football Edit

NFL Draft: Which conference produced most RBs over last 4 years?

There have been 97 running backs taken in the last four NFL Drafts with some conferences doing better than others. Here is a breakdown:

MORE NFL DRAFT: Comparing top RBs with current recruits

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022: Top 100

1. SEC - 23 RBs

Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry (AP)

The SEC clobbers every other conference when it comes to putting running backs in the NFL and Alabama leads comfortably with five selections in first-rounder Josh Jacobs along with second-rounder Derrick Henry, third-rounders Damien Harris and Kenyan Drake and then Bo Scarbrough, a seventh-round selection.

Two schools have had three selections over the last four years in Georgia with Sony Michel (the only first-rounder) along with Nick Chubb and Keith Marshall and Arkansas with David Williams, Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.

LSU has had two good ones in first-rounder Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, Tennessee put in third-rounder Alvin Kamara and sixth-rounder John Kelly and then Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn has also had two picks. Benny Snell from Kentucky and Jordan Wilkins out of Ole Miss are the two other SEC running backs drafted over the last four years.

Farrell’s take: Now this makes sense. The SEC is known for great running backs and power offense and no one comes close to recruiting or developing the position as well. UGA will put D’Andre Swift possibly in round one this year and LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be off the board in round two or three. But other schools like Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee also do a good job developing running backs fairly consistently.

2. ACC - 15 RBs

Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook (AP)

Clemson has dominated everything in the ACC for some years now but not when it comes to putting running backs in the NFL - at least not yet. MIami and NC State lead the way with three each, although none of them have been picked earlier than the fourth round. Travis Homer, Mark Walton and Marquez Williams played for the Hurricanes and Nyheim Hines, Jaylen Samuels and Matt Dayes were at NC State.

Pitt (led by third-rounder James Conner) and North Carolina had two each as the Tar Heels put seventh-rounder Elijah Hood in the league. He was a former five-star prospect in the 2014 class. Clemson also had two with fourth-rounder Wayne Gallman and Zac Brooks, a seventh-round pick.

Maryland, Virginia Tech and Florida State had one - the biggest name of them all in second-rounder Dalvin Cook, one of the best backs in the NFL.

Farrell’s take: The ACC may be second here but they haven’t produced a ton of great running backs that have impacted the league recently. That may change with Travis Etienne next season as he should be a high draft pick and Cam Akers could go as high as the second round this year, but this is a huge drop off from the SEC.

3. PAC-12 - 12 RBs

Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey (AP)

The Pac-12 is third among Power Five conferences in number of running backs drafted over the last four years but after Stanford, the numbers are not that remarkable. The Cardinal have only two picks but one is first-rounder Christian McCaffrey and the other is fourth-rounder Bryce Love, who looked to have first-round potential as a junior before fading later in his college career. He was a fourth-round pick.

Utah had two fourth-round picks in Joe Williams and Devontae Booker and Cal and Washington had two selected in the seventh-round in Khalfani Muhammad and Daniel Lasco for the Golden Bears and Myles Gaskin and Dwayne Washington for the Huskies.

USC had one second-round pick in Ronald Jones and then Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA all had one pick as well: Royce Freeman, Kalen Ballage and Paul Perkins, respectively.

Farrell’s take: The Pac-12 can now boast the highest paid running back in the NFL with McCaffrey’s new deal but beyond him the impact has been minimal overall. Oregon should help change that the way they are recruiting but with UCLA and USC down in recruiting it will be interesting to see if a different program can step up in the conference. Perhaps Utah? They have Zach Moss in the draft this year and he could be a good one and I really like Eno Benjamin out of Arizona State as a sleeper.

4. BIG 12 - 9 RBs

Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon (AP)

Oklahoma leads the way in the Big 12, although there have been no first-round running backs drafted from that conference over the last four years. Second-rounder Joe Mixon, fourth-rounder Samaje Perine and Rodney Anderson in the sixth round lead the way for the Sooners.

Only one other conference team has multiple running backs taken during that stretch and it’s Oklahoma State with Justice Hill in the fourth round and Chris Carson in the seventh. Iowa State (David Montgomery), Texas (D’Onta Foreman), Texas Tech (DeAndre Washington) and West Virginia (Wendell Smallwood) have one each.

Farrell’s take: Oklahoma State will place Chuba Hubbard next year and he should go high and you know Oklahoma will churn them out but the rest of the conference needs to step it up. Once again I look to Texas and wonder why they aren’t putting backs in the NFL like Oklahoma is.

5. BIG TEN - 8 RBs

Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott

The Big Ten has a reputation for massive offensive lines and powerful running backs but surprisingly that conference is last among the Power Fives. There are still some huge names among the group though.

First-rounders Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) lead the way and then Miles Sanders, who also played for the Nittany Lions, was a second-round pick. Mike Weber from Ohio State, Justin Jackson out of Northwestern, Jordan Howard (Indiana), Nebraska’s Andy Janovich and Wisconsin’s Derek Watt are the other Big Ten running backs who were drafted over the last four years.

Farrell’s take: This is surprising, very surprising because the Big Ten is known as a running back conference. The quality has been very high with Barkley, Elliott and Sanders who are all big-time backs and Howard has been excellent as well. But the depth is lacking here. Jonathan Taylor will put another Wisconsin back in the draft this year and could be the top one taken.

NON POWER-5 RBs - 28

Schools outside the Power Five conferences put 28 players in the league over the last four years and while there are more programs and more players, it’s still a pretty big statement that the NFL will go anywhere to find talent.

San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny was the only first-round selection among the group as he went early in the 2018 draft. Other high-profile names among non-Power Five players are Kareem Hunt, a third-rounder out of Toledo, Tarik Cohen, a fourth-rounder from North Carolina A&T, and Marlon Mack out of USF.

Farrell’s take: This is where many great backs are usually found but that hasn’t been the case in recent years except for a few exceptions.

Note: Notre Dame had two running backs drafted over the last four years in sixth-rounder Dexter Williams and CJ Prosise, a third-round selection.