This year’s three-day draft begins Thursday in New York at Radio City Music Hall.
Thursday: Round 1, 7 p.m.
Friday: Rounds 2-3, 5:30
Saturday: Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.
TV: ESPN, NFL Network
RUNNING BACK FOCUS:
Call Christine Michael the biggest enigma of all the running backs who could be selected in the NFL draft.
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the only one given any sort of first-round grade. But Texas A&M’s Michael is said to have elite skills. The talent is obvious; he turned heads at the NFL combine, running a 4.43 along with a 42-inch vertical leap and 27 bench press reps.
But there are questions. Why did Michael play so little last fall, starting only twice and finishing with only 88 carries? Are his previous injuries (a broken leg, torn knee ligaments) a concern? Why did he find his way into Kevin Sumlin’s doghouse?
“There was a lot to it,” Michael said after his pro day in March. “We had a coaching change, the whole staff, a whole new offense. It got shaky for me. I wasn’t used to it. Sometimes you just live, and you learn.”
Michael dominated at the East-West Shrine Game, then had one of the combine’s top performances. But then he overslept and missed interviews with teams, explaining that he had the flu and had taken night-time cold medicine.
So what will teams do with him during the draft?
“His talent is crazy. … I have trouble seeing him getting out of the second round, just because his physical traits are so good,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said.
“He’s a big-time risk,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said, “and he’s probably going to go in the second round.”
HIGH: DeMarco Murray is a decent back when he’s actually on the field. He’s already missed nine games in two seasons and is coming off a disappointing 663-yard campaign. As a team, the Cowboys ran for a franchise-worst 1,265 yards for a 16-game season. Murray’s backups are the unremarkable Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. Felix Jones was a bust and remains an unrestricted free agent. Dallas could easily spend a second- or third-round pick on a running back, an area of depth in this chart.
LOW: Many teams would like to have a back like Ben Tate as their starter. In Houston, he’s strictly a backup to Arian Foster, one of the top runners in the NFL. The Texans were No. 4 in the AFC in rushing in 2012 with 2,123 yards. Foster is 26 and Tate 24, so Houston is in great shape here for several years to come.
TOP FIVE RUNNING BACKS
1. Eddie Lacy (5-11, 230, Alabama): Although Lacy is the best of the bunch, he has a second-round grade from most evaluators. This could be the first time since 1963 that no RB goes in round one.
2. Johnathan Franklin (5-10, 205, UCLA): Nicknamed “Jetski” for leaving defenders in his wake, the shifty Bruin smashed the school records for single-season rushing yards (1,734) and career rushing (4,403).
3. Montee Ball (5-11, 214, Wisconsin): Extremely productive blue-collar back who tied Barry Sanders’ single-season touchdown record with 39 and was the 2011 NCAA rushing king with 1,923 yards.
4. Giovani Bernard (5-9, 202, North Carolina): The ACC rushing champ with 1,228 yards rns with a low center of gravity, making him a tough target. Led the nation in punt returning with a 16.4 average.
5. LeVeon Bell (6-2, 230, Michigan State): The ultimate inside banger. A former 2-star recruit who is thick all the way around and drags tacklers for several years. Won Big Ten rushing title with 1,793 in 2012.
■ Keep an eye on: South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (5-11, 221) is popular and talented, but dislocated his knee last October. Once projected as the top running back in his class, he couldn’t do much at his pro day, though he did catch passes from a stationary position. Some team will take a chance on him, hoping he returns to his pre-injury status.
OTHER BIG 12, STATE PROSPECTS
1. Christine Michael (5-10, 220, Texas A&M): Wowed ‘em at the combine, but teams have concerns about him.
2. Joseph Randle(6-0, 204, Oklahoma St.): Led the Big 12 in rushing (1,474 yards) and also had 28 catches.
3. Knile Davis (6-0, 227, Arkansas): The Missouri City prodcut once was All-SEC. But injuries will make him slide.
4. Rex Burkhead (5-10, 214, Nebraska): The Plano native was All-Big Ten as a junior. Knee problems limited him his senior season.
2012’s FIRST RUNNING BACK SELECTED
Trent Richardson; 1 / 3; Cleveland; Alabama
2012’s BEST RUNNING BACK SELECTED
Doug Martin; 1 / 31; Tampa Bay; Boise State
Fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,434 yards. Martin became the first player in NFL history to score on three TD runs of 45 yards or longer in a game and became the second player to rush for 250-plus yards and four TDs in a game.
1. Kansas City
9. N.Y. Jets
11. San Diego
13. N.Y. Jets
15. New Orleans
16. St. Louis