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Prospect Watch: Running Backs

Written by Dan Gigler on .

An occasional look at potential 2012 NFL Draft picks for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Previous installments featured Memphis DT Dontari Poe, Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu, Georgia OL Cordy Glenn, Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower, Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Stanford OT Jonathan Martin, Ole Miss OT Bobbie Massie, Iowa State OL Kelechi Osemele and Midwestern State OL Amini Silatolu, and Wisconson OG Kevin Zeitler and Miami (OH) OG Brandon Brooks and Alabama DT Josh Chapman.

lamichael-james
A Steelers uniform would be a sartorial upgrade for James.
Today: Oregon RB LaMichael James and Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead.

 

A pair of running backs that the Steelers had in for pre-draft visits and may be considerations for day two of the draft: Oregon's Lamichael James and Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead.

Both had prolific college careers.

James is Oregon's all-time leading rusher. He was the Pac-12's leading rusher for the past two seasons, and the NCAA's leader in 2010. According to his Wikipedia page, he was clocked at 24 miles per hour on a run during a 2011 game against Cal.

James was the Pac-12 Championship game MVP and was a big factor in the Ducks Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. He was an academic All-American, but did get in some legal trouble while at Oregon. His personal story is incredible.

 

isaiah-pead
Pead has already had success at Heinz Field, as this picture indicates.
A thousand-yard rusher each of the last two seasons, Pead was the Big East rushing leader in 2011 and the Senior Bowl MVP.

 

They are shifty speedsters, breakaway backs in the open field, and Pead in particular is a good pass catcher. If they pan out, they'd potentially be nice compliments to the bruising running style of Isaac Redman and John Clay.

These guys are ranked almost identically according to numerous experts -- NFL.com's Mike Mayock has James as the No. 4 back in the draft, and Pead no. 5; CBS/NFLDraftScout.com have Pead no. 6, James, no. 7; SB Nation's Mocking the Draft blog has James at no. 8, Pead at no. 9; the National Football Post has James no. 9 and Pead no. 10.

Excerpts from the experts on James and Pead:

LaMichael James

NFL.com: James had a decorated career at Oregon and started all but two games after redshirting in 2007. An invitee to the Heisman Trophy presentation the past two years, James has been the most electric and productive player on a very impressive offense. He was an ideal fit for the unique zone blocking scheme run by Chip Kelly and has shown many traits that are transferable to the NFL. Teams could get hung up on his size, but he has shown quality traits on a consistent basis.

National Football Post: Impression: A quick footed, fluid scat back who doesn't break many tackles, but has the ability to make NFL defender miss and accelerate quickly toward daylight. Will be limited inside, but as a 3rd down/special teams type option I think he can be a better NFL runner than Falcons 5th round pick Jacquizz Rodgers because of his ability to make defenders miss consistently.

Mocking the Draft: James has good athleticism and competes on every snap. He was perhaps the most dangerous open field running back in college football at attacking the perimeter while at Oregon. James was very consistent with his production, in three years he totaled 4,923 yards rushing and scored 52 rushing touchdowns. He is aggressive when attacking the outside and cutback lanes. Overall, I feel in time James will have an impact on a NFL team such as ex-Eagles running back Brian Westbrook with their comparable styles.

CBS/NFLDraftScout scouting report on James.

Pro Football Weekly video capsule on James:

Isaiah Pead

NFL.com: Pead is an electrifying running back who has produced in all areas. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, make a guy miss and turn upfield for a score, or run inside the tackles. He uses his vision and athletic ability to find a hole. There are few question marks about Pead's skill set; some may worry about his play transferring to the next level, as he has shown the tendency to disappear at time. Pead should be one of the first three backs taken in the draft, with second-round value.

National Football Post: Impression: An explosive running back with the initial burst to press space quickly, put his foot in the ground and side step a defender. However, isn't natural inside between the tackles and isn't going to create on his own if there isn't a big hole there. A space runner who will be looked at as more of a zone guy or third down back to most teams.

Mocking the Draft: Strengths: Pead had good acceleration when planting his foot in the ground and bursting up field. Shows off excellent agility to stop and cut without a wasted motion. ... Receiving skill makes him a good third down option.Caught 87 passes for 721 yards at Cincinnati. Weaknesses: Gets too reliant on getting outside the tackle box and isn't fast enough to always get to the corner first. Not an especially strong runner ...

CBS/NFLDraftScout scouting report on Pead

Pro Football Weekly video capsule on Pead:

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