Later-round backs can prove valuable

Updated: February 14, 2012, 5:12 PM ET
By Steve Muench

Not one of the running backs who finished in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards in 2011 was drafted in the first round. Three came from the second round, but the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner was drafted in the fifth round in 2004 and the Houston Texans signed Arian Foster as an undrafted free agent in 2009.

And look no further than the teams that played in Super Bowl XLVI for more evidence that running backs with lower grades can become contributors on championship-caliber teams. The New York Giants don't have a back on their roster who was drafted before the fourth round, while the New England Patriots signed their top back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, as an undrafted free agent.

So which later-round prospects from the 2012 class could follow similar career paths? Here are five backs expected to come off the board on Day 3 who could develop into solid NFL players. Draft-eligible non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.