Birthdate: October 10, 1986
Height/Weight: 5'9 1/2"/216
College: Virginia, 41 games played
Notable Stats: Senior season: 153 rush attempts, 824 yards, 44 receptions, 193 yards, 7 touchdowns
NFL Combine: 4.45/40 (first overall), 40"/vert (second overall)
My take: Let's say this is an unusually weak running back class. A running back class comparable to last year's wide receiver class. Could the first round end without a running back selected? It would be the first time since 1963 -- the first time in the modern era. But it's not a stretch. The position has been devalued by an increasingly pass-centric league, and if not proven fungible outright, at least proven very deep. Only two running backs are considered first round talents, and that designation may be by default. It would not surprise me to read that many GMs do not see a significant difference between presumed first-rated running back Knowshon Moreno and presumed fifth-rated running back Andre Brown. The result would be that much like last year's receiver class, mid-round could become late-round talent and some team will awake to a steal.
That's a rather elaborate way of saying: I'm big fan of Cedric Peerman and think his mix of spotty production and injuries could make him a steal.
Rob Rang ranks Peerman as the 9th best running back in the 2009 class. In a typical draft, that would mean Peerman should be selected in the third to fourth round. If the first round passes without a running back selected, or if teams simply hold off on drafting a running back until there's some kind of run, like what happened with wide receivers in the 2008 draft, Peerman could fall to the late fourth or even fifth. He could fall to the late fourth or even fifth if the teams that value him select running backs early, or even if enough teams question his ability or health. There's a lot of ways this could play out, but suffice to say, running backs like Peerman have a lot of latitude. They could be snapped up early in the second day or nearly fall out of the draft.
Peerman won't fall out of the draft. He's not Yvenson Bernard. Bernard left it all at Reser. Anyone who wondered if Bernard lost his speed on the operating table could watch him plod down the track at the 2008 NFL Combine. Which is a shame, because I think Bernard would have been a hell of a pro when 21 and tearing up the Pac-10. Such is the life of a running back. Even many NFL backs keep their jobs over better, cheaper competition for the sake of tradition, respect and committed cap dollars. If I were a GM, I wouldn't ever re-sign a running back. I would pioneer the draft and burn method for building a rushing attack, never re-signing a one, knowing that for most their best is already behind them.
Which isn't to say running backs are insignificant. I watched the 1998 Atlanta Falcons ride Jamal Anderson to Super Bowl XXXIII, and I watched him crumble the following season. Running backs are hugely valuable. If not as valuable as the offensive line blowing open holes or the passing attack backpedaling linebackers and safeties, still the single most valuable component of a good rushing attack. The man that can make the broken stuff sufferable, the alright stuff good and the good stuff great.
And Seattle could use an upgrade.
Peerman suffered a Lisfranc injury in 2007. It's a foot injury and can be career altering or even career ending; it's all about the severity. Peerman returned his senior season and had the best season of his career. He had a solid Senior Bowl, but, y'know, five carries, before he -- fumbled. One couldn't think of a worse fate for the 8"-handed man. It was tantamount to Chase Daniels throwing every pass into his O-line's head (he's short you know) or BJ Raji breaking huddle with a chaos bong made out of Cheetos. Fumbles haven't been a problem for Peerman, but Ken-sized mitts are going to raise eyebrows. I think fumble data is more noise than meaningful, so this particular red flag fails to dissuade me. Peerman also excelled at the Combine. Don't say it doesn't matter, because for a prospect with lingering questions about his recovery from a major foot injury, a combine best showing in the 40 and a second place showing in the vert go a long way in saying "healed". If Peerman is healed, and no one can deny this, I disagree his injuries are recurrent or indicative of injury-proneness. It's a fairly common football injury and it's an injury that's befallen otherwise healthy players: Dwight Freeney, Ty Law and the never-injured Aaron Schobel.
Peerman's numbers aren't eye-popping. The Cavelier offense was stuck in the stables and the rushing attack was especially horseshit, but Peerman did average 1.7 yards per carry more than stablemate Mikell Simpson. Simpson's no slouch, he stepped in after Peerman's injury and "saved the 2007 season". That same article mentions that Simpson "often looks hesitant at the line". Maybe the line sucked at blowing open holes. Dave Te' Thomas writes Peerman has "a bit of a hitch coming out of his stance, preventing him from generating good explosion into the holes," which is so weird, because he tore up the first ten yards of the Combine. Combine results being Combine results and thus not definitive, one still wouldn't expect a player to run any different. Peerman reached ten as fast as Chris Johnson, .06 seconds faster than Jonathan Stewart, .1 second faster than Darren McFadden and .13 seconds faster than Rashard Mendenhall. I'm not trying to discount a scout I respect, but, I don't see it, it didn't show at the Combine and I can't help but wonder if maybe Virginia's line sucked at blowing open holes. "Oh hitch! There's a linebacker in the backfield!"
Peerman is a good mix of punishing inside force, good moves, tackle breaking ability and straight line speed. After all this build up, maybe it's time I stop spittin' and just let you see the guy run. It's this first part, the part before we learn that Cedric Peerman is an ordained minister*.
An ordained minister that excelled in the ACC -- I'm just saying. And if Seattle selects him in the fourth or fifth and runs him hard until the wheels fall off, and he puts a little punch and pizazz into the rushing attack, and Seattle shows some restraint and says sayonara before that first free agent contract, I'm just saying that would give Seattle's suddenly essential run game a major boost and a much better chance of being Awesome.
*Or if you're watching your daily allowance of hype: