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Lacy headlines running back class

Posted Apr 3, 2013

As we go down the Road to the Draft, Driven By Liberty Ford, here’s a look at the running backs of the 2013 NFL Draft class.

With the 2013 NFL Draft fast approaching on April 25, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a deeper look at the prospects, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the running backs.

Overview:

Former University of Alabama standout Eddie Lacy is looking to be the first running back off the board, which would continue a trend started by Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram in 2011, and followed last April when the Cleveland Browns traded up and selected Trent Richardson with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Key Players:

*Eddie Lacy (Alabama), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), Andre Ellington (Clemson), Giovani Benard (North Carolina), and Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina).

During his first two years at Alabama, Lacy rushed for 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns on 151 carries while splitting time with Ingram and Richardson. However, when Richardson left for the NFL, Lacy got his opportunity to be Alabama’s feature running back.

Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns on 204 carries in leading Alabama to their second consecutive National Championship and third title in four years.

“At the running back position, I only have one guy in the first round, and that is Eddie Lacy,” said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock.

A 5-foot-11, 212-pound NCAA record-setting running back, Ball rushed for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns on a career-best 356 carries in 2012. His 1,800-yard, 20-touchdown season in 2012 followed up his 1,923-yard, 33-touchdown junior season.

Ball rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 games in 2012, including five straight games and eight of the last nine of his career at Wisconsin. He ran for a season-best 247 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 victory at Purdue on Oct. 13.

“When I put the tape on, he’s a downhill (runner), tough kid,” Mayock said. “I think he’s got really good feet for a fairly large back. I think he’s going to have to do a better job with pass protection. But at 5-11, 215, he should be able to do a better job with pass protection. I think he’s shown toughness, balance, vision. He’s a one‑cut, north‑south runner and I think he fits most of the offenses in the NFL. I see him as a late-two to an early-three.”

Ellington rushed for 1,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons at Clemson, including 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns on 212 carries in 2012. He added 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns on a career-best 223 carries during his junior season.

After rushing for a season-best 228 yards on 25 carries in a 26-19 win at Auburn on Sept. 1, Ellington twice eclipsed the 100-yard mark and rushed for two touchdowns in back-to-back games in wins over Ball State, (52-27, on Sept. 8), and Furman, (41-7, on Sept. 15).

“The guy that really caught my eye and I didn’t expect to like him as much as I do is Andre Ellington,” Mayock said. “One of the reasons I like him is because at 195 pounds, he might be the best effort pass protection running back in the draft which really surprised me.

“He squares people up, get after them, and typically, you don’t see that from those 195 pound, change‑of‑pace kind of backs. Ellington, I’ve got him number three on my board at running back. I’ve got him higher than most people. Most people think he’s a third-rounder. I like him in the second round.”

Bernard, a 5-foot-10, 205-pounder, rushed for 2,481 yards and 25 touchdowns on 423 carries in just two seasons at North Carolina. After rushing for 1,253 yards and 13 scores on a career-high 239 carries in 2011, Bernard followed up that performance with a 1,228-yard, 12-touchdown season last fall.

Lattimore was a freshman phenom in 2010, when he rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns on 249 carries, but injuries derailed much of his 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Following his recovery from tearing his left ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in 2011, Lattimore was running the ball in a 38-35 win over Tennessee when he was hit and suffered three torn ligaments, something his surgeon, world-renown Dr. James Andrews, called one of the most complex injuries he has seen.

“I think he goes somewhere in the third round,” Mayock said. “If he was a late‑one to a mid‑two (when) healthy, then, I think a third round is fair for him because you’re probably going to get your most production starting two years out.”

*ClevelandBrowns.com utilized the players’ list by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock.

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