Barber to hope for run on backs

by David McCoy

Three of the top five picks in the first round of this weekend’s NFL Draft could be running backs.

Former Minnesota rusher Marion Barber III won’t be one of those top three. But the early run on running backs could put him in the top three rounds.

Barber is just one of many in a running back-rich 2005 draft. And while Texas’ Cedric Benson and Auburn’s Ronnie Brown and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams are expected to go fast, Barber probably won’t be taken until late in the three-round first day.

Scouts Inc. lists Barber as the 10th-best back in this year’s draft, and most mock drafts have him listed in the late third round.

“As far as me predicting where he’s going to get drafted is kind of a futile exercise,” Barber’s agent, Craig Domann said. “He’s got an excellent opportunity to be in the first day of the draft, and I would be disappointed if he’s not. I’m hoping he goes in the top 64.”

Going on the first day is certainly possible for Barber. But going in the top 64 would make Barber a second-round pick, which seems unlikely.

In fact, several draft pundits, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., have Barber slipping into the upper half of the fourth round.

Barber possibly boosted his stock with impressive NFL Combine and Pro Day workouts. He had the longest broad jump out of any running back at the combine at 10 feet, 7 inches, and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at Minnesota’s Pro Day.

But Domann said that might not have as many positive effects as one would think.

“What typically happens when a guy runs is if he doesn’t run well, you see the interest fall off, more than when a guy runs well, interest is going up,” Domann said.

Domann said each of the several teams most actively looking to draft a running back have expressed an interest in Barber.

Barber has worked out for Dallas and has also made trips to meet with Tampa Bay and the New York Jets.

The other teams Domann rattled off included Atlanta, Miami and Arizona. He also referenced the trade rumors circulating about Indianapolis and Seattle.

Scouts Inc.’s mock draft has Barber going to the Seahawks in the third round (98th overall). Kiper, on the other hand, has Barber listed 114th overall to the Texans. The most generous projection comes from NFLDraftScout.com, which predicts the Cardinals will take him 75th overall.

“There’s a group of about eight or nine that have an eye towards a running back in the first three rounds,” Domann said. “And I can’t think of any team out of that group that hasn’t shown an interest.”

Melander also probable

Former Gophers offensive tackle Rian Melander will most likely be the only other former Minnesota player picked this weekend.

Melander was not invited to the NFL scouting combine, but he ran a 5.27 40-yard dash at Pro Day. More importantly, he ran a 1.77 10-yard dash, which his agent Joe Palumbo said is more important for a lineman. Melander also beefed up, going from 287 pounds to 308.

Palumbo said that although he’s optimistic Melander could go late in the fourth round, a realistic outlook is anywhere from the middle of the fifth to the end of the sixth.

He said Melander worked out and sat down individually with the 49ers after Pro Day, and also with the Vikings at their local workout.

Melander said the New York Giants were the first team to call.

“(They’re just asking) if you’ve got any more injuries, how workouts are going,” Melander said. “They try to feel out your personality, your availability if you’ve graduated, and if you have any off-the-field issues.”