You have to feel for a running back set to enter the NFL.

The position has been so devalued in recent years.

The preponderance of spread systems in college doesn’t necessarily get them ready for the NFL.

Prospects usually aren’t ready for the pounding of the NFL or the complexity of the offense.

And the lifespan of top running backs is short, even compared to other positions; they’re seen as being easily replaced.

Gio Bernard was the first back taken last year … with the 37th pick.

Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey is jockeying to be the first running back taken in this May’s NFL draft.

He appears capable of contributing as a rookie.

Carey registered 652 carries for 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns the past two seasons. But he posted those numbers in a zone-blocking system known for inflating offensive numbers.

Learning to make quick, fluid reads will be helpful in the NFL, Carey believes. He described the process of finding seams in the defense.

“I’m looking to press the center’s butt most of the time,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “I look to see if the hole opens frontside to backside. Most of the time it wasn’t there, and I had to go through a different hole. Coach [Rich Rodriguez] really didn’t like that, but he couldn’t say anything if I gained 15 yards. I think I have a good feel for things when I’m in traffic. I got those tough yards we needed.”

Two areas almost every running back needs to improve in the NFL are taking hits from professional players and blocking on third down.