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Brown, Benson at top


Rumors are the Jaguars are in the market for a running back. Rumors also are this year's crop of running backs is one of the strongest positions of the draft.

"Depth through the third and fourth rounds," draft analyst Tony Pauline said.

At the head of the running back class is Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Texas' Cedric Benson. Both are top-10 prospects who present little in the way of doubt about their football futures.

Brown, 6-1, 223, is a big, fast, physical running back who can run, catch and block. He became the complete package during his senior season at Auburn and could go as high as second in the draft, to Miami, where new head coach Nick Saban has a sincere appreciation of Brown's skills from Saban's days in the SEC.

"He won't get past Arizona (at number eight)," Pauline said of Brown.

The only question about Brown is how he'll handle the role of a feature back. At Auburn, Brown shared time with Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

Benson, 6-0, 225, is a Ricky Williams look-alike. Benson could overtake Brown with a home-run pro-day workout, but at this point in time it would seem Benson made a mistake in not working out at the scouting combine. Benson can run and catch but was not asked to block at Texas. He's a squat and powerful back in the Ricky Williams mold, but also has a little bit of Williams in his personality. He comes off as aloof and prone to make silly statements, which present an element of risk potential.

Carnell Williams, 5-11, 207, isn't the "pounder" the pro game prefers, but he weighed 217 at the combine and ran well. Williams is an explosive runner with the position's best cutting skills. He's a solid receiver, a willing blocker and a game-breaking punt-returner. "You just don't know if he's a heavy-duty back who can take the punishment on the NFL level," Pauline said. Williams figures to go before the first round hits the midway point.

Minnesota's Marion Barber III, 5-11, 215, is a complete back with great bloodlines. His father played for the Jets. Barber is deceptively strong, big enough to be his own blocker and can catch out of the backfield. He's a top-of-the-second-round candidate.

Louisville's Eric Shelton, 6-3, 245, is the "pounder" every team wants. He's a big, bruising back who runs over tacklers with ease. He moves the pile, is tough to bring down, has good vision, follows his blocks and shows some ability to break the long run. Marginal pass-catching and blocking skills could move him down into the middle of the second round. He is a one-dimensional back.

Oklahoma State's Vernand Morency, 5-11, 210, is a classic Big 12 straight-line runner. Morency is strong and offers great straight-line speed. He has a strong lower body and is tough to bring down once he gets going, but he lacks cutback skills and is not a pass-catcher. The biggest knock on him is his age. He's on the other side of 25, having played semi-pro baseball.

Jacksonville native Ciatrick Fason, 6-0, 212, is another second-round guy. Fason is a productive back who Pauline describes as someone who "plays better than it looks." Fason projects well for the next level. He catches well.

Ryan Moats, 5-9, 208, is the best of the third-down prospects. Moats, from Louisiana Tech, is quick and elusive. He's an excellent pass-catcher and figures to go early in round three.

California's J.J. Arrington, 5-11, 210, is an explosive and smart straight-line runner who also offers third-down pass-catching potential. Arrington did not play well at the Senior Bowl but rebounded with an excellent combine workout. He figures to be a first-day pick.

West Virginia's K.J. Harris is a big, strong back who shows flashes of brilliance, but he hasn't been ultra-consistent or tough, and his age, 27, is going to turn some teams off. He's a first-day candidate.

Other runners with first-day potential are: Miami's Frank Gore, Southern Illinois' Brandon Jacobs, Wisconsin's Anthony Davis, Syracuse's Walter Reyes, Tennessee's Cedric Houston, Kansas State's Darren Sproles and North Carolina State's T.A. McLendon.

The fullback crop appears to offer three first-day candidates: Nehemiah Broughton of The Citadel, Manuel White Jr. of UCLA, and Zach Tuiasosopo of Washington.

Broughton, 5-11, 252, was a feature runner in college but needs to move to fullback in the NFL. He performed well at the position at the Senior Bowl. He's an adequate pass-catcher and blocker.

White, 6-3, 255, was a feature runner in college, too. White worked out OK at the Senior Bowl.

Tuiasosopo, 6-2, 245, is a good athlete. His father and brother played in the NFL. He's an explosive lead-blocker who can run and catch.

Noah Herron, 5-11, 230, was an oversized feature runner at Northwestern. He is capable of making the position switch.

Michigan's Kevin Dudley, 5-11, 235, is a situational lead-blocker who appears to be a sixth offensive lineman.

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