Top Five 2019 NFL Draft Prospects- Running Back
These guys will look to be the future work horses of NFL franchises. Today I rank the top five running back prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Josh Jacobs- Alabama
Bio: As a freshman at Alabama in 2016, Josh Jacobs split time with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, rushing 85 times for 567 yards and four touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had 284 yards on 46 carries with one touchdown. He had a breakout season as a junior with 120 carries for 620 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named the MVP of the SEC Championship Game with 86 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries.
Strengths: Ideal build with low center of gravity and strong frame. Bruising and explosive when finishing runs. Gives extra effort on short yardage runs. Sturdy base to keep balance through contact and get to the second level. Patient but crucial on outside zone carries. Trusts his blockers and lets them get the job done. Instinctive runner with nice timing on cuts off blocking schemes. Comfortable playing in single back formations or behind a fullback. Has enough gas to get around the edge and up the sidelines. Great footwork to move around in congested areas. Extremely efficient as a receiver out of the backfield. Can track the ball in the air like elite receivers. Used in many backfield packages. Added value as a return man. Low miles on his legs thanks to Alabama's big depth at running back.
Weaknesses: Not many long runs. Might not be fast enough to break long runs. Exaggerated movement in space at times. One speed runner. Struggles to change gears and slow down to make plays at second level. Doesn't instill fear in open field tacklers. Resorts to just running through contact rather than trying to make them miss. Was never really asked to block in pass protection on blitz pickups or on third down. Played most of 2017 with a broken ankle and a bum hamstring.
Pro Comparison: Sony Michel
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Damien Harris- Alabama
Bio: The Kentucky High School Player of the Year and number one running back recruit in the country in 2014, Damien Harris saw playing time almost immediately at Alabama at running back, receiver, and in the return game. By 2016, he was the workhorse for the offense with 1,037 yards on a 7.1 yards per carry average. He repeated the feat the following year with 1,000 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns with a 7.4 yard per carry average and no fumbles.
Strengths: Well proportioned back with thick frame to handle physical carries. Straight forward runner with not a lot of flare in his game. Runs through contact to fall forward and usually takes more than one man to bring him down. Patient zone runner with awareness to know when to cut it back inside. Follows his blocks and keeps plays to their designed layout. Downhill runner inside but quick enough to cut an find open holes. Doesn't get lost in space. Able to get free from traffic while still looking to keep the play going. Almost impossible to get ball away from him. Not afraid to help out in pass protection and in blitz pickups. Good technique to engage and sustain blocks. Soft hands and good ball skills to be a solid check down target. Little wear and tear thanks to Alabama's backfield depth.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have the acceleration to get to the corner and outrun faster linebackers consistently. Tackle breaking skill will be tested at pro level due to lack of burst. Open field elusive average at best by NFL standards. Size and running style won't make defenders miss at the second level. Has a hard time speeding back up when forced to slow down. Basic running mentality makes him predictable to linebackers. Far sighted in short yardage which limits his ability to find open space. To often lowers his head in short yardage rather than looking for the hole.
Pro Comparison: CJ Anderson
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Baltimore Ravens
3. Benny Snell- Kentucky
Bio: As a freshman, Benny Snell Jr. played alongside Stanley Williams but still rushed for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns. The following year, he became the feature back and rushed for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns. As a junior, Snell became the Wildcats all time leading rusher finishing his career with 3,873 yards and 48 touchdowns.
Strengths: Compactly built frame. Patient runner, allows blocks to set up. Decisive and quick eyes find the open lane. Subtle footwork traits make him a more efficient runner. Jump cuts aren't overly impressive but they are effective. Able to create more running room in the open field with quick fakes in space. Easily powers through arm tackles thanks to sturdy base. Flows through contact on the edge to finish runs falling forward. Hungry for touchdowns and gets better the closer he gets to the red zone. Above average catch radius as a backfield receiver. NFL bloodlines with his father Benjamin being drafted by the Ravens in 1998 and his great uncle Matt is a New York Jets legend as he helped the team pull off the Jets upset victory in Super Bowl III.
