This is the year of change-of-pace running backs to be found in the middle rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. Some have the potential to eventually start, while others will be relegated to a scatback role for the duration of their respective careers.
More than a change-of-pack back?
I will probably catch some hell for this one, but Miami (Fla.) rusher Lamar Miller is a change-of-pacer to me. His style of play opens him to plenty of opportunities for injuries and isn't one that points to sustained durability as a full-time back, even though he has the size to be an every-down player.
Miller reminds me of a more talented Jerious Norwood, or maybe what Norwood could have been, in terms of a big play waiting to happen. The former Hurricane should be a second-rounder later this month. I can see a team like the St. Louis Rams bringing him in to complement Steven Jackson with the hope that Miller can eventually turn into a full-time contributor.
Now you're speaking my language
More in the mold of a change-of-pace back, Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead intrigues me. He has been a workout darling since the 2011 NCAA season concluded and boasts a skill set that will keep defenders on their toes. Pead is not someone defensive coordinators will necessarily game plan for, at least not in an extensive manner, but his game-breaking ability should serve a team well in third-down and breather situations.
I expect him to come off the board as soon as the late second round, but I gave him a healthy third-round grade entering this draft season.
LaMichael James, of Oregon, could have what it takes in the right system to be a full-time back, but I think, much like with Tiki Barber's career path, we will see James used in a change-of-pace fashion before he gets a crack at being the man. This highly talented prospect has a bright future, but it may not get off the ground as quickly as he would like it to. He could do serious damage with limited touches in a West Coast offense or a system with an inexperienced quarterback.
Blessed with excellent hands and open-field elusiveness, the former Duck standout shouldn't slide out of the second round. If he does, I do not see any chance that he makes it out of the second day of the draft.
Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray is a patient runner whose receiving ability and route-running skills make him the ideal candidate as a third-down back. At 5-foot-10, 206 pounds, Gray is a 'tweener back with the ability to line up in the slot. He somewhat reminds me of slightly less talented Percy Harvin from a skill set standpoint.
Gray, who is considered a coach's dream, is a third- or fourth-round prospect with little potential to be a full-time back in the NFL. Even still, he should carve out a nice career for himself as a limited-use weapon.
Florida running back Chris Rainey possesses amazing cutback ability, vision and straight-line speed. He is a natural receiver and has experience lining up in the slot. His explosive burst will have creative offensive coordinators drooling for new ways to use him.
Rainey encountered some off-the-field issues, and in conjunction with his diminutive stature (5-foot-8, 180 pounds), he should slide in the draft. He earned a fourth-round grade from us and could be a glorified checkdown option at the next level.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
Don't miss these great reports....