NFL Draft 2008: A Look At Ray Rice

NFL Draft 2008: A Look At Ray Rice

Ray Rice is one of the most celebrated running backs in Rutgers history, setting a plethora of individual season and career records during his three years on the Banks. But how will former RU superstar Ray Rice, who declared for the National Football League draft shortly after completing his junior season earlier this year, translate to the pro game?

"He's a special guy with explosiveness. He is a hard-nosed guy who does not play small," said Tom Marino, Scout.com's NFL expert and veteran of more than two decades of pro scouting. "The thing he does best is he is so competitive."

Marino compiled a comprehensive draft guide detailing every player expected to be drafted as well as many who likely will end up on the outside looking in at the end of the two-day draft April 26-27 in New York.

The expert sees Rice as a potential first-day pick but more likely an early pick in Round 3 on the second day of the draft. He was surprised by Rice's quickness at the NFL Combine Feb. 23-26 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Rice was clocked at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"His legs are short. I thought he would run a 4.7, but he ran closer to 4.4," said Marino.

Marino describes Rice as a "little bit like a Barry Sanders-type back," being careful to note that the 5-foot-8-inch Rice is not in the same league as the legendary Heisman Trophy winner and pro football hall of famer. Marino also acknowledged comparisons to current Jacksonville Jaguar running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a diminutive 5-7 back out of UCLA who has made a splash through his first two seasons in the NFL. Jones-Drew was selected by the Jaguars in the second round of the 2006 draft and has been used as a situational back as well as a return man on kickoffs and punts.

"He's not as thick as Jones-Drew, but Ray Rice looks a lot quicker to me than Jones-Drew did," said Marino, adding that Rice plays bigger than his size would indicate. "He does not play small. . . . When you see him you don't think of him as a strong guy, but he is."

Ironically, one of Rice's drawbacks is his competiveness. Rice attacks defenders and tries to punish tacklers, something that will give him a short shelf life in the NFL, Marino said.

"One thing he can't do that Sanders was able to do . . . he's not going to fold any runs. The body only has so many wars in it," said Marino, noting that even the best NFL feature backs tend to last six or seven years. "He has to learn that, just like quarterbacks, you can't win every down."

Marino said that Rice, while a true north-south runner in college, is not an every down back in the NFL. He rates Rice behind the likes of Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, Tulane's Matt Forte, Texas running back Jamaal Charles and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, among others.

"If Rice had stayed for his senior year, in all likelihood, he would have been the No. 1 back," said Marino, who listed among Rice's drawbacks his lack of experience as a pass receiver.

Rice's best chance for success in the NFL is to end up with a team that will use him as a special situation back who gets roughly a dozen touches per game, Marino said, suggesting that Rice can make a name for himself as a kick returner.

"When teams are in a nickel formation, then Rice is a starter. If need be, he's very capable of being the go-to guy for two-to-three games," said Marino, who likes Rice's ability to hit the hole quickly and to use his blockers to his advantage. "He's going to make it, no doubt in my mind."

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