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NFL Combine: Who will be this year’s under-the-radar running back that bursts onto the scene?

North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines, Notre Dame’s Josh Adams, Georgia’s Sony Michel are potential sleepers at RB.

Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting

Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs against the Miami (OH) Redhawks at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 30, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

INDIANAPOLIS — As the crowd swelled around Saquon Barkley at his media session during the NFL Combine, Nyheim Hines stood on the podium adjacent to the Penn State superstar. Hines was not surrounded by an army of reporters and cameras. In fact, he spent a few minutes of his session just standing there waiting for someone — anyone — to ask him a question.

One of them, eventually, was this: Who will be this year’s Alvin Kamara?

“It can be anybody,” Hines said. “You don’t know yet. Kamara got drafted in the third round and ran what, a 4.56? So it can really be anybody. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity, and once you get your foot in the door you make the most of it.”

So while Barkley is hands down the most exciting and enticing running back in this year’s draft class and will almost certainly be taken in the first handful of selections in late April — perhaps even by the Giants at No. 2 overall — there were a few dozen other running backs at the Combine hoping to do what Kamara did. One of them may be overlooked in the draft, not get the national headlines, fall to a later round and wind up being the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Hines, who played at North Carolina State, figures to be one of the players taken in that early-middle part of the draft who can fit that mold. So is Notre Dame running back Josh Adams.

“I think it depends on the player and who they are,” Adams said. “There’s no trend, there’s just who’s willing to work and who’s willing to put the hours in. Great players come in all different selections of the draft. But I can tell you this: There are a lot of talented people who are in the draft and it’s going to be exciting to see where different guys end up.”

While Barkley would certainly be a boon for the Giants offense, the team is doing its homework on other players at the position as well. They were scheduled to meet with Hines on Thursday night and already met with Kerryon Johnson from Auburn. Almost all of the running backs the Giants seem interested in fit the mandate that head coach Pat Shurmur put forward for the position earlier this week when he said: “Really, I have no use for any offensive skill player who can’t catch, and running back is no different.”

“It’s important,” Hines said of pass-catching for NFL running backs. “It’ll make or break your job. A lot of running backs lose money and lose positions because they can’t catch the ball. When you have a guy who can do both and even do returns, I feel like it helps him dramatically.”

Giants general manager Dave Gettleman certainly felt that way last year when he used his first round pick for the Panthers on Christian McCaffery. And Kamara, again, was able to be productive both running, receiving and returning for the Saints.

The lesson is that while each draft class has its undisputed star, there are often players further down the board who can become just as dynamic. So Giants fans should not panic if they finish the first day of the draft without acquiring a player at the position. Nor should the players themselves.

“At the end of the day I have to run my race,” said Georgia’s Sony Michel, who many have rated in the top five at the position — but not actually at the top — in this year’s class. “I have to do what I need to do to be ready when my number is called. If I work hard enough, then hopefully I’ll be able to get the opportunity.”

Nyheim Hines

North Carolina State

4.38 40-yard dash

35.5 Vertical Jump

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