2013 NFL Draft: Steelers prospects at running back

Grant Halverson

The Steelers will have to replace unrestricted free agent Rashard Mendenhall and recently waived rookie kick returner Chris Rainey. Fortunately for the Steelers, this is a very good running back class that has a ton of depth. They likely won't have to invest a high pick on a running back, but should they choose to, their will be a couple great backs available in round one as well.

First Round Prospects

Giovani Bernard, North Carolina - Besides being the best available running back in the draft, Bernard was also one of college footballs most electric punt returners this past season, averaging 16.4 yards per return and returning two for touchdowns. He has all the tools to be a dominant NFL running back and although he is not currently being talked about as an option to the Steelers, I certainly think he is one.

Eddie Lacy, Alabama - Lacy is built like a truck at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and he absolutely ran over, around, and through the vaunted Notre Dame defense. He has an incredible spin move, great vision, and great technique. He is more of a late first round pick but the Steelers could trade down and try and pick him up.

Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State - Randle was an unbelievable running back for the past two years, doing everything that was asked of him. He is a great receiving back, has great vision and power, and is very elusive. He, like Lacy, is a late first round option but the Steelers could work a trade back for him.

Second Round Prospects

Jawan Jamison, Rutgers - Jamison was enjoying a phenomenal junior season before an ankle injury slowed him down for his last four games. He has unbelievable quickness, great vision, and has an uncanny ability for making people miss in the open field. He also has blistering speed and runs with a decent amount of power.

Stepfan Taylor, Stanford - Taylor has had an incredible career, rushing for over 1100 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the last three years. He has also caught at least 25 balls in each of the past three seasons. The question is, with all the wear and tear he has had on his body, how many years does he have left on his body.

Sleepers/Kick Returners

Rex Burkhead, Nebraska - Burkhead had an injury filled senior season but he is still a great running back. He runs with great power, has a low center of gravity, and possesses good cutting ability. He does not have blazing speed but he can do just about everything needed. He is projected as a third to fourth round pick and might be an intriguing option for a team needing a number one back.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon - Barner has had an incredible career, but he really exploded in his senior season, rushing for over 1700 yards and 20 touchdowns. Despite having great speed and explosiveness, he is not a kick returner. However, he does have all the tools to replace Mendenhall. Barner is projected as a third to fourth round pick.

Robbie Rouse, Fresno State - Rouse, at just 5-foot-7, 180 pounds, is very small in frame but unbelievable talented. In his senior season, he had over 1800 yards and 14 touchdowns combined in terms of rushing and receiving. While he did not return kicks in college, he does seem to have the ability to do that if a team wants him to. He is projected as a fourth to sixth round pick and is a very intriguing option.

Kerwynn Williams, Utah State - Williams is very similar to Rouse, at just 5-foot-8, 190 pounds. In his senior season, he ran for over 1500 yards and had over 650 receiving yards with 20 combined touchdowns. Like Rouse, he did not return kicks in college due to his importance to his team but he does seem to have the ability to do so at the next level. He is projected as a fifth to seventh round pick and I would love if the Steelers took a chance on him.

Denard Robinson, Michigan - Robinson is one of the most electric college quarterbacks of all time, but at the next level he is a receiver or a running back. The last four games of the season, he really showed a lot playing running back and he also has the elusiveness and craftiness to be a great NFL kick returner. He is projected as a fourth to sixth round pick and might be the best punt returner in the draft, despite never returning a kick in college.

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