NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
New England’s running game was one of the most impressive aspects of their team in 2012, but nonetheless they remain at least somewhat interested in this year’s class of running backs; thus far, they have conducted private workouts with a number of this year’s prospects, with at least cursory interest shown in what is shaping up to be a deep class of runners. While drafting a running back in the first or second round is unlikely, there are plenty of mid-to-late-round prospects that may have New England’s attention. Prospect rankings and values are provided by FRX.
1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama* (FRX: #34 overall prospect, $1,034)
Former Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli shared a list of his top ten available underclassmen with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in January, ranking Lacy as his number seven player on that list. Despite some conditioning questions, Lacy remains an incredibly powerful runner with underrated quickness and agility. He rushed for 1,322 yards and seventeen touchdowns last season with the Crimson Tide, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. His experience under Nick Saban could also interest New England if Bill Belichick is considering drafting a running back much earlier than expected.
2. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina* (FRX: #57 overall prospect, $649)
Bernard is an interesting prospect; he has a versatile skillset, having contributed to North Carolina as a rusher, as a receiver, and as a punt returner. A redshirt sophomore, he also has just two years of usage, although he did tear his ACL in 2010, causing him to miss his entire true freshman campaign. He has a small, compact build with impressive vision and explosiveness; he also dramatically improved his production from 2011 to 2012, improving his yards per carry from 5.2 to 6.7, as well as his yards per catch from 8.0 to 10.4.
3. Andre Ellington, Clemson (FRX: #105 overall prospect, $470)
With Danny Woodhead having left New England for the Chargers, the Patriots may be seeking a player who could fill a similar role on the team, especially because Jeff Demps may not be playing for New England next season. The Patriots held a private workout with Andre Ellington, whose quickness as well as his versatility would make him a good fit in this range; he’s best on outside runs, but also has some experience as a receiver and kick returner, not to mention his impressive pass protection skills.
4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina* (FRX: #120 overall prospect, $453)
Whether Marcus Lattimore can regain the form that made him a potential first-round pick before suffering two torn ACLs is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible that New England could be interested in taking a risk here for a potential draft steal. Lattimore isn’t the most polished receiver or blocker, but he is a smooth runner with some power. New England may be interested in drafting him in the mid-rounds and stashing him on the PUP list; they held a private visit with him recently.
5. Kenjon Barner, Oregon (FRX: #145 overall prospect, $434)
Barner may not have prototypical size for the running back position, but he is one of the most elusive backs in the class and has a season of incredible production under his belt, a 278-carry, 1,767-yard, 21-touchdown senior campaign with the Ducks. By adding him to the team in the fifth-round, New England would be gaining a direct replacement for Woodhead, someone who could get to the outside for big gains but also find cutback lanes between the tackles; he would allow Josh McDaniels to get more creative with offensive playcalls.
6. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers* (FRX: #176 overall prospect, $425)
Jamison had an impressive redshirt sophomore campaign with the Scarlet Knights, rushing for 1,075 yards and four touchdowns; he declared for the draft immediately afterwards. At 5’7” and 203 pounds, he has a compact, muscular build which allows him to gain yards running between the tackles. Bill Belichick is close with Greg Schiano, who recruited Jamison to Rutgers, so there should be some level of familiarity on New England’s end. Jamison could have been drafted much higher than this had he ran a 40-yard dash time faster than 4.68 seconds.
7. Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook (FRX: #176 overall prospect, $425)
Another prospect New England held a private workout with, Maysonet has an intriguingcombination of size (5’9”, 209 pounds) and athleticism (4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash.) He produced for three seasons at Stony Brook, culminating in a 1,964-yard, 21-touchdown senior campaign in which he averaged 7.4 yards per carry. A small-school back, Maysonet also turned in impressive performances against major football programs such as Syracuse. He would provide competition for Brandon Bolden during the preseason.