Mailbag: Talent pool runs deep at RB, WR

Running back and wide receiver will be two of the deepest positions in college football, while Jared Lorenzen and Eric Crouch face QB dilemmas at different levels.

Updated: May 15, 2003, 2:32 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. |
Q: Can you rate your top college running backs heading into next season? And where does Steve Jackson of Oregon State stand among next year's junior running backs? -- Mario, San Jose, Calif.
Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson is now the St. Louis Rams' heir apparent to Marshall Faulk.
-- Greg Jones of Florida State is coming off an injury and will be at the top of the list if he is healthy, and there is quite a group behind him. Jermaine Green is a big, physical back who had a nice season at Washington State, Quincy Wilson of West Virginia will no longer have to share the spotlight with Avon Cobourne, and Cedric Cobbs and DeArrius Howard will give Arkansas a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield. Mewelde Moore of Tulane is also up there as one of the most versatile backs in college football, Derrick Knight of Boston College had some outstanding games against top-level competition, and many people are anxious to see if Julius Jones is back at Notre Dame this year.

As for Steven Jackson, he's the No. 1 junior running back in the country. He is 6-1, 225 pounds, and his running style is reminiscent of Ricky Williams with his size and consistency. Jackson rushed for more than 100 yards in nine of 12 games last season, including three 200-yard efforts, and his 15 rushing touchdowns led the Pac-10.

Among the other juniors to watch is Auburn's Carnell "Cadillac" Williams -- who is also coming off an injury and will be in the same backfield with fellow junior Ronnie Brown -- as well as Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones, who will be the featured runner with Lee Suggs having graduated. Cedric Benson of Texas, Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis at Tennessee, and the electrifying Darren Sproles of Kansas State are also at the top of the junior class, and the wild card in that group is Miami's Frank Gore. It was his injury that allowed Willis McGahee to have a great year, and Gore could be as good as any back in the country this year.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.