2011 Offseason Needs: Running Back

2011 Offseason Needs: Running Back

Dolphins

2011 Offseason Needs: Running Back

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With the doldrums of the offseason upon us, what better time to take a glance into the future, when their isn’t much to talk about in the present? Trying to foresee which positions will be major needs a year in advance, is no easy task. But when you look at the age and contract status of both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, it would probably take either Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, or Kory Sheets to suddenly emerge as an elite back to prevent running back from being a need next offseason.

The Dolphins would surely welcome that scenario, but speaking realistically, free agency or the draft will likely produce Miami’s answer at the position. We would all love the R&R Express to keep on rolling next year, as Ronnie and Ricky have been one of the best duo’s in the league when they are both healthy, but both will be playing in the final year of their contracts, and neither one is an attractive long-term option, with Ricky being 33, and Ronnie having a long history of injuries.

Still though, the Dolphins would be hard pressed trying to replace both in one offseason, so they could always re-sign one of them. Ricky recently hired agent Drew Rosenhaus, which has lead many to believe he is backing away from his retirement plans, and will look for a new deal after this season. Ronnie meanwhile, will probably look around for a long-term deal, something Miami will likely have no part of, as he is approaching 30 with only one healthy, 16-game season under his belt.

If he can keep off the injury list this season though, and produces at the high-level we all know he is capable of, staying in Miami would remain a strong possibility if his stock doesn’t get too high. Something that is unlikely for more reasons that one.

Nevertheless, it’s tough to fathom a believable scenario where the Dolphins wouldn’t need to replace either Ronnie or Ricky, if not both. So, let’s take a quick glance at the projected 2011 free agency and draft classes top running backs. Keep in mind the difference a year makes. Meaning don’t count on these players being at the top of their classes come next March and April. This is more to get an idea of what options the Dolphins will have. Also, in the free agents’ case, obviously there is still plenty of time for their current team’s to re-sign them, so there is no reason to get your hopes up, as most, if not all, likely won’t even hit the market.

Top 5 Free Agent Running Backs

1. DeAngelo Williams
Team: Carolina Panthers
Age: 27
2011 Status: UFA
In four seasons with the Panthers, Williams has averaged an amazing 5.1 yards a carry. He is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, and even though he’s now 27, he has been splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart, and thus has less mileage than the next back on our list.

2. Steven Jackson
Team: St. Louis Rams
Age: 26
2011 Status: UFA
Jackson has been one of the top backs in the league ever since 06′, and has gone over 1,000 yards in five straight seasons. He was held back by injuries in the two seasons prior to 09′ though, but reclaimed his seat as one of the league’s best, by rushing for 1,416 yards last year.

3. Ahmad Bradshaw
Team: New York Giants
Age: 24
2011 Status: UFA
Bradshaw has been a great change of pace back for the Giants the last three seasons, and finally was given the opportunity for a larger role a year ago. 09′ was the first season Bradshaw was given over 100 carries-163 in all, and he produced 778 yards on 4.8 yards a carry, with 7 touchdowns. Bradshaw has been a big play waiting to happen, and would be a great fit paired with a back like Ronnie Brown.

4. Cedric Benson
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Age: 27
2011 Status: UFA
Once considered a bust, Cedric Benson revived his career last season in Cincinnati, rushing for 1,251 yards and 6 touchdowns. It will be interesting to see if he can produce at that high of a level in back-to-back seasons though, as he averaged less than four yards a carry in 08′ and 07′.

5. Joseph Addai
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Age: 27
2011 Status: UFA
Even though Addai hasn’t lived up to the expectations he came into the league with, his versatility gives him the edge over Laurence Maroney for the top five. Yes, Addai is two seasons removed from his last 1,000 yard/4.0 yards a carry season, but he can also play a role in the passing game, which can be seen in his 51 receptions last year. He is probably the most realistic possibility on this list though, as the above four are more likely to re-sign with their current teams.

2011 NFL Draft: Top 5 Running Backs

1. Mark Ingram
School: Alabama
Class: Junior
Size: 5’10, 215 pounds
Last year’s Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, has all the tools to be a top 10 pick in next year’s draft. And although he would undoubtedly be the best fit in a Dolphins’ uniform, I think we can all agree that Miami likely won’t be picking that high, outside of a trade up, of course.

2. DeMarco Murray
School: Oklahoma
Class: Senior
Size: 6’1, 214 pounds
Murray has the talent to easily be a day one selection, but unfortunately he’s been hampered by injuries thus far. He has the speed-size combination to be one of the best backs in the nation though, and his versatility as a receiving threat should boost his draft stock if he can prove durable enough to last a whole season.

3. Ryan Williams
School: Virginia Tech
Class: Red-shirt Sophomore
Size: 5’10, 206 pounds
Williams’ 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns, in relief duty for the injured Darren Evans, has labeled him an early dark horse for the 2010 Heisman, and a projected first round pick in next year’s draft.

4. Evan Royster
School: Penn State
Class: Senior
Size: 6’1, 213 pounds
Royster’s production dipped slightly as a junior, going from 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns in 08′, to 1,169 yards and 6 touchdowns last season, but he decided to return to school for his senior season, where he hopes his tough to bring down running style bolsters his stats and stock for next year’s draft.

5. Noel Devine
School: West Virginia
Class: Senior
Size: 5’8, 175 pounds
Devine has the Chris Johnson type speed that will make scouts drool at the combine, and GM’s think twice before passing him up in the draft. His size will draw legitimate questions about his ability to be anything more than a third down back and kick returner though.

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