NFL Draft: Top 5 RBs heading into NFL Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is right around the corner and so it’s time to take a look at our list of top running backs entering the event, along with two others to watch heading into Indianapolis.
MORE COMBINE: Top 5 QBs | ACC breakdown
CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
NO. 1 - Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Recruiting: The former four-star had been committed to Rutgers but he flipped his pledge to Wisconsin after taking an official visit to Madison for the Badgers’ game against Ohio State.
Stats: Over three seasons, Taylor carried the ball 926 times for 6,174 yards with 50 touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He is the second player in NCAA history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season twice, and his three-year total was the highest in NCAA history. Taylor finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting three times.
Farrell’s take: I liked Taylor's fit at Wisconsin because of his combination of size, power and quick feet, but I never expected him to reach this level. The Badgers have done so well with New Jersey/New York-area running backs over the years, and this kid is clearly the best. He broke former Badgers star running back Corey Clement’s South Jersey rushing record his senior season and was compared with Clement often, although he’s a bit more physical and faster. Taylor’s balance, especially, stood out when scouting him.
NO. 2 - JK Dobbins, Ohio State
Recruiting: Texas and Oklahoma were considered the frontrunners in Dobbins’ recruitment, but he decided to commit to Ohio State shortly after being offered by the Buckeyes.
Stats: Dobbins rushed for 2,003 yards and scored 23 touchdowns as a junior this past season. Dobbins stepped it up in big games for the Buckeyes, with 260 total yards and four touchdowns against Michigan and 221 total yards and a touchdown in a playoff loss to Clemson.
Farrell’s take: Dobbins was highly-regarded and ranked coming out of high school despite missing nearly his entire senior season with a broken ankle. His combination of speed, leverage and the ability to catch the ball had him remain in our Rivals100 despite questions about how effective he would be upon his return. In a great year at running back in the 2017 class, we had him only behind Najee Harris (No. 1 overall), Cam Akers (No. 3) and D’Andre Swift (No. 35).
NO. 3 - D'Andre Swift, Georgia
Recruiting: Swift landed offers from almost every top program but once Georgia offered, the Bulldogs emerged as the frontrunner. Penn State, Clemson, Florida State and Alabama were also in Swift’s top group, but he committed early in his senior season and never wavered.
Stats: On 440 carries over three seasons, Swift totaled 2,885 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also caught 73 passes for 666 yards and five more scores.
Farrell’s take: Swift was just shy of a fifth star in 2017 ranked as the No. 3 running back and No. 35 player in the country as stated above. He reminded me a bit of Nick Chubb coming out of high school, although he caught the ball a bit better. This should have been his breakout season in the SEC, but his year was good, not great. He should be a great pro, however and I like him as a first-rounder.
NO. 4 - Zach Moss, Utah
Recruiting: An early Miami pledge, Moss backed off that commitment when Al Golden was fired and he committed to Utah along with Hallandale Beach (Fla.) Hallandale teammates Tyler Huntley and Demari Simpkins. Tennessee tried to flip him late and the pitch from then-coach Butch Jones was compelling but Moss stuck with the Utes.
Stats: Moss led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,416 yards, his third straight 1,000-yard season. Moss scored 14 touchdowns and was a key cog during Utah's surprising 10-3 season.
Farrell’s take: I remember seeing Moss at one of our camps in Florida and coming away impressed, which is why he was a mid-level three-star, but I didn’t see this level of dominance ahead of him in college football. He’s been a workhorse and has shown more speed than we thought he had at the college level. We underestimated him and some think he’s the best running back in the draft.
NO. 5 - Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Recruiting: Edwards-Helaire committed to LSU early in his recruitment but said he was reopening his recruitment but not de-committing when he wasn’t happy with the lack of communication from the Tigers’ coaching staff. However, coach Ed Orgeron and the staff made Edwards-Helaire a priority and he stuck with his decision. No other SEC teams offered.
Stats: This past season, Edwards-Helaire emerged with 215 carries for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns as LSU won the national championship. He added 55 receptions for 453 yards and another score.
Farrell’s take: It’s no mystery as to why we doubted Edwards-Helaire — it’s because of his height. Running backs needs to block and need to be passing targets and the shorter and smaller they are, the harder than can be. Yes, Edwards-Helaire is hard to tackle, and we knew that, but he’s been better at all aspects of the game than we expected and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up being a great pro.
TWO TO WATCH
AJ Dillon, Boston College
Recruiting: Dillon flipped his commitment from Michigan to Boston College a few weeks after taking an official visit to Chestnut Hill. Even after Dillon picked the Wolverines, the Boston College staff never backed off recruiting him and finally got him to change his pledge.
Stats: In three seasons, Dillon carried the ball 845 times for 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns as he averaged 5.2 yards per touch.
Farrell’s take: Dillon was a big running back with solid speed and very nifty footwork coming out of high school. We liked him, but he’s made a bigger impact than I expected. His vision is excellent and he always falls forward for additional yardage. Boston College was a great fit for him offensively and he was a huge flip for the Eagles from Michigan. He reminds me of Derrick Henry, but he can’t be that good right? But for some team he’s going to be worth the risk.
Cam Akers, Florida State
Recruiting: An early Alabama commitment, Akers backed off that pledge and picked Florida State over LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Ohio State. He was ranked as the third-best player nationally in the 2017 class behind Najee Harris and DT Marvin Wilson, who also ended up with the Seminoles.
Stats: Akers had 586 carries for 2,875 yards and 27 touchdowns averaging 4.9 yards per carry over his three-year career. The former five-star also caught 69 passes for 486 yards and seven more touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: Akers played quarterback in high school, but it was more of a wildcat position so we got to see his exceptional running back skills. He was in the discussion with Harris as the No. 1 player in the country, so he was pretty special. Things were very up and down at Florida State because of a weak offensive line and poor passing game, but he’s an NFL talent for sure and could be a steal in round three or so.