Top Five 2017 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. Leonard Fournette, LSU
Bio: As a true freshman at LSU, Leonard Fournette led the SEC in all-purpose yards. He followed that up with by nearly racking up 2,000 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. Fournette decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the draft.
Strengths: Full-on, grown man with outstanding muscle definition throughout his body. Built like a linebacker with speed like a receiver. Long, powerful strides. Find the hole and hit it runner who hits his second gear faster than most big backs you'll ever see. Able to accelerate and stretch around the corner for chunk runs against linebackers lacking speed or urgency to the edge. Strong hips and thighs knock defenders right off. Tacklers forced to hit him with everything they got. Always the hammer and rarely the nail. Violent finisher looking to intimidate run stopping safeties with crushing blows behind lower pads. Runs feet through all contact. Has balance and power to plow through tackles. Punishing stiff arms. Has experience running from two-back, single-back and off-set looks. Hands are decent in passing game. Can create opportunities for himself with power and speed. Wins in short yardage and goal line situations.
Weaknesses: Doesn't make many defenders miss in open field. Aggressive, take-on style could lead to injuries and shortened career. Struggles to elude blitzers at line of scrimmage. Lacks looseness of hips to jump cut from gap to gap. Struggled with a bad ankle for most of the 2016 season. Plays in a tight window. Excitable runner in need of more patience. Too quick to hit the accelerator and slam into defenders when there are still cuts and yards left on the play. Runs to obvious daylight but needs to learn to anticipate and finesse the slip in traffic. Doesn't see cutback lanes developing as outside zone runner and prefers to keep runs playside. Throws half-hearted, grazing shoulder as chip blocker. Pass protection and routes need extensive work. He chose not to play in the team's bowl game to prepare himself for the pre-draft evaluation process.
Projected Round: 1
Compares to: Adrian Peterson
Possible landing spot: Carolina Panthers
2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Bio: In his first year at Florida State, Dalvin Cook became the first Seminole to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman. Over the next two years, he only got better rushing for 3,456 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Strengths: Uses quick feet and compact stride length downhill. Keeps feet under him and is able to make lateral cuts at a moment's notice. Flourished in zone, gap and power schemes at FSU. At his best running outside while setting up lead blockers. Slows flowing safeties and linebackers with hesitation steps while looking back inside. Has second gear around the corner he keeps tucked away for special occasions. Darting style allows him to escape defenders who show gap commitment too soon. Ideal vision. Quick to flow from first to second read on outside zone plays. Greedy redzone runner. The brighter the lights, the bigger he shines. Comfortable in both one-back and two-back systems. Rare ability to cut it all the way back across the grain. Changes direction with degree of subtlety on second level without losing speed. Not much of a dancer. Doesn't get touched until he's on the second level. Feet in constant motion. Despite drops, can be dangerous out of backfield.
Weaknesses: Not always a tough inside runner. Can be early to bounce it outside rather than plant and go downhill. Needs to become more comfortable between the tackles. Excellent vision to the perimeter becomes cloudier between the gaps. Will duck head and finish a run prematurely rather than scanning for more interior space. Not always small through the crease. Flashes ability to finish with authority but makes "business decisions" at times. Hips not as fluid as expected. Would benefit from use of a stiff-arm. Inconsistent hands in all phases. Ball security issues with 13 career fumbles. Suffers from focus drops out of backfield. Won't square-up on blitzers and may not be reliable enough as blocker to play on third downs. Extensive injury history and multiple run ins with the law.
Projected Round: 1
Compares to: Jamaal Charles
Possible landing spot: Indianapolis Colts
3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Bio: The son of former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, Christian McCaffrey burst onto the scene as a sophomore at Stanford. That year, he set a NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards and was a finalist for the Heisman trophy. He was the only FBS player to lead his team in rushing and receiving yards, and won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player.
Strengths: Smooth, controlled stride with choppy feet for instant cuts and change of direction. Above average vision with above average anticipation for opening creases. Hugs contours of the running lane and staggers and stutters his feet to maneuver in tight quarters. Protects football while running through traffic. Reads keys quickly on stretch plays. Sinks hips into sharp cuts. Equally dangerous darting inside or outside and is able to string moves together. Won't dance on short runs and gets it downhill. Feet are always moving. Able to make defenders miss on all three levels. Willing to keep runs playside and alters his track seamlessly. Runs with multiple gears and is able to gear up or down instantly. Fights for extra yardage while being tackled. Has experience in one-back, two-back and offset formations. Excellent hands out of backfield and can be used from slot. Devastating quickness out of breaks can be mismatches for linebackers. Experienced and capable return specialist.
