It is time for another rankings article for the 2021 NFL Draft. If you want to see my last article for my quarterback rankings, you can find it here. Without further ado let’s look at the running backs.
1. Travis Etienne, Clemson–5’10”, 210 lbs
Travis Etienne has been a monster for the Clemson Tigers over the past four years. This season has brought him to be just shy of 5,000 career rushing yards for the Tigers. With postseason ball still to play it is entirely possible that he could surpass that number. Etienne is so explosive. He has great vision, burst, contact balance, and is even useful in the passing game. The only real concerns are fumble issues that he has had in the past and the fact that he is a fourth-year running back that has a good bit of wear on the tire tread. Regardless he is a solid back who is going to be an instant impact for an NFL team.
2. Najee Harris, Alabama–6’2”, 230 lbs
Najee Harris has had a really impressive year so far. So far this season he has amassed over 1,000 yards rushing and over 20 rushing touchdowns. Throughout the past two years, Harris has shown time and time again that he is versatile in every aspect of running the ball. He is a bruiser of a running back that has no trouble running people over. He is a downhill guy who is absolutely deadly once he gets a full head of steam. He is extremely useful in the passing game and is even more lethal in goal-line situations. He is very close in body type to Derrick Henry and he plays a lot like him when he is running downhill. That is why is ranked as my number two running back.
3. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis–5’11”, 191 lbs
Kenneth Gainwell is someone who has surprised a lot of people with his 2019 tape. Gainwell is an explosive running back with incredible sustained speed, the ability to squeeze through the smallest of gaps. He also is extremely useful in the passing game. In 2019 Gainwell rushed for almost 1,500 yards and he caught for over 600 receiving yards. He doesn’t have much wear on his tires considering he has only played one year of college ball. Looking at the success of Antonio Gibson for Washington in his rookie year, it’s hard to see why Gainwell wouldn’t have similar success in the NFL. He can do anything you need him to do and he is quite the utility guy for their team.
4. Javonte Williams, UNC–5’10”, 215 lbs
The UNC Tarheels have a plethora of talent at the running back position. Michael Carter and Javonte Williams have had quite the year as a tandem. Williams has been the more impressive of the two. So far this season he has rushed for over 1,000 yards rushing and almost 20 touchdowns. He has had his most successful games against teams that are ranked. Williams has the ability to be effective in the passing game as well as running. He also has a great ability to find lanes to run in and adjust whenever the original plan doesn’t work out. Williams is explosive and has the potential to be a great back in the NFL.
5. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State–5’11”, 195 lbs
Kylin Hill for Mississippi State has been a phenomenal player both on and off the field. Hill was one of the main people fighting for the flag for the state of Mississippi to change. After one game into the 2020 season, Hill decided to opt-out and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Throughout the summer Hill was one of my favorite players. In the 2019 season, Hill rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had some activity in the passing game. Hill is a very explosive back who can burn you for a huge run if you are not careful. He is a twitchy player and can fit through gaps that should not be possible. Hill is a fun running back that will do well on an NFL Roster.
Outside Looking In
6. Jaret Patterson, Buffalo–5’9”, 195 lbs
Jaret Patterson has had quite an impressive year for only playing five games this season. So far he has totaled over 1,000 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. Oh, and did I mention that he tied the NCAA record for most touchdowns in a game with eight. Patterson’s numbers are a tad inflated due to the heavy run offense that Buffalo has. Patterson shows a lot of promise as an NFL back. He has shown that he can be productive and he can handle a heavy workload.
7. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State–6’0”, 201 lbs
Someone that has been very disappointing so far this year is Chuba Hubbard out of Oklahoma State. This season has been quite a letdown for Hubbard considering in 2019 he rushed for over 2,000 yards. This season he has barely topped 500 and has had quite an underwhelming year. In the summer I had Hubbard as top 3 back going into this season. After this year’s poor showing I cannot justify keeping him there. There is still a place for him in the NFL but he needs some work.