The running back position is stacked this year. The talent at the top is phenomenal and people will have differing opinions on the class until the draft is over. With big names from big schools, people all over the country know the names of the top running backs, so let’s look at what makes them so special.
*Disclaimer*: I am ranking these players based off talent, injuries and other red flags will be factored into my final grade, but for now I am not taking them into account.
1. D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Georgia’s offense isn’t as flashy as some of the other top teams in the country, but some of the plays D’Andre Swift makes will make you think otherwise. Swift possesses the ability to take any touch to the endzone and has the skills to make that possible. He is a mean runner that always keeps his legs churning and will carry defenders with him. He has good vision and lateral agility to let him cut to find the open running lanes. In the open field, Swift can make people miss with ease. He has a dead leg move that will leave defenders tripping over themselves. He has the receiving ability that’s becoming more and more necessary in the NFL. Swift is a tough runner and has taken some big hits at Georgia. His durability hasn’t shown any signs of lessening, but it could be possible in the NFL due to his tenacity and toughness.
2. Travis Etienne, Clemson
If you look up the word burst in the dictionary, a picture of Travis Etienne is there. Possibly the most explosive back in the NCAA, Etienne has elite speed, acceleration and burst. He has ideal foot quickness and lateral movement to make quick cuts and find the open run lane. He’s not afraid to run between the tackles and take some hits either; he has great contact balance that allows him to pick up chunk plays regularly. In the open field, he’s very elusive; he has ideal agility that allows him to make defenders miss. Once he gets around a defender, his burst and acceleration take over and he’s gone. His ability in the receiving game is still developing, but if he keeps showing improvements, he can show his value as a true three-down back.
3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor is the heart and soul of the Wisconsin offense. The Badgers’ passing game hasn’t been very productive, so the responsibility falls on the running back. Taylor has a rare mix of speed, size and power. He can power through a crowded running lane with his contact balance and leg drive, or he can bounce a run out to the corner, cut upfield and accelerate past the defense and take a run to the house. Taylor has great patience and allows blocks to develop and lets running lanes open. When running between the tackles, he has incredibly quick feet, great lateral agility and can weave in and out of spacing to get into the defensive secondary. The big concern with Taylor is his usage. Ever since his true freshman year, Taylor has been the center of that offense and typically has around 300 touches per season, which is a lot. Taylor won’t keep up this level of usage in the NFL, but his durability is in question.
4. J. K. Dobbins, Ohio State
J.K. Dobbins has a big frame and he uses it to his advantage. He has fantastic contact balance and physicality that allows him to get as many yards as he can. Dobbins has fantastic agility and feet for someone with his size. He as no problem cutting upfield and making someone miss in open space. Dobbins is a very good all-around player as he does well in the receiving game, he runs good routes and secures the ball as a receiver. He’s stout as a blocker and does well to find the threat and stop the rusher.
5. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Chuba Hubbard has been a blast to watch this year. Hubbard has great burst and good acceleration that allows him to breeze past defenders in the open field. He has a well-built frame and shows great contact balance. Hubbard moves effortlessly between the tackles and his agility looks video game like at time. While his burst and acceleration are good, he doesn’t necessarily have amazing long speed, and even though he has good contact balance, he isn’t the most powerful runner. Hubbard will be productive in the NFL, if he can add some leg drive to his game he could be a very well-rounded player.