football Edit

Ranking with the Stars: Who was rated higher than Saquon Barkley?

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

Saquon Barkley has a chance to be the first pick in the NFL Draft later this month, but out of high school he was ranked No. 11 at running back. We take a look at the 10 running backs rated ahead of him and call this Ranking with the Stars.

MORE RANKING WITH THE STARS: Which QBs were ahead of Sam Darnold? | Which linebackers were ahead of Roquan Smith?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

1. Damien Harris 


The skinny: After originally committing to Michigan during Brady Hoke’s final year in Ann Arbor, Harris then flirted with in-state program Kentucky for several months before finally committing to Alabama. After two consecutive 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons in Tuscaloosa - while splitting carries - Harris decided to return in 2018. While he is likely to get a bulk of the carries this fall, look for Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs to ease his workload.

Farrell’s take: I liked Harris on film quite a bit, but the level of competition worried me – until I saw him at the Under Armour All-America Game. He was thicker and stronger than I expected, his jump cut was awesome and he had vision and power. He not only held his own against the best in the country, but was dominant at times. A thick, powerful back with the speed to bounce it outside, Harris was our No. 1 running back when all was said and done for 2015. Now that he’s dropped weight and added speed, he’s simply dynamic and he could put himself in position to be one of the top running backs in next year’s NFL Draft.

2. Derrius Guice 

The skinny: Guice committed to LSU during the spring of his junior year, but then ended up taking an official visit to Alabama in January. While rumors persisted that he may look to flip, he did sign with the Tigers on Signing Day. Guice burst onto the scene in 2016 while backing up injured star Leonard Fournette, and then followed that up with 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. Forgoing his final season in Baton Rouge, Guice is considered a first-round draft pick and one of the top available running backs.

Farrell’s take: Injuries have hurt Guice a bit and he didn’t have the breakout season many expected, so he’s a borderline first-rounder right now. That being said, he’s been very impressive at times. I loved Guice out of high school because he was mean and nasty. He was the kind of kid, similar to Eddie Lacy, who hated to be tackled and would fight hard for extra yardage while wearing down defenses. He also had very good speed and vision and light feet, but it was his desire when running - something clear on tape and in person - that pushed him to five-star status. He has first-round talent.

3. Jacques Patrick 

The skinny: After trimming his list down to Florida State, Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and Texas A&M - and taking official visits to both Tuscaloosa and College Station - Patrick committed to the Seminoles during his senior season. He rushed for 664 yards during his first two seasons while playing behind Dalvin Cook, and then totaled 748 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017 after Cook’s move to the NFL. Patrick decided to return for his senior season, and he will battle Cam Akers for carries.

Farrell’s take: Patrick was a big, tall, upright runner with excellent receiving skills, so we saw big things from him, as backs have begun to trend this way in recent years. Now is the time to step it up, as he has one more year to live up to the hype, and that will be tough with Akers on the roster.

4. Soso Jamabo 

The skinny: Despite the pull to stay in-state and play for Texas, in the end Jamabo committed to UCLA on Signing Day. Jamabo showed potential during his true freshman season, but he has not taken his game to the next level over the last two seasons. After totaling only 767 yards in 2016 and 2017, Jamabo is hoping that new coach Chip Kelly’s open offense will rejuvenate his collegiate career this fall.

Farrell’s take: Like Patrick, he has one more year to live up to the hype. Unlike Patrick, he did not have Dalvin Cook or someone with that level of talent blocking him from success. So this is a mystery to me. I loved Jamabo out of high school because he had size, could catch the ball and could break tackles or make you miss. Now he has to hope Kelly can make him a standout.

5. Kerryon Johnson 

The skinny: Johnson committed to Auburn during the spring after his junior season,. And while he flirted with the idea of taking official visits to Alabama and Florida State, they never materialized. Johnson improved his production during each of his three seasons at Auburn, totaling 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall. Forgoing his senior season with the Tigers, Johnson is predicted to be a second- or third-round selection in this month’s draft.

Farrell’s take: Johnson was a terrific athlete, as evidenced by playing defensive back during Under Armour All-America week and that versatility and athleticism made him a dangerous weapon at Auburn. He can play receiver, running back and a hybrid combo position of both, and he was the most important non-quarterback to any team in the country. He’s also shown his toughness and ability to handle fourth-quarter carries - a question mark out of high school - and the NFL likes him because of his versatility. He could be a second or third-rounder, although teams aren’t as enamored with him as I expected.

6. Larry Scott 

The skinny: After establishing a strong relationship with Scott and his family, Michigan State surprised some by pulling him out of Ohio and away from the Buckeyes. Scott has had a very productive three seasons in East Lansing, totaling 2,591 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he has yet to become the star that many envisioned. He's returning for his senior season this fall, and with Gerald Holmes and Madre London both gone, Scott will be receiving the bulk of the carries in the Spartans offense.

