Carey led the nation in rushing in 2012 and finished second to Boston College's Andre Williams in 2013; he combined for 3,814 yards and 42 TDs on 652 carries in those two seasons. But Carey is far from a lock to be the first running back taken in the draft. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock doesn't even have Carey in his list of the top five backs.
One issue with Carey -- listed at 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds by Arizona -- is that he piled up big numbers in coach Rich Rodriguez's spread-based attack, and big numbers in a spread don't always translate well to the NFL. Another is that he lacks elite speed. Carey also has had some off-field issues. But he is a physical runner who is comfortable between the tackles and also can turn the corner.
"I may not be the biggest guy, but I feel my frame is just right for the NFL," Carey told USA Today. "There are other backs around 200 [pounds]. I'm sitting at 207. I'm physical. I don't accept hits, I deliver them. If I can improve my breakaway speed and deliver the blow, I'll be OK at the next level."
Durability has not been an issue. Carey averaged 326 carries the last two seasons, including 349 carries in 2013 -- more than four teams and only six fewer than Pac-12 rival Oregon State. That's a lot of punishment, and some teams probably will wonder how much tread is left on his tires.
A big positive is Carey's receiving ability; he had a combined 62 receptions in the past two seasons.
"Being able to catch the ball can be a benefit to my career, long-term," he told USA Today. "Teams can spread me out and throw me the ball. Coach Rodriguez taught me how to get open and read coverages. That can certainly help me."
A running back was not selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, and there's no clear-cut first-rounder in this year's crop. At some point, though, there probably will be a run on running backs, and how early Carey goes probably will be determined by that. He seems likely to go in the second or third round.