.0% (2nd), despite Andre Johnson missing three games and being limited in all the rest, and Owen Daniels being largely ineffective. The run offense jumped from -11.2% (31st) to 23.4% (3rd). Note too that Foster's DVOA on his 54 carries in 2009 was 24.8%, so the run game when anyone else was in was even worse than the already dismal overall figure.

It's not Arian Foster's fault Kareem Jackson sucks.

Now if you want to argue that corners are clearly more important than RBs, you'll find no disagreement here . . .

25 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

That's exactly it.

I'm not saying Foster wasn't good. Or that he didn't make a difference offensively. Their run offense was much better (though their pass offense was worse). But ultimately he didn't make a particularly large difference in their overall team's success.

And it's hard to separate out Foster's success from any OLine changes as well. With Sanders you can legitimately say that he was totally independent of it, but Foster...not so much.

I wonder how one would determine (or try to determine) the value of a high-quality position change to a team. There's a ton of moving parts. I know there's the whole 'getting high pick at OLine improves offense significantly', but I'm curious about things like getting a high-level corner or WR and if there's any correlation to future success. Anecdotally we see that adding a good lineman seems to improve a team (Minnesota with Hutch, for instance), adding a good cornerback seems to improve a team somewhat (Samuel and Philly), and adding a WR can be awesome (Moss to the Pats) or meh (TO to...almost anywhere save Philly).

26 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Obviously Foster's not the kind of once-in-a-generation player whose performance is almost independent of supporting talent, but I think it's tough to say that the Texans line took some massive step forward from 2009 to 2010. The differences were the addition of Wade Smith at guard (he's a solid player, but not a colossal upgrade over Kasey Studdard, who he largely replaced), the loss of Duane Brown to suspension for four games (Rashad Butler, who replaced him, is a pretty good run-blocker but doesn't have Brown's athleticism or ability to get out and make blocks on the second level) and the addition of Rick Dennison as offensive co-ordinator (I think Dennison's probably the NFL's best offensive line coach, and he's bound to have had some direct input in that area). But actually, Foster's DVOA fell a little in 2010 compared to 2009, from 24.8% to 17.5%. And it's not as if those small sampe size 2009 numbers were posted as a change-up back spread over the season: Foster was activated from the practice squad late in 2009 and got all bar two of those 54 carries in just three games. Now, obviously it's possible, with such a small sample, that Foster's "true" performance level in 2009 behind the 2009 Texans line was significantly lower than 24.8%, and we should also consider that teams were game-planning for Foster, and putting extra men in the box, in 2010 in a way that they did not in 2009 (the Giants stand out as a particularly clear example). But equally, given Foster's strong performance in 2009, and the execrable production of every other Texans back that year, I think it's pretty tough to argue that Foster wasn't the most important factor behind the jump forward in the running game.

You could also look at Denver under Shanahan: sure, they were able to have an effective running game with Droughns and the Bells and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, but it was vastly better with Davis and Portis than it ever was with anyone else. Running backs aren't as valuable as a lot of people think they are, but that doesn't mean they can't have plenty of value.

Again, I'd trade Foster away in a heartbeat for Revis, or Clay Matthews, or Joe Thomas. Maybe not Fitzgerald, given that Johnson's already on the roster, but his leaguewide value is certainly lower than Fitzthulu's. But I would rather have Foster, Charles or Chris Johnson than Nick Mangold, and probably than Jahri Evans or Logan Mankins or whoever too.

27 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

ultimately he didn't make a particularly large difference in their overall team's success.

Unless you are literally blaming Foster for the secondary issues, I find this point nonsensical. Adrian Foster didn't decide to let Dunta Robinson leave in free agency, and he didn't decide on the players who replaced him.

On the other hand, the Texans actually had the best DVOA in their division, so maybe Foster had something to do with that and luck just caused the Texans to only go 8-8.

30 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I suspect that overall DVOA may have its limitations in predicting the win-loss record of a team with such massive disparity between its good and bad units. But yes, to me, this is a definite argument to the effect that McNair did the right thing in retaining Kubiak and hiring a DC with head coaching experience. Not that many Texans fans are inclined to see things that way, of course.

