Leading up to May’s NFL draft, Russell Street Report will provide readers a preview of each position with a Baltimore Ravens focus, profiling the different types of prospects and how they would fit with the Ravens.
We start the series off with running back, a position the Ravens figure to address with a draft pick given the new offense, as well as off-field reasons.
Here are different key running back traits and possible Ravens targets that possess those abilities:
Bishop Sankey, Washington – With a strong lower body, ideal vision and the ability to make effortless lateral cuts, Sankey is close to the complete package. He’s a durable back with the ability to be a change-of-pace player, and his reliability out of the backfield makes him a well-rounded prospect.
Devonta Freeman, Florida State – Much like Sankey, Freeman’s lower body strength and cutting ability make him a well-balanced runner. He is consistent at following his blockers, and is a patient runner who can have a violent, downhill mentality when necessary. Quick burst as a receiver and adequate skills in pass protection make him average-to-above average in nearly every aspect.
James White, Wisconsin – A quick, shifty runner with the lower body strength to bounce to the outside in one cut give White the adequate skills to be a zone scheme running back. He displayed effort in pass protection, and possesses underrated ability as a receiver, which could be the aspect of his game that may make him an instant contributor in the NFL.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State – Strong, compact, plays with a low base, sometimes impossible to bring down. Hyde has the mean streak often needed at his position, typically opting to go through defenders instead of around. He has the body to carry the load for an NFL offense, and his lower body strength is among the best in this class. But will he even be considered in Baltimore? After Ray Rice’s off-field incident, Hyde’s similar history (hyperlink please: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgj23776kmY) may not be welcomed in Baltimore.
Storm Johnson, UCF – Not the fastest or quickest runner, Johnson’s well-built frame and physical mentality make him a between-the-tackles bruiser that could appeal to any offense. He doesn’t provide much outside of that ability however, he has shown improved receiving skills Central Florida’s offense in 2013.
James Wilder Jr., Florida State – The Ravens ideally need a running back with plus vision and consistent, powerful quick-cutting ability. One running back flying under the radar who possesses those traits is Wilder, who was a top running back prospect prior to the 2013 season, but after decreased playing time last year, the appeal has dwindled. The fact Wilder is built like a linebacker and ran a 4.86 40-yard dash at the NFL combine raised questions about his athletic ability at the position. But make no mistake about it: Wilder is still a tremendous talent who relies on more than physical traits to excel, and would fit well in Baltimore’s offense.
Charles Sims, West Virginia – Like Wilder, Sims seems to be flying under the radar at the moment, but possesses the ideal traits for Baltimore’s run scheme. He plays as smooth as any running back in this draft, and his change-of-direction cuts are effortless. His receiving ability is another plus, and would be an ideal complement in a running-back-by-committee approach the Ravens could implement next season.
Terrance West, Towson – He has already been profiled in-depth but to sum up his game, West’s ability to move laterally and make quick, one-step cuts make him an intriguing zone-blocking scheme running back.
Dri Archer, Kent State – The star of this year’s NFL combine, Archer’s 4.26 40-yard dash time was a bit of a surprise given his injury-plagued 2013 season. The dual-threat runner and receiver won’t be able to have too many touches out of the backfield in the NFL, as his 173-pound frame gives concern for future injuries. But as a do-it-all type with a “get the ball in his hands” appeal to him, Archer can make an impact in multiple ways for an offense.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon – Like Archer, Thomas isn’t a true running back, but still falls into the running back category because he figures to receive a few touches a game out of the backfield. Thomas’ speed makes him a legitimate threat for an NFL offense, and his 4.50 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine doesn’t match up with his rare in-game speed. He will ideally be a slot receiver/pass catcher out of the backfield with the ability to carry the ball on draw plays and reverses. Thomas also provides value in the return game.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor – The most rare combination of speed, agility and burst in this year’s running back class belongs to Seastrunk, who can be a true home run threat for an NFL offense. He possesses the most desirable physical skill set of any ball carrier this year, but his vision and decisiveness were erratic in almost every single college game he played. Vision is the most important trait for a running back, and Seastrunk is much too up-and-down in that category. Nonetheless, Seastrunk’s physical traits make him an intriguing prospect. His career could compare favorably to Chris Johnson; one week he runs for 150 yards on 20 attempts, the next week he runs for 25 yards on 14 attempts. A true hit or miss player.