Weaknesses: Lacks desired size of an every-down back. A lot of ware off his tires. Logged 300-plus touches in each of the last two seasons and was asked to grind the gears for short yardage carries. Benefitted from physical, downhill offensive line. Takes foot off gas into contact. Doesn't have NFL-caliber power to break tackles and create yardage for himself through power. Can shake tacklers, but lacks a burst to accelerate away after the cut. On stretch plays, can get too cute continuing to look towards the edge rather than choosing a crease and committing. Average burst may not be enough to race past NFL speed on second level. Inconsistent squaring up blitzers in pass pro and ducks his head into contact. Hampered by injury as a junior and decided not to play in his team's bowl game due to injury concerns.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Le'Veon Bell
Possible landing spot: New England Patriots
4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
Bio: In 2015, Joe Mixon came on the scene as an offensive weapon recording 1,109 total yards and 11 total touchdowns. The next year he for 1,274 yards, averaging nearly seven yards per rush with 10 touchdowns. He also ranked in the top five nationally with 194 all-purpose yards per game.
Strengths: Outstanding burst to go from first level to third level. Goes from glide to burst quickly and can hit big plays between tackles and around corners. Can go from elusive to banger when he needs to. Will drop the pads and drive through tacklers in short yardage spots. Flashy feet for his size. Can jump-cut around defenders in tight spaces. Smooth hips help him swivel around the second and third levels. Able to juke quickly, leaving linebackers diving as he escapes. Strong stiff-arm helps would-be tackles grasping air. Can turn the corner and create a straightaway to the end zone. Was Big 12 leader in 15+ yardage plays. True three-down back. Devastating pass catching option. Excellent route runner creating immediate separation. Soft hands to make the easy catch and the one-hander. Will step in and square up his blocking responsibilities in pass game.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent as inside runner. Can be overly patient at times. Looks for wide-open holes before he hits the gas. Can be care free approaching line of scrimmage. Dances downhill allowing running lanes to become creases for linebackers. Feet lag behind when headed into traffic and will get loose with his rush track inviting tacklers a chance to get a hand on him. Lacks creativity in initial stages of his run. Vision is just average. Fails to see backside cuts developing on stretch plays. Hops into his downhill cuts rather than planting his feet and going. Character a huge issue. Punched a female student after she shoved him. Mixon was suspended for the season, and more than two years later, a video of the incident was released, forcing him to publically apologize.
Projected Round: 2-3
Compares to: Tyreek Hill
Possible landing spot: New York Giants
5. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
Bio: One of the top high school running backs in the country as a high school senior, Alvin Kamara went to Alabama to be the next big Nick Saban running back but injuries and off field troubles forced him to play community college. Given a second chance in the SEC by Tennessee, Kamara averaged 6.5 yards per carry as a backup in 2015. He was impressive again as a junior, running for 596 yards and nine touchdowns on only 103 carries.
Strengths: Fluid runner with NFL size and speed. Will open creases by changing pace of his runs. Burst to top speed at flip of a switch. Creates yardage with speed, wiggle and power. Twitchy and decisive. Strong lower body provides superior balance. Flexible and agile with ability to twist, spin and bounce off of bodies and continue to gain yards after contact. Extremely productive, 23 touchdowns in just 284 touches at Tennessee. Well-liked inside program and a team leader. Can play on all three downs. Improved in pass protection and squares up blitzers. Has lined up at slot receiver at times. Sure-handed pass catcher with excellent burst out of breaks to consistently uncover. Has talent as punt returner.
Weaknesses: Vision can be lacking. Not an instinctive runner. Needs to see running lane develop and is missing a feel for reading progressions of his blocks. Makes inconsistent decisions on stretch plays. Can be his own worst enemy on third level. Will run himself into a tackler rather than setting him up for a downfield blocker. Consistently cuts left when given an open-field choice against tackler. With knee injuries in his background, combine medicals could come into play. Needs to tuck ball high and tight to prevent fumbles. Was suspended for the Sugar Bowl while at Alabama and not on the sideline for the team's game against LSU for "behavioral reasons." Shortly after leaving Alabama, was arrested for a traffic violation.
Projected Round: 3
Compares to: Kenyan Drake
Possible landing spot: Baltimore Ravens