While there is a healthy debate on the best prospect available for most positions in the 2011 NFL Draft, Alabama's Mark Ingram has already wrapped up the title of "Best RB Available."
Ingram certainly projects as a 1st Round selection this April, with a top ten selection not out of the question.
Whenever you are looking at drafting a player in the first round, the intangibles are often just as important as what you can see on the field. Teams are very wary of picking another Ryan Leaf or Charles Rogers. This former Heisman Trophy recipient certainly seems to act the part. Gentry Estes, former Alabama and current Georgia reporter had this to say on Ingram's commitment to the game.
"From Mark Ingram's first practice at Alabama, he impressed coaches with his maturity and overall knowledge and passion for the game," Estes stated. "Football was just so important to him. Because of that, he never got full of himself or complacent."
A great mental state can get you so far, but you do need some talent to make it in the NFL. Ingram doesn't disappoint in that area either. His power and speed combination is rare, allowing him to be nearly equally effective inside and outside the tackles. He also excels in the passing game, although his protection skills need a bit of polish.
Ingram Highlight Video - Youtube.com
Perhaps the only thing holding Ingram back from being an even higher pick in 2011 is the lack of bad teams that need a new ball-carrier. That said, these three teams certainly could use an upgrade at the position.
Unfortunately for Ingram, perhaps the first team that has a realistic need at running back is Washington, with Clinton Portis unable to be counted upon and Rex Grossman in need of a strong running game. Mike Shanahan has never been one to draft RB's too high, but Dan Snyder might enjoy making a glitzy pick.
Miami certainly seem like a natural fit for Ingram, as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams might be on their way out. Ingram also has extensive experience in the Wildcat offense, although that might be a moot point with the Dolphins quarterbacks coach David Lee, "inventor" of the Wildcat, leaving for Ole Miss.
New England is another team that could use some youth at the running back position, as Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor aren't getting any younger. The Patriots have a legitimate starter in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but a 1-2-3 punch of Ingram, Green-Ellis, and Danny Woodhead would make an incredible offense even more dangerous.
If Ingram ends up in the right system, with a decent offensive line in front of him, the sky is the limit for his NFL future. One need only look to Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, another small but powerful back that has nary a weakness to be found, to see what Ingram might become.
If teams aren't able to land Ingram, there are a few consolation prizes out there.
Ingram Not The Only Option
Demarco Murray, Oklahoma - You can't say it better than Mervin Johnson, OU football announcer. "You knew that he would get his yards, but you couldn’t predict how. The yards might come from rushing,receiving or kick returns---or all of the above."
Mikel Leshoure, Illinois - This junior tailback is a powerful runner that also has enough speed to take it to the house. He doesn't have the vision of a Pro Bowler at this point of his career, but he has enough raw talent to intrigue lots of teams.
Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech - Very few collegiate backs have the burst and power of Williams, but his lack of production in the receving game will be a concern to many NFL teams.
Shane Vereen, Cal - Running backs from Cal have been hot lately (Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Jahvid Best) and Vereen shouldn't disappoint. A north/south style of runner, Vereen is content with gaining chunks of 6-7 yards rather than going for the homerun. His receiving skills are also top-notch.
James Christensen's scouting updates will appear here on PatriotsInsider.com throughout the year. James is the publisher of NEPatriotsDraft.com, an independent website dedicated to covering the NFL Draft and college prospects with professional potential.