The running back position has become one of irony in the NFL. Some people will argue that running backs do not have that much draft value because successful running backs have been found in rounds 1-7. The irony is that teams are starting to change their thinking on the position. If you look over the past few drafts so many impact running backs have been taken in the first round. Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, Christian Mccaffrey, Leonard Fournette, and this year Saquon Barkley was taken number 2 overall. Barkley may be unproven but the other guys have carried their teams at times. Some have even carried bad quarterbacks all the way to AFC championship games (I’m looking at you Blake Bortles). Moral of the story is don’t underestimate how important running backs are despite everyone telling you that the NFL is a passing league. This year’s class is not as good as last years but it is still solid overall. Narrowing the list down to just 5 players was difficult so I have some honorable mentions at the end.
- David Montgomery/ Iowa State
While scouting all the top running backs for this upcoming season one thing became very clear to me. Montgomery is the best and most complete running back in the entire country. He led CFB in one of my favorite stats, missed tackles. Montgomery has some of the best juke moves I have seen in a while. Making people miss may be his calling card but Montgomery also has great vision, great hands out of the backfield, and big play ability. My issues with Montgomery are sometimes I wish he would run with some more power and that sometimes he tries to do much. I think the second issue can be fixed with a better offensive line in the NFL. Overall Montgomery is a step above the rest in this class so far. If you want to watch some tape yourself I would recommend his game against Oklahoma State.
- Benny Snell/ Kentucky
I was about halfway through my lists of running backs when I found Benny Snell. The first thing that pops out to you is how much power he runs with. Snell keeps his feet moving at all times and breaks plenty of tackles. Another thing I was really impressed with was that Snell is basically the entire offense at Kentucky. He broke the record for single-season touchdown runs at Kentucky last year so that should tell you something. Snell also displayed some great patience behind the line as he sat and waited for a hole to open up. His running style reminds me very much of Super Bowl champion Jay Ajayi. Snell lacks the injury concerns that Ajayi had in college and still has in the NFL. Snell lacks top-flight speed and is not going to make many people miss in the open field. His workload is also slightly concerning because he has seen plenty of wear and tear. Snell will have to show more of ability to catch the ball but I think he has a chance to slip into the first round this year.
- Damien Harris/ Alabama
Damien Harris career at Alabama has been overshadowed by so many other guys it is hard to believe he is finally making the jump to the NFL. Harris has shown big-play ability for over 3 years now constantly breaking off big runs. I loved how Harris knew how to follow his blockers and use them to get himself easy yardage that skill will serve him well at the next level. Harris, like Snell, is a power back who should be able to carry the workload of an NFL team if needed. My biggest concern with Harris is that he has had a lot of offensive line talent around him at Alabama. Snell and Montgomery both run behind lines who force them to do a lot on their own. I do not think Harris gets enough credit for his ability to catch the football but he is certainly capable. Harris has a chance this year to really build up his stock.
- Justice Hill/ Oklahoma State
Justice Hill is another guy who has been overshadowed a bit in college. Hill was a part of the offensive juggernaut that was Oklahoma State but was overshadowed by Mason Rudolph (QB) and James Washington (WR). This year Hill is poised for a breakout season being one of the few weapons who did not leave for the NFL. Hill is one of the faster backs that I looked at so far this year. He also runs with some solid power, and he consistently finishes runs through contact. He showed enough elusiveness to convince me he can make people miss at the next level on a consistent basis. Most of my problems with Hill are centered around the offense he is in. At Oklahoma State rarely has to make his own hole or deal with any kind of defenders in the backfield. Like I said Hill is poised for a breakout year so we will have to just wait and see.
- Devin “Motor” Singletary/ FAU
I was considering about three different players for this number 5 spot but I settled on “Motor” Singletary after heavy debate. When you play for a school as small has FAU it is rare that you get any type of spotlight. Singletary deserves some love though because he is a talented running back. His ability to hit the hole hard popped off of tape right away. That part of his game shows his power while his awesome jump cuts show his shiftiness. Singletary also handles most of the workload for a college team that almost always run the football. That might lead to some wear and tear issues down the road. My big gripe with “Motor” is his level of competition at FAU. The defenders he is playing against are nothing like the guys Benny Snell or Damien Harris see every week in the SEC. Overall Singletary is a balanced back who can run inside and outside the tackles with lots of volume.
- Bryce Love ( Stanford): Small, Injury concerns, can he catch?
- Mike Weber (Ohio State): Just did not pop enough
- Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma): Injury and off the field concerns