2014 NFL Draft Rankings: Carlos Hyde and the Top Running Backs
Free agency is officially underway in the NFL, but as the big names start getting plucked off of the open market, the 2014 NFL Draft slowly becomes more and more important. With arguably the biggest NFL event of the season marching toward us at a rapid pace, it’s now time for us to take a look at some of the best available talent at the running back position.
The days of the true feature running back where one guy carries the ball 300+ times every year are slowly dying, but NFL teams are still always on the lookout for that elite talent that could carry the full load, should they need to. While the draft isn’t stocked full of those kinds of backs, there certainly are a few runners that the bill, while many others that should bring value to their new team in different ways.
From one-cut hogs to scat-backs, let’s break things down by taking a look at the top running backs in this year’s draft pool:
1. Tre Mason (Auburn)
Mason isn’t necessarily the fastest or most explosive runner in this draft class, but he’s arguably the most complete. Slightly under-sized, Mason still packs a solid punch in between the tackles and has the speed and quickness to hit holes or bounce runs outside. He’s also displayed the hands to be an effective receiver out of the backfield. Some question whether or not Auburn’s system benefited him, but Mason was a productive workhorse and has NFL talent. If he’s not the best back in this draft, he’s surely close to it. While no backs are expected to contend for a spot in round one, Mason is among the top-three that at least has a chance at doing just that.
2. Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)
Not quite as stable as Mason, Carey slides to the second spot for now, but is arguably the better pure talent. Carey has very good explosiveness and acceleration and hits holes with authority. While he doesn’t have elite long speed, Carey’s biggest knock is probably his off-field character. If teams can get past that, as well as his weak 40-time, Carey’s stock could quickly rise.
3. Carlos Hyde (Ohio State)
Hyde is probably the easiest runner to scout in this draft, as he’s a pure downhill, one-cut running back. Blessed with a solid combination of size and speed, Hyde isn’t the most athletic back in the world, but he’s probably one of the draft’s most effective. Simply put, what you see in Hyde is what you get. He’s got good wiggle and agility, and has shown enough as a receiver to make scouts think he has the tools to be an every down back at the next level. He doesn’t wow you all that often, but he has an NFL build and he gets the job done. In terms of sheer productivity and translation to the next level, it wouldn’t be crazy to have him be the first back drafted this year.
4. Lache Seastrunk (Baylor)
Seastrunk is an exciting talent with nice overall athleticism. He runs with great fluidity and balance and can make very distinct moves that throw off the defense. While he’s absolutely an exciting talent, Seastrunk also has his flaws. He could stand to get a little bigger, while his vision is suspect, along with his tendency to bounce runs outside. He’s likely looking at a third or fourth round selection unless teams buy into him as a runner who can effectively get it done inside, as well as make plays on the outside.
5. Bishop Sankey (Washington)
Sankey does not possess the ideal size or frame of a starting tailback at the next level, but absolutely has the athleticism, quickness and speed to make plays in the NFL. He’s actually a solid pass protector and has proven to be durable, though, so it’s possible his size issues are a bit over blown. If he can bulk up a bit more, he could be one of the top gems of this crop.
6. Jeremy Hill (LSU)
Hill is a powerful, decisive runner who can effectively carry a load in between the tackles, while also bouncing some runs outside. He also has the ideal build and strength for the position at the next level. Unfortunately, Hill does have his question marks, as he does not have elite balance or speed and has also had some off-field issues. He’s likely looking at a mid-round selection in the draft.
7. Charles Sims (West Virginia)
Sims runs a bit tall and stiff at times, but otherwise has solid build for the next level, while also possessing good long speed and acceleration. He’s also proven to be a reliable blocker in pass protection and a good receiver out of the backfield, as well. His flaws have little to do with his game and are somewhat nit-picky. He has the tools to be a day two value pick, but will likely fall to the middle rounds, if not later.
8. De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Thomas looks to be a pure scat back at the next level, as he’s an athletic, explosive beast with the ball in his hands, but doesn’t have the size or power to handle the duties of an every down back. He’s an exceptional talent that would be best utilized on third downs, passing situations and on return duty. Anyone trying to turn him into a featured runner is asking for trouble.
9. Dri Archer (Kent State)
Archer might not even end up playing the running back position at the next level, as he’s under-sized and lacks the strength to run inside. However, he’s listed as a running back for now and absolutely has the athleticism and versatility to play at that spot at times in the NFL. His speed and explosiveness are his best assets, though, which will likely make the return game the place where he makes his initial and most long lasting impact. He could also develop into a slot receiver at the next level, but the beauty here is that he can simply help in so many different ways. Whether or not he’s actually a true running back at the next level is beyond open for debate, but whoever drafts him is going to have to find ways to get him on the field. He’s just too dynamic of a player.
10. Tyler Gaffney (Stanford)
Gaffney is probably the least sexy of this top-10 group, but he’s also been very productive and runs hard. He has good size, strength and vision that should all work well for him at the next level, but some will say he lacks explosiveness and is of the plodding variety. Both might be true statements, but his long speed actually is very solid for a back his size, while he won’t shy away from contact and will be able to carry a full load if asked. Teams trying to uncover this year’s Alfred Morris in the middle rounds or late may not want to over look Gaffney.