Last season, only three of the top 10 running backs in the NFL in yards from scrimmage – Najee Harris, Ezekiel Elliot and Leonard Fournette – were former first-round draft picks.
Six were drafted between the 35th and 67th overall picks, continuing the trend of that being the sweet spot for this position in the draft.
Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III have low first-round grades, but it won’t be surprising if either or both last until the second day.
DAY 1 PROSPECTS
1. Breece Hall, Iowa St. (5-11, 217, junior)
Hall tops this list because of his near-perfect size and frame for a 300-touch NFL back blended with the 4.39 40-yard dash time he flashed at the combine. Scouts also love his home-run range from anywhere on the field – he had five TDs of 75 yards or more at Iowa State – and his ability to run through initial contact. Very comfortable catching the ball and total package as a four-down back could make him that rare first-round RB.
2. Kenneth Walker III, Michigan St. (5-9, 211, junior)
After two nice seasons at Wake Forest, Walker transferred to Michigan State last season and exploded in the season opener with 23 carries for 264 and four TDs. He later added a 233-yard performance against Rutgers and added a 197-yard, five-TD game two weeks later to hand Michigan its only loss of the season. He has great explosion and balance and is a one-cut runner who gets north and south in a hurry. He will need work as a receiver.
DAY 2 PROSPECTS
3. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (6-0, 217, junior)
Spiller has ideal size and adequate speed, but it his elusiveness and ability to make you move that scouts covet. He is particularly dangerous stretching runs outside and has an outstanding first step laterally when running into traffic. Ball security could be an issue.
4. Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama (6–2, 225, redshirt senior)
A big bruiser coming off a very good senior year. He’s an NFL talent, but he couldn’t take carries away from Alabama’s outstanding stable of thoroughbreds over the past few years, including Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris or Damien Harris. There is definitely a place for him at the next level, but he’s more battering ram than runner.
5. Zamir White, Georgia (6-0, 214, redshirt junior)
White is a high-character workout wonder and great leader who’d rather run through you than around you. Highlight reel of him running over tacklers is exciting, and he did run 4.40 at the combine. Unfortunately, past ACL tears in both knees will lower his market value.
6. Dameon Pierce, Florida (5-10, 218, senior)
Pierce brings another great NFL physique and is another guy who seems to enjoy contact as much as the end zone. He scored 16 TDs on only 119 touches last season. He does not have great speed – ran just 4.59 at the combine – but he should have a lot of tread left on his tires with only 319 carries while playing all four seasons at Florida.
7. Ty Davis-Price, LSU (6-0, 211, junior)
Davis-Price is a great combination of size, power and athleticism. He kept getting better and better as last season went on. He looks like a kid who may not realize how good he can be, and his best football may be in front of him.
DAY 3 PROSPECTS
8. Kevin Harris, South Carolina (5-10, 221, junior)
Harris is a bruising inside runner who always finishes strong, but a back surgery two years ago will worry some teams.
9. Abram Smith, Baylor (6-0, 213, redshirt senior)
Smith played running back and linebacker at Baylor, but his breakout senior season (1,600 yards rushing, 12 TDs) showed his future is on offense.
10. James Cook, Georgia (5-11, 199, senior)
Dalvin’s little brother lacks the size of most of his classmates here, but he’s an exciting runner with more than enough speed and third-down ability as a receiver.
11. Tyler Badie, Missouri (5-8, 197, senior)
He’ll be a little guy at the next level but was extremely durable and productive at Mizzou. He has excellent third-down traits – think New England’s James White.
12. Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma (5-11, 209, redshirt senior)
Brooks is one of those guys with no special trait but who loves the game and always gets the job done. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards three straight seasons in Norman and could be a great addition to your locker room.
13. Pierre Strong, S. Dakota St. (5-11, 207, redshirt senior)
Strong has been one of the best backs at the FCS level for four seasons, and his 4.37 40-yard time at the combine will help balance concerns about competition he’s faced.
14. Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (5-9, 194, redshirt sophomore)
He’s undersized and lacks great speed but is a fierce competitor who was highly productive in a big-time role at a big-time program.