Top Five 2020 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. D'Andre Swift- Georgia
Bio: As a freshman at Georgia, D'Andre Swift was the third running back behind Sony Michel and Nick Chubb but still averaged over seven yards per carry. The following year, he split carries with Elijah Holyfield and saw an increasing role as a backfield receiver. The undisputed starter as a junior, he was named first team All-SEC with 1,218 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Strengths: Short, compact build with strong lower half. Good three-down ability. Good knowledge of blocking schemes and trusts his linemen to open up holes. Able to make adjustments in the running lane when he sees linebackers approaching in zone sets. Elite awareness and vision between the the tackles. Identifies the opening and won't force runs if nothing is there. Solid jump cut gets him into open space inside the hole. Won't get lost in space. Keeps balance through contact, jukes, and spins. Gets defenders alone before making his cut. Quick to regain his speed after stopping. Strong route tree and gains separation out of breaks. Soft hands as a receiver. Tough and willing in pass protection. Limited ware on his legs due to splitting carries his first two years.
Weaknesses: More quick than fast. Lacks home run speed. Acceleration speed to get to the outside is just average. Below average ball security the way he carries. Doesn't push the pile or finish runs with authority. Vision on short yardage situations is lacking. Has to work harder than other backs to achieve explosive runs. Hand placement in pass protection needs work. Never missed a game, but dealt with nagging injuries throughout his time at in college.
Pro Comparison: Cadillac Williams
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
2. JK Dobbins- Ohio State
Bio: Despite breaking his leg during his senior season of high school, J'Kaylin "J.K." Dobbins became a rare true freshman starter with the Ohio State. In his first two seasons, he was the second team All-Big Ten running back while splitting time with Mike Weber. As a junior he was a Heisman Trophy and Doak Walker Award finalist with 2,003 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Strengths: Body builder frame with compact and sculpted physique. Big game player with impressive performances as a junior. Never missed a game and played through some annoying pain. Wore down defenses as the workhorse in 2019. Good contact balance to take the hit and keep moving. Great footwork for cutbacks on stretch runs. Skilled at getting inside pursuing defenders. Good peripheral vision once he gets to the second level. Runs low and keeps his shoulders level. Lowers his pads to finish runs. Efficient runner with not much flare. Very effective at selling screen plays. Gains separation and gets yards after the catch on wheel routes. Will step up and confront blitzing defenders.
Weaknesses: Running style can be stiff at times. Vision and improvisation skills are just average. One speed runner at the second level. Speed slightly drops on cuts. Can make you miss but doesn't elude much in space. Not much burst through the line or to the outside. More tough than explosive at the line. Stop/start quickness is below average. Has to help his linemen when rushers leak through protection. Focus drops as a receiver. Dropped two potential touchdowns in the Buckeye's loss to Clemson in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.
Pro Comparison: Emmitt Smith
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Chicago Bears
3. Jonathan Taylor- Wisconsin
Bio: The South Jersey Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, Jonathan Taylor made an immediate impact for Wisconsin winning the Big Ten Freshen of the Year as a true freshman. The following two years, he was a two time unanimous first team All-American, two time Big Ten Running Back of the Year, and two time Doak Walker award winner as the nation's best running back. In three seasons for the Badgers, he rushed for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Strengths: Ideal combination of height, weight, speed, and durability. Had 12, 200-yard rushing games during his college career. Allows his line to set up blocks and rarely forces runs. Deep cutback freedom due to press from the line. Sinks hips, plants foot, and cuts with ease. See and follows path of the running lane. Good burst to the edge to escape pursuing defenders. Former track star with solid breakaway speed. Plays with good knee bend and lean through contact. Keeps balance through contact for mare yards. Enough talent to make a positive run when the play breaks down. Attacks the legs of blitzing linebackers. Should some good route running ability as a junior.
Weaknesses: Had over 900 touches in three seasons at Wisconsin. Heavy workload could be a concern from some NFL teams. 15 career fumbles. Will have some hesitation on inside runs. Not very smooth off jump cuts. Feet occasionally slow down through inside contact. Formulaic second levels moves that won't split NFL defenders. Not a powerful runner in goal line packages. Only 42 catches as a receiver with a high number of drops. Confidence and energy wasn't there against Ohio State.
