Top RBs In The 2019 NFL Draft
1. Alabama RB Josh Jacobs – Junior – 5-10, 220 – 4.52
Jacobs entered the University of Alabama football program as a three-star recruit out of Tulsa, Okla. and never quite broke out of a committee role in his time with the Crimson Tide and was often the third-string running back behind Damien Harris and Najee Harri. Nonetheless, as the 2019 NFL Draft approaches, the three-year ballcarrier sits atop many experts’ running back rankings. Despite never being a feature back, totaling just 251 carries over his three years and peaking at 120 carries in 2018, Jacobs amassed 1,491 rushing yards for 16 touchdowns and a strong 5.9 yards per carry throughout his career. He also added 48 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns. Jacobs is generally considered the top back in this year’s class and could go in the first round on April 25.
2. Penn State RB Miles Sanders – Junior – 5-11, 211 – 4.49
Sanders is another player who, like Josh Jacobs, enters the 2019 NFL draft without many miles on the tires, so to speak. Sitting behind last year’s first-round selection, Saquon Barkley, for two years, Sanders took just 46 combined carries for 375 yards over his first two seasons at Penn State, but exploded in his junior season with 220 rushing attempts for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns. Sanders is a shifty back with good balance who runs hard and holds sub-4.5 speed. He has noted issues with vision, but he’s a home-run threat and is dangerous when running the ball or catching passes out of the backfield. Sanders is projected as a second- or third-round value, but could go higher if a team is in need and feels he can fill that spot.
3. Memphis RB Darrell Henderson – Junior – 5-8, 208 – 4.49
Henderson is a fun back to watch – with a capital F. He has a great first cut with a strong running style that makes him a slippery player to bring down, but his size does leave a bit to be desired from a strength standpoint as he transitions to the professional stage. Henderson has great lateral agility on his cuts, shows explosive burst when he hits his hole and reaches the second level and has the straight line speed that can get him to the end zone on big plays. Henderson averaged an absurd 8.9 yards per carry in both his sophomore and junior year, totaling 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns on 214 carries in 2018. His biggest weaknesses come in pass protection and his size may not be suited for feature work when he gets to the NFL, but he could make a productive early down back in a committee if used correctly and given space to work. Henderson is projected as a second- or third-round talent.
4. Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams – Junior – 5-8, 206 – 4.51
Williams had a good first two years at Texas A&M, running for 1,057 and 798 yards respectively, but exploded under new head coach Jimbo Fisher for 1,760 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns on 271 carries. He’s small, but strong and fast, and does a little bit of everything. He’s quick and agile with good vision and the speed to beat defenders when he reaches the second level. Williams plays great in pass protection and added 66 receptions for 561 yards throughout his career. His skill sets allow him to be on the field for every down, but his size will likely limit his every down ability at the next level. Williams is projected as a third- or fourth-round pick.
5. Alabama RB Damien Harris – Senior – 5-10, 216 – 4.57
If Josh Jacobs was the lightning in Alabama’s committee, Damien Harris was the thunder. Harris is a big, powerful, directional thumper who will rarely lose yardage and isn’t easy to bring down unless his defender is fully committed to making the stop or has assistance. He isn’t the quickest side to side and he doesn’t have great cuts or lateral mobility, but he can make plays when catching the ball out of the backfield – primarily on screen plays – run it inside or outside and has deceptive speed when in space. Harris played all four years at Alabama and totaled 477 carries for 3,070 yards, but never had to take more than the 150 carries he had his senior year. In addition, he added 23 touchdowns on the ground and two in the passing game.
6. Iowa State RB David Montgomery – Junior – 5-10, 222 – 4.63
Montgomery is one of the best definitions of a power back in this year’s class. He’s agile, a strong runner with great balance through contact and thrives on volume, wearing defenses down as the game progresses. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed that some of the other prospects in this year’s draft possess, but he makes up for it with his versatility and skills. His pass protection and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield can keep him on the field for all three downs, he can fight through contact and his effort is top notch. Montgomery’s cuts upfield aren’t the quickest due to his size, but he has good footwork and can make single tacklers miss. In 2018, he matched his career yards per carry average of 4.7 yards and logged 257 carries for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was busy in college, totaling 624 carries for 2,925 yards. Montgomery is considered a Day 3 selection.
7. Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary – Junior – 5-7, 203 – 4.66
Singletary was a heavily utilized and wildly productive back in his three years at FAU, but some of that production could likely be attributed to playing in Conference USA. Nonetheless, Singletary used his excellent agility and downfield vision to rack up video game numbers in south Florida, taking 714 carries for 4,287 rushing yards and punching in 66 rushing touchdowns in his career. In 2017, Singletary led the nation in rushing attempts with 301 and rushing touchdowns with 32, while he added 22 more rushing touchdowns on 261 carries this past year. Talk about a workload. Singletary is undersized, has improvements to make in pass protection, doesn’t have much experience in the passing game and his 4.66 40-yard time leaves much to be desired. But he’s a talented back who uses his lateral mobility and reading of the field to shine. Expect a team to bring that talent in somewhere between the fourth and fifth round come draft week.
8. Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson – Senior – 6-0, 224 – N/A
Anderson is a big, shifty back who can shed tackles with his running style and use smooth movement to break off his big runs. He’s shown good production, when healthy, but he lacks both breakaway speed and stability as injuries have plagued his college career. In 2017, his lone full season while at Oklahoma, he took 188 carries for 1,161 yards for an average of 6.2 yards per carry and added 17 receptions for 281 yards and five more touchdowns. Other than that season, however, he played in just four games combined, missing the entirety of the 2016 season and most of last year with a torn ACL that he’s still recovering from. He’s a capable back when healthy, but his injury concerns are a huge red flag and he could fall to the fourth or fifth rounds.
9. Utah State RB Darwin Thompson – Junior – 5-8, 200 – 4.47
Thompson was a JUCO transfer who spent just one year at Utah State, but he blew up in that lone season, compiling 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns on 153 carries while adding 351 yards and two touchdowns on 23 receptions. He’s got good speed, clocking a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day with great athletic measurables. At his pro day, he posted a 39-inch vertical with a 126-inch broad jump and 28 reps on the bench press. Thompson can change direction on a dime, and being a smaller back who could struggle with a heavy workload later in his career, his change of direction and elusiveness are necessary. Thompson is a rough project who will need to develop his vision and pass protection to succeed at the NFL level as a Day 3 selection.
10. Memphis RB Tony Pollard – Junior – 6-0, 210 – 4.37
Pollard joined Darrell Henderson in the Memphis backfield, and while Henderson was the primary back that they could lean on, Pollard was like a Swiss Army knife. He could do pretty much everything that was asked of him, from being a kick returner (seven touchdowns) to being used as a traditional running back to lining up out wide as a receiver, without truly being elite anywhere. Pollard has a lot of talent when it comes to route running, but he did suffer from a case of the drops at times, and when in the backfield he isn’t a guy that’s going to create magic by himself, but showed the ability to make guys miss when given space with his 4.37 speed. Pollard redshirted his freshman year and played three more years at Memphis, totaling 941 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns on 139 carries for an average of 6.8 yards per carry and added 1,292 receiving yards and nine more touchdowns on 104 receptions. His versatility and return ability could make him a worthy investment on Day 3.
BEST OF THE REST
11. Nebraska RB Devine Ozigbo – Senior – 6-0, 230 – 4.54
Ozigbo enters draft season on the heels of a good showing at the East-West Shrine game and an impressive pro day. Ozigbo spent all four years at Nebraska but never faced a huge workload, totaling just 419 carries for his career. 2018 was his most impressive year by far, notching 155 carries for 1,082 yards, 12 touchdowns as a downhill runner, and an average of seven yards per carry. He had 100 yards or more in four of Nebraska’s final seven games in 2018.
12. Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill – Junior – 5-10, 198 – 4.40
Hill is a smaller, nimble back with quick feet and blazing speed. He might not have the ideal size to lean on at the NFL level, but he was utilized heavily over his three years at Oklahoma State. He played in all but three games, accumulating 632 carries for 3,539 yards and 30 touchdowns. Hill shined at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash, while posting a 30-inch vertical, recording 21 reps on the bench press with a 130-inch broad jump. Hill’s measurables are off the charts, but his size could be a natural limiting factor going forward.
