The current mindset in the league is to not use a top 10 pick on a running back, given the manner in which the position is utilized now, the relatively short shelf-life, and the success teams have had in unearthing viable and productive runners in later rounds.
There was only one runner chosen in the 2011 draft, former Alabama star Mark Ingram by New Orleans, and his onetime Crimson Tide teammate, Trent Richardson, could be the lone back in the first round in two months.
Richardson, though, is seen as a top 10 selection. But while Richardson is pretty much everyone's pick as the No. 1 back, and seemingly a lock to be chosen in the top 10, as usual there remains considerable debate about who the second back off the board will be, and how high he will be tabbed.
One somewhat surprising result of the combine, beyond the fact there are some speedy prospects, is that the running back spot as a group might include more overall durability and toughness than previously believed. Even in a league where time sharing has become so prevalent, those attributes are coveted.
A few scouts noted after the combine that nearly all of the highly rated backs possess some injury history, but have logged 200 carries or more in a college season.
Even a prospect with some definite warts, like Chris Polk of Washington, averaged 276.5 rushing attempts in his final two seasons. Lamar Miller of Miami, the speediest back at the combine (4.40), had a 227-carry season.
Virginia Tech underclass prospect David Wilson, another very fast runner, has a 290-attempt season on his resume. Doug Martin from Boise State had a 263-carry season.
And the undersized LaMichael James, a player some compare to Darren Sproles and viewed more as a complementary back because of his size, averaged 257.0 carries over three seasons at Oregon.
As one general manager noted, Richardson probably will be the lone back in the first round, certainly in the top 20, but there "will be enough runners to go around."--By Len Pasquarelli