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NFL: Peterson and Lynch lead RBs in NFL draft

GREEN BAY -- Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and California's Marshawn Lynch reign over the running backs in the National Football League draft. If you own a top-five pick, you might have a chance at Peterson. If you don't, and are a team such as the ...

GREEN BAY -- Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and California's Marshawn Lynch reign over the running backs in the National Football League draft.

If you own a top-five pick, you might have a chance at Peterson. If you don't, and are a team such as the Green Bay Packers in need of a running back, Lynch is far and away the next-best player.

"In all honesty, at the end of the day, Lynch could have the better career of the two," said Trent Baalke, who scouts the West for the San Francisco 49ers. "Lynch is more of an athletic running back than Peterson in terms of making people miss, setting people up, double-cut moves.

"Peterson is a downhill, one-cut speed back that runs with excellent power and has the speed to take it the distance. He may not be able to help you on third down as much as Lynch can.

"They're two totally different backs. Both very good backs."

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In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel poll asking 18 personnel men to rank their favorites 1 to 4, Peterson was No. 1 on every ballot and Lynch was No. 2 on every ballot. They were among 11 junior backs, including six who could go in the first three rounds, who declared a year early to blot out a nondescript stable of seniors.

Auburn's Kenny Irons finished third with 16 points (a first-place vote was worth four points, a second-place vote was worth three and so on), followed by Ohio State's Antonio Pittman with 12, Louisville's Michael Bush and Arizona's Chris Henry with seven apiece, Penn State's Tony Hunt with six, Rutgers' Brian Leonard with three, Nebraska's Brandon Jackson with two and Florida State's Lorenzo Booker with one.

The knock on Peterson is durability. Often compared to Eric Dickerson, he is an attacking upright runner who missed eight games in three seasons because of injury.

Lynch suffered a sprained ankle in the 2006 opener, sprained his other ankle a few weeks later and fought through a sore back to play all 13 games. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry, more than Peterson's 5.4, and was far more effective in the passing game with 68 catches compared with Peterson's 24.

"Nothing not to like," said Jerry Angelo, general manager of the Chicago Bears. "Obviously, I think he's going to be pretty good. He's got a combination of size, speed, power, good inside runner, can get to the corner."

Well, scouts being scouts, and with too much evaluation time on their hands, there are facets to Lynch they've found concerning.

As one put it in reference to Lynch, "You know the old saying, 'All that glitters isn't gold.' There's red flags on this guy."

Under coach Jeff Tedford, Lynch wasn't a workhorse. He averaged 19.6 carries per game in 2005, just 17.2 in '06. In short-yardage situations his sophomore year, Lynch often was removed for another back.

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"I'm not wild about him," an NFC scout said. "He didn't carry the load full time. He split a lot of time, for whatever reason."

One personnel director for an AFC team said Lynch showed more elusiveness in '05. An NFC scout thought Lynch relied on finesse too much.

"He gets a little too creative, more like a (Barry) Sanders," he said. "He tries to make every run a big run when he should be taking the 3 or 4 yards that are there. So the mentality is feast or famine."

Lynch also has a lower back condition, described by several club officials as disc-related, and it worries some teams quite a bit.

When Lynch declared for the draft Jan. 2, Tedford said all the right things. However, two personnel directors said Tedford and other coaches didn't really care for him.

"His work ethic and team attitude is poor," an AFC personnel man said. "You wouldn't find a lot of people around there that are sorry to see him go. He has great skill but he's a little scary personality-wise."

In the last 10 months, Lynch has been the unintended target of unknown assailants who shot at his car in Oakland and was accused of sexual assault by his high school girlfriend. The assault charge was thrown out emphatically and NFL people don't seem to hold the shooting against him, but Lynch still is regarded as a high-maintenance prospect by a lot of teams.

Lynch, who turns 21 Sunday, grew up in east Oakland and attended Oakland Tech. He proclaims himself a "Mama's Boy," and has those words tattooed on his back from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.

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Delisa Lynch, who raised her son basically by herself and at times worked three jobs, intends to move with her son wherever he lands.

"He kind of runs with a tough crowd from a tough neighborhood," an AFC scout said. "Where he comes from, and if he goes to a place like Buffalo or Green Bay, it's if he's going to be able to fit in and acclimate himself. Or does he need to be in an Oakland or San Francisco, a city more accommodating to his background?"

Said another scout: "This guy is a complete back, a good-looking specimen. But you're going to get a headache. He's not a bad person. I like being around him. But something will happen. I don't care where he goes, what city. He will be a little pain in the (expletive) for somebody."

As a freshman in 2004, Lynch averaged 8.8 yards per carry as the backup to J.J. Arrington in an offense quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers.

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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