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Scouting report: RBs

Ranking the running backs in the NFL draft

Boise State's Doug Martin is among a running back crop that might see only one player chosen in the first round of the draft.

Matt Cilley/AP

Boise State's Doug Martin is among a running back crop that might see only one player chosen in the first round of the draft.

The Boston Globe examines the top running backs available in the 2012 NFL draft. Players are listed with position, school, height, weight, and 40-yard dash time. * denotes underclassman:

1. Trent Richardson, Alabama*/5-9 ¼ /228/4.48

The best prospect at the position since Adrian Peterson was the seventh overall pick in 2007. Was the most talented back on the Crimson Tide the past two season even when splitting time with ’11 first-round pick Mark Ingram. Built like a tank with tremendous vision and a physical running style. Great after first contact. Coming off a knee scope.

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Projected round: 1

2. Doug Martin, Boise State/5-9/223/4.45

Compact and thick, Martin plays similar to Ravens running back Ray Rice. Loves to play and is a great competitor. Very good vision and cut-back ability. Was impressive at the Senior Bowl, and even took out future first-round pick Melvin Ingram with a cut block. Fearless. Has been nicked up do to physical running style

Projected round: 1-2

3. David Wilson, Virginia Tech*/5-9 ½ /206/4.43

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Explosive playmaker that can be boom or bust due to questionable instincts. Will take a loss and put the ball on the ground. Would fit best in a zone running scheme. Has lined up at receiver and will return kickoffs at the next level. Needs development in the pass game with blitz pickup.

Projected round: 1-2

4. Lamar Miller, Miami*/5-10 ½ /212/4.40

A redshirt-sophomore with only one year of starting experience. Tremendous speed to be a big-play threat, but didn’t always play to it. Played through a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness. Can run inside or outside. Needs to develop physically to take NFL pounding. Wasn’t as effective late in the season.

Projected round: 2-3

5. Chris Polk, Washington*/5-10 ½ /215/4.57

Solid all-round back that is built well to take a pounding so he is well-suited for an every-down back role. Will not go down on first contact. Doesn’t have great speed and lacks the explosion of the better backs. Has had shoulder and knee injuries. Will need to pass block better.

Projected round: 2-3

6. LaMichael James, Oregon*/5-8/194/4.45

Outstanding speed and agility but is small and not well-built. Will contribute as a kick returner. Had injury and character issues – including a domestic violence incident -- dating back to high school. Those could push him down the draft board. But highly productive (5,082 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns) so a team will like something.

Projected round: 2-3

7. Bernard Pierce, Temple*/6-0 ¼ /218/4.49

Looks like a franchise running back with a very good size/speed package and has potential if he wants it. Runs high and does not run away from anybody despite his timed speed. Takes a while to get going. Doesn’t show a willingness to run inside. Will need to prove his toughness.

Projected round: 3-4

8. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati/5-10/197/4.47

Showed good vision and mobility in a one-back spread option offense. Operates well in space. Not a between-the-tackles, every-down runner. Could be solid complimentary piece. Maturity was questioned early in his career but that could be behind him. Senior Bowl MVP after returning two long punts.

Projected round: 3-4

9. Edwin Baker, Michigan State*/5-8/204/4.47

Got lost in the Spartans’ talented backfield as a junior, but had a standout sophomore campaign. Nicknamed “Rock” because of his physique. A bit underrated but he can do everything well except catch the ball. Another back in the Ray Rice mold but not as explosive.

Projected round: 3-4

10. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M/5-10 ½ /206/4.47

Another under-the-radar player who is well rounded. Returned kickoffs and caught over 100 passes. Gets up to speed quickly. Showed great leadership and a team-first attitude by splitting time in the Aggies’ backfield. Very similar to former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis in that he gets what’s blocked, but with more speed.

Projected round: 3-4

Best of the rest

11. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State* (5-9, 200, 4.45, 3-4); 12. Chris Rainey, Florida (5-8 ½, 180, 4.45, 4-5); 13. Robert Turbin, Utah State (5-10, 222, 4.50, 4-5); 14. Terrance Ganaway, Baylor (5-11 ½, 239, 4.61, 5-6); 15. Tauren Poole, Tennessee (5-10, 205, 4.54, 5-6); 16. Dan Herron, Ohio State (5-10, 213, 4.57, 5-6); 17. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State (5-10 ¼ , 219, 4.65, 5-6); 18. Brandon Bolden, Mississippi (5-11, 222, 4.66, 5-6).

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard.
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