Last year, three rookie running backs absolutely stunned the league by coming out of nowhere and becoming star running backs. Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, Steve Slaton of the Houston Texans and Kevin Smith of the Detroit Lions. These three running backs were all draft picks in the 2008 NFL draft, the same that produced Darren McFadden, who is unluckily stuck on the horrible and not getting better Oakland Raiders, Rashard Mendenhall, who lost most of his rookie year to injury trouble with the Steelers, and Jonathan Stewart, who made a formidable tag team with DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. Each one of these guys, Fort??, Smith, and Slaton each had a very strong college careers. But why didn't they get drafted higher if they were so good?How did these three stars get drafted so low?
Matthew Garrett Forte was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, December 10 1985. Forte attended Slidell High School in Slidell, Louisiana and graduated as an honors student and a letterman in football and track. Forte went on to play football at Division I School Tulane. While he was always among the stars on the Tulane football team, he never became a standout until his senior year when he set the Tulane records door rushing with 2127 yards and 23 touchdowns. With momentum on his side, Forte was the star at the 2008 Senior Bowl receiving the MVP and helping his draft status greatly. Fortewent on to be drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bears.
When Forte was originally drafted by the Chicago Bears, he was originally going to compete with Cedric Benson, now star running back of the Bengals, and Adrian Peterson(no not that one). But after Benson ran into legal issues, Forte had little competition left with Peterson and second year running back Garrett Wolfe. Forte made his NFL debut on September 7th, 2008 against the Indianapolis Colts, carrying the ball 23 times and 123 yards, and one touchdown.
The top running back picked in the 2008 draft was Darren McFadden, and yet Forte had a much better season. Although McFadden had considerably less carries than Forte, had McFadden taken the same number of carries as Forte at the pace he was going, McFadden would've had 404 less yards. McFadden also would've had less receiving yards. The Raiders could've had a running back with a larger skill set for a later round pick. Overall I think Forewill be a much stronger running back than McFadden will ever be. I think Fort?? is the second best NFL running back, only behind the immortal Adrian Peterson.
Steve Slaton was born on January 4, 1986 in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Steve Slaton played for Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. Slaton got many scholarship offers, such as North Carolina, Maryland, and Rutgers, but chose West Virginia over them.
Slaton was a star throughout college. From his freshman year all the way to his Junior year, his last year at WVU. Slaton was the MVP of the 2006 Sugar Bowl in his freshman year. Slaton continued his success thought his junior year. He finished the year with 1744 on 248 carries with 16 touchdowns muscling through with a wrist injury. Slaton's junior season was the worst year in his college career. Slaton was often injured during his junior season, not helping his draft status.
Slaton was drafted by the Houston Texans with the 89th overall pick in the third round. Slaton rushed 13 times for 43 yards and caught three passes for six yards. Slaton's season just went up-hill from there. Slaton was named the AFC player of the Week. Slaton finished the season with the most yards among the rookie running backs with 1282 yards and sixth in the NFL.
The McFadden comparison comes again. Slaton had a much better season than Slaton. Slaton ran for the most rushing yards as a rookie while McFadden was not even close. Slaton was also much better in the passing game. Overall, I think Slaton may have a more NFL ready game and is more of an NFL type player than McFadden. Slaton will have a slightly better career than McFadden.
And then there was Kevin Smith, the highest rusher in the history of NCAA Football. Kevin Smith was born on December 17th, 1986 in Miami, Florida. Smith attended Southridge High School in Miami, Florida. He attended the University of Central Florida.
Kevin Smith had an amazing college career. He became Central Florida's all time leading rusher in just three seasons. He had 905 carries for 4864 yards. In Smith's last season at UCF, he was a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. After his historic junior year, Smith was the first consensus All-American from UCF. Smith was drafted with the direst pick in the third round by the Detroit Lions.
Smith was named the starting running back of the Lions after a very strong preseason showing after beating out former Cincinnati Bengal star Rudi Johnson. Smith had a very strong rookie campaign, with 238 carries for 976 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Smith vs. McFadden. Small school vs. Big School. And the win in a major upset goes to the small school in Kevin Smith. Smith was a much more productive running back then McFadden as in his rookie year all-round. He doubled McFadden's total while sharing the load with Rudi Johnson and had a avg. yards per carry a tick lower than McFadden. I personally feel that these two guys will have pretty equal playing careers. Each of them have raw speed but Smith seems to take hits better than McFadden. However McFadden has great open field skills. Once McFadden takes over full-time duties, i think he will improve on al his potential.
I realize that McFadden shared significant playing time with a productive running back in Justin Fargas. But so was Kevin Smith. I think people dismiss late round draft picks too much. This is how we get Tom Brady. This is how we got many stars in this league. I think last years draft just proved to us that just because you are a high round draft pick, does not mean that someone is going to pan out. And just because someone is not drafted in the first round, does no mean that this player could not be a productive player in the NFL. All players not drafted in the first round are underdogs. Matt Forte, Steve Slaton and Kevin Smith proved to us that you can go from unwanted to being a star.