2020 NFL Draft Top Prospects: Running Backs
By Seth Megginson
The 2020 NFL Draft running back class is a very strong class with four of the top backs all looking like potential future NFL stars in this league.
Like most years, this position is deep in this year’s NFL Draft and here are some names you should get familiar with if you have not already heard their names when they were playing on Saturdays.
DeAndre Swift, Georgia: Overall #33
DeAndre Swift is the most well-rounded RB in this draft. He has amazing vision and can bounce off tackles and keep going for more yardage. Can make all the right cuts, and you can tell that he is a workhorse by the way he runs the ball. He also looked good coming out of the backfield and contributing to the passing game during his time at Georgia. The only concerns I would have for Swift would be injuries and the fact sometimes he takes more unnecessary hits than he should instead of trying to juke out the defender. Overall Swift is a running back that I could see giving a team five or more years of solid production.
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State: Overall #36
Finding differences between Dobbins and Swift were very difficult. Like Swift, Dobbins has great vision and really attacks the defense and breaks tons of tackles. Also, Dobbins is quicker than I think many people realize when you watch him, making him an overall strong well-rounded RB. The only reason Dobbins is behind Swift in these rankings is Dobbins doesn’t provide much in the passing game compared to Swift, and like Swift could do a better job of avoiding unnecessary hits. Dobbins can be a feature back in the NFL, and I would not be surprised if someone took him as the first RB in this draft.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Overall #44
Taylor is another RB in this class with a well-rounded game who has great size and speed that made him an elite RB at Wisconsin. His run-after-contact is better than any RB in this draft, and for being such a big running back, he has great speed. His main problems come from holding onto the football. He had 18 fumbles in college, and you also wonder about his durability in the pros because he was running so much in college. Taylor has all the tools to be a successful running back in the league; however, he is behind Swift and Dobbins my rankings because I simply trust the other two more than him. Whoever drafts Taylor, though, should get a good amount of solid years from him.
Clyde Edwards-Helarie, LSU: Overall #45
Edwards-Helaire was a huge part in why LSU offensive exploded in 2019. Yes, Joe Burrow played otherworldly, but Helaire provided tons of production, both running and receiving, in the LSU offense. He is explosive with the ball in his hands, and has more creativity in his running than the three other RBs I have above him. Flaws in his game are there, though. He is not a very good pass blocker, and never really seems to find a second gear when he runs. I am also surprised that he really is not as fast as I initially thought after reviewing him. Helaire should be a productive RB, both running and receiving out of the backfield, and should make for a well-rounded starting NFL RB.
Cam Akers, FSU: Overall #59
If anyone is benefiting in this draft from getting out of college, it’s Cam Akers. He is am ultra-talented running back, but in college he could hardly showcase it because his offensive line was terrible the three years he was in Tallahassee. I feel like his time at FSU might have set him back a little bit, making him harder to value when it comes to his draft stock. Akers, in all seriousness, could be the best RB in this draft, because all the physical traits are there, and when he was able to be utilized well, he was a game-changer. He will need to be better in the passing game and pass blocking, but there is an extremely high ceiling for Akers, but also the unknows with him give him a lower floor. Don’t be surprised if in five years we are talking about him as the best RB from this draft, or if he is just a backup.
Zack Moss, Utah: Overall #95
Zack Moss ran for over 1,000 yards three years in a row at Utah, so there are going to be some miles on him once he gets into the NFL. After his work rate in college, there are very little concerns regarding Moss at the next level. He is a total package runner that can power through people and has good vision, though his not the fastest running back, but he will always gain positive yardage and can wear down a defense. He also did well in college catching balls out of the backfield, which will be a welcome trait of his in the NFL. Moss should be a guy who gets playing time right away in the NFL; just the question is, how many years of use will you get out of him?
Eno Benjamin, Arizona State: Overall #98
Benjamin out of Arizona State is an RB that I am higher on than most other people. He is an elusive runner that also runs hard despite not being the most powerful or biggest RB in this class. Can definitely shake off defenders and run by them if necessary, and is solid coming out of the backfield to catch some passes. He will have to be a little more patient, though, in the NFL as at times he does not let his blocks set up in front of him and runs into a defender or his own lineman. He is better suited for a power-run scheme than a zone-run scheme, so where he is drafted will go a long way in depending on how successful he is. If he ends up on the right team, Benjamin can be a starter in this league.
Darryton Evans, Appalachian State: Overall #102
If you are looking for a running back that could take it to the end zone at any moment, then Darryton Evans of Appalachian State is your guy. Evans has great speed and does a great job of finding his second gear once he gets out into the open. He is also elusive and should fit perfectly in a zone-running scheme that can get him to the outside. Obviously concerns for Evans would be in short-yardage situation, and his vision is questionable. At times he can make good moves and find his lanes, but others he complete misses where he should have run with the ball. It’s unlikely Evans will ever be the feature back on a team, but could see him having a long career as a change-of-pace back who, if he is utilized correctly, could be dangerous every time he touches the ball.
Antonio Gibson, Memphis: Overall #114
This projection is honestly a little bit of a cheat. Gibson is listed as a running back but will likely be more of an x factor type player for his NFL career. There are two RBs in this draft who remind me of Darren Sproles when I watch what they are capable of, and one of the is Gibson out of Memphis. He can be lined up anywhere and can make plays whether it be at RB, out wide, or in the slot, making him a dangerous player for defenses to scheme against. He played WR in college at Memphis, but really feel like if the right team gets him can be just as good as Sproles was in his career. He will have to learn quickly about the RB position and will likely need a year or two to be comfortable with his role on a team.
Lamical Perine, Florida: Overall #136
Lamical Perine had a solid career at running back for Florida during his last two seasons in Gainesville. He is a well-balanced running back who has good speed, contact balance, and power. While I wouldn’t say anything really jumps off the screen when you watch him, you can easily tell he is a well on his way to be a contributor to an NFL team. I honestly feel like I could see him being a #1 RB for someone. There is still some unknowns for Perine, and he will need to do better at making people miss, but there is no reason to think Perine wont be at the very worst a back up RB in the NFL.
Other Running Backs to Watch For:
- Anthony McFarland, Maryland #137
- A.J. Dillion, Boston College #140
- Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt #163
- DeeJay Dallas, Miami (Fla.) #165
- James Robinson, Southern Illinois #216
- JaMycal Hasty, Baylor #219
- Sewo Olonilua, TCU #221
- Raymond Calais, Louisiana #224
- Joshua Kelly, UCLA #226
- Michael Warren II, Cincinnati #232
- Javon Leake, Maryland #237
- Darius Anderson, TCU #240
- Rico Dowdle, South Carolina #277
- J.J. Taylor, Arizona #292
- Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis #299
- Salvon Ahmed, Washington #306
- Reggie Corbin, Illinois #325
- Benny Lemay, Charlotte #334
- Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss #342
- Levante Bellamy ,Western Michigan #354
- Jonathan Ward, Central Michigan #385