After following up a stellar freshman season, where he was a freshman All-American and the Big East rookie of the year, a monster 1,744-yard sophomore season put West Virginia's Steve Slaton into elite prospect status coming into his junior season solidly with Arkansas' Darren McFadden as the nation's top two backs. After a strong start to the season, where he ran for 100 yards in four straight games, he has been under that total in five of the last seven games. But, even though his production hasn't been the same (1,042 yards, 17 touchdowns), partly due to defenses keying on him more, West Virginia's success is likely a pleasant trade-off. As far as his status as a prospect, he hasn't done anything to damage his place as one of the top RBs on the board, though he may be battling Oregon's Jonathan Stewart to be the second back off of the board on draft day. He's got a serious nose for the end zone (50 career rushing touchdowns, 55 total), having scored at least one touchdown in 26 of his last 31 games. Even though he hasn't had the chance to make as many long runs this season as in the previous two seasons, his blazing speed and cutting ability mean bad news for the defense if he gets the slightest bit of open space. Along with his ability as a runner, he's proved to be a more than adequate receiver in a run-first offense, recording 63 catches for 794 yards and five touchdowns in his collegiate career(as of 11/24). Even though he has done it very little in college, Slaton could return kicks in the NFL, making him that coveted triple threat -- a la Reggie Bush. Slaton has excelled, despite having to share carries with QB Pat White (and now freshman RB Noel Devine). It will be interesting to see how he can carry the load when he's the workhorse. He does need to bulk up a little so he can be a solid blocker and so he can be more durable. He could land anywhere from the top 10 to the late first round, depending on team needs. But wherever he lands - if he can get that strength to supplement his speed and talent - it shouldn't be long before he's earning his paycheck. Update (1/4/08): Slaton left Wednesday night's Fiesta Bowl with a leg injury in the first quarter and did not return. He exited with one carry for -2 yards and one catch for 2 yards. Slaton's junior season ended with only nine yards on 10 carries in the last two games, but he still had a solid junior campaign (rushing for 1,051 yards and 17 touchdowns, and catching 26 passes for 350 yards and another score). Slaton submitted his draft evaluation paperwork to the NFL last month, so it remains to be seen if the quiet end to his season affects his decision to either leave school early or stay for his senior season. If he does leave school early, he'll do so 77 yards shy of 4,000 (3,923 yards), with 65 catches for 805 yards, and 55 total touchdowns (50 rushing, five receiving) in his three-year career. Update (1/14/08): Slaton announced yesterday that he will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. After running for 1,744 yards in 2006, Slaton ran for 1,051 yards in 2007 -- which certainly isn't too shabby, but not quite what he or anyone else might have expected out of him after such a big sophomore year. Slaton had only nine yards in the final two games, though he missed most of the Fiesta Bowl due to a leg injury. He looked pretty solid as a first-round pick for quite a while, but with the way his junior season ended and with the likes of Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart, and Ray Rice helping their stock, Slaton might need to spend the next couple of months working on improving his standing before the draft. He said the NFL draft evaluators said he was a second-round selection, so we'll have to see. If he does fall, it won't be too far, because with that speed and his overall talent, he won't be on the board very long one way or another. Update (3/28/08): Once considered a likely first-round prospect, Slaton's stock was falling after a junior season that didn't meet expectations; but after a solid showing at West Virginia's Pro Day, Slaton may have kept himself in the first three rounds. If anything though, he stopped the negative momentum. He didn't clock in under 4.4 in the 40, which might have been what he needed to move up, but he post a 4.45 and had solid 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill times of 4.27 and 6.74 seconds.