Colts Position Grades and Draft Upgrades: Running Back


This writing series will be focusing on the Indianapolis Colts different position groups week-to-week and how the team can improve each position group, specifically through the draft. So without any more hesitation, let’s begin. This week, we’ll be analyzing the running back position group. To see last week’s post on the quarterback position, click here.

Running backs on roster:   Vick Ballard, Jeff Demps, Frank Gore, Daniel “Boom” Herron, Zurlon Tipton

Running back position grade: B-

There are 26 running backs in this year’s draft, and the Colts would be smart to try to select at least one. After a running back position last year that started full of promise that Trent Richardson was going to live up to the first round pick the Colts gave up to get him, he proved to be one of the greatest disasters in Colts history, behind Jeff George of course. But then Ahmad Bradshaw seemed to return to form and gave the Colts 425 rushing yards over a 10 game stretch. This came to an end when Bradshaw ran into (get it, ran?) more injury trouble when he fractured his fibula during the team’s November 16th Sunday night regular season loss to the Patriots.

Sep 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) runs for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Levi

Fortunately, the Colts had Daniel “Boom” Herron to help them in the backfield for the rest of the season and playoffs. Herron had 351 yards on 78 touches throughout the season and was a breath of fresh air to an otherwise woeful ground game.

However, now it is a new year, and with a new year comes the hope of a new player bringing new life to a position that has haunted the Colts for years. Frank Gore is the new running back that has every single Colts fan holding their breath until the moment he first touches the ball. Gore is the reason I gave this position what I believe to be a generous grade at a B-. Without Gore, it easily drops to a C.

Gore was 9th in rushing last year with 1,106 yards. At 31 years old, this was a pretty impressive feat. Coming up on his 11th season in the league, Frank Gore has had over 1,000 yards rushing in all but two seasons, his 2005 rookie season in which he only started one game and still managed to end up with 608 rushing yards, and in 2010, where he was on pace to break 1,000 yards with 853 rushing yards but fractured his hip in week 12 and was sent to injured reserve.

Frank Gore will bring productivity to the running back position, but he is older and only has 1 or, hopefully 2 years left of being a starting back you can count on. This is why it wouldn’t hurt to take a young running back in one of the later rounds of this year’s draft. This will allow the Colts to groom a young running back, who most likely will need time to adjust to the NFL style of play anyways.

Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Dan Herron (36) against the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Herron may never be a feature running back, as he is already in his third season and has 389 rush yards to show for it. Vick Ballard is a running back similar to Ahmad Bradshaw, as he has proven to be productive but is injury prone. If Ballard can remain healthy then there is a possibility that he becomes a solid back behind Gore and could split reps with Gore in order to preserve Gore for his entire 3-year contract. Also, don’t expect Tipton and Demps to stick around for long after cuts to trim the team down to the final 53-man roster.

Now the big question is, which running backs are worth taking? There are the obvious first round picks in Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, and then the mid-round picks (Rounds 2-4) in Jay Ajayi, Duke Johnson, Tevin Coleman, T.J. Yeldon, Ameer Abdullah, David Johnson, Mike Davis, Javorius Allen, and David Cobb.

After all these backs are off the board, granted that they are all drafted in the rounds they are projected to be drafted, there are 15 backs left that the Colts can put on their radar, Jeremy Langford, Cameron Artis-Payne, Josh Robinson, Terrence MaGee, Kenny Hilliard, Dominique Brown, John Crockett, Matt Jones, Michael Dyer, Dee Hart, Malcolm Brown, Tre Williams, Zach Zenner, Karlos Williams, and Marcus Coker.

Out of those 15 running backs, there are about 7 that are probably going to go undrafted and hit the free agency market, Michael Dyer, Dee Hart, Malcolm Brown, Tre Williams, Zach Zenner, Karlos Williams, and Marcus Coker. This leaves 8 backs for the Colts to choose from: Jeremy Langford, Cameron Artis-Payne, Josh Robinson, Terrence MaGee, Kenny Hilliard, Dominique Brown, John Crockett, and Matt Jones. Out of these running backs, there are only 2 that would project to do well with the Colts. Both of these backs aren’t power backs, the Colts should be weary of power backs after the whole Trent Richardson fiasco.

Sep 14, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Terrence Magee (14) before a game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2 running backs are Terrence MaGee and John Crockett. Both of these backs had bad 40 times which made their draft stock drop, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t good running backs. Rather, it means that they could be a steal in the later rounds.

The average 40 time for running backs is 4.59 seconds. MaGee got a time of 4.56 at his pro day after choosing not to participate which led to his draft stock falling. Crockett got a time of 4.62 which puts him slightly above the 4.59 seconds average, but an upside for Crockett is that he was stellar in the blitz pick-up drill which would be good for the Colts because Andrew Luck has a QBR of 74.5 against the blitz and adding a back who specializes in blitz pick-up could add to a higher QBR for Luck. MaGee and Crockett both have good receiving skills; MaGee had 24 receptions for 227 yards, while Crockett had 43 receptions for 485 yards and one touchdown.

Both of these backs would be good options for the Colts. When a team gets to the later rounds, it is all about taking a chance on a player and hope they discover a diamond in the rough like Russell Wilson. By adding Frank Gore and still having both Ballard and Herron as backups, the Colts can afford to take a shot and draft one of these young running backs without having to have them be starting caliber backs at the moment.

And if all else fails, Adrian Peterson is looking for a new home right? (just kidding)

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