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Clinton Portis Considers The Redskins' Running Back Options


The former Redskins running back offers his assessment of this year's running back draft class and who might be a good fit, prospect or free agent-wise, with the team's current roster.*

Last week former Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss gave his impressions of the team's wide receiver group. This week, checked in with Moss' teammate (both at Miami and in Washington) about the state of the team's running back position.

That began, however, by assessing some of the players Portis likes in the upcoming NFL draft, which is loaded with some explosive running backs.

While the majority of mock drafts thus far have the Redskins taking a defensive player, several have suggested the team should take one of the dynamic running backs projected to be a first-round pick this year – Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey.

Portis, who enjoys focusing on the names not listed in this trio of stars, couldn't help himself when it came to Cook, whose body of work he's watched intently thanks to Florida State being an ACC rival to Miami. Portis believes Cook could contribute to just about any NFL team at a highly productive level, but was more concerned about a team drafting Fournette.

"Leonard Fournette, I'm just not sure of," Portis said. "I think the NFL is going away from that type of back. He is a very talented guy who can [run] with any team but he is like an Adrian Peterson and you're going to have to feed him the ball. Unfortunately, the Dallas Cowboys, a team that likes to run the ball, got their running back with Ezekiel Elliot last year."

Portis did acknowledge that McCaffrey (whose father played with him during the start of his career in Denver) will be a great a talent as long as he joins a team that knows how to use him – the Chiefs, Eagles or Patriots, he mentioned as possibilities.

Another running back high on Portis' list is Texas star D'Onta Foreman, who could slip into the second round and provide the kind of burst teams would like to have. Foreman led the entire NCAA in rushing yards, averaging 184.4 rushing yards per game, but, according to scouts, still has to learn better blocking techniques and be the kind of bruising running back teams feel comfortable using as a third down option.

With that being said, Portis was impressed with Robert Kelley's progression last season as the Redskins' lead running back. The undrafted rookie from Tulane took over starting duties from Matt Jones midway through the season and amassed 704 rushing yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.

Because of his emergence, Portis doesn't feel as though drafting a running back of first round caliber is a necessity for Washington.

"I love Fat Rob [Kelley], I think people fail to realize Fat Rob hadn't played running back or carried the team since high school," Portis said. "Last year was his rookie year and it was his first opportunity to carry the load. I think he is only going to get better with time. So if you must have a running back [in the draft], Dalvin Cook would be the answer, but I think you could survive with Fat Rob, who could really burst onto the scene. It's about opportunities, it doesn't matter who your running back is, if you don't give them opportunities, it's going to be rough.

"Once we figure out our identity, if we are going to run the ball which we need to run the ball 20 to 30 times a game and last year we got away from that a lot," he added. "If we are going to run the ball and have enough possession and plays --  because you're still going to have to allow Kirk to go out there and do his thing. It is hard to share carries between three or four guys. I think you could use Kelley and Thompson to get by. I think Thompson brings so much to this offense, Kelley does as well, so a running back is not a must have for us in this draft."

As for the lingering free agent veteran running backs, dealing with the insecurities of not having a job and the lack of interest from NFL teams who would prefer cheaper, younger options, Adrian Peterson's future doesn't give Portis much pause.

Portis, like Peterson, knows that teams would rather wait until later towards training camp, or beyond, once their roster is settled and depth chart seems set to consider adding more talent.

"I think he can help some teams but it's just not a rush," Portis said. "At this stage of his career, especially coming off of injuries the last three seasons, teams are going to wait. You still have the draft and I don't think Adrian Peterson wants to go to camp anyways. At this age, what running back wants to go to camp? For Adrian I know that he has a lot to prove and he still feels like he has a lot left in his tank. You look at teams later on, the New England Patriots [are] number one in the world at getting steals like Adrian Peterson. I think that is a team you have to watch because they tend to get the players that everyone shies away from. Like Darrelle Revis, Adrian Peterson could end up with them and burst onto the scene with 1,500 yards and everybody says he still has got it."

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