Feeling the draft: Four running backs the Ravens could target

March 01, 2011|By Matt Vensel

In the weeks leading up to April's NFL draft, I will highlight four players at each position whom the Ravens could target at different stages in the draft -- from their top pick to their Mr. Irrelevant. In this post, I will focus on running backs.

Remember, I'm not saying the Ravens will take a running  back with their first-round pick, for example. I'm just giving you a player whom they might consider if they decided to go that route.

Here are four running backs the Ravens could have in their sights:

Round 1: Mikel Leshoure, Illinois. Expected to be selected late in the first round or early in the second, Leshoure is a big, powerful back who has drawn comparisons to another former Fighting Illini standout, Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall. If the Ravens do release Willis McGahee as my colleague Mike Preston recently reported, Leshoure would complement Ray Rice well because he runs hard between the tackles and has a nose for the goal line (20 total TDs in 2010). The chances of the Ravens drafting a running back in the first round are pretty slim, though.

Rounds 2-3: Demarco Murray, Oklahoma. Had Murray not struggled with injuries throughout his Sooners career, he would have more buzz at this point. He has a nice combination of size (he's 6-foot-1, 217 pounds) and speed (he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the scouting combine), and he was very good in the passing game at Oklahoma (he caught 71 passes for 594 yards in his senior year). I like Murray a lot when he is healthy.

Rounds 4-5: Stevan Ridley, LSU. Baltimore met with Ridley during the combine, and he is another physical back the Ravens could potentially team with Rice should they hand McGahee his walking papers. Ridley rumbled for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010. He lacks speed and elusiveness, but at 6-foot, 224 pounds, he's a tough guy to bring down when he runs the rock between the tackles.

Rounds 6-7: Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska. I was tempted to go with Evan Royster here, but I put my clear Penn State bias aside. Helu is another running back with good size, and he opened eyes a little bit at the combine by running a 4.42 40-yard dash. He carried the load for the Cornhuskers in 2009 and 2010, eclipsing 1,000 yards in each season and scoring 20 total touchdowns. Helu is a high-character guy, too, which is a plus.

OK, your turn: Which player, if any, should the Ravens target at this position during draft weekend?

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