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Bucs draft: running backs

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden is being compared with Adrian Peterson,  who slipped to the Vikings at No. 7 last year and became the rookie of the year.

Getty Images (2007)

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden is being compared with Adrian Peterson, who slipped to the Vikings at No. 7 last year and became the rookie of the year.

For bucs draft news and updates, go to bucs.tampabay.com

Bucs Draft 2008, When: Saturday (Rounds 1-2)
and April 27 (Rounds 3-7)

Bucs picks (round-overall): 1-20,
2-52, 3-83, 4-120, 5-154, 6-none (Michael Bennett trade), 7-none
(Jake Plummer trade)

Top 10 running backs

Darren McFadden, 6-1, 211, Arkansas

No player could have a bigger impact as a rookie this fall than Run DMC. McFadden is being compared with Adrian Peterson, who slipped to the Vikings at No. 7 last year and became the rookie of the year.

Likewise, the Raiders at No. 4 or Jets at No. 6 have a chance to catch this falling star because the teams picking ahead of them have bigger needs.

"I feel like I am the best player in the draft, " McFadden said during interviews at the NFL combine. "I feel like I'm a very versatile player. I can go out there and line up at receiver. I can line up in the backfield and block, line up back there and run (and) throw a pass if you need me to."

McFadden's statistics at Arkansas leave people rubbing their eyes. He rushed for 4, 590 yards and 41 touchdowns in 38 games. He caught 46 passes for 365 yards, returned 38 kickoffs for 926 yards and a score and even passed for seven touchdowns while lining up at quarterback.

But McFadden, 20, has some off-field issues that give teams cause for pause. He was involved in a couple of bar fights, including one in which he broke a toe. And his home life has been less than idyllic.

"I know I put myself in a bad situation I shouldn't have been in, " McFadden said. "And I take full responsibility for it."

2, Rashard Mendenhall, 5-10, 225, Illinois
Most complete back in the draft was the Big Ten player of the year.

3, Jonathan Stewart, 5-10, 235, Oregon

Led Pac-10 with 1, 722 yards and will thrive in a pro-style offense.

4, Felix Jones, 5-10, 207, Arkansas

Played Robin to McFadden's Batman but led the nation at more than 8 yards per carry.

5, Ray Rice, 5-9, 205, Rutgers

Workhorse back with nearly 5, 000 career yards is short, not small, and a very powerful runner.

6, Jamaal Charles, 5-11, 200, Texas

Rushed for 1, 600 yards and 18 touchdowns; some fumbling problems with the dual-sport star who ran track.

7, Matthew Forte, 6-1, 221, Tulane

Finished career with eight straight 100-yard games and 2, 127 overall in 12 games.

8, Chris Johnson, 5-11, 197, East Carolina

Dazzling speed; his stock rose at the Senior Bowl.

9, Kevin Smith, 6-1, 217, Central Florida

He finished with 2, 567 yards and nearly broke Barry Sanders' season record (2, 628 yards) — though he played in three more games than Sanders.

10, Jalen Parmele, 5-11, 224, Toledo

Level of competition will be a factor; good kick returner.



Thumbs-up

Ray Rice

The Scarlet Knights star is a powerful runner despite his height and compares somewhat with Maurice Jones-Drew as a complementary back who will be a very productive pro; stock is rising.

Thumbs-down

Kevin Smith

The nation's leading rusher has an upright running style that invites punishment; had a staggering number of carries last season — 30 or more in eight games and 40-plus in four.

Under the radar

Steve Slaton,
West Virginia

Once considered a first-round talent, he has slipped down the draft board and is projected as a mid-round pick; has 4.4 speed and is a solid 200 pounds.

GM Bruce Allen's scorecard

Cadillac Williams was the rookie of the year in 2005 after setting an NFL record with 434 rushing yards in his first three games. But there were two concerns before the Bucs made Williams the fifth overall pick: durability and inability to catch the football.

Three years later, Williams is out indefinitely with a torn patellar tendon, and he has not developed into an adequate receiver.

History will be the judge, but unless he recovers from the devastating knee injury, the choice will go down as a wasted one considering the return on investment. The only other true running back Allen has drafted is Kenneth Darby, a seventh-rounder from Alabama in ’07 who has not made an impact. The other selections were fullbacks: Casey Cramer, seventh round, Dartmouth in '04, and Rick Razzano, seventh round, Ole Miss in '05. Neither remains on the roster.

IMPACT ON THE BUCS

Make no mistake, the Bucs need to select a running back. It's a deep position in the draft with value through the middle rounds. Cadillac Williams can't be counted on. Earnest Graham, who languished on the bench for several years, has one season remaining on his deal. Warrick Dunn is 33. Michael Bennett will be better after a full offseason in Jon Gruden's system, but how much better? Gruden wants playmakers and to upgrade the overall speed on offense. In an era when you really need a tandem of running backs, there is a real need for a young talent at this position. A player such as Rice in the second round or Slaton later would be a good selection.

Rick Stroud, Times staff writer

1

Bucs draft: running backs 04/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 11:14am]
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