Backs to the Future

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Backs to the Future
by Warren DeLuca

Note: This is last in a series of college prospect profiles in preparation for the 2005 NFL Draft next April. This time, we take a look at the top five running back prospects.

The Texans’ running back situation has improved greatly in the past year. The team received a very pleasant surprise when Domanick Davis, who they had drafted primarily as a third-down back and return man, blossomed into a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie. They have high hopes for Tony Hollings, who has shown an explosive burst to the outside. Third-year back Jonathan Wells, once thought to be headed for the waiver wire, is coming off his best training camp. At fullback, Moran Norris is a battering ram of a blocker while Jarrod Baxter has shown the potential to do more with the ball in his hands.

It does not take great imagination, though, to come up with a scenario in which this peachy state of affairs falls apart very quickly. The Texans do not have a single running back who has proven himself over an extended time period. Davis’ first season could turn out to be a fluke, or more likely, he may not have the durability to be the Texans’ primary back, Hollings could fail to develop, and Wells could regress. Charley Casserly will always have an eye open for someone who can upgrade the depth of the position.

This year’s top five running back prospects are Marion Barber III of Minnesota, Cedric Benson of Texas, Maurice Clarett, formerly of Ohio State, T.A. McLendon of North Carolina State, and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of Auburn. Benson and Williams are the consensus leaders of the pack, and the controversial Clarett is a wildcard with the most volatile stock of any player in the draft.

Other running backs to watch:

Ronnie Brown, Auburn
Anthony Davis, Wisconsin
Kay-Jay Harris, West Virginia
Cedric Houston, Tennessee
Walter Reyes, Syracuse

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