To say Bruce Arians is high on the running backs in the 2015 draft class would be a bit of an understatement.
“I think this might be the best group, top to bottom, that I’ve seen in about 10 years,” he said Wednesday at the NFC Coaches Breakfast during the annual NFL Meetings. “There are some teams in college now running the ball.
“Not just the top two or four guys, but all the way down. There are 15 really quality running backs in this draft.”
Arians didn’t elaborate on which players he likes — why would he? — but when the Arizona Cardinals coach was asked if he thinks his team will add one of them in the draft, he answered, “I think we’ll have a chance to get one we really like.”
Ideally, the coach said, the team would find a “big, fast back,” and that he thinks one could probably be nabbed as late as round four or five.
Though the Cardinals did not add a running back in last year’s draft, they selected two in 2013. Arizona is set to have eight picks in the 2015 draft, with them owning the 24th, 55th, 86th, 123rd, 159th, 197th, 241st and 256th overall selections.
Given Arians’ statements, you’d have to believe at least one of those will be used on a running back, and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, as a guest of Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday, said there is no shortage of quality in this draft, with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley as the top two on the board.
Gordon ran for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. He won the Doak Walker Award, and was selected first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten.
Gurley was on a similar pace as Gordon last season, but missed seven games — the first four due to an investigation over violations of NCAA rules, and the latter three due to a torn ACL.
Both are big and fast, and would seem to fit the mold Arians is looking for.
“Those are the top two guys — I have them touching each other on my sequence list,” Jeremiah said. “I think I have Gordon as my 16th overall player, maybe, and Gurley as my 17th, but that’s kind of wondering about Gurley’s knee and everything I’m getting back is that the knee is going to be fine, so that could very easily flip. Those are the two premier guys, I think they’re first-round guys.”
After them, Jeremiah said Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, who ran for 1,823 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, is someone he really likes, but if a team decides not to go with a running back in the first round, they’ll have plenty more opportunity to land some talent later on.
“There’s depth,” he said. “You can go over the next three rounds and you can get a guy that’s got a lot of tools.”
The analyst pointed to Nebraska’s Ameer Abudllah as someone who is bit on the small side but is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and then Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Minnesota’s David Cobb.
“It’s one of the deeper crops of running backs that we’ve had in quite some time,” he said.