One of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL draft is running back. Some backs seem to have such outstanding skills that they must be taken in the top 5. But backs like this – Reggie Bush, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Cedric Benson in recent years – rarely deliver fully on their promise. Add that to the fact that running backs take so many hits that their careers are short, and it’s hard to spend an early pick on a back.
But sometimes, a late first-rounder is worth it for a back. The Rams have gotten great return on their investment in Steven Jackson, for example. So sometimes a running back is worth it.
This year, only one back is even in consideration for a first-round selection – Alabama’s Mark Ingram, a former Heisman Trophy winner.
But we don’t believe Ingram is worth that price. Ingram was incredibly productive in the SEC, proving to be a tough, physical runner with a knack for breaking tackles, especially at key moments. But his other skills – speed, elusiveness, receiving – aren’t exceptional compared against an NFL scale. So the question when evaluating Ingram is whether his power is elite enough to carry him at the pro level. And our belief is that it doesn’t.
Ingram is solidly built, but he isn’t huge, and that’s the deathknell for his NFL ability. He’s not an Earl Campbell type of physical specimen, and that will make it hard for him to carry his bruising style to prolonged success in the NFL. Ingram may have some good NFL moments, but five years from now, we believe his best pro years will be long behind him.
So when it comes to a first-round pick, we’d say thanks but no thanks to Ingram. We’ll have to see if NFL teams say the same thing.