Category: Running Back

RB Saquon Barkley, Penn St.

6’0” – 233 lbs. – 4.40

Profile:

  • Made an immediate impact as a freshman, starting six of eleven games played and touching the ball over two hundred times. Had a highly productive sophomore campaign, with three hundred touches on offense and nearly 1,900 total yards, then had a similar total as a junior before declaring for the draft.

Positives:

  • Physical and athletic specimen with elite tools. Swiss army knife who can do everything. Takes a lot of his carries from the shotgun, and some from the wildcat as well. Has good burst to run between the tackles, getting behind his pads, slipping through gaps in the line, and falling forward for solid gains. Picks up yards after contact and can take defenders along for the ride. Greatest asset as a pure runner is his ability to create big plays where not much seemed possible; highly elusive, with the ability to juke defenders out of their shoes and bounce runs outside for big gains. Nearly impossible to tackle one on one in space. Very good balance. Has the vision and long speed to hit home runs. Used extensively as a receiver, including on snaps in which he lines up as a receiver and runs a variety of different routes. Able to work the middle of the field or threaten defenses downfield on wheel routes and other patterns. Ran back a couple of kickoffs for touchdowns this year as well. Was able to handle a heavy workload as his team’s workhorse. Has an outstanding character and work ethic by all accounts.

Negatives:

  • A little bit of a feast-or-famine back who can break big gains but also get caught in the backfield for losses more often than is usual for a high-end back. Looks for the big gain when solid gains would do. Production on a game-to-game basis was also a little bit inconsistent; rushed for over one hundred yards in just five games last year, and had three games under fifty rushing yards. Occasional focus drops in the passing game. Could be more consistent about staying upright when taking on rushers in pass protection; tends to duck his head and try to take out oncoming rushers low.

Summary:

  • One of the most complete running backs in recent memory; projects as a true feature back who can play every down and be the focal point of a team’s offense for years to come. A comparable prospect to the likes of Reggie Bush and Ezekiel Elliott and looks like a lock to be one of the top four picks.
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RB Royce Freeman, Oregon

5’11” – 229 lbs. – 4.55

Has been a major contributor over the past four seasons, averaging over 250 touches per year and topping 300 as a sophomore. Thickly-built running back who has proven that he’s able to carry a heavy workload in college. Tough player who worked through injuries and only missed two games throughout his career, one of those being his bowl game this past season. Ran the ball out of Oregon’s spread offense, typically out of either a shotgun look or a pistol look. Runs with good vision, recognizing cutback lanes and not wasting any time getting back to the line of scrimmage. Able to find creases and skinny through them to get to the second level. Smooth if not particularly explosive runner who’s able to beat defenders to the edge on runs off-tackle or bounce attempts to the outside. Light on his feet and makes nice cuts when weaving through traffic. Pretty elusive back who can often make the first man miss. Has a big frame and flashes the ability to lower his shoulder and drive his legs to fight for additional yardage, although he could be more consistent about finishing his runs by falling forward and doesn’t break a ton of tackles. Having come from an offense which bears little resemblance to a pro scheme and being able to run through some big holes, may face some questions about his ability to successfully translate his production to the next level. Tended to stay on the field during passing downs. Not a particularly dynamic receiver, but looked like he had reliable hands to catch swing passes out of the backfield during the games reviewed. Has the type of frame to be an effective pass protector; tends to stay upright when engaging opponents but could handle his responsibilities with a little bit more physicality and effort to sustain through the whistle. Also has some experience as a lead blocker on jet sweeps. A thickly-built runner with four seasons of high-level production in a major program and who offers the vision, quick feet, and smooth running skills to take his game to the next level, he will be off the board by the middle rounds of the draft. Biggest concerns are the tread on his tires and the dissimilarity between his college scheme and the offenses pro teams run.

