Todd Gurley puts NFL draft's first-round RB drought in jeopardy

Two NFL drafts have come and gone since we last saw a running back selected in the first round. Bishop Sankey, the first back picked in the 2014 draft, was chosen 54th overall, the latest the first back selected has ever gone.

I suspect that first-round drought is about to end, though. The potential of Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and the performance of NFL RBs like DeMarco Murray and Marshawn Lynch are a few reasons why the streak should end.

QB Russell Wilson no doubt played a huge role in the Seahawks' run to a title last season, but Lynch set the tone for the team's run-heavy offense. Not surprisingly, Gurley is being compared to Beast Mode. As for Murray, he has the Cowboys off to a 5-1 start and has emerged as a leading MVP candidate. I think Murray has brought focus to what a big-time back can do for an offense if you choose to feature him.

There's no denying that the running back position has been devalued in the NFL, but we're also seeing that a true bellcow back can lift a team to new heights -- guys like Gurley stand to benefit because of it.

I think Gurley is a first-round back. Gordon, who, like Gurley, will have eligibility remaining after this season, is pressing to be a first-rounder.

Of course, Gurley has been suspended indefinitely as an investigation into signed memorabilia continues, but that only becomes a concern for NFL teams if they discover a pattern of issues with Gurley when doing their due diligence.

In fact, sitting out is probably better for Gurley and his pro situation because he'll take fewer hits; scouts have already seen all they need to see to evaluate his on-field ability.

Gurley and Gordon are the cream of the crop, but it doesn't end with them when it comes to backs that intrigue me and have the full attention of NFL teams seeking a rusher. Here are five other RB prospects to keep an eye on:

Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah

Without Abdullah, Nebraska's record (5-1) would be far less impressive. As he goes, Nebraska goes. He's fourth in the FBS with 878 yards rushing.

USC's Javorius "Buck" Allen

Allen rescued USC's season last year when he became the featured runner, and he's been the No. 1 guy from the get-go this season. He's playing the Bishop Sankey role in Steve Sarkisian's offense, and his production has been impressive all season -- it was especially so Saturday (26 carries for 208 yards and three TDs) as he keyed a road win over then-No. 10 Arizona.

Indiana's Tevin Coleman

Coleman is on pace for a huge season, as he leads the FBS with 1,060 rushing yards (14 more than Gordon). He's also made 15 catches for 134 yards, and his pass-catching ability enhances his stock even more.

Michigan State's Jeremy Langford

Langford's numbers aren't as gaudy as some of the other guys on this list, but he's rushed for 100-plus yards in each of the past three games after a somewhat quiet start. He's a high-volume ball carrier, and don't forget -- he rushed for more than 100 yards in a school-record eight consecutive games to close out last season as the Spartans made their run to a Big Ten title.

Alabama's T.J. Yeldon

Yeldon doesn't have to carry a heavy workload because of Alabama's depth at running back, but he certainly could be a high-volume guy if asked. He's a strong between-the-tackles runner with the ability to bounce outside, and he finishes runs really well. His stock will only be boosted by playing in Lane Kiffin's pro-style offense.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter *@CFD22.*

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