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NFL draft prospects on the decline: running backs

LenDale White, USC – White has very good vision in the hole and was a touchdown-scoring machine at USC but he does come with some baggage. He had some trouble with academics in college and his weight and attitude are also a concern.

On film, White hits the hole quickly but the holes he runs through are usually huge. This is different from Reggie Bush who gets through the hole so quickly, linemen sometimes haven't even started blocking yet. While I think some of White's success was due to having an NFL-caliber offensive line in college, I won't take anything away from him as far as what he did on the field. He looks a little slow at times but it's hard to argue with his production. And once he's near the goal line, White has a nose for the end zone reminiscent of players like Emmitt Smith and Shaun Alexander.

The negative with White is his drive. He admitted to ballooning up to 253 pounds before the National Championship game against Texas. He said it didn't hurt his performance and while that may be true, you have to question the work ethic of a player who gains 15 pounds before the most important game of his life. Also, even though he had a good game, whose to say that he doesn't get that one extra yard he needed at the end to secure the victory if he's a little lighter and quicker. His attitude just rubbed a lot of people the wrong way at the Combine.

After a terrible showing at his pro day, things got even worse for White. It was reported on Thursday that the former Trojan tore his right hamstring and will be sidelined for at least another month. There is now speculation that White – once considered to be a top 15 draft pick – may now slip out of the first round altogether.

What a team is getting in White is the epitome of a boom or bust player. If he stays motivated and keeps his weight under control, he could be a very good NFL running back. Those are big "ifs" though. My opinion of White changed when I talked to him at the Combine and watched more tape on him. He showed against Texas that he can be a force on the field but he also showed that he could gain 20 pounds in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

I know a lot of people would like to see White in New England and while I wouldn't scream and yell if they took him, just remember the old phrase "Buyer Beware." If I had to go on record right now, I would say White's career is going to resemble that of Curtis Enis more than it will Corey Dillon.

Joseph Addai, LSU – I think my good friend Andy Hart put it best while we were watching Addai on tape. He said, "Joseph Addai is just a guy." That is exactly right. Addai is a good player and someone you would like to have on your team but he's not going to be a feature back in the NFL.

Addai does a lot of things well but nothing great. He has impressive straight-line speed but he isn't very elusive or quick. He can catch the ball well out of the backfield but he doesn't have great moves in the open field. He runs well inside but he doesn't break a lot of tackles. In other words, Addai is a perfect situational back but to say he's worthy of a late first-early second round draft pick is stretching it.

People were really bowled over when Addai ran a 4.32 40-yard dash but if you watch Addai on tape, that time really isn't all that surprising. When he runs straight through a hole, he's extremely fast but when he has to cut and change direction, he's not fluid and loses a lot of his speed. If the defense parts like the red sea, Addai will run straight through it and once he gets into the open field, no one is going to catch him. However, if he needs to cut in a hole or make a defender miss in the secondary, he struggles quite a bit.

Addai has a chance to be a solid backup and special teams player and that's not a bad thing. I just don't know see where people think he's a first-round talent or a future stud running back in the NFL. Remember, Addai only started as a senior because Alley Broussard was injured. Broussard is actually the better pro prospect of the two backs. I think people are reaching on Addai just because he's fast. If you look at his college career and break him down on tape, there just isn't enough there to warrant a first or early second round draft pick on him.

I think Addai is going to have a good NFL career. He'll be a nice compliment to a team because he can do so many different things. However, I don't think Addai is ever going to be an every-down running back at the pro level so drafting him high is a risky proposition in my opinion. Think of him as a faster, more talented Patrick Pass.

Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin – In my opinion, Calhoun is one of those guys who is going to end up being a better college player than he will be in the pros. Wisconsin has a track record over the past decade of having great college runners who don't do as well in the NFL and I think Calhoun is going to follow in those footsteps.

When he was at Colorado, Calhoun was a solid back but his production went through the roof in his one season with the Badgers. For me, that raises a red flag, especially when you watch Calhoun on tape.