RB Ronald Jones, Southern California

5’11” – 205 lbs. – 4.65

Was the team’s leading rusher in all three seasons, but didn’t become a full-time starter until this year, by far his most productive. Was also a sprinter on the track team. Tall running back with a somewhat thin build. Does a lot of his work out of the shotgun and other spread looks. Very good athlete. One-cut runner with the ability to plant on a spot and explode through the hole when he finds a lane. Has the speed and burst to pick up chunks of yardage and hit home runs if he gets into the open. Able to make jump-cuts in the backfield to escape congestion and find open rushing lanes to the outside. Has some ability to pick up yardage between the tackles but is at his best when he’s running stretch plays and taking advantage of cutback opportunities as they become available. Once he gets to the second level, exhibits the ability to run through arm tackles. Flashes the ability to skinny through holes and keep his balance. Vision is a little bit inconsistent; takes advantage of some opportunities that not many other runners would perceive, but also has a tendency to forego guaranteed yardage between the tackles for the possibility of bigger runs on the outside. Consequently, is something of a feast-or-famine back who will get caught in the backfield for a high rate of negative-yardage runs, but who will also pick up more chunks of yardage. Runs a little bit upright and isn’t really a tackle-breaker until he gets a full head of steam going. Doesn’t have much leg drive to pick up yardage after contact. Pretty limited in the passing game; almost never runs routes, and remains on the field for only a few snaps in blitz pickup each game, typically when the team calls play-action. Has the size and awareness to potentially contribute in that capacity, but as it currently stands he could be more consistent about extending his arms and getting a grip on defenders; as it stands, is somewhat susceptible to throwing a shoulder instead. A very good athlete who can identify cutback lanes, make sharp cuts, and explode for big gains down the field, but who isn’t really built or temperamentally suited for running behind his pads between the tackles for consistent gains. Looks likely to come off the board on the second day.

RB Sony Michel, Georgia*

5’11” – 214 lbs. – 4.54

Was essentially a rotational back for the duration of his collegiate career, although he started six games as a sophomore and functioned as more of a traditional workhorse after Nick Chubb was injured. Looks a little bit thinner than his listed weight on tape but official size is commensurate with pro requirements for a feature back. At his best when he’s able to find a crease when running the ball on stretch plays off-tackle, but is also a pretty physical back who can grind out some yardage between the tackles. Has good vision to identify cutback lanes, with the ability to stop on a dime and burst through them for big gains. Gets going quickly and has the speed to hit home runs when he gets into the open. Elusive both in the backfield and when he gets to the second level. Doesn’t try to do too much; limits negative-yardage runs by getting low and picking up a few yards between the tackles instead of trying to bounce attempts outside. Follows his blocks and makes good choices. Able to get low and fall forward to finish his runs; gives good effort to churn out extra yardage and has some ability to run through arm tackles and set the tone with hits on defenders, but doesn’t have a lot of leg drive to push the pile in short-yardage situations. Some ball security issues, having fumbled twelve times over the course of his career. Has the potential to contribute in the passing game, but experience there is somewhat limited. Doesn’t take many snaps in pass protection; flashed the ability to stay on his feet and engage rushers over a few snaps in the games reviewed, but seemed to have some trouble consistently identifying his man and putting himself in position to pick them up successfully. Probably has more value as a potential receiving option; most of his routes in college were shorter patterns into the flats, but given his excellent speed, might be more dangerous if he’s allowed to run wheel routes downfield against opposing linebackers. Caught just nine balls this past year, but over twenty in each of the two preceding seasons. Will probably need to make it onto the field on passing downs because some teams may not view him as a true between-the-tackles back. However, has a very desirable combination of vision, agility, and explosiveness which could make him a team’s primary ballcarrier, and which should allow him to be one of the first backs off the board. Reminiscent of Lamar Miller.

RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa

5’10” – 194 lbs. – 4.54

Redshirted, then played sparingly over eight games the following season. Rotated into the offense (three starts in nine games, 89 touches) as a redshirt sophomore, then led the team in rushing in each of the two subsequent seasons despite not being a full-time starter. A little bit thinner than you’d like in a pro running back, but comes from a pro-style offense which featured a lot of running between the tackles; even handled a lot of goal-line responsibilities. More of a consistent gainer who can break off chunks of yardage than a true home-run hitter; longest run this past season was thirty-five yards. Overall vision and judgment are sound; decisive runner who takes what the defense gives him. Patient; lets his blocks develop and knows when to gear down and allow things to unfold. Has good balance to stay upright when making his way through congestion, and can fit through small creases in the line. Very elusive player who can make defenders miss in the hole in one-on-one situations, creating short gains where the possibility of being stuffed looked likely. Very good spin move. Runs hard for a smaller back, with good competitiveness and leg drive; able to lower his shoulder and fight for extra yards after contact to finish his carries. Uses head fakes, jump cuts, and stutter-steps effectively and can be difficult to tackle in the open field. Minor ball security issues relative to some of the other backs in the class, with eight career fumbles on 607 touches. Often remained on the field in passing situations, whether in blitz pickup or as a receiving option; caught sixty-four passes over the past two seasons. On some occasions, lined up in the slot to present defenses with a different look, but primarily served as more of a safety valve running shorter patterns into the flats or near the line of scrimmage. In pass protection, is willing to stick his nose in and engage defenders, although his size limitations cause him to go low at times and he could be more consistent about using his arms when engaging instead of throwing a shoulder. A relatively known quantity who lacks some of the physical attributes teams look for but comes from a pro-style offense and does just about everything well. Might be considered more of a change-of-pace back by some, but recently backs such as Dion Lewis have shown that smaller runners can be primary options.

