The first running back selected in this year’s NFL draft will be Alabama’s Trent Richardson, and he’ll be gone within the first half-dozen picks. After that, it may be a long wait until we hear another running back’s name called: Just as his Alabama teammate Mark Ingram was last year, Richardson could be the only running back selected when the first round commences in two weeks.
But while the identity of the No. 2 running back on the board was murky for much of the last few months, Boise State’s Doug Martin is emerging as the clear favorite to be the second running back selected, and perhaps to join Richardson in the first round.
Mike Mayock made the case on NFL Network that Martin can do everything a team asks of him with the ball in his hands and is also strong in pass protection, and therefore deserves a first-round grade. The only question is the running back position has been devalued to such an extent that you have to be a supreme talent like Richardson to go in the first round.
“I love him at the end of the first round, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he slid into Round 2,” Mayock said.
After Martin, the top running backs include Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Oregon’s LaMichael James and Miami’s Lamar Miller. All three have talent, but all three also have question marks. Wilson is an every-down back and strong in short yardage, but he fumbled seven times in 2011. Miller has game-breaking moves, but he often came off the field on third downs and at the goal line. James has great speed and quickness, but he never showed in Oregon’s spread offense that he can run straight ahead and gain ground in four-yard chunks.
Martin doesn’t have those question marks. Richardson is the clear No. 1 running back in the draft, but Martin is starting to emerge as a clear No. 2.