13. Ohio State RB Mike Weber – Junior – 5-10, 211 – 4.47
Ohio State seems to just pump out athletes, and Weber is no different. He was a top-100 prospect coming out of high school and earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year and second-team all-conference honors his first year at OSU. Weber returned from a second year where he dealt with a hamstring injury – and still punched in nine touchdowns on 101 carries – to finish 2018 with five touchdowns and 954 yards on 172 carries. He’s a good runner that doesn’t have elite burst, but can do a little bit of everything including pass catching and pass protection.
14. Kentucky RB Benny Snell – Junior – 5-10, 224 – 4.66
Snell began his career at Kentucky by earning freshman All-American honors with 262 carries for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns and only got better. By the end of his three-year career Snell accumulated 3,873 yards and 48 touchdowns on 737 career carries. Snell is a traditional between the tackles runner who lacks top-end burst and natural athleticism, but makes his money with his physicality.
15. Slippery Rock RB Wes Hills – Senior – 6-2, 218 – N/A
Hills was a small school guy who could find his way onto an NFL roster. After three years at Delaware, Hills transferred to Slippery Rock where he set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,714 yards. Hills was a two-year captain at Delaware while dealing with some injuries, totaling 1,849 and 14 touchdowns on a 6.5 yards per carry average.
16. Washington RB Myles Gaskin – Senior – 5-9, 205 – 4.58
Gaskin stood out at Washington, earning freshman All-American team honors, and was a first-team All-American in 2016, and a second-team All-American in 2017, set school records with 41 rushing and 45 total scores in 2017, set the school record for rushing yards, became the first PAC-12 running back to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight years and was twice voted the team’s most outstanding offensive player. The track star turned feature back plays with a smaller frame, but he’s fast, quick and smart when surveying the field. Gaskin finished his four-year career at UW with 5,323 yards on an insane 945 carries and that mileage, combined with his slight frame, worries NFL scouts about his longevity at the next level.
17. Michigan RB Karan Higdon – Senior – 5-9, 206 – 4.49
The Sarasota native is another back in this year’s class who lacks natural size to likely be a feature back with a heavy workload in the NFL, but plays bigger than his frame would indicate and relies on his vision and explosiveness to break into the second level. In addition to a sub-4.5 40-yard time at the Combine, Higdon also posted a 35-inch vertical and 123-inch broad jump. In four years at Michigan, Higdon took 224 carries for 2,616 yards and 27 touchdowns but never became much of a threat catching out of the backfield with just 16 receptions.
18. Stanford RB Bryce Love – Senior – 5-9, 200 – N/A
Love blew up as one of college football’s most electric running backs as a junior in 2017, taking 263 carries for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns. He even set an FBS record with 11 consecutive games with a carry of 50 or more yards, but unfortunately for the Stanford back, his return for his senior year didn’t go as planned. Love saw a yards per carry regression from his wild 8.1 average in 2017 to just a 4.5 average in 2018 before his season ended with a torn ACL. He’s undersized and recovering from a devastating knee injury, but Love is still a supremely talented runner who can only hope to return to form in 2020 following rehab.
19. Georgia RB Elijah Holyfield – Junior – 5-10, 217 – 4.78
Holyfield shocked the draft world when his 40-yard dash time at the combine clocked in at just 4.78 seconds. After sitting behind talented backs at Georgia and totaling just 56 carries over his first two years, he really has just one year with a large body of work, and even that year he only had 159 carries. But, he did take those carries for 1,018 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry average in the SEC. As evident by his 40-yard time, Holyfield isn’t the fastest back, but he uses his patience, vision, change of direction and run finishing ability to be a contributor. Holyfield’s lack of speed will make him late Day 3 option and he could even go undrafted, making his decision to leave Georgia a questionable one.
20. North Dakota State RB Bruce Anderson – Senior – 5-11, 208 – 4.58
Another Florida native, Anderson was a track star in high school before heading to NDSU’s championship caliber program. Anderson played all four years at NDSU but had limited touches until his junior season where he had 234 carries over 15 games. Anderson finished his career with 24 touchdowns and 2,896 yards on 486 carries. While he wasn’t overly active catching the ball out of the backfield, he racked up seven receiving touchdowns in four years despite only getting 32 receptions and had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl before getting injured.