RB Darrell Williams, Louisiana St.

6’0″ – 225 lbs. – 4.72

Thickly-built back who looks like a fire hydrant, with short arms and a well-developed chest. Ran out of pro-style formations in college, including I-Formation. Moves well for his size, but overall speed and burst are just average and will probably grind out tough yardage or break occasional chunks rather than hitting home-runs at the next level. A bit of a battering ram who doesn’t make the first man miss very often, but has good vision to identify rushing lanes and who runs with a no-nonsense style. Capable of running behind his pads and pounding the ball between the tackles or carrying the ball on stretch plays; more effective outside the tackles than his athletic profile would indicate. Has good footwork for his size. Could potentially fit in a one-cut offense because he does a good job of recognizing cutback lanes. Can bounce off of would-be tacklers in the hole and look for other lanes outside. Has enough leg drive to churn out some yardage after contact and does a good job of falling forward at the end of his runs. Consequently, came onto the field in some short-yardage situations in college and could potentially do that at the next level as well. Wasn’t used much in pass protection during the games reviewed, and technique looks like it needs to be cleaned up; ducks his head and doesn’t consistently make use of what length he has. Appeared to catch the ball relatively well as a safety valve out of the backfield and may present a size mismatch for opposing defensive backs with the ball in his hands on the outside. A big back with good vision, some power to his game, and a straightforward running style, he made the most of his touches this past season. He spent his collegiate career stuck behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, but is a legitimate prospect in his own right and could work his way into a running back rotation. Lack of athleticism will probably relegate him to a late-round selection.

RB Bo Scarbrough, Alabama*

6’1″ – 228 lbs. – 4.52

Sustained a knee injury which limited him to seven games in a reserve capacity in his first season with the Tide, then followed that up with a considerably expanded role in 2016, a season in which he served in a rotation with Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs. Received nearly the same rate of touches this past season, albeit with considerably less success (yards per carry dropped from 6.5 to 4.8) before declaring for the draft. Offers excellent size for a pro running back. In the same vein as former Tide running back Derrick Henry in that he’s a big, tall runner who needs some room to get going, and who becomes difficult to tackle once he gets a head of steam, but not necessarily before. Has the speed to hit home runs as a one-cut runner, but runs upright, which subjects him to a lot of low hits, which could be a concern given his history of knee injuries; flashes the ability to lower his shoulder and punish defenders at times. Has the height to fall forward on contact for extra yardage, but doesn’t break a lot of tackles near the line of scrimmage; should be running through more ankle tackles than he does. Vision is also an issue; tends to barrel up the middle, often into congestion, rather than waiting for creases in the line to emerge. Consequently, ends up with a lot of short-yardage runs where he’s hit near the line of scrimmage. Bounces too many rushing attempts to the outside, creating negative-yardage runs; may not have the speed necessary to beat pro linebackers to the edge. Could be more aware of cutback opportunities. Has some shake but his running style is more of a no-nonsense one. A willing pass protector with enough size and lateral quickness to impede opposing pass rushers, but doesn’t play with much technique; will throw shoulders into opponents or end up catching them with wide hands. Also releases into the flats or runs other short routes; length gives him a solid catch radius, and also appears to have soft hands, but wasn’t used very frequently as a receiver. Size makes him the type of player you’d like to get in space against opposing sub package defenders. Works in a stiff arm when he gets to the outside. More intriguing from a physical and athletic standpoint than in terms of his pure running skills and projects as more of a mid-to-late-round pick and backup or rotational runner at the pro level.

