Last year we were blessed with a very good running back class, headlined by offensive rookie of the year Saquon Barkley. This year is different, we don’t have the type of top tier talent like last year, but there are definitely future starters.
1. Josh Jacobs, Alabama
Jacobs’ hype started picking up after the season ended when everyone realized he was severely underutilized at Alabama. Jacobs is a true 3 down back. He has great vision to find holes in the offensive line and quick feet to make the cuts necessary to get to those holes. Jacobs has a great marriage between speed and power. By no means is Jacobs a burner, but he can outrun you, and if you’re standing in front on him, he’ll run you over and be on his way. Jacobs is a very good blocker. He is a very willing and tenacious blocker and will do everything he can to drive the defender into the ground. The part of Jacobs’ game that really brings his game together is his receiving ability. Jacobs has soft hands and catches almost everything thrown his way. In a running back class with no sure-fire 1st rounder, Jacobs is the one guy that can break into the back end of the 1st round. Jacobs projects as a starter on most teams, or a preferred guy in a rotation.
2. Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
Holyfield is probably my favorite running back out of this year’s group. Holyfield runs fast and aggressive and always gives his all on every play. The first thing that stood out to me about Holyfield’s game was his power, it almost seemed like he was running guys over at least twice a game. Holyfield has good patience to let holes develop in the offensive line and has quick cuts to break through the holes. He has been a mostly successful blocker, but he can improve in this area. Holyfield’s contact balance is great, he bounces off tacklers and keeps his momentum going. The biggest question about Holyfield’s game is his speed, I’m going to be paying very close attention to his combine testing and seeing how he performs in the 40. Holyfield projects best to a power running scheme where he can use his strength to the best of his ability.
3. Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Henderson is one of the most productive backs in all of college football. It seems as if each week he broke off another run for 50+ yards. Henderson is as elusive as you can get, it’s incredibly tough to bring him down. He has a great ability to absorb hits and keep running at full speed downfield. As a runner who is most effective when bouncing to the outside, look for a team with heavy zone or gap schemes to look at Henderson. Henderson was electrifying whenever he touched the football and has the potential to do the same thing in the NFL.
4. David Montgomery, Iowa State
Montgomery had some of the most impressive tape I’ve ever seen in terms of running hard. Montgomery has the best balance I’ve every seen. He has turned 5 yard losses into 10 yard gains just because he can stay on his feet until about the 10th defender on the field can bring him down. He has good vision and can change direction quickly. He is a solid receiver and catches most balls thrown to him. A sturdy blocker, Montgomery can be trusted to withstand some rushers in the NFL. One weakness to his game is he tries to bounce runs outside too often and would miss some holes opening along the line.
5. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
Coming into the year, Anderson was my RB1; but then he tore his ACL. After his injury, I started to think that he is injury prone, as this was his 3rd injury in 4 years. Despite the injuries, I still feel like he can be a productive back at the next level. Anderson has a good mix of size, speed and strength that make him a very well-rounded back. He has good vision to find holes and can make quick cuts to get to them. He is a quite elusive runner, he doesn’t run straight, he swerves all over the field and finds the best path to get the most yards. He is a good receiver, he has soft hands and can catch most balls. He offers nothing in pass protection, easily his weakest area. Anderson faced an unfortunate series of events this last year, but he has the skills to be a productive back in the NFL; let’s just hope he can stay healthy.