Three of the top eight rushers in the NFL in 2008 were rookies, but predicting who will emerge as the top first-year back this season is a crapshoot due to injuries and unsettled roles.
After an eight-day holdout, the first running back selected in April, Denver's Knowshon Moreno at No. 12 overall, spent a week in training camp before spraining his knee in the team's preseason opener. He'll be sidelined a few weeks and combined with a backfield that includes veterans Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan, it's impossible to know what Moreno's workload will look like the first half of the season.
Donald Brown, selected with the 31st overall pick, continues to impress the Colts, although at best he'll receive consistent snaps as Joseph Addai's backup.
Beanie Wells appeared to land in as good a spot as any rookie running back. Arizona selected him No. 31 overall, and is in desperate need of a solid ground game to complement its high-powered passing attack. But Wells suffered a sprained ankle in his first training camp practice and is only now ready to return to the field. That could well mean Tim Hightower opens the season getting the bulk of the carries.
LeSean McCoy is also worth keeping an eye on, if for no other reason than he's the default go-to back if injury-prone Brian Westbrook isn't able to stay on the field.
A pair of sixth-round picks could also surprise if given the opportunity. James Davis is a bruising runner who has opened eyes in Cleveland, where Jamal Lewis is clearly on the backside of his career. And Aaron Brown has displayed blazing speed and athleticism. Kevin Smith is the featured back, but if Brown can improve his blocking enough to get on the field, he could potentially bring a home-run threat Smith lacks.
Scout NFL News