The 2014 Scouting Combine is in the rear-view mirror. But the journey to draft day is far from over for many of the latest crop of NFL hopefuls. That's why we're tracking some of the more intriguing names as we get closer to the 2014 NFL Draft (May 8-10). Check back frequently for updates as we break down the best options for a new class of fantasy football stars.
Dri Archer, Kent St.
Scouting report: If there's one thing most people know about Archer, it's that he's fast. Very fast. The speedy Kent State back nearly took down Chris Johnson's record 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine. Beyond that, there isn't much that's wowing the scouts. As a small back, who struggles as a route runner, Archer's NFL future is likely as a punt returner.
Fantasy scouting report: If you play in a league that offers points for kickoff and punt return yardage, Archer might have some appeal. However, as a running back, there's little to suggest the speedster will see a lot of touches or provide a lot of production. - MG
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Scouting report: Carey is a violent runner with exceptional vision, quickness and burst. He has quietly totaled 22 100-yard rushing games over the past two seasons, showcasing his potential as a workhorse back in a spread offense.
Fantasy scouting report: Carey thrived in Rich Rodriguez's up-tempo spread offense, including catching 36 passes out of the backfield in his final season at Arizona. He might not get the same hype as some of the other backs in the draft, but his huge production and nose for the end zone (24 total TDs in 2013) are hard to ignore. He could have a nice future as a Gio Bernard-type back. - MG
Marion Grice, Arizona State
Scouting report: Fluid perimeter runner/receiver with playmaking ability, though his game is rough around the edges, requiring more polish and attention to detail. Profiles as a third-down/change-of-pace back, but his football intelligence has to catch up with his physical gifts in order to earn trust he can handle the role.
Fantasy scouting report: We've seen a number of late-round running backs bloom in recent years, from Freddy Morris to Zac Stacy. Grice could join those ranks in 2014. He's battled injuries, but he's shown some flashes of brilliance coupled with a knack for catching the football -- something very important in today's NFL. He's the kind of late-round guy I'd like to see go to the Denver Broncos to be the guy they thought they had in Ronnie Hillman. - Adam Rank
Jeremy Hill, LSU
Scouting report: Character concerns have prevented scouts from getting really excited about Hill's potential, but an extensive study of the film reveals a powerful downhill runner capable of putting an offense on his back.
Fantasy scouting report: Hill is a big, bruising back who helped LSU wear down both opponents and the clock in 2013. Like most of the RBs in this year's draft, it's hard to imagine Hill as a three-down option for any team. But he would seem to have an short-term future as a short-yardage and goal-line back. The Browns come to mind as the immediate best fit, but the Jaguars could be an interesting option as well.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Scouting report: Hyde had a monster senior season, rushing for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has excellent size, power, vision, and burst. He rarely goes down on first contact and has sneaky breakaway speed when he gets past the second level of the defense. He is also a viable option in the passing game (three receiving touchdowns).
Fantasy scouting report: Hyde was highly productive at Ohio State and could be the first running back off the board. The sentimentalist might see a good fit for him in Cleveland. Man, if the Browns could swing a draft that netted Johnny Manziel, Odell Beckham (or Mike Evans as Bucky Brooks says) and then get Hyde in the second round, they'd be a shoe-in for the BCS title. Oh wait, that's silly, the BCS is done. However, Hyde looks like he could have similar-type production to what Eddie Lacy did last year. He could achieve that in just about any situation where he would be a No. 1 runner like Cleveland or Arizona. I would look for him as a low-end No. 2, high No. 3 in a great situation. His fantasy value would take a hit if he went into a committee situation like Carolina or New Orleans. Seriously, Carolina stay away! UPDATE: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says he wants to build the team around Andre Ellington. Which of course only means the Birds are going to take a running back. This is draft-pick poker, people. - Adam Rank
Tre Mason, Auburn
Scouting report: Mason is an undersized (5-10, 205) back that runs with patience and power. He carried the Auburn offense down the stretch and proved he could handle a heavy workload. On inside runs, he is patient to let things develop, runs with a low pad level and rarely goes down on first contact. On outside runs, he has just enough speed to get to the edge but he often looks to turn up field as soon as possible. He doesn't have much experience in the passing game but has reliable hands and he's willing to chest-up pass rushers. Despite failing to get to 100 yards in four of his first five games in 2013, he finished with 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Fantasy scouting report: Mason has the chance to be a sleeper on the field and in fantasy drafts if he can make himself a significant part of any team's respective passing game. He doesn't have Chris Johnson's speed (few do), but Mason has the toughness that CJ was said to lack. If the Titans do indeed part ways with the speedy veteran, Mason could serve as a nice replacement.
Pro comparison: Marion Barber III
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Scouting report: Sankey rates as the best running back in the draft in some corners. He was one of college football's most productive runners over the past couple of seasons, thanks in part to good vision and agility. He doesn't have what some would consider breakaway speed, but he reads his blocks well in order to pick up chunks of yards. Sankey is a good pass-catcher out of the backfield and played in a pro-style offense, which should help his transition to the NFL.
Fantasy scouting report: With more and more teams going with committees in their backfields, Sankey should see opportunities as a change of pace running back. There are questions about his ability to break tackles and pick up tough yards, which could limit his chances at the goal line. But he could be a nice "lightning" option to go along with a bruising-type back. - MG
Charles Sims, West Virginia
Scouting report: Big, athletic running backs with receiving skills are valuable assets with the game trending toward a pass-first approach. Sims is a shifty playmaker in the Matt Forte mold, but scouts have concerns about his durability. He could have a hard time finding a job as a featured runner -- though that's a criticism that could apply to most back in today's NFL.
Fantasy scouting report: Sims has the makings of a third-down back, which is where his experience working out of pistol and shotgun offenses could be a benefit. Although he will need to improve his blocking skills in order to get on the field consistently. It's hard to see him being an impact fantasy player in his first season. - MG
Andre Williams, Boston College
Scouting report: Williams is a solidly-built, downhill runner who has surprising speed when it comes to finding the goal line. His ability to wade through traffic is could make him an effective short-yardage back. However, he's not the kind of running back who is going to make people miss and turn nothing into something. Williams has shown to be an effective pass protector, which could help him stay on the field for a few extra snaps -- although his lack of production in Boston College's passing game could make it hard to keep him in for passing downs.
Fantasy scouting report: There's little reason to believe Williams will enter the league as anything more than a reserve back who sees occasional short-yardage work. As teams rely more heavily on the passing game, the stocky back could be used more in pass protection than as a runner.