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RBs test their speed in Indy


INDIANAPOLIS - For running backs entering the draft, a heavy premium has been placed on 40-yard dash times. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson sprinted his way into the first round last year by running a 4.24, which was the fastest overall time at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine.

On Sunday, a new class of running backs got to test their speed in Indy, but the prospects failed to impress with their times.

Virginia's Cedric Peerman (5-10, 216) led all running backs with a 4.45 in the 40. He was followed by Boise State's Ian Johnson (5-11, 212), who posted a 4.46.

Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells (6-1 ½, 235), who has been rated as one of the top running backs entering the draft, recorded a 4.59. Two other highly touted prospects, Connecticut's Donald Brown (5-10, 210) and Texas A&M's Mike Goodson (6-0, 208), posted 4.51 and 4.54, respectively.

{QUOTE}Wells' 40-yard time, however, may have little impact on his draft value. Some draft pundits and scouts compare Wells to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson because they are both power backs who can explode for long runs and pick up the dirty yards.

The biggest question surrounding Wells is his durability. In 2007, he played all season with a broken bone in his wrist, and repeatedly had to come out of games because of a sore ankle. Last season, he suffered a big toe injury that caused him to miss three games, and later fought a tweaked hamstring.

"I was nicked up, (but) I don't think it was anything where I missed a whole season," Wells said. "I missed three games in three years, so things happen."

He also reminded the media that Peterson dealt with injuries in college before he was selected as the No. 7 overall pick in 2007.

"I feel as if I can be that back that takes it the distance like a scat back or be a back who can get those yards like a hard-nosed, short-yardage guy," Wells said.

There are several running backs seeing their draft stocks rise. Nebraska's Morlon Lucky (5-10 ½, 219), who had an impressive performance in the East-West Shrine Game, ran a 4.59. Lucky is considered a pounding back, but showed explosion during the combine drills. He told reporters over the weekend that the Texans, Chiefs and Patriots were the first teams to interview him.

Wisconsin's P.J. Hill (5-10, 222) shed 15 pounds before arriving in Indy and looked much quicker during the combine's measurable drills. Hill has been graded as a downhill runner who is best between the tackles and shows a good burst once he hits the hole.

"The Big Ten is a very physical conference, with a bunch of big, fast, strong guys and hard hitters," Hill said. "Some people always talk about speed, but you have to be tough on the field.

"I've always been a big back, but I wanted to show people that I could come in a get toned. I wanted to show them that I could work hard."

Georgia's Knowshon Moreno (5-10, 217), who Mayock has rated as the top tailback in the draft, finished with a 4.63 in the 40. But several talent evaluators said they still are impressed with the punishing way in which Moreno finishes plays.

"I've never seen a guy in the last 10 years who finished every run the way he does, dropping the shoulder, not running out of bounds," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I love the kid's toughness. He's the kind of kid I want on my team. He's shown me his toughness on tape. He'll block people; he'll do whatever you ask him to do."

Iowa's Shonn Greene (5-10, 227) didn't help his draft stock by running a 4.65 40-yard dash. After seeing limited action as a freshman and sophomore, and missing the 2007 season because of academic problems, Greene rushed for 100 or more yards in all 13 games in 2008, setting Hawkeye single-season records in rushing yards (1,850) and touchdowns (20).

LeSean McCoy (5-10, 198) also had a productive season last year and finished his career with more than 2,700 yards and 35 touchdowns at Pittsburgh, but he did not participate in combine drills due to the flu.

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