2014 NFL draft position preview: Running backs


Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey is shirt-tackled by Boston College linebacker Steven Daniels during the second half of the AdvoCare V100 Bowl Dec. 31, 2013. Arizona won 42-19 (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

At last, it’s NFL Draft day, and The Insider is wrapping up its look at prospects who might fit what Jay Gruden and staff are looking for. Mike Jones has been reporting on players at the positions the Redskins need most, with top-10 lists. Mark Bullock has been checking in with screengrab-based examinations of players who could be available early, mid-draft and late.

Mike has looked at tackles, cornerbacks, wide receiverssafeties and inside linebackers so far. Here’s his take on running backs:

While questions remain at a number of positions on Washington’s roster, feature back is not one of them. The Redskins boast two-time thousand-yard rusher Alfred Morris, who has more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage in two seasons and this year made his first Pro Bowl. However, the team’s decision makers would like to find a reliable sidekick for Morris.

They believe that a speedy, pass-catching running back could help keep Morris fresh and reduce the toll on his body and extend his career. They also believe such a back would add another element to the offense.

Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster both return for their fourth seasons in the NFL. But Helu – although he has displayed pass-catching skills – struggles with consistency and isn’t the slippery or elusive threat the Redskins would like. Royster is more of a smooth runner, and hasn’t been used much as a pass catcher. Last season, he scarcely saw the field on offense.

In the 2013 draft, the team took the speedy Chris Thompson out of Florida State. But he missed much of the season because of shoulder surgery. Thompson has fully recovered, and could prove useful in the complementary back role, but questions about his durability remain. He hasn’t had an injury-free season since his sophomore year of college.

Help at right tackle or in the secondary would seem to carry a higher priority for Washington in the second round. But they could have the opportunity to find the back they seek a little later in the draft.

West Virginia’s Charles Sims would seem to fit the bill as a versatile, speedy back.

But another possible candidate is Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, who projects as a third- to fifth-rounder. Many draft analysts regard the 5-foot-9, 207-pound junior as one of the top pass-catching backs in the draft.

In three seasons at Arizona, he recorded a total of 77 catches for 679 yards and four touchdowns. As a runner in 2013, he averaged 157.1 yards a game, and 5.4 yards a carry.

Carey prides himself on his all-around skills and said some of this has come from studying some of the top backs in the game and trying to implement their best traits into his own game.

“I’d say a mix between Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy. Adrian Peterson runs hard and LeSean McCoy has the shakes in the open field to break a safety down,” Carey said. “My [favorite] running back is Brian Westbrook because he catches, he blocks. He does it all.”

He also credits the coaching of Rich Rodriguez, who used him in a variety of ways at Arizona.

“I’m definitely a lot better receiver than what I came to college as,” Carey said. “I felt like Rich Rod coming into the program definitely benefited me because playing under coach Stoops, I would have had a couple catches, but [Rodriguez] loved to spread it around, put me in the slot. I’m really comfortable with that and excited about it.”

On game film, Carey displays a good blend of elusiveness and strength. He can find a crease and slip through to daylight. He also showed the ability to break tackles. He appeared comfortable in the open field, and excelled in picking up yards after the catch.

Carey initially ranked among one of the top running back prospects in the draft, but less than impressive times in the 40-yard dash (4.62 and 4.69 seconds) have caused his stock to drop.

But Carey remains confident in his ability. Asked to describe what kind of a player a team would get if it selected him, he said, “they are going to find an aggressive, hard-nosed [player who] will hit you right under your chin. I’m going to tell you right now, I need more technique in pass-blocking. But I have no problem with picking up the blitz and delivering the hit.”

Jones’s top 10 running backs:

Rank Player (click names for background) School Height Weight Proj. Round
1 Carlos Hyde Ohio State 5-11 230 2
2 Jeremy Hill Louisiana State 6-0 233 2-3
3 Bishop Sankey Washington 5-9 209 3
4 Terrance West Towson 5-9 225 3
5 Tre Mason Auburn 5-8 207 3-4
6 Charles Sims West Virginia 6-0 214 3-5
7 Ka’Deem Carey Arizona 5-9 207 3-5
8 Devonta Freeman Florida State 5-8 206 4-5
9 Lache Seastrunk Baylor 5-9 201 4-5
10 Andre Williams Boston College 5-11 230 5

Mike Jones attended the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and has been tracking draft prospect visits for The Post. Have a question about the draft or anything else concerning the Redskins? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

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The Early Lead: Who teams should avoid in the draft | More

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U-Va.’s Moses, VT’s Fuller  | Michael Sam’s falling draft stock

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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