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Miami Dolphins 2011 Draft Board: Running Backs

If you’ve been looking for more lockout talk or finger pointing as to whose fault it is that the 2011 NFL season is in jeopardy, you’re not going to find it here. The major news outlets do an adequate enough job at detailing how the talks, or lack thereof, between the players and owners are coming along.

Here at Phins Phocus, I’m going to keep things relevant to the Dolphins, and in particular their player personnel. And since this whole lockout mess has prevented free agency from taking place this March, posting has been rather slow around these parts.

But fear not, with spring now officially here, it’s time to jumpstart our 2011 NFL Draft coverage. We’ve already delved into quarterback prospects like Cam Newton and Jake Locker, with other options like Mallet, Ponder, and Kaepernick on the way, but now it’s time to unveil our first Dolphins’ draft board.

I will compose an overall big board as draft time gets a little closer, but until then, I will be looking at each position that could be considered a need for the Dolphins this offseason. Let’s start with running back, a position that is virtually guaranteed to be addressed in the draft next month, with Ronnie and Ricky likely to sign elsewhere and the uncertainty of having free agency after the draft looming.

1. Mark Ingram
School: Alabama
Size: 5-10, 215
40: 4.58
Projected Round: 1
It seems as though everyone and their mothers have Mark Ingram going to the Dolphins in their mock drafts. It just appears to be the perfect match. The Dolphins, with the contracts of Ronnie and Ricky expiring, are in desperate need of a running back or two. And Ingram is the consensus highest rated back in the draft. However, when you talk to Dolphins fans, most would prefer the front office to select a quarterback or even an interior lineman, than to use a first round pick on Ingram. Reason being, taking a running back that high just isn’t a great value pick anymore with the position’s shelf life dwindling. It’s also fairly easy to find a quality starter later in the draft, as long as you have a quality O-line in front of him.

Having said that, though, if the Dolphins are able to trade down like many expect them to, Ingram would be very tempting if he’s still on the board later in the 1st round. Some were disappointed with Ingram’s 40 time at the combine, but more importantly, he has a fairly quick first step and doesn’t take long to hit top speed. He obviously fits the mold for the type of runner Sparano has liked to employ in the past, as a big, thick, low pad level runner who has great balance and lower body strength. He’s one of the few backs in this year’s class that could carry the load all by himself, but would especially be effective paired with a scat back like a Darren Sproles in free agency or a Noel Devine late in the draft.

2. Mikel Leshoure

School: Illinois
Size: 6-0, 230
40: 4.56
Projected Round: 1-2
Could be a better value for the Dolphins than Ingram as a late first round pick. He also fits the power runner mold, has a solid first step, and lacks elite speed. He’s a little bigger than Ingram and doesn’t have the lateral quickness the former Heisman winner brings to the table, but if the Dolphins trade down into the twenties and only Leshoure is still on the board, the drop off between the two prospects doesn’t appear to be significant enough to not be satisfied with retrieving a second round selection.

3. Ryan Williams
School: Virginia Tech
Size: 5-9, 211
40: 4.55
Projected Round: 2
Improved his stock tremendously at his pro day by running a 4.45 40, after his disappointing showing at the combine. Is a tough runner even though he’s a little smaller than the prospects above. He’s more of a big play threat, though, which could bode well for his chances to get selected by Miami, with the team’s supposed interest in becoming more explosive on the offensive side of the ball.

4. Shane Vereen
School: California
Size: 5-10, 210
40: 4.47
Projected Round: 2-3
The type of shifty back that could be a much needed spark to the Dolphins’ offense. Possesses the ability to make defenders miss and make plays out of nothing and has solid straight line speed. Shouldn’t be trusted to carry the load, though, and would likely need to be paired with a bruiser to be effective.

5. Kendall Hunter
School: Oklahoma St.
Size: 5-7, 200
40: 4.47
Projected Round: 3-4
In my opinion, one of the biggest sleepers at the position. He’s very short, but is thick enough and is a tough enough runner to be effective between the tackles. In space, he’s one of the most dangerous backs in this year’s class. He’s quick, shifty, and has good straight line speed, even though his 4.52 at his pro day may have hurt his stock some.

6. Jamie Harper
School: Clemson
Size: 6-0, 230
40: 4.58
Projected Round: 3-4
If the Dolphins haven’t addressed running back yet by round three, Harper is one of the mid-round backs that could potentially be a solid starter in this league. He’s no sure thing, as a big back who isn’t as tough of a runner as his size would indicate. He does, however, have good lateral quickness for a big back, which gives him an excellent combination of size and athleticism.

7. Jacquizz Rodgers
School: Oregon St.
Size: 5-7, 196
40: 4.64
Projected Round: 3-4
As a scat back, Rodgers’ 4.64 40 time at the combine killed his stock. However, he recently was able to revive it some with a 4.47 at his pro day. A head scratcher to say the least. My guess is, his real speed lies somewhere in between. Either way, though, I think it’s obvious Rodgers isn’t quite as fast as we thought. He may project as nothing more than a third down back at the pro level.

8. Jordan Todman
School: UConn
Size: 5-9, 203
40: 4.44
Projected Round: 3-4
Another explosive runner that fits the prototype of what the Dolphins should be looking for in one of the two running backs they are likely to bring in this offseason. Has solid bulk on his 5-9 frame, which suggest he should be able to hold up at the pro level. Known as a bit of dancer, though, that doesn’t hit the hole particularly hard.

9. Delone Carter
School: Syracuse
Size: 5-9, 222
40: 4.53
Projected Round: 3-4
A power runner that had a knack for being efficient on short yardage situations at Syracuse. If the Dolphins wait until the middle of the draft to bring in their bruiser, Carter will likely be considered. He isn’t exactly what you would call an all around back, though, as didn’t contribute much as a receiver and was raw in pass protection.

10. DeMarco Murray
School: Oklahoma
Size: 6-0, 213
40: 4.38
Projected Round: 3-4
If you’re looking for the Dolphins to draft as much speed as possible, DeMarco Murray may be your guy at running back. He’s a pure blazer that would instantly give a slow Dolphins’ offense big play potential. The only problem is, much like Reggie Bush, Murray is the type of runner that shies away from pounding out yards between the tackles. He’s also injury prone, which could scare away the Dolphins, who’ve had to endure numerous season ending injuries from Ronnie Brown. Could be an asset as a change of pace back, but should be thought of as a solid number two.