Farrell’s take: I am a big fan of Scott, and he can still put it all together, although there are questions about his speed. There have been times where he looked like the guy out of high school – powerful, excellent vision, quick feet, etc. – but there have been other times where he has been too easy to tackle. There is talent there, and he needs a big year to jump on NFL radars. He’s ahead of Patrick and Jamabo in that regard, but not by much.

7. Mike Weber

The skinny: Weber's recruitment came down to a classic Ohio State-Michigan head-to-head battle. After committing to Ohio State, the Buckeyes still had to fend off the Wolverines until National Signing Day. Weber redshirted in 2015 before bursting on to the scene in 2016 with 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns. More of the same was expected in 2017, but an injury and the emergence of J.K. Dobbins cut down on Weber’s workload and production. Eyes will be on Columbus this fall to see how productive Weber will be.

Farrell’s take: Weber ran low to the ground and with good leverage, and he had a great jump cut and made people miss. He was also very strong and powerful. He has shown flashes, but Dobbins has taken away some of his touches and attention.

8. Ronald Jones II 

The skinny: Jones initially made a commitment to Oklahoma State but he left the door open for other schools. After taking official visits to both USC and Notre Dame, he then committed to the Trojans at the Under Armour All-America Game. Jones rushed for over 2,000 rushing yards during his first two seasons, but then raised his game to an even higher level in 2017 with 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns. Forgoing his senior season, Jones is considered a late first-round/early second-round selection in April’s draft.

Farrell’s take: Jones was a speedster, awesome on film, was impressive at the Under Armour Game in high school, and he had a great college career. Running backs and linebackers are the hardest to evaluate in camp settings without pads, so Jones was never penalized in our rankings for not having as much of an impact as expected, and it’s a good thing for us. His film and Under Armour week kept him in the Rivals100 and as one of the top backs in the country. He was disappointing at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, but that was the only blip on the radar during his evaluation. Now his versatility as a three-down back has many projecting him into the second round, and he was the clear MVP for USC over Sam Darnold last season.

9. Mark Walton 

The skinny: Walton committed to Miami during his junior season, and while he did take official visits to West Virginia, Louisville and Georgia in the weeks leading up to signing day, he stuck with the hometown Canes. After rushing for an impressive 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016, Walton had a huge start in 2017 before an ankle injury cut his season down to only five games. Despite the disappointing 2017 season, Walton still declared for the NFL Draft, where he is currently considered a mid-round selection.

Farrell’s take: Walton was a slasher with great speed out of high school, and he could make people miss. He has shown some of that ability in college. The injury last year hurt his draft stock, but teams are still very interested and he could land in the third or fourth round, although I don’t think he should have come out.

10. Eric Swinney 

The skinny: Swinney committed to Ole Miss over Tennessee in May, with a visit to Oxford putting the Rebels over the top. After missing the 2015 season due to a stress fracture and then suffering a season ending knee injury in the opener against Florida State in 2016, Swinney returned in 2017 to rush for 195 yards and three touchdowns. A big opportunity is in front of Swinney this off-season, as he is currently battling with junior college transfer Scott Phillips and freshman Isaiah Woullard for the starting running back position.

Farrell’s take: It’s time for Swinney, who has great potential, to step up and become the go-to guy for Ole Miss. He has solid speed, he can break tackles and make people miss, but the knee injury is a question mark and we aren’t sure if he can come back at 100 percent.

11. Saquon Barkley 

The skinny: Barkley was originally committed to Rutgers, but reopened his recruitment as additional offers began to pile up. Penn State almost immediately became the favorite as the Nittany Lions made Barkley a recruiting priority, which eventually led to his commitment. Barkley immediately made an impact on the field at Penn State, and he continued to improve his level of play during his three seasons at Happy Valley. Finishing his collegiate career with 5,038 yards and 51 touchdowns from the line of scrimmage, Barkley is considered the top offensive skill player in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Farrell’s take: Barkley was the No. 1 running back on everyone’s board entering the season and he remains on top now - and it’s not very close. The big question will be whether he goes No. 1 overall. He was an upright slasher who showed good receiving skills out of high school, so it's not a huge surprise he's made a big impact in college. But to the level he impacted? That’s a bit of a surprise. His lower-body strength and power to run through some arm tackles has improved greatly since high school. A very athletic kid, Barkley was a guy who pushed for Rivals100 status but is showing us he should have been ranked higher. Much higher. Is he worth a top 5 pick? Yes.