RB Derrius Guice, Louisiana St.*

5’10” – 224 lbs. – 4.49

Rotated into the offense as a freshman, touching the ball fifty-six times before seeing his usage dramatically increase the following year (192 touches). Efficiency dipped as a junior but increased his usage to 255 touches, after which he declared for the draft. Well-built running back who has the type of frame needed to run between the tackles at the next level. Comes from a pro-style offense in which his quarterback was under center and he was grinding out yardage on inside runs against SEC defensive fronts. Proved he could handle the load from a physical standpoint by going over twenty touches in eight games this past season, including each of the final seven. No-nonsense back who runs behind his pads and can create consistent gains while minimizing negative-yardage runs. Wastes no time getting back to the line, with solid burst and the vision to find creases in congested spaces. Good balance and footwork to shuffle and slip through small spaces. Makes good cuts in the backfield, with little wasted motion. Pretty powerful runner who does a good job of running through arm tackles and minor hits and who consistently picks up a few yards after contact, finishing his attempts by falling forwards. Good leg drive after contact. Able to bully opposing defensive backs once he gets to the second level. Has a violent stiff arm which he works into his game in the open field. Effective short-yardage runner who racked up twenty-six touchdowns over the past two seasons. Good blocker who was typically retained in pass protection when the team threw the ball; also made some delayed releases into the flats. Does a good job of identifying blitzers, staying on his feet, and engaging them with his arms. Solid anchor in protection. Was also asked to lead the way on some sweeps by other ballcarriers. Seems to have reliable hands but wasn’t integrated very heavily into the offense as a receiver. Typically only lined up in the slot to carry the ball on jet sweeps or create confusion. A relatively known quantity who comes from a pro-style scheme in college football’s toughest conference and who put together a lot of tape proving that he has the vision, burst, physicality, toughness, and blocking ability to step into a pro offense and produce. Those traits are likely to make him a first-round pick in this year’s draft.

RB John Kelly, Tennessee*

5’10” – 216 lbs. – 4.55e

Carried the ball forty times in 2015, then saw his role expand the following season, receiving over one hundred touches and outgaining teammate Alvin Kamara on the ground to lead the team’s running backs in rushing yards. Spent this past season as more of a feature back, touching the ball over two hundred times and topping 1,000 total yards before declaring for the draft. On the short side, with only adequate bulk for a pro running back. Did most of his work out of the shotgun in college. Despite his lack of ideal size, has an angry, galloping running style reminiscent of players such as Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray. Exhibits solid burst when he’s able to find a clear lane, threatening to pick up chunks of yardage up the middle. Able to shuffle his feet and find rushing lanes when carrying the ball between the tackles. Hard runner with good leg drive to fight for additional yardage after contact and push the pile. Runs behind his pads and can punish defenders at the second level. Uses a stiff arm well when he’s able to make it to the outside. Has very good balance and is able to run through arm tackles. Willing blocker who has quick, active feet in pass protection and who was also asked to lead the way on some rushing attempts such as jet sweeps; however, anchor can be a little bit lacking at times. Also factored much more heavily into the passing game this year and is the type of player who can do some damage against opposing defensive backs in space. Can make some excess cuts in the backfield when getting upfield more quickly would have been preferable. Could be more consistent in recognizing cutback opportunities, as he will occasionally run into congestion when an opportunity to make it to the second level is available. There’s some explosiveness to his game but he may not have the speed to consistently beat defenders to the edge or hit home runs at the next level. Has a tendency to carry the ball in his left hand even when running to the right side of the field, which could create ball security issues. As a smaller back, may end up being more of a rotational option at the next level, especially because his effectiveness dropped off this past season with a heavier workload, but can do a little bit of everything and offers a hard running style which should endear him to coaches.

RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame*

6’2″ – 213 lbs. – 4.55

Touched the ball over 120 times as a freshman, then saw his usage jump to just under 180 touches as a sophomore and just under 220 as a junior before declaring for the draft. Team captain. Big back who was asked to handle a pretty heavy load and did a lot of his work from shotgun looks; primarily runs up the middle and off-tackle. When he finds a lane, is an explosive back with the deep speed to hit home runs; broke six gains of sixty or more yards this past season which accounted for over thirty percent of his yardage on the ground. However, thus far his physical and athletic gifts are more impressive than his feel for the game. More of a feast-or-famine back than a consistent gainer; can lack decisiveness at times, leading to him getting hit near the line of scrimmage fairly often. Seems to have a little bit of trouble recognizing cutback lanes, causing him to run into congestion and get bogged down, although he flashes the footwork to shuffle or make jump-cuts to make it through the holes which present themselves. Runs a little bit upright because of his height, but is fairly powerful back who demonstrates good leg drive after contact which gives him the ability to churn out some extra yardage; was trusted with handling the ball in short-yardage situations. Also stayed on the field on passing downs, where he looked comfortable serving as either a blocker or receiver. Has the type of frame to translate his blitz pickup skills to the next level. Does a good job of staying on his feet and absorbing opponents’ power, with good awareness to identify rushers to engage. Also led the way on some designed quarterback draws and handles his responsibilities with the requisite competitiveness and physicality. A reliable receiver out of the backfield; typically released into the flats and served as a safety valve. Has the type of frame to present difficulties for opposing cornerbacks on the boundaries. A little bit of a difficult evaluation because he offers a big frame, natural power, the deep speed to hit home runs, and value as a blocker, but who was inconsistent on a game-to-game basis, looking dominant in some contests and tentative in others. At his best when he’s hitting the hole with decisiveness and running behind his pads.