Weaknesses: Tightly packed in lower body. Footwork heavy when running inside. Below average lateral quickness and slow when changing direction. Panics at times when there isn't an opening. Struggles to speed back up when he has to slow down. Unable to force his way through small holes. Breakaway speed is almost nonexistent. Pass protection fundamentals need a complete overhaul.
Pro Comparison: Chris Carson
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers
4. Bryce Love- Stanford
Bio: After spending his first two years playing behind Christian McCaffrey, Bryce Love became the starter in 2017. That year he finished second in the country with 2,118 rushing yards and was named the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's top running back.
Strengths: A+ character traits. Extremely smart and is quick to process new material. Willing and able to play through pain. Feet are always moving. Controlled footwork allows for great balance and at will acceleration. Wins foot races around the edge against quick linebackers. Phenomenal burst and top end speed to break home run plays. Runs trough contact on inside carries. Can get skinny to fit trough tight holes. Rare skill to keep frame square while moving laterally to keep away from defenders. Better receiver than stats will show.
Weaknesses: Hindsight being 20/20, would have been better off entering he 2018 NFL Draft. Tweener size could affect rushing carries and draft stock. Too much dancing when running downhill. Running style is more chaotic than graceful. Will need to trust his blockers and anticipate better in the pros. Just okay at setting up defenders in open field. Average field vision and foresight. Lacks size to extend plays after contact. Could struggle to block in coming blitzers. More comfortable with zone schemes than gaps. Significant production drop as a senior and tore his ACL in Stanford's regular season finale.
Pro Comparison: Dion Lewis
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
5. Justice Hill- Oklahoma State
Bio: The Oklahoma Division II Offensive Player of the Year, Justice Hill got on the field immediately for Oklahoma State. He became the nation's leading freshman rusher with 1,142 yards. The following year he led the Big 12 with 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Strengths: Played at the same level and production in each of his three seasons. Fresh feet and runs with wide base. Keeps runs to design unless he sees an opening. Flexible hips to keep balance and recover after contact. Makes quick decisions on the move. Can come to a complete stop when at top speed. Slippery in he open field. Textbook spin move to get free of tackles. Runs like he's being hunted and fights hard against tacklers. Can use quick, east/west cuts to bounce runs to the outside. Great ball security with just five fumbles in three years.
Weaknesses: Undersized for the pro game. Crazy running style lacks consistent tempo. Unnecessarily crowds running lanes at times. Will bounce off his own blockers in the middle of runs. Won't evade punishing hits in the open field. Occasional wasted movement in space on jukes. Runs too quickly and fails to force defenders into his blockers. Top speed average. Linebackers can predict his angles to the corner. Only five runs of 30 yards or more in 2018. Gets bulldozed by larger edge rushers in pass protection. Missed two games with a rib injury as a junior.
Pro Comparison: Phillip Lindsay
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: New York Jets
Other Notable Prospects
Devin Singletary- Florida Atlantic
- Undersized three downs back, lacks discipline
David Montgomery- Iowa State
- Solid Day 2 value, below average burst
Darrell Henderson- Memphis
- Big play ability, undersized
Dexter Williams- Notre Dame
- Every down potential, off field issues
LJ Scott- Michigan State
- Great size, never reached 1,000 yards rushing in a season
Rodney Anderson- Oklahoma
- Good size and instincts, plagued by injuries
Myles Gaskin- Washington
- Durable back, lacks explosiveness
Mike Weber- Ohio State
- Bowling ball runner, bad 2018 tape due to Ohio State's poor run blocking
Trayveon Williams- Texas A&M
- Good receiving back, lacks patience
Elijah Holyfield- Georgia
- Solid inside runner and son of boxer Evander Holyfield, lacks breakaway speed
Karan Higdon- Michigan
- Downhill runner, not very elusive