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| Columns |

UM's Duke Johnson Is the Best Running Back in the NFL Draft

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With the NFL draft set to begin April 30, all the talk has centered on quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, who are projected to be the first and second players taken. But the true breakout star will be former University of Miami running back Duke Johnson.

Johnson is a legend in Miami-Dade's football subculture. He's been breaking records since he was a little-leaguer for the Liberty City Optimist Club, which has churned out some of the best talent to play in the NFL. (Two examples are Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Vontae Davis and Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.) At Miami Norland Senior High, Duke racked up thousands of yards playing against the nation's toughest competition.

At the University of Miami, Johnson carried the offense for three-plus years, becoming the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,339 yards. He broke Ottis Anderson's record, which dated back to the 1970s. On his way to the top, Duke surpassed Alonzo Highsmith, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Lamar Miller, who all went on to have stellar careers in the NFL.

Johnson also owns the records for UM running back with the most 100-yard games, rushing yards in a single season, all-purpose yards in a career and a season, yards per carry during a season, and touchdowns.

When a player from Miami, which sends more guys to the NFL than any other city, dominates the football field at the little-league, high-school, and college levels, there is no doubt he can excel in the pros too. (A recent count by the website Elite Daily shows South Florida has five of the top ten high schools that produce the most NFL players.) This draft features a slate of topnotch South Florida players, including Amari Cooper, Durell Eskridge, and UM's Ereck Flowers.

Duke Johnson has all the qualities of a great running back: a feel for the game, a high football IQ, and explosiveness once he gets the ball. If he's available when the Miami Dolphins' turn comes up, the hometown team would be crazy not to draft him.

I don't understand how Sun Sentinel Dolphins beat writer Omar Kelly and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. don't have Duke as the best running back available.

There is no doubt he will be one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

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