I'll give him credit, he shows good vision and patience on tape but I'm worried about him being able to run inside at the next level. Calhoun bounced a lot of plays outside in college but in the NFL, that's hard to do over and over again because of the speed difference in the pros. I just don't think he's a strong runner between the tackles. I compare him to William Green. I felt the same way about him coming out of Boston College. Instead of running hard inside, Green would often bounce runs to the outside for no reason. That kind of running style can get you in trouble in the NFL and I see a lot of that out of Calhoun when I watch him.

Calhoun didn't run well at the Combine and that's not surprising to me because he looks slow on tape. He's elusive and quick but he lacks speed and when I say speed I'm talking about football speed. That's the only thing that concerns me and once Calhoun got into the open field, I didn't see that extra burst that the good NFL backs have.

Another negative with Calhoun is he wore down towards the end of the season. At Colorado, he shared the load so this was his first time being the primary ball carrier and you could tell he was much more explosive early in the year than he was in his last four games. At a smallish 200 pounds, I have serious doubts that Calhoun can be an effective every-down back in the NFL.

Calhoun was very productive in one season at Wisconsin and I think he has some skills that would help an NFL team. However, picking him in the first or second round doesn't make much sense in my opinion. I just don't think he has the speed and durability to carry the ball 300-350 times over a 16-game season.

Mike Bell, Arizona – Going into the Combine there were the big four at running back and then a bunch of other backs all bunched in together. We all knew that in the next two months some backs would rise up draft boards and others would fall. Bell was in that group but no other back has seen their stock drop more since the Combine than he has.

Bell had a terrible outing in Indianapolis. He didn't fair well in the position drills and ran in the 4.6-4.8 range. Bell told the media before he ran that scouts had questions about his speed and he didn't do anything to calm their fears. Not only did Bell not run good times in the 40, he looked very slow in the change of direction drills as well.

When I watched tape of bell, I wanted to see if he was faster than his 40 time. He isn't. Bell is slow to the hole and he rarely makes people miss. He has some power to him and can run over smaller players but when he has to make a move in the open field, he doesn't have the speed or quickness to break away from defenders. This is the reason why Bell didn't have many long runs during his college career.

With a good Combine and workout, Bell could have been a mid-round selection. However, that didn't happen for him and he now appears to be a late-round pick at best. After seeing him at the Combine and watching him on tape, I would actually not be shocked if Bell doesn't get drafted at all. He will have a tough time making an NFL roster and if he does, it will be more of a special teams player because one thing he does display is a lot of toughness.

As far as playing running back in the NFL, Bell doesn't have the speed, vision, quickness or feel for the position. If you are looking for a mid-round prospect at running back for the Patriots, cross Bell off your list. He just doesn't have the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level.

Leon Washington, Florida State – Out of all the backs I saw on film, Washington was the one I liked the least. I saw very little in him from watching Florida State games to breaking him down on film that would make me believe Washington can even make an NFL roster.

At 5-8, 208 pounds, Washington is another one of those smaller backs but he actually plays small. He goes down very easily and for a guy his size; he's not very quick or elusive. Small backs without great speed and quickness usually end up playing in NFL Europe.

What bothers me the most with Washington is his lack of patience. He doesn't let his blocks develop before he hits the hole and that often ends up in a minimal gain. That's the one thing I really noticed when breaking down Washington. He gets a lot of one and two yard gains because he hits the hole too early and doesn't use his blockers well.

Washington had a number of injury problems at Florida State and that's not good news for a player his size. He hurt his left elbow in 2003 and right ankle and right shoulder in 2004. Durability is a huge concern when projecting Washington as an NFL back. He'll never be the kind of running back who carries the ball 15-20 times a game. His best chance to help a team is being a receiver out of the backfield but with his lack of instincts, even his receiving skills are questionable.

Like I said, there really isn't much I like about Washington. He's slower than I thought he would be. He's not as elusive as I thought he would be and he has no patience as a runner. In other words, he really isn't a very good running back at all and that's one of the reasons why he only ran for 400 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Washington's only hope to stick with an NFL team is as a kick returner and third-down back. However, his lack of physical skills and instincts as a runner will limit what he can do as a running back in the pros. There are other backs in this class similar to Washington who are much more talented and because of that, I expect the former Seminole won't hear his name called until the later rounds of the draft. He'll have a tough time making an NFL roster in my opinion.

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