MOBILE, Ala. -- The group of running backs at the Senior Bowl is a good one. There's a lot of nice talent here, to the point where there isn't one bad player. All five of the rushers who practiced three days displayed some positive attributes without many negatives.
That will make the group fun to keep up with in the coming weeks. As for ranking them through three practices, it wasn't an easy task because they all had their moments throughout the week and none truly disappointed.
Note: Andre Ellington was ranked highly before the Senior Bowl started but a hamstring injury knocked him out for the week. Neither he nor Miami's Mike James are ranked.
- Johnathan Franklin, UCLA. Franklin had a good week for himself. What I noticed on him before was that it took him a while to get going following a handoff and that he didn't break a lot of tackles. Here, he had many carries where he had some good burst and did break tackles during team drills. He also did a nice job catching the ball all week, and with a bigger body than Kenjon Barner has the potential to be a capable three-down back.
- Kenjon Barner, Oregon. Coming into the week he was my favorite rusher in the game. He didn't do anything to lose that spot but did get leapfrogged by Franklin. Their skill sets are the same save for Franklin's better blocking skills thanks to his bigger size and experience. But Barner is explosive and could compete for relevant playing time thanks to his speed and hands. There's a lot of potential in Barner without a ton of downside. His experience playing in Oregon's up-tempo offense will also appeal to coaching staffs looking for a back that has a history of endurance.
- Mike Gillislee, Florida. What stood out the most was that Gillislee made plays every day. He doesn't have lightning speed but did show good burst and read his blockers well. He did a nice job in pass protection and also displayed nice hands. No one would call him a physical back but he looked good during Senior Bowl week following an impressive senior season at Florida.
- Stepfan Taylor, Stanford. Taylor showed what his work in school showed: He can do just about anything except run with great speed. He looks bigger than the 216 pounds he weighed in at, and proved to be as versatile as the rest of the running backs in the class.
- Robbie Rouse, Fresno State. If you're looking for a complete back, Rouse won 't do. But if you're looking for a role player in the mold of Darren Sproles, and maybe with stronger legs, then Rouse is your guy. He's diminutive to be sure, just under 5 feet 6, but he has incredible quickness and explosiveness. He'll make plays at the next level, just as he did in college when he scored 14 touchdowns and totaled over 1,700 yards in back-to-back years. Just don't expect him to become a full-time back.