NFL Draft: Top five RBs as the draft nears
RELATED: Top five QBs as the draft nears
The NFL Draft is coming up in a few weeks. With the NFL Combine and pro days in the rear-view mirror, here is our ranked list of top running backs heading into the draft:
Recruiting: Jacobs had no offers in December leading up to National Signing Day even after running for 2,704 yards with 31 touchdowns in his senior year. Wyoming and New Mexico State offered and then things picked up dramatically into the New Year with Alabama, Oklahoma and Missouri getting involved. He picked the Crimson Tide in early February.
Buzz: Somewhere in the first round almost everyone is projecting Jacobs to be the first running back drafted. What so many NFL executives like about Jacobs is his versatility, ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and that he has a lot of tread left on the tires as he split time with others at Alabama. He never led the Crimson Tide in rushing but not many people seem to care.
Farrell’s take: Jacobs did not hit my radar, or the radar of many others, until after his huge senior season and Alabama needed a back late in the process and took a chance. Things obviously worked out well for both parties. On film, Jacobs was a powerful runner out of Oklahoma for his size (170 pounds back then) but his strength was his speed and ability to cut in the open field. He always ran hard and the NFL loves that about him as well. He’s the best of a weak crop of running backs.
Recruiting: The top-ranked all-purpose back in the 2016 class, Sanders committed to Penn State over Michigan in the summer before his junior season. A late push by Michigan State made things interesting but Sanders decided to stick with the Nittany Lions.
Buzz: After sitting behind Saquon Barkley and waiting his turn, Sanders got his opportunity this past season as he carried the ball 220 times for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns averaging nearly six yards per carry. Only one analyst on NFL.com has Sanders going in the first round but the Penn State running back could be a steal early in the draft.
Farrell’s take: I liked Sanders from the first time I saw him from his build to his natural leverage and ability to catch the ball. He was clearly an all-purpose back to me because he was so fluid catching the ball and ran excellent routes. Sanders dominated on the high school level, followed Barkley admirably and his athleticism has shown at many different levels. I think he’s a steal for this year, maybe an Alvin Kamara-kind of steal.
Buzz: Anderson’s college career was riddled with injuries which will make NFL decision-makers give him a second and third look, but in terms of talent, he’s at or near the top of the list. The former four-star had 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns in his sophomore season but missed almost all of this past season with a knee injury. He didn’t test at the NFL Scouting Combine or at Oklahoma’s pro day, so teams might not take a risk early but Anderson, when healthy, is seriously talented.
Farrell’s take: Injuries have been a problem for Anderson, but there is no question about his talent when he’s healthy. He had a very impressive senior season out of high school and we always liked his frame. We had some questions about his straight line speed which led to a drop in his final ranking, but he’s shown breakaway speed when healthy. The biggest question is about his ability to stay healthy and not his talent. A knee injury, a leg injury and a back injury are all bad, but when you have all three in your career, question marks arise. However, I still think he’s one of the most talented backs in this class.
Recruiting: In January of his senior year, the five-star running back committed to Alabama over a serious push from Kentucky and Ohio State. Harris had been committed to Michigan early in his recruitment.
Buzz: During his four-year career at Alabama, Harris rushed for 1,000-plus yards twice and finished with 3,070 yards and 23 touchdowns while splitting time with others - including Jacobs. But the concern on Harris entering the NFL Draft is that he had 477 carries on the college level and that is a lot of wear and tear. Still, Harris should be an early-round pick for teams looking for a veteran running back.
Farrell’s take: I’m a big fan of Harris and have been for awhile as evidenced by his five-star ranking out of high school. I loved his film, but when I saw him in person at Under Armour week, he was even more impressive than I thought. And that was before he added speed in college. However, he was never able to outright win the running back job at Alabama as expected and but still has tread on his tires. He reminds me of Mark Ingram and if he has an NFL career like Ingram, he will be very happy.
Recruiting: Playing quarterback in his senior season of high school, Montgomery, who rushed for 2,707 yards and 41 touchdowns that year, picked Iowa State over Illinois, Marshall, Ball State and Buffalo on National Signing Day.
Buzz: If Harris’ number of carries is a concern, then there could be some red flags for Montgomery, who finished with 624 carries for 2,925 yards and 13 touchdowns. Still, the former two-star has a lot of buzz heading into the draft after a good combine, improving on his 40-time at the pro day to get it in the 4.5s and his tape screams that he’s a special prospect.
Farrell’s take: Montgomery was never heavily recruited because he wasn’t a natural quarterback but was forced to play the position in high school. He was used mainly as a runner and had success but he was a very hard projection for many. Despite being the Ohio Division III player of the year his senior season, Illinois and Iowa State were his only power five offers. He’s proven to be durable, a hard runner and on film alone he’s a high pick, but there are concerns about his overall speed.