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Is Mark Ingram worth a first-round draft selection?

In preparation for the 2011 NFL Draft I am re-posting some content I have submitted to various sites for draft coverage. My apologies if you have already read this article elsewhere. This is for archival purposes. This has been updated to better enhance the experience on CFBExaminer.com.

What is there not to like about Alabama running back Mark Ingram?

2011 NFL DraftHe is tough, physical, a solid blocker, has above average acceleration and is a talented north-to-south type of running back. But is he worth taking in the first round for an NFL franchise looking for a running back?

That is the debate that will be discussed over the course of the next week, as the NFL Draft is now one week away from opening up the first round.

It is a pretty safe bet to say that at least one running back will be picked up by an NFL team in the first round Thursday night, but will Ingram hear his name announced?

Every Heisman Trophy winning running back since 1969 has been selected in the first round except for one and that comes with an asterisk beside it.

No doubt, Mark Ingram is worth a first round draft choice. AP photo.

Herschel Walker was drafted in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft, but only after leaving Georgia early for a chance to play in the United States Football League because the NFL did not allow for juniors to be eligible for the NFL Draft.

Everywhere you look, you will be sure to read positive scouting reports on Ingram, who was slow out of the gates in 2010 due to knee and ankle injuries at the start of the year and coming off a Heisman season.

In 2009, Ingram carried the Tide to a championship and reminded some of former Florida Gators running back Emmit Smith.

The comparisons to Smith, the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, are legitimate as both backs lack the top speed that other guys will bring to the table but both Smith and Ingram have the ability to plow through the line and make would-be tacklers miss a chance to bring them down with their ability to shed tackles and adjust directions in an instant.

Neither Smith nor Ingram has Barry Sanders-like ability to change directions, but the two are well above average on changing direction.

Ingram recorded a disappointing 4.62 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but scouts still believe he has more than enough speed to be a powerful running back in the NFL.

His footwork and field awareness make up for a lack of killer speed and his football intelligence is higher than most, which means he will be patient enough to wait for a path to open up on the line but he won’t get too scared to make a move when a lane opens up.

Ingram may not be a top-10 or even a top-15 pick in next week’s opening round of the NFL Draft, but he should be selected next Thursday night before the first round concludes.

One team to keep an eye on for Ingram might be the Washington Redskins, who are slated to draft with the 10th overall pick. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan has a pretty mixed history with running backs, although he rarely takes a chance on one in the first round.

Shanahan, then with the Denver Broncos, hit a home run with drafting Terrell Davis out of Georgia in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Davis went on to rush for 7,607 yards and 60 touchdowns and was a spark in the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl run in the 1990s.

When Davis’ career was slowed by injuries Shanahan was able to keep the running game going with Olandis Gary in 1999 and again with rookie Mike Anderson in 2000. Clinton Portis rushed for 1,508 yards in his rookie season in Denver in 2002 and followed up by exceeding 1,500 yards again in 2003.

If Shanahan feels that Ingram is the best player available when the Redskins come up to pick, do not be surprised if the Redskins select Ingram and make him the franchise running back. Washington’s running game ranked 30th in the league last season, averaging 91.3 yards per game on the ground.

Ingram, if given a decent offensive line in front of him, could be a great fit in Washington under Shanahan.

The question may be, what will Washington decide to do with their first pick? The Redskins have plenty of draft needs to help fix their team, and running backs have a short lifespan in the league.

Now may not be the time for Washington to draft a running back.

Other teams who need a running back in the draft include the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks. Miami drafts 15th overall and could be the first team likely to draft Ingram. Seattle drafts 25th overall.

If Ingram slips by Seattle, the only other team in the first round that might consider drafting Ingram include the New England Patriots, who worked out the Crimson Tide back recently according to ESPNBoston.com.

Will Ingram be drafted in the first round? The odds look pretty good.

This article was originally published by Bleacher Report.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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