No running back has been taken in round-one of the NFL draft since 2012. However there are two stud running backs who have legit first-round grades in the 2014 draft who might very well change that.
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley have the look of future pro-bowlers.
Packers Player Profile: Todd Gurley
Player information: 6’ 1”, 226 lbs, University of Georgia
Hometown: Tarboro, NC
NFL Combine Stats
40 Yard Dash: ** seconds, among running backs
Vertical Jump: ** ”, among running backs.
Broad Jump: **”, among running backs.
225# Bench: 17, tied for 19th among running backs.
**Recovering from ACL Surgery and did not participate at NFL Combine
Compares to pros: Marshawn Lynch
Projected Draft Position: 1 – 2 rounds.
Strengths: Rare blend of speed and power. Immense power in legs and shows balance through contact with first and second tacklers. Shreds arm tackles and has speed to make tacklers miss, especially at an angle. Highly instinctive, decisive runner. Gets up to speed in a hurry with fluid hips and forward lean, easily maneuvering through the hole. Uses quick, tight steps to the next level. He re-positions and explode into tacklers and side-steps causing hesitation with would-be tacklers. Accelerates with “speed to power” between tackles and around corner on sweeps. Maintains power, not looking to run out-of-bounds and finishes his runs with authority. Able to filter out of the backfield using his soft hands and easily adjusts to passes. In 2014 Gurley notched 61.9 percent of his rushing yardage after contact with the first defender. Strong hands translates into exceptional ball security. Recorded only three fumbles in 510 career carries.
Weaknesses: Missed three games in 2013 due to ankle injury and tore his ACL in 2014. Questions about whether his game-changing speed and agility will return to normal. Good awareness but only average vision. Still developing as a zone runner. Too locked into looking for programmed cutback lanes when play-side run is open. Can get better at setting up blockers in space. Average at creating plays when confined. Will need more patience at the next level. The Georgia quick passing attack limited his protection opportunities and was average when opportunities presented themselves. History of injuries.
Gurley was also found to have accepted $3000 for jerseys he autographed which were subsequently sold by a dealer. That transgression caused him to serve a four-game suspension handed-down by the NCAA. Teams will have to determine if there are character issues to be concerned about or if this was a simple mistake made by a young college kid who needed money.
He raised eyebrows at the combine by refusing to be examined by the team’s medical staffs. His explanation was that he didn’t want 32 teams poking and prodding him just two months removed from surgery. He has reportedly agreed to exams during his personal team visits.
Gurley entered the year looking to solidify his position as the top NFL prospect at his position, before a torn ACL ended his year prematurely. NFL teams must decide if his injury will affect his production at the next level and become a cause for his drop beyond round one. At 6’ 1” and a sculpted 226 lbs. Gurley has run the 40 yard dash in an impressive 4.46 seconds. He cuts well, is an able receiver and willing blocker and compares favorably to NFL great and former first round pick Marshawn Lynch in size, speed, elusiveness and production.
What they are saying about him: Gurley has visited with three teams: Detroit, Carolina and Dallas. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects him going 19th to Cleveland, with Gordon taken 24th by Arizona.
Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis: “He’s going to spend a lot of time jumping through hoops but the ACL injury is one that is not as career-ending or career-threatening as it used to be,” Lewis said. “The way our medical operations are today guys come back depending on the severity of it. He’ll have to do all of those things in order to prove and at some point somebody will think he’s right for the value at that pick.”
Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr: “There’s a ton of running backs they (speaking about the Lions who are said to covet Gurley) can get in this draft, so I don’t think you have to force it (by taking a running back early). But if they ended up with Melvin Gordon III or Gurley, you have something.”
What the Packers See: The real deal: an accomplished running back who would be the bell-cow on most NFL teams. The comparison to Marshawn Lynch is accurate; he is physically every bit the running back Lynch is. His injury was significant however and athletes, especially skill position players, may not come back 100% from such an injury. Does not have punt or kickoff experience at college level, something the Packers have a desperate need for.
With Eddie Lacy already in the fold, there is little chance that Gurley would interest the Packers in round one. But if he fell to round two or three he may be too good to pass up.
With Ted Thompson’s philosophy of drafting based on best-player-available and not on need, there is a slight chance this game-changer could end up as the other half of a one-two punch which would be the envy of the National Football League.
Should such a scenario occur, it would result in arguably the best tandem of Packers running backs since John Brockington and MacArthur Lane paired-up in the early 1970’s.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .