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NU's Sutton believes he can be NFL worthy
NFL Draft preview: Running backs
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton calls himself "a little bowling ball" of a player.


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Published: 4/16/2009 12:22 AM | Updated: 4/17/2009 2:32 PM

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NFL draft previews

First in a series

Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton rushed for 9,426 yards at Akron's Archbishop Hoban High School, the most in Ohio history. He also scored 117 touchdowns.

As a college freshman, without the benefit of a redshirt year, he rushed for 1,474 yards on 250 carries for a 5.9-yard average and caught 44 passes for 396 yards.

But that season was the high point of his collegiate career. Since then he has suffered a concussion, a separated shoulder, a leg injury, a high ankle sprain and a broken left wrist.

If Sutton hears his name called on NFL draft weekend, it will be toward the end of the festivities, probably in the final round. As productive as Sutton was in high school and in the Big Ten, he isn't exactly what the NFL is looking for.

Sutton is 5-feet-8, which is too short, but he is a sturdy 211 pounds.

"A little bowling ball," he said.

Unfortunately for him, this bowling ball needs almost 4.7 seconds to roll through a 40-yard dash, but Sutton always has found a way to be productive.

"I just want to get my foot in the door and show that I can play," he said. "If I get invited to a minicamp or if I get drafted or even free agency, I really don't care.

"As long as I make it to a team or make it to a camp, just show my talents on the field, I think everything will take care of itself."

Sutton takes encouragement from other "little" guys who are flourishing in the NFL, such as 5-6 Darren Sproles of the San Diego Chargers.

"You can't measure the intangibles," Sutton said. "He has great heart; he's very competitive.

"Those things don't show up on paper. He does a great job of using his size to his advantage. He can hide behind those 6-foot-9, 320-pound guys and see the end zone from there."

Although Sutton saw the end zone repeatedly during his high school days in Akron, he isn't the best running back in this draft from that town. That honor goes to Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells, a first-round lock.

"That's my boy," Sutton said. "We grew up together. We were playing in the same Pee Wee (football) league; we played against each other in high school. He's like a brother to me."

Wells and Sutton also played basketball against each other as kids, although the competition was a little one-sided.

"He was probably like 6-4 then," Sutton said, exaggerating, since Wells is only 6-1 now.

"That's like LeBron (James) playing against Spud Webb. It's not even fair."

A year after Sutton selected Northwestern over several MAC schools - Ohio State ignored him - Wells joined the Buckeyes, rushing for 3,382 yards in just three seasons. But he remains a Sutton fan.

"We go back to little league basketball when we were about 8 years old," Wells said. "We started off playing basketball. I played football against him in 'muni' league. It's been awhile, but I've known him basically all my life."

Wells is a better bet than Sutton to make big bucks in the NFL, but the little bowling ball won't wind up in the gutter. He is scheduled to graduate on time in June with a degree in communications.

It seems every year more and more draftable players blow off the spring semester to train full time for the NFL Combine and their pro-day workouts. But Sutton stayed in school.

"I'm too close," he said to a crowd of reporters at the combine. "I've been there for three years and some change. To get this far and not get the degree, it would be pretty heartbreaking. I'm going to finish it out and get that degree.

"Hopefully the NFL career will last longer than some, but (eventually) I'm going to try to make the degree work for me.

"Maybe I'll be here one day doing your guys' job."

Bob LeGere breaks down the Bears' depth, draft history, and top prospects in the April 25-26 NFL Draft.

Bears depth chart: RB Matt Forte was a revelation and a workhorse as a rookie and should be even better this season running behind an improved offensive line. Backups Kevin Jones, Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe contributed little last season. At least one of them needs to ease the burden on Forte, who had 379 touches last season and accounted for an NFL-high 34.99 percent of his team's yards from scrimmage. FB Jason McKie, primarily a blocker, is often replaced in favor of a second tight end. Current Grade: C-plus.

Bears 10-year draft history at RB

Year: Player (round drafted)

2008: Matt Forte (2)

2007: Garrett Wolfe (3)

2006: J.D. Runnels* (6)

2005: Cedric Benson (1)

2003: Brock Forsey (6)

2002: Adrian Peterson (6)

2001: Anthony Thomas (2)

2000: Frank Murphy (6)

1999: Jim Finn* (7)

* fullback

Best pick: Matt Forte

Worst pick: Cedric Benson

Rating the top running backs

LeGere's draft grade for 2009 RBs: C-plus. Moreno, Wells and possibly Brown are the only consensus first-round talents, and the quality drops off a bit after those three.

Name, School (Ht., Wt.) 40 time

Knowshon Moreno, Georgia** (5-10.5, 217 ) 4.55

Passionate, violent runner; good elusiveness, average speed

Chris "Beanie" Wells, Ohio State* (6-1 , 235) 4.53

Supremely talented but durability is a question mark

Donald Brown, Connecticut* (5-10.2, 210) 4.46

Does everything well but lacks some size and power

LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh** (5-10.3, 198) 4.50

Workhorse with fine run skills and hands; could run tougher

Shonn Greene, Iowa* (5-10.4, 227) 4.66

Tough, burly inside runner who lacks speed

Andre Brown, N.C. State (6-0.1, 224) 4.45

Excellent size-speed-strength numbers; has been hurt a lot

Glenn Coffee, Alabama* (6-0.1, 209) 4.53

Runs tough but may lack size to stay healthy in NFL

Mike Goodson, Texas A&M (5-11.7, 208) 4.46

Track guy too fragile to be more than a complement

Javon Ringer, Michigan State (5-9.1, 205) 4.57

Exceptional competitor, talented; marginal size and speed

Tony Fiammetta, Syracuse (6-0.1, 245) 4.64

FB with limited run skills but great strength and toughness

*Junior; **Red-shirt sophomore