I have reviewed these years running back class and broke it all down with the Top 10. I also threw in a few honorable mentions. Let’s take a look at the top backs available in the 2020 draft :
The Top 5 Running Backs
1) D’Andre Swift: As everyone knows this is not the same NFL as it was 25 years ago. Most backs play a more significant role in the passing game then anytime before. To say D’Andre Swift is one of my favorite players in this year’s draft would be an understatement. Scouts compare him to Alvin Kamara. Some scouts have recently downgraded him due to a lack of speed. And there is one ex-NFL player who thinks he is nothing special at all. After watching his games back I have not seen balance and lateral movement this solid since Barry Sanders. Runs with power. Has good hands. The knock (again) you hear on him is he does not have blazing speed, He will need to work on his blocking as well as ball security. To counter, Sanders ran a 4.34, Swift a 4.48, I am not taking him to block and yes he will need to protect the ball. Assuming, he does that I think he is a plug-and-play day one of his pro career. He is the only running back I would take in the first round with possibly Dobbins as an exception. One thing I want to clarify I am not saying Swift is the next Barry Sanders there will never be another one. Plus the game is just played differently today. BUT, what I am definitely saying is he will have many Barry Sanders like moments throughout his career. He is that special.
2) JK Dobbins: Some have his counterpart from the BIG 10 here or even number one. I prefer Dobbins. He may not have elite speed but he gets to his full speed quickly. Comes up big in big moments. Will make the most out of what’s there. Has good vision. Had some drops but I think that’s more of a lack of reps. He also is not afraid to lower his pads and pick up an A-gap blitz. The knock-on Dobbins is he doesn’t have the wiggle that a guy like Swift does. However, Don’t let that detract you in round two. He is the type of running back – you give him the ball and he will find a gap to run through.
3) AJ Dillon: Right now many are saying this is crazy way too high. I can only relay what my eyes tell me. Before everyone starts with the negatives. I get it – he is one dimensional, does not have great speed, will not be a 3 down back, and took a pounding in college. All noted. But this guy runs violently. He ran for over 150 yards in over 40% of his college games. Has a nose for the end zone. An old school 3 yards and a cloud of dust guy who you want to handle the ball when you need a tough yard. He will be a situational back and for the right team (New England or Buffalo, for example, it will be a valuable piece of their offense). Click for a full review by EoP’s own Joey Sheeran.
4) Jonathan Taylor: Everyone’s number one choice for first off the board. A lot of people call Taylor a power back but watching his games I just did not see that. He does have an elusive speed and gets to his top speed quickly. But as far as being a power back I didn’t see him running through a ton of people. He also will put the ball on the carpet so he will need to correct this. Has a ton of natural ability I would just caution the buyer to beware as he will not be the same back at the next level. Have no issues mid 2nd round but the first back off the board I think comes with risk. To me, I am trying to give x and o opinion about where these guys are slotted in the draft. Taylor is extremely accomplished but my gut says to know what you are getting with a pick in the top 25
5) Clyde Edwards-Helaire: First off the kid plays more like his 210 pounds then his 5’7 height. He also does not possess a ton of speed (4.6) Much like Swift though he has incredible lateral quickness that shows up on tape. He has extremely reliable hands as well. As small as he is, he ranked 9th in the country as far as breaking tackles – 34% of the time. I wouldn’t have an issue if someone had him higher actually. Runs with a low center of gravity (remember Maurice Jones-Drew). Look for him to go in the 35-45 range on Friday. It will be a productive change of pace back at the next level.
The Back 5
6) Anthony McFarland: Here is an interesting prospect. If this guy falls to the 5th/6th round he is definitely worth the risk. He dealt with a high ankle sprain in 2019 so I went back to watch him play against Ohio State in 2018 and he tore the Buckeyes defense up. I thought he would run better then a 4.4 40 but has incredible breakaway speed. He needs to improve his blitz pickup and needs to get better at finishing a run. 3rd day of the draft you could do a lot worse – the upside is there
7) Cam Akers: I am a bit torn to have him at 7 when he came in as a Freshman he seems like a first-round type of player. He is really good in the open field and can be extremely elusive. Issues with Cam Akers is he tends to give up on a play and tries to get everything outside immediately. He did play behind a terrible offensive line which should be noted which hindered his production. Seems at times he is seeking contact instead of trying to stretch a play. It is worth a gamble later in round 3 or later as he persevered through just a mess at what was once an elite program.
8) Zach Moss: Strong powerful runner but again likes to bounce to the outside early sometimes. He runs with power but is not just a power runner. Also will not be a liability on 3rd down can handle his own. My concern with Moss is the mileage on the tires. He played all 4 years. With the average back having a shorter productive shelf life I feel he may have already left a season or two worth of carries in college.
9) Antonio Gibson: One of the most interesting players in this year’s draft. Some say he really does not have a position. I say every team needs a player like Gibson. A true Swiss army knife. He played wide receiver a lot this year but is seen as a running back at the next level. I say put him on the field regardless of where he has the potential to be dynamic. He has blistering speed and averaged over 11 yards every time he ran the football. It will take time to improve his route tree and overall needs reps when it counts. If Gibson slips to the 4th round which is unlikely. Grab him! His potential is enormous
10) Lamical Perine: Perine’s stock seems to be rising as of late. Although he has never had that breakout season. He performed well when it counted. Perine will never be a star but does everything well enough to be a dependable back up and have a long career. He also has excelled on special teams which will keep him on a roster for a long time. He averaged over 5 yards per carry and was a big part of the Florida passing game. Look for Perine to go off the board on day 3
Jonathan Ward: Maybe the best receiver among the running backs in this year’s class. I think he can come in out of the gate to be an effective 3rd down back or a complement to a team with a large bruising running back. Runs routes as good as a receiver but then turns into a running back. Some have him as high as a 3rd round prospect but I see a team grabbing him anywhere in the 5th or 6th. Ward does enough with his talent to have a career playing on Sundays
Darius Anderson: Anderson is an interesting guy as he seems to do everything well. He can run between the tackles, has good hands, Doesn’t fumble, Also, has that initial burst a running back needs. His detractors correctly state he needs a lot of work on his pass protection which could limit his reps. He also can tend to run a little high needs to do a better job running behind his pads. He will find a roster in the NFL and will be a solid back up
Check out this year’s Top 10 wide receivers by clicking here.