Running Back Depth is Scarce in 2014 Draft

Posted Feb 28, 2014

This year’s draft has been widely termed as one of the deepest in recent memory, though depth isn’t prevalent with every position.

This year’s running back class is, at least currently, a notable exception. The position’s top prospects have remained something of a mystery, with little separating the leading backs. A general consensus among draft experts has the first round going without a single back chosen. There are, however, quality backs slated for the second and third rounds, and could provide a team in need at the position with a relative bargain.

Though determining a front-runner at this juncture becomes difficult, heading this year’s class is a group that includes Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde and Auburn’s Tre Mason, among others. 

Serving as the Wildcats’ feature back, Carey rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, despite missing the first game of the year due to suspension. Carey posted a gaudy 5.4 yards per carry for Arizona, despite being dealt a heavy workload, one that saw him receive 48 carries in a four-touchdown game against Oregon.

At six feet and 242 pounds, Hyde enters this draft as perhaps the premier power back of the group. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry for the Buckeyes in 2013, en route to a 1,521-yard season and 15 touchdown runs.

Mason, who said he met with the Rams at the NFL Combine last week, represents a possible change-of-pace option to second-year tailback Zac Stacy, should the Rams consider drafting a back in the middle rounds in May.

While viewed as potentially a tertiary option among running backs, Mason believes his career with Auburn, which included eclipsing Bo Jackson’s school record for single-season rushing yardage, should elevate him among the position’s elite.

“I feel like I'm the best running back in this draft class because I broke Bo Jackson’s rushing record in the season," Mason said while speaking at the Combine. “If he was considered one of the best to do it and I broke his, then I feel like I should be the No. 1 running back in this draft.”

Mason then followed up his assessment by running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, which ranked 12th-best out of 36 backs.

The Rams have already stated their confidence in Zac Stacy as the Rams’ lead back moving forward, though how the depth chart shapes up behind Stacy could be a bit less certain.

They currently enter the offseason with four backs on their roster, with Bennie Cunningham, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson currently backing up Stacy. With Stacy entrenched as the starter, versatility becomes key among the rest of the Rams’ options at running back. General Manager Les Snead spoke highly of Pead’s work on special teams units during the latter portion of the 2013 season.

“Competition affects things, but what’s nice about Isaiah is, he’s a competitor, he has a fire. He became one of our better special teamers. Earlier in his career, he didn’t really want to play (special teams) and really never has played, but he really wanted to get on the field and I think that element of it, you can expect some nice things going forward for him and we’ll try to continue evolving the role.”

Should the Rams add one more name to the mix in the middle rounds of this year’s draft, it’s a role that could see further evolution moving forward.