Josh Norris

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Draft 2012: The Running Backs

Friday, April 13, 2012

9. LaMichael James, Oregon

Height/Weight: 5'8/194
College Experience: Third-year junior
Combine #s: 4.45 forty, 1.57 10-yd split, 15 x 225, 35" vertical, 10'3" broad jump, 4.12 ss
Style Comparison: Danny Woodhead
2011 Stats: 247 - 1,805 (7.3) - 18 TD; 17 - 210 (12.4) - 1 TD
Draft Prediction: Rams, No. 96 overall.

Positives/Negatives: James had the ideal skill set for Oregon's fast-paced spread offense, but put up numbers that exceed his abilities that translate to the NFL. He can take a run all the way if given a clear lane, but often gave up on runs too early by heading immediately for the sideline when faced with trash in the middle of the field. James showed a willingness to stick his nose in contact early in games and an elusive style, but injuries and jarring hits pushed him farther and farther to the boundary. If you separate James' most explosive plays, many come from beating the defense to the edge and outrunning opponents down the sideline. Those types of runs are far more difficult in the NFL.

Outlook: James will be a return asset, but his offensive impact should be limited to a third-down receiving role. He certainly has plenty of quickness and long speed with experience in space to be an interesting weapon, but James' unwillingness to take punishment between the tackles will limit him in the pros.

10. Robert Turbin, Utah State

Height/Weight: 5'10/222
College Experience: Fourth-year junior
Combine #s: 4.50 forty, 1.60 10-yd split, 28 x 225, 36" vertical, 10'2" broad, 4.31 ss
Style Comparison: Marion Barber
2011 Stats: 249 - 1,517 (6.1) - 19 TD; 17 - 171 (10.1) - 4 TD
Draft Prediction: Giants, No. 94 overall.

Positives/Negatives: Turbin is muscle bound with a high posture and possesses little bend when lowering his shoulder on contact. He hesitates on every lateral movement to the left, likely due to a prior knee injury, taking multiple steps to plant and cut upfield. Turbin is the definition of a straight-line runner in short spaces, creating little on his own. But that can also be a positive since Turbin takes what the defense gives him. Turbin can move upfield with purpose in his first few steps, but if the lane is clogged he stretches runs out on the edge too far. I have yet to figure out if his slower speed behind the line of scrimmage is patience or uncertainty. For being built so thickly, it is surprising how many times he goes down on initial contact. It comes down to his lack of balance.

Outlook: Turbin sure looks good coming off the bus, but most of his weight-room abilities do not transfer to on-the-field skills. His lack of bend and flexibility limit his balance, forcing Turbin to go down frequently on low tackles. His best projection is a goal-line type back that can break high arm tackles, but Turbin needs to lower his pad level regardless of what situation he falls into.

11. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M - 4.47 at 5'10/206 ... 5.21 career YPC with 36 total TDs... 103 catches... Likely will fit best in a one-cut heavy offense... Shared time with 2013 prospect Christine Michael ... Missed significant time due to injury ... Dances in the backfield often but those cuts translate to production in space.


12. Tauren Poole, Tennessee - 4.54 at 5'10/205 ... 4.49 career YPC ... 45 catches ... Best back during Shrine Week ... Little flash to his game, but a decisive style ... 1,000-yard season as a junior, only senior on offense in 2012 ... Good footwork but no real special quality ... Limited in the open field.

13. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State - 4.65 at 5'10/219 ... 5.69 career YPC ... 30 catches ... 31 TDs in two seasons after transferring from JUCO ... Goes down on first contact too often for a bigger back ... Little outside running ability ... Flashed more elusiveness and receiving ability during the Senior Bowl.

14. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State - 4.45 at 5'9/200 ... 5.66 career YPC ... 33 catches ... Loves the jump cut/lateral hop, uses it far too often and almost on every run ... Declared after redshirt sophomore season ... Running style offers two outcomes: long runs due to creation of open space or tackles for loss ...Change-of-pace back that must improve pass pro.

15. Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky - 4.51 at 5'7/205 ... 5.07 career YPC ... 80 catches ... Played behind dreadful OL but shined when given space at second level ... Compact runner tough to locate between tackles ... second in FBS in rushing yards per game... reliable receiver and carried the load often. 

Other RBs on the NFL draft radar - Edwin Baker (Michigan State), Terrance Ganaway (Baylor), Daniel Herron (Ohio State), Antwon Bailey (Syracuse), Adonis Thomas (Toledo), Marc Tyler (USC), Darrell Scott (USF), Davin Meggett (Maryland), Rodney Stewart (Colorado), Brandon Bolden (Ole Miss), Lennon Creer (Louisiana Tech), Derrick Coleman (UCLA), Fozzy Whittaker (Texas), Bryce Brown (Kansas State).

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
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