With just a little over two months until the annual NFL draft, the college scouting and evaluation process is in full swing. The NFL combine event will be held Thursday, Feb. 24 through March 1st at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

More than 300 top prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft will be invited to participate at the event. Hopefully, these evaluations will give all fans some ideas of who to focus on at each position of need. Be sure to comment and let me know who you might be interested in.

Position: Running Back

Need Ranking: 4th

Top 5 Prospects –

Mark Ingram: 5’10 – 212 (Alabama) – Far and away the highest rated running back prospect in this years draft. Ingram, winner of the 2009 Heisman award, is a well rounded franchise caliber back. He has great vision, elite burst, and very powerful. He can also catch the ball well out of the backfield and played in a pro – style system. There is certainly a lot to like about him as a potential star in the NFL. If the patriots decide to go this route in the first round, they will acquire a great talent.

Mikel LeShoure: 6’0 – 227 (Illinois) – LeShoure is a prospect with the capability to develop into an every down running back. Leshoure has the size, athleticism and power to be a franchise guy. For a big talent like LeShoure, he displays very good burst and quickness and can make defenders miss. He can push the pile and has the ability to gain tough yards inside the numbers. He can also be a  weapon in the passing game and overall very solid. Leshoure is probably a second-round prospect but has the potential to be pushed in the first round. My only real knock on LeShoure is he is very raw and needs development. With some time in the NFL and the right coaching, he could be a real talent.

DeMarco Murray: 6’0 – 213 (Oklahoma) – Murray is an explosive athlete that could be precisely the type of RB the Patriots need. He runs exceptionally well and when he sees daylight, say goodbye. Murray is an absolute burner and is a real play maker.   He catches the ball, runs routes, and can move like an elite receiver; which in turn makes him a real threat on third down. He is the type of prospect that could be used in a multitude of ways and is extremely versatile; rushing, catching, returns. I am concerned with his injury history, but if he can stay healthy, he could be a featured back on Sundays. I would love to see this young man in a patriots uniform and they could acquire him in the second round.

Jordan Todman: 5’9 – 203 (UCONN) – I must admit, Jordan Todman is one of my favorite prospects in this years draft. The Massachusetts native is starting to pick up steam throughout the pre – draft process. Todman is a very hard runner and can be tremendously explosive. He has great vision and finds openings to accelerate through quickly. Because he lacks receiving experience on third down, he probably is not ready to be an every down back. However, he could help in the return game and also has great potential. Keep an eye on Todman as the process continues.

Ryan Williams: 5’9 – 212 (Virginia Tech) – Williams is another prospect that has a chance to develop into an every down running back. Williams has the vision, initial burst, and speed needed to gain consistent yards. He also makes elite cuts and then explodes through the defense. His running style is very strong and he always seems to fall forward. His ability to hold on to the football needs to be improved and his overall skill set must be polished. I would still say Williams could use some work but he could go in the second to third round.

My Favorite Prospect: Mark Ingram / DeMarco Murray

I apologize for cheating a bit here, but it’s for good reason. The way i see it, there are two routes the patriots can go if they choose a running back. They could chose the potential franchise running back Mark Ingram, or take a guy like DeMarco Murray to join the committee and potentially  be a lead back down the road. Some fans maybe a bit hesitant to take a running back in the first round because of the Maroney failure in 2006, which is understandable. However, if the coaching staff believes that Ingram can contribute the way he is projected too, they should not pass him up.

Sleeper Prospect: Kendall Hunter: 5’8 – 197 (Oklahoma State) – Hunter is a running back prospect that really intrigues me. He could be a great young talent for the Patriots in the late second, early third round. Pairing him with Ben Jarvis Green – Ellis and Danny Woodhead would create a dynamic young committee. Hunter displays great vision, power, and elusiveness when he runs. I believe his best asset is his vision. When he carries the ball, he can stop on a dime and accelerate very quickly. He could be the home run hitter the patriots have looked for at this position.

Analysis: There is most certainly an intriguing debate amongst Patriots nation regarding the running back position. Some believe Ben Jarvis Green – Ellis and Danny Woodhead are the answer. Others believe they need to bring in a veteran free agent or young prospect to add to the committee. Others, say the running back position needs a make over with a franchise player. With the running back class particularly deep this year, this might be the perfect “wait and see how the draft board falls” situations. I am under the belief that running back is a need. I would love to add a versatile weapon to keep the offense in rhythm. In fact, I would love to build up all of Tom Brady’s “best friends”. When I say best friends, I am referring to the defense, offensive line, and running back. Even though I do like Mark Ingram and believe he could be an excellent pro running back, I think the team might be better off grabbing a RB late in order to address a more pressing need earlier (i.e. OLB or OL). In the end, when draft day comes, how the draft board comes together could have a large impact in who is selected for the Patriots this April.

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