Rams 2011 Draft Needs, Part 5: Running Back
|I'm not going to lie. The 2010 draft will almost assuredly not include anyone with hair that can match up to Eric Dickerson's. That shouldn't stop the Rams from at least considering taking a player at his old position, though.|
Unfortunately, Jackson is also a ticking time bomb at this point, given that he's a running back approaching 30 years old. Don't get me wrong, he surely has another good season or two in him, but counting on him to be one of those freakishly rare running backs who remains effective past the big three oh just isn't a good bet. It's been a need for the Rams for quite some time now to find a suitable backup for SJ39, but it's getting to the point now where I believe they need to find not just a backup but a guy who can apprentice under Jackson and hopefully take over in the next few years.
Alabama's Mark Ingram, last year's Heisman winner, is the consensus top running back in the draft, but he'll almost surely go in the first round, and there are plenty of other directions the Rams could, and should, go with their first pick than to take a running back. He would, of course, represent an ideal replacement for SJ39 in a couple years, but he may be gone by the time the rams pick anyway. Plus, to be honest, I'm not all that keen on using a first-round pick on a running back pretty much ever. You can build a good running game without a great back. Plus, if the Rams fulfill my number three priority they'll have much better blocking up front to make holes for whoever they get to come out of the backfield.
Shane Vereen of California is a solid back, with good grades across the board for tools. Demarco Murray from Oklahoma is much the same. Neither of them are wow kind of guys, but both are very productive players who should be good pros.
There are a pair of extremely talented but undersized backs available, either of whom could certainly offer a dynamic change of pace from Jackson. Noel Devine of West Virginia and LaMichael James of Oregon are both shifty, exciting playmakers who suffer from a significant lack of size. Either one could come in and be a Darren Sproles type for the Rams, but neither really has the physical capacity to be an every-down back in the NFL. Devine in particular fits that 'scat back' mold remarkably well, while James has some support as an every-down guy from some quarters. Picking one of those two guys could give the offense a big shot in the arm, but neither fills Jackson's shoes if he falls off a cliff in the near future.
One guy I do think is intriguing is Daniel Thomas from Kansas State. Thomas is a big, physical runner with better speed than you think, a little like Jackson himself. While Thomas doesn't have quite the freakish physicality of SJ39, he's cut from the same bolt of cloth, at least. Thomas will probably go somewhere in the second round, maybe a little later depending on what positions are emphasized.