NFL Draft Prospects by Position: Running backs

Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

The Steelers could let some combination of Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall walk this year. Odds are good they'll be taking a close look at several draft-eligible running backs. Here are the best prospects available in this year's draft.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the Steelers invested a pick in a running back in this year's draft. It doesn't have to be a first round pick; in fact, there are a few who could be found in the mid-to-later rounds who could excel in the Steelers' scheme.

Running backs

1. Christine Michael, Texas A&M University

At 5-foot-10 220 pounds Michael looks the part of an NFL running back. He has average long speed, surprising quickness for his size but most importantly he runs with a low pad level. He showed off his talent in all the measurable drills at the combine proving he is a man who works in the weight room on his craft. On tape he runs hard and is willing to block.

Why isn't he considered at the top of most lists? He has "character flags". What does that mean? He disagreed with the new coaching staff, as a senior and the departure of Cyrus Gray led Michael to believe he would be the primary ball carrier. The coaching staff wanted all their RBs to get touches that didn't sit right with Michael.

Early in the season, as Manziel went through his ups and downs, Michael tweeted during the game " Man run the ball!" this was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back and Summlin benched Michael. Michael got only 88 carries on the year but had 417 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also ejected from Texas A&M's win over FCS Sam Houston State.

Michael only major problem is he can't pass block but this is a technique issue not a factor of physical limitations. If we are talking about talent alone Michael may be the most talented in this class.

2. Eddie Lacy, University of Alabama

Lacy is 5-foot-11 231 pounds and a big back. He has good vision and quick feet for a back of his size. Lacy displays good balance and runs hard. He has subtle moves in the open field to make a defender miss, most notably his spin move. Lacy has good lower body strength and will carry defenders with him while falling forward.

He played in a pro-style offense and is no stranger to pass blocking as well; he is very good at it. Why then is Lacy second on this lis? For starters Lacy doesn't accelerate well and despite being a power back runs slightly upright. When he builds his speed his is hard to take down but before the hole he doesn't break many tackles. Lacy lack long speed and will be caught from behind. He doesn't have great lateral agility and won't be able to bounce a run backside. Lacy benefited from a great college O-line that allowed him to stay clean behind the line of scrimmage and build his speed. Once he did that he was deadly. Lacy is will be a good power back and in the NFL but he will be far from an Adrian Petersen franchise type running back.

3. Giovani Bernard, University of North Carolina

Bernard measured at the Combine 5-foot-8 202 pounds. He has average long speed, good but not great quickness and runs with a good pad level. He is young only a red-shirt sophomore but already has good vision. Bernard is an okay receiver out of the backfield. There aren't many negatives to Bernard's play on tape. He could get better at pass blocking but that's about it. What is hurting Bernard in the rankings? Well he does everything well but nothing elite. He doesn't have elite quickness, or speed and his current size prevent him from being a power back. He is young and could put some more bulk on his frame but it looks like Bernard will be a solid back in the NFL. In today's passing NFL that's all most teams are looking for.

4. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

5. Montee Ball, University of Wisconsin

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