Carolina Panthers

2015 NFL draft: Top 10 running backs available

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) is a rare combination of size and speed. The only question is how well he will return from a November knee injury.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) is a rare combination of size and speed. The only question is how well he will return from a November knee injury. Getty Images

The Observer’s top 10 running backs available in the 2015 NFL draft:

1. Todd Gurley

College: Georgia.

Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 222.

Projected round: 1st.

Comment: Rare combination of size and speed. Should be ready to play as rookie following knee surgery.

2. Melvin Gordon

College: Wisconsin.

Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215.

Projected round: 1st.

Comment: When you’re threatening to break records held by Barry Sanders, you’ve had a good season.

3. Tevin Coleman

College: Indiana.

Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 206.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Averaged 7.5 yards per carry his last two seasons with Hoosiers.

4. Ameer Abdullah

College: Nebraska.

Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 205.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Small stature allows him to hide behind blockers; had four 200-yard rushing games last year.

5. Duke Johnson

College: Miami.

Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 207.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Versatile, short back who is Miami’s No. 2 all-purpose yardage leader.

6. Jay Ajayi

College: Boise State.

Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 221.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Finished college career strong after early discipline and injury issues.

7. David Johnson

College: Northern Iowa.

Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 224.

Projected round: 2nd-3rd.

Comment: Big, physical runner who did 25 reps on pro bench at combine.

8. Jeremy Langford

College: Michigan State.

Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 209.

Projected round: 3rd.

Comment: Quick, explosive back ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds in Indianapolis.

9. T.J. Yeldon

College: Alabama.

Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 226.

Projected round: 3rd.

Comment: Running style too upright; battled ankle and hamstring injuries last season.

10. David Cobb

College: Minnesota.

Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 229.

Projected round: 4th.

Comment: Worked out for scouts this month after an injured quad sidelined him at combine.

Panthers’ perspective

Ron Rivera wants to maintain a two-back system, even with DeAngelo Williams now in Pittsburgh. Besides Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers’ other backs are either short-yardage specialists (Mike Tolbert) or change-of-pace backs (Fozzy Whittaker, Jordan Todman). If Gurley or Gordon somehow slips to No. 25, Dave Gettleman needs to grab him.

Local connection

Former Butler High RB Jahwan Edwards was Ball State’s career leader with 4,558 rushing yards and 51 touchdowns. Edwards has the size and strength to play at the next level, but his slow 40 time (4.8 seconds) at the combine likely means he’ll have to make it as an undrafted free agent.

Sleeper

South Carolina’s Mike Davis began the season as one of the top running back prospects, but his stock has fallen a bit after a modest, 927-yard rushing season. Davis was slowed by nagging injuries and scouts wondered if he was in good condition. But he’s a proven SEC back when healthy who could be a mid-round find for a team looking for running help.

Worth noting

So much for the devaluation of the running back position. After no back was picked in the first round in the past two drafts, both Gurley and Gordon are expected to be first-rounders this year. ... Davis’ older brother James was a standout running back at Clemson. The younger Davis was planning to take a recruiting visit to Clemson, but committed to the Gamecocks. ... Southern Cal has morphed from Tailback U. to Quarterback U. The last USC tailbacks drafted were Allen Bradford (6th round) and Stanley Havili (7th) in 2011. But the Trojans’ Javorious Allen is expected to be a mid-round pick.

Joseph Person

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