19 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Excellent points Mr. Allen. Something tells me that, in addition to team value, the 80 percentile RB is nearly indistinguishable from the 50 or 60 percentile RB (or worse). I doubt that's the case with centers.
armchair journeyman quarterback

2 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I don't follow college football that often anymore, mainly just to figure out who the top draft picks are, and get a glimpse of them, but is there any worry that Ingram might have had a few to many carries at Alabama? I'm just wondering if maybe some teams will rank him a little bit lower because they might feel like he was used so much that his NFL effectiveness won't be as good or last as long.
Anybody who has some pretty good insight into his situation would be greatly appreciated if they would shed some light on that.

4 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I doubt that's a huge concern. Ingram had 572 carries over 3 seasons. For comparisons sake, Ricky Williams had over 1,000 carries when he came out. Adrian Peterson had 747 over 3 years. It didn't seem to affect their draft stock.

6 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I saw Leshoure play in the Arch-Rivalry game (what an uninspiring name), and wasn't particularly impressed. He had plenty of size and power, but didn't strike me as having the explosive first step that you want to see out of a RB. And Mizzou isn't exactly a defensive powerhouse.

8 Leshoure vs. Ohio State

The best defense he faced - no analysis here, just listing the plays. Note that this game was played in terribly windy conditions where neither team passed the ball much and, as such, both defenses stacked the box.

yards for each rush
1st drive

2nd drive

3rd drive
3 (catch)

4th drive

5th drive

6th drive

7th drive
4 (end of half)

8th drive

9th drive

10th drive

11th drive

12th drive
26 (these three were on consecutive plays)

13th drive

Not sure how much we can take from this game given the weather. Ohio State was a top defense that plays a scheme that is fairly passive and minimizes big plays. Even given that, of his 80 yards, 36 of them came on three consecutive plays. Take away the 26 yard rush and he was very pedestrian.


9 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I've never noticed this many spelling and grammatical errors in an FO article.

More on point -- Ingram's write-up makes him sound a bit like Emmitt Smith. Is that accurate?

- aj

12 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Nice analysis, Doug.

From my (limited) viewing, Ingram displays good initial patience with a decisive burst; he should be ideal in an Alex Gibbs inspired one-cut-and-go scheme. He is also a strong, downhill runner who will finish runs with plus yardage. At the same time, he runs a bit tall and will be subject to below-the-waist hits. I expect a highly effective, rather short career.

13 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I am just curious which RB the Bills will take with the third pick. I mean they traded Lynch to the Seahawks and have only two servicable RBs left.
\sarcasm end

15 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

This is great stuff! More! More! More! Can you please do the other RBs soon? I love this fresh, educated perspective. Spot on is rare to read, which is largely what this two-back comparison is.

31 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

If I'm reading correctly, you're both saying that the top 2 running backs in this draft are situational backs who are probably best used in conjunction with at least one other back, a short yardage plowhorse in the case of ingram and god knows what (maybe a marion barber type?) in the case of leshoure. Are either of these guys franchise backs? Or are we optimistically looking at brian westbrook 2.0 and tim hightower 2.0?

32 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

I think in the case of Ingram the suggestion is that he could be something like Tiki Barber without the fumbles, or a more durable version of Westwood. I'd definitely call that a franchise back. Of course, that's an upside scenario - there's obviously no way of knowing how either of these guys will turn out.

As for Leshoure, I would always be extremely wary of prospects for whom there is no really comparable player who has had notable pro success. Even in a case like Reggie Bush or Tim Tebow, where the guy was an absolute superstar in college, it's reason to be dubious. For a guy like Leshoure, who wasn't really a superstar in college and whose pro comparisons seem to be saner but worse LeGarrette Blount/roughly equally crazy Marshawn Lynch/crazier but possibly better Ron Dayne . . . I mean, how much are you willing to give up for a player who might, if you're lucky, turn out to be a bit like T.J. Duckett?

34 Re: Cover-2: RBs of the 2011 Draft

Maybe that would be fairer, though Hillis is a little bigger and heavier. I haven't had the chance to watch much college ball this season, and I don't think I saw any Illinois games last year either, so I'm entirely going on what I read, but when I read things like:

"He bumps past first contact as you'd expect of a back his size, but I don't see a lot of momentum after he gets wrapped up, which might help to explain his inconsistent production. The leg churn common to most great after-contact rushers isn't evident."

I worry about his potential as an NFL power back. Perhaps that's an issue that can be fixed by pro coaching, but that doesn't sound to me like something anyone could ever have said about Peyton Hillis. That sounds more like the way I would describe another highly touted Big Ten running back.