NFL Draft 2011: Is Illinois' Mikel Leshoure The Top Running Back?

The 2011 NFL draft is around the corner and SB Nation's Hail to the Orange gives us the low down on Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure who could be among the top two running backs taken. Visit Hail to the Orange for more on Leshoure.

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2011 NFL Draft: Mikel Leshoure Over Mark Ingram?

For much of the past few months as we analyze the 2011 NFL draft and where each player might be picked, the buzz has been that RB Mark Ingram would be the first running back off the board. It makes sense as he's a former Heisman Trophy winner for Alabama. 

But is he the best running back in the draft or does that honor go to Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure?

Several NFL draft analysts believe Leshoure is the superior prospect. The 6'0" 227-pound Leshoure is projected to be a first or second round pick but if teams have him above Ingram then he would likely go in the first round.

He had an impressive junior season as he racked up 1,697 rushing yards -- a school record -- and 17 touchdowns. He was a second-team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection.

What Leshoure also has going for him is the health of Ingram, whose banged up knee is in question. NFL Network's Mike Lombardi reported that at least two running back needy teams have taken Ingram off their board due to knee problems. That would seemingly help Leshoure as he hopes to move into the the top running back spot. 

So Leshoure may end up being the safer pick of the two. We have less than two more weeks until April 28 when we'll find out which ones goes first.

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NFL Draft 2011: RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois

The 2011 NFL draft is around the corner and SB Nation's Hail to the Orange gives us the low down on Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure who could be among the top two running backs taken. Visit Hail to the Orange for more on Leshoure. 

Mikel Leshoure (6'0", 230 pounds) was a hometown hero, attending Champaign Centennial high school, just a few blocks down the road from the University of Illinois. Leshoure was not particularly highly ranked coming out of high school and shared the rushing duties with two other players his freshman and sophomore seasons. In his junior year though, Leshoure took off for the Illini, rushing for 1697 yards, breaking Rashard Mendenhall's single season record, and scoring 20 touchdowns another Illini record.

During the season, Leshoure averaged six yards per carry and ran for over 100 yards nine times, including setting an Illinois record with 330 yards on 33 carries against Northwestern at Wrigley Field on November 20.

Leshoure has a great speed and size combination, similar to the two NFL backs who played right before him, Rashard Mendenhall and Pierre Thomas. Leshoure's top end speed isn't as high as Mendenhall's but Leshoure and has not had any problems with injury, or fumbles during his time in college.

Leshoure is exactly the sort of story you wish every college player could have. He grew up a fan of Illinois playing his high school ball just down the street from Memorial Stadium and though he had offers elsewhere, he decided to stay with his hometown school.Leshoure is very close with his mother and she has been her son's biggest cheerleader over the last three years. The fact thatLeshoure will be playing in the NFL, and making a life changing amount of money doing it, is a very feel good story.

Oddly enough though, what may have set him on his path to this level of success was an odd and unexpected injury. When Leshourewas a freshman, he was involved in a fight with one of his team mates, supposedly over a cell phone but who knows, and he ended up with a broken jaw, keeping him out for the rest of the season. Having his jaw wired shut, Leshoure couldn't eat like he normally would, and ended up losing about twelve pounds of excess weight and making for a much faster and more agile Mikel Leshoure from his sophomore season on.

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