Newyorkjets.com's coverage of the 2014 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, focusing both on the Jets' current situation and the top players expected to be selected at the position from May 8-10. All player rankings have been compiled from 10 different "big boards" around the Internet, updated as recently as today and as far back as the start of free agency. Today's second in the series: Running Backs.
Our running game in 2013 looked pretty good, especially in the second half as Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell muscled and spun their way to career seasons, and our attack averaged 149.4 yards per game as we rose from 14th to sixth in the NFL rankings over the regular season's last 11 weeks.
Perhaps Mike Goodson will return from his knee rehab and legal issues to post the kind of season GM John Idzik envisioned for him last year. Or maybe the Chris Johnson saga will bring the former Titans RB into the Jets fold — at the time of this writing it's not known which way the Jets or CJ2K will go.
In any event, this year's RB draft is not strong up top — after last year's draft was the first since 1964 to have no first-round RBs, this could be the second year in a row with that distinction. But this group appears to have four very good selections on the top of the position and then seven tightly bunched next-level candidates in the third-/fourth-round range that the Green & White may want to explore.
Carlos Hyde of Ohio State has been linked by one or two draft experts to the Jets at No. 18. That sounds high, but Hyde is definitely in a neck-and-neck race with three others to be the top back taken. He's a 6'0", 230-pound north-south runner who, it's been noted by The SportsXchange among others, became as a senior the first 1,000-yard RB (1,527 to be exact) for an Urban Meyer-coached team.
Other mock drafters like Tre Mason of Auburn to be the top back taken. Mason's of the smaller variety of backs at 5'9", 207, and, not surprising considering his dad, Vincent, is a member of hip-hop group De La Soul, made sweet music in the Tigers backfield. In 2012 he became the first non-QB to lead Auburn in total offense since Bo Jackson in 1985. Then on his last carry for the school last year in the title game vs. FSU, Mason broke Bo's single-season record with 1,643 yards.
Still others think Bishop Sankey from Washington is the big dog here. He's more of a slim-frame guy at 5'10" and 209, but he had a very nice combine with a 4.00-second 20-yard shuttle that was second among all combine RBs since '06, then turned in an 11.11 in the 60-yard shuttle at his pro day that would have been the best among all backs and sixth among all combine participants in the last nine combines.
Then there's the fourth among equals, Ka'Deem Casey from Arizona, who's been deemed "more determined than deceptive" by Frank Cooney of The SportsXchange. The pros may worry that as a muscled-up 5'9", 207-pounder, he might suffer injuries as his career unfolded, à la Ahmad Bradshaw. Yet his production for the Wildcats outstanding, especially his nation-leading 1,929 rush yards in '12 and his streak of 16 100-yard games, the most by any FBS player in a decade.
Jeremy Hill is not a pretty back but has been effective. The 6'1", 233-pounder was LSU's leading rusher (1,401 yards, 16 TDs), starred in the Tigers' Outback Bowl win over Iowa, can catch the ball and doesn't fumble. On the other hand he left school after his redshirt sophomore season, has two legal red flags in his folder, and didn't have a great Combine workout.
Dri Archer of Kent State caught the NFL's attention with his 4.26 40 at the combine — only the second-fastest time among all combine participants since '06, trailing only Chris Johnson's 4.24 in '08. His NFL upside: He's a multipurpose threat and a return demon. Downside: He's thin (5'8", 173) with possible durability issues.
Carlos Hyde, Bishop Sankey, Tre Mason and Ka'Deem Carey headline the running back draft class
Lache Seastrunk of Baylor, a Doak Walker semifinalist, unfurled an 11'2" broad jump that is tied for first among all RBs at the Combine since '06 and a 41½" vertical that ties for second among all RBs since '06. Charles Sims, who transferred to West Virginia after graduating from Houston (and so missed being a WVU teammate of Geno Smith) tends to run high due to his body type, yet led the Mountaineers with 1,095 rush yards and 45 receptions.
Terrance West (5'9", 225), a walk-on at Towson, was wildly productive last year as a junior with FCS single-season records of 2,509 rushing yards and 41 rush TDs to earn multiple AA honors and finish third in the Walter Payton voting.
Andre Williams(5'11", 230) was a punisher as a Boston College senior, muscling for 2,102 yards and 17 TDs and being named the Doak Walker winner and a Heisman Trophy finalist (he finished fourth). Just don't ask him to catch the ball out of the backfield (no receptions in '13, 10 for his four-year career).
Devonta Freeman, the bellcow on Florida State's national championship team, is squatty (5'8", 206), tough and durable. He's drawn comparisons to Emmitt Smith and Frank Gore as well as Warrick Dunn at least in the sense that he's the first Seminole since Dunn to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Dunn in '96.
Other Notables: RB De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon), RB Marion Grice, Arizona State, FB Jay Prosch (Auburn), RB Isaiah Crowell (Alabama State)