Over the last few years, the running back classes have made a significant impact in the NFL. Young running backs like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt, and Alvin Kamara have been some of the best players at the position. Drafting running backs high may have been dead a few years back, but now it’s as alive as it’s ever been. This years running back class has the making of another very impactful group. It’s becoming a trend to see rookie running backs leading the NFL in rushing. I’ve ranked my top 5 running backs in the NFL Draft, and depending on where these guys are drafted, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance for one of them to lead the NFL in rushing next season.
Barkley is the consensus number one running back in this class, and for good reason. He’s big, fast, quick, powerful, etc. He’s everything you want in a running back. I’ve seen mock drafts project Barkley number one overall. That says something about this guy. Barkley is going to be a dynamic running back for years in the NFL. The only thing that could stop him from being a great running back is playing for the Browns, although the Browns don’t seem to have as bad of luck with running backs as they do quarterbacks. Wherever he goes, he’s going to be the starter and he’s going to get a lot of carries. His team will depend on him from day one to carry a significant portion of the load. I can see Barkley leading the NFL in rushing yards next season. Barkley has the potential to be the best player at his position early in his career, although that will be difficult with all the incredible young running backs in the league right now. Every team at the top of the draft needs this guy, but I don’t see him making it out the top 4.
Sony Michel is getting a lot of love in this draft, and I think he deserves it. If you watched Sony in the College Football Playoff, you know why. In the game against Alabama, Michel ran for almost 100 yards on 14 carries, averaging 7 yards a carry. He was the only running back for Georgia who had anything going. Some say he’s going in the top 10 picks of the draft. It’s possible, but I’m not quite sure about that one. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Alvin Kamara, but I think they’re a little different. Michel can be a good receiver, but I think Kamara is better in that area. Michel is more of a runner to me than Kamara is. I do think Kamara and Michel are similar in that they should have a backup, but still very significant role. I don’t think Michel is going to be the workhorse back like Barkley, at least not right away. He’s best going to a place with an established running back who he can split time with. Teams will look at what Ingram and Kamara did last year and will want Michel and whoever their other back is to do something similar.
Ronald Jones II
Jones is a player who I feel should get more attention. We’ve been talking players like Barkley, Guice, and Chubb for years now, but Jones didn’t fully come into the picture until recently. Part of that could have been his workload. In his first two years he was given the ball 153 and 177 times. That’s a good amount, but compared to his third season it’s not. Jones had his carries increased to 261. With an increased workload, Jones showed he could still be a very effective weapon. Jones may also not get as much attention because his quarterback was Sam Darnold for two years, who is going to be one of the top picks in the draft. With 19 rushing TD’s in his final season at USC, Jones proved he’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He has great speed mixed with exceptional leg power. I think a team like the Buccaneers may be tempted to take Jones high in the draft, even though they need players elsewhere. A team in the first round for sure won’t be able to pass him up, regardless of what they need.
Guice is a running back who loves the contact. I’ve often seen him seek out contact from defenders so he can run through them. He doesn’t allow the contact to let him get to the ground as often as you’d think it would. Guice is more an inside runner because of his speed. His speed isn’t elite, but he can still be effective when running to the outside. I don’t see Guice going in the top 10, but I can see him going somewhere between picks 11 and 20. Two teams that come to mind for Guice are the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens. Miami doesn’t seem as likely right now because they need a quarterback, but you never know what they might do in free agency. If Guice doesn’t get taken in the first round, look for him to taken very early in the second. To me he’s one of the top players in the draft, so I don’t think second round will be the case for him.
Chubb is the one guy in my top 5 running backs who I don’t think will go in the first round. He’s a round two guy to me. Chubb reminds me of Derrick Henry, and I think he’ll have a similar role to Henry also. Chubb will be a guy who can be a great backup running back for his first few years in the league and then be a starter later. If you look at Derrick Henry, he wasn’t the starter right away, but made the most of his opportunities and looks to be in for a starting job soon. Chubb is a big running back who can run over people and push them around. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s big. Running Chubb between the tackles is best because it allows him to use his big frame without having to have break away speed. I think a team like the Colts or Giants could take Chubb in the early second round. If he doesn’t go then, it’d be interesting to see if a team like Buffalo takes him to pair with McCoy. That’d be a great running back combo.