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Browns draft needs: Running back

Apr 16, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Third in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.

Position: Running back.

Roster: Edwin Baker, Jamain Cook, Dion Lewis, Chris Ogbonnaya, Chris Pressley, Ben Tate, Fozzy Whittaker.

The trade of Trent Richardson in Week 3 last season for the Colts’ first-round pick now is viewed as a heist by the former Browns management regime. But the fact is, Richardson was never replaced, and the offense suffered immensely because of it. Five other backs received carries; Baker was the last man standing. The additions of Tate and Pressley, a traditional lead-blocking fullback, solidified the position group heading into the draft. Lewis, 5-8 and 195 pounds, was going to be a specialty backfield weapon before he broke a leg in preseason. He should be close to 100 percent for the beginning of OTAs, but the coaching changes will force him to prove himself all over again. Ogbonnaya could be returning to the roles of reserve tailback and special teams core player. Whittaker is still on the roster after failing to secure the onside kick in the waning moments of a loss to the Patriots.  

Needs: If he stays healthy, Tate should prosper in the Kyle Shanahan offense. But Tate’s injury history makes it risky not to have an able complement, or replacement, on hand. The need is for another back with that one cut-and-go, downhill running style to fit Shanahan’s run system.

Top 5 prospects

1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

His size (5-11 7/8, 230) puts him on top of a class that may not see a player taken until the second round. Hamstring problems hurt his ability to post a solid 40 time in the draft season, but his game tape shows a powerful, at times explosive, runner.

2. Bishop Sankey, Washington

He can be an all-purpose threat, but he doesn’t appear built strong enough (5-9 ½, 209) to withstand the physical rigors of an NFL feature back. Still, he never missed a game in three seasons at Washington.

3. Tre Mason, Auburn

A fantastic finish in Gus Malzahn’s spread offense resulted in breaking Bo Jackson’s season record with 1,816 yards. He plays bigger than his smallish frame (5-8 ½, 207).

4. Jeremy Hill, Louisiana State

A powerful downhill runner with quick feet who carries some baggage along with his 233 pounds.

5. Andre Williams, Boston College

Led the nation with 2,177 rushing yards – fifth-most in major college history. At 5-11 3/8 and 230, he’s a strong runner but his 10 career catches probably reduces his value in the NFL and moves him to the bench on third downs.

Under radar

Charles Sims, West Virginia

Probably the best pass catcher out of the backfield, he is a complementary back who will appeal to creative offensive coordinators.

Last word

This year’s crop of backs plays to the trend of teams finding specialized runners in the middle rounds of the draft. There is no superstar, no consensus first-round pick, but plenty who could emerge from later in the draft. The Browns should have no trouble finding a complement to Tate.

 

Other Draft Needs:

Quarterback

Running Back

Wide Receiver

Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Defensive Backs

Line Backer

Defensive Line

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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