Buccaneers Draft Need: Running backs

In the fourth of a series of articles profiling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2008 NFL Draft needs, Matthew Postins examines what the Bucs have at a key position, who they could draft and what kind of impact that player could have. Also, look for links to stories, video and audio of players the Bucs could draft throughout the article.

Did you miss Bucsblitz.com publisher Matthew Postins' appearance on the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" show? Don't worry. Click here to link to our story on the appearance, plus a link to the video clip.


RUNNING BACK

WHAT THE BUCS HAVE

Earnest Graham (starter), Carnell Williams (injured), Warrick Dunn, Michael Bennett, Kenneth Darby.

WHY THE NEED?

The Bucs appear to have enough at the position on paper, but the nagging question is Williams. His injury, a patellar tendon tear, is a dangerous enough injury to cloud his NFL future. He believes he'll be ready to play at some point in 2008. General manager Bruce Allen believes the earliest Williams could be ready is training camp. Most experts on Williams' injury think that's stretching it.

Graham is a solid back, but not a game-breaker. He's physical enough to move the chains and talented enough to catch passes. But he's not your typical No.1 back. Dunn and Bennett are complements to Graham, and insurance if the former Florida Gators star gets hurt.

This draft is deep in running backs, and what the Bucs really need — if they choose to draft a back — is a physical back in the Deuce McAllister mode who can complement the speedier backs, plus become the No. 1 back in the future if Williams is never able to regain his full ability. Drafting a back in Dunn's mold is unlikely. Oregon back Jonathan Stewart, a back in the McAllister mode, is coming to Tampa for a visit, but is also hurt.

If the Bucs take a back, it likely won't be in the first round, unless a value like Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall falls to No. 20 and tempts them.

THE TOP FIVE

Here are the top five running backs in this draft, according to Scout.com:

Darren McFadden (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), Arkansas — So well regarded that the Dallas Cowboys can't shake those rumors that they'll trade up. Scout.com's Tom Marino says he's the best back to enter the NFL Draft in two decades.

Rashard Mendenhall (5-foot-10 1/2, 215 pounds), Illinois — He appears to be the most complete back in the draft. He can run with power, has breakaway speed and can catch passes out of the backfield. He likely won't fall past No. 15.

Chris Johnson (5-foot-10, 201 pounds), East Carolina — He has blazing speed (sub-4.3) and is versatile enough to rush, receive and return kicks. The concerns are obvious — can he take the physical pounding and can he help with picking up the blitz?

Jamaal Charles (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), Texas — Another speedy, productive back that offers help in the return game. Marino considers Charles a one-cut back with solid vision and good balance, but doesn't see him as a three-down back as a rookie.

Felix Jones (6-foot, 207 pounds), Arkansas — The Hogs' complement to McFadden, Jones has plenty of speed, quickness and cutting ability to make tacklers miss. Scouts aren't sure if he can be a three-down back, as he's always been a backup.

GET TO KNOW THEM

Want to know more about these prospects, plus other RBs the Bucs could be interested in? Check out the links below.

West Virginia running back Steve Slaton talks about his combine:

McFadden speaks before his workout in Indianapolis:

Rutgers' Ray Rice talks about the draft:

Tulane's Matt Forte talks about being underestimated:

Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall talks to reporters:

Oregon's Jonathan Stewart talks football before news of his injury:


Matthew Postins of Bucsblitz.com has released his third Buccaneers Mock Draft of 2008. How did he shake things up this time around? Find out by clicking here.


Bucsblitz.com is kicking off its "Bucs Scouting Report" series today with Kentucky LB Wesley Woodyard. Find out more about Woodyard, why the Bucs could be interested in him and what our Scout.com personnel guru Tom Marino and others have to say about him. Get the scoop right here.


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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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