Pro Comparison: Ryan Matthews
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire- LSU
Bio: A four star recruit from Baton Rouge, Clyde Edwards-Helaire signed with his hometown college LSU. As a true freshman, he was used as a reserve back and return specialist. In 2019, he was named first ream All-SEC as a running back and second team All-SEC as a return man and was a Paul Hornung Award finalist as one of the nation's most versatile players with 2,082 all purpose yards and 17 touchdowns while helping the Tigers to an undefeated National Championship season.
Strengths: Runs low to the ground with great bend and balance. Over a third of his carries went for either a first down or a touchdown as a junior. Can cut and go without losing any speed. Superb lateral quickness and downhill flow. Has a lot of moves to use in space. Makes defenders miss in tight spaces. Eyes and feet make him unpredictable off the snap. Changes gears to trick incoming linebackers. Keeps pads square and falls forward to finish runs. Flows to second gear with ease off cuts. Smooth and tight routes out of the backfield. Yards after the catch are almost guaranteed. Three years as the Tigers kick returner. Elite ball security.
Weaknesses: Smaller back with unknown skills on inside runs. Long speed is very questionable. LSU's run pass option formations made linebackers more hesitant on hand offs. Average power on short yardage and goal line situations. Burst to the edge is average at best. Short arms with small catch radius. Not much commitment in pass protection sets.
Pro Comparison: Devin Singletary
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons
5. Zack Moss- Utah
Bio: Originally committed to playing at Miami, Zack Moss chose instead to play at Utah. In fours years with the Utes, he rushed for 4,053 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Strengths: Well built with power throughout his frame. Can be both a patient and urgent runner when needed. Peaceful runner in the face of pressure. Deceptive vision to make a plan once he gets past the line of scrimmage. Good burst on inside runs with a feel of how the running lane will flow. Small step running style gives him great balance. Arm tacklers will be ineffective against him. Absorbs contact like a tank. Spin moves leaves linebackers flat on their face. Drops pads to finish runs. Good in short yardage to get the first down or the touchdown. Capable third down back. Cousin of former NFL receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss.
Weaknesses: Stiff hips limit movement on first and second level. Takes unnecessary steps before making the cut. Average overall speed. Might not be fast enough to run free from NFL defensive backs. More likely to run away or power through defenders rather than put moves together. Slight issue with fumbling. Running style could lead to durability concerns. Missed some time due to injury and had season ending surgery on his knee in 2018.
Pro Comparison: Marion Barber III
Projected Round: 3
Possible Landing Spot: Las Vegas Raiders
Other Notable Prospects
Cam Akers- Florida State
- Tough finisher, lacks explosiveness
La'Mical Perine- Florida
- High character traits, poor burst
Ke'Shawn Vaughn- Vanderbilt
- Muscular upper body, average vision
Joshua Kelley- UCLA
- Strong runner, not a fluid runner
Jet Anderson- TCU
- Good spin move, overly stiff
Scottie Phillips- Ole Miss
- Lively feet, impatient runner
JJ Taylor- Arizona
- Physical runner, not as sudden as you'd expect from a smaller back
Eno Benjamin- Arizona State
- Fighter in run game, drop in production from 2018
AJ Dillon- Boston College
- Big frame, below average burst
Patrick Taylor- Memphis
- Rare height, stiff runner
Raymond Calais- Louisiana Lafayette
- Impressive burst, not elusive
Michael Warren- Cincinnati
- Power runner, heavy workload
Tony Jones- Notre Dame
- Reads blocks well, inconsistent production
Darrynton Evans- Appalachian State
- Ideal zone runner, slows down into contact
Benny LeMay- Charlotte
- Handful to tackle, too much movement between the tackles
DeeJay Dallas- Miami
- Played RB and WR, questionable footwork
Javon Leake- Maryland
- Elite playmaker, thin lower half
JaMychal Hasty- Baylor
- Tough and dependable, never the full time starter