By Tony Grossi
Third in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.
Position: Running back.
Roster: Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Armond Smith.
Without Peyton Hillis, who was unwanted and left to Kansas City in free agency, this cupboard is bare. In his second season after ACL surgery, Hardesty is expected to be back to his college form. But his injury history makes it problematic to count on him. Ogbonnaya is a very useful back in a reserve role. Jackson missed the season because of toe surgery. When healthy, he looks at best as a third-down situational back.
Needs: A feature back with speed, capable of breaking long runs but also dependable in pass protection and receiving.
Top 5 prospects:
1. Trent Richardson, Alabama.
Squatty, wide and low to the ground, he runs with power and speed. Racked up 21 rushing TDs in college football’s best conference. He’s hard to tackle, has soft hands and possesses a work ethic described as “legendary.”
2. Doug Martin, Boise State.
Kind of a poor man’s Richardson. Similar compact and powerful build, which makes him tough to tackle. He has high marks in work ethic and character. Just lacks the production and experience against SEC-caliber opponents.
3. David Wilson, Virginia Tech.
ACC player of the year after rushing for 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns. He also is a proven kickoff returner. But he is slighter than the top two and has had some fumbling issues.
4. Lamar Miller, Miami.
Fast, but doesn’t have the overall skills of the others. Not as physical or polished. He could be effective immediately as a return specialist.
5. Chris Polk, Washington.
Finished up as the second-leading rusher in school history. He’s not the fastest back, but he is hard to bring down and might be the best receiver out of the backfield.
Under radar: Robert Turbin, Utah State.
Powerfully built and productive, but has had some injury issues.
Last word: Too many times last season the Browns either didn’t practice with the running back who played in the game, or didn’t know who would be the No. 1 back until pre-game warmups. Solidifying the position and securing a dependable feature back might be the best security blanket the team can give to its quarterback.
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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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