Top five NFL prospects at RB, regardless of class
Over the next two weeks, Rivals national analysts Mike Farrell and Adam Gorney will break down the top-five pro prospects at each position regardless of class. Today, we look at running backs:
MORE: Top 5 QB prospects
1. JONATHAN TAYLOR
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. Ranked No. 208 nationally in the 2017 class, Taylor was ranked No. 13 at his position in a group led by Alabama’s Najee Harris, Florida State’s Cam Akers and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift.
Performance: Into his third year at Wisconsin, Taylor has carried the ball 783 times for 5,180 yards and 44 rushing touchdowns. He’s sixth nationally in rushing yards so far this season.
Comparison: Kendall Milton
Farrell’s take: Taylor has a bit more speed than Milton at this stage but he developed a lot of that in college. Both backs are big and physical and will surprise you with their burst. As Milton gets faster, and he will, he will be a load to bring down at full speed.
2. TRAVIS ETIENNE
Recruiting: Despite being from Louisiana and getting a late charge from LSU, Clemson beat out the Tigers, Texas A&M and others for Etienne’s commitment. He had previously been committed to the Aggies. Tennessee was also a finalist. He was a three-star prospect in the 2017 class and ranked No. 26 at running back that cycle.
Performance: Etienne had a huge sophomore season to help lead Clemson to the national championship last year by rushing for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns on 204 carries. He’s also performing well this year with 1,102 yards and 11 scores this season as Clemson remains undefeated.
Comparison: Bijan Robinson
Farrell’s take: Robinson can do a lot in the passing game as well as slash and gash a defense just like Etienne. Both have excellent vision and can cut on a dime. Etienne has been a bit of a surprise but Robinson won’t be. He’ll be great in college.
3. D'ANDRE SWIFT
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 off that pledge.
Performance: Following in the footsteps of other outstanding Georgia running backs, Swift has rushed for 2,505 yards and 20 touchdowns on 379 carries and he’s also caught 63 passes and has five receiving TDs so far. Swift’s numbers would probably be even more impressive if not for Georgia giving numerous other outstanding backs some carries.
Comparison: Demarckus Bowman
Farrell’s take: Swift and Bowman are both low to the ground runners who bounce off tackles and have great burst. They have great jump cuts as well. Both get stronger as the game wears on and can get loose into the secondary.
4. JK DOBBINS
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. Also in that loaded 2017 recruiting class, Dobbins was ranked fourth behind Harris, Akers and Swift.
Performance: Dobbins has been phenomenal in Ohio State’s offense as his abilities have meshed so well with what the Buckeyes want to do. The former four-star has carried the ball 578 times for 3,566 yards and 26 touchdowns and he’s also caught 61 passes for 530 yards and five more scores.
Comparison: Chris Tyree
Farrell’s take: Dobbjns is a speedster who impacts in the passing game and Tyree has the same intangibles. Both can take it to the house on any play and Tyree will be a problem for defenses at Notre Dame. Dobbins, meanwhile, has a chance to be an Alvin Kamara-type in the NFL.
5. ENO BENJAMIN
Recruiting: An early Iowa commitment, Benjamin backed off that pledge and then ended up picking Arizona State over Texas, Baylor, Michigan and Utah at the Army All-American Bowl. He was ranked fifth at running back in that outstanding 2017 class.
Performance: Benjamin had his most productive season last year when he carried the ball 300 times for 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns to be one of the most productive backs in college football. The former four-star has been solid this year with 679 yards and seven TDs on a much less-demanding pace of 153 touches so far. Benjamin has also caught four touchdowns in his career.
Comparison: Tank Bigsby
Farrell’s take: Benjamin is a grinder with good speed and acceleration who has great vision and Bigsby is the same way, although he’s a bit bigger and perhaps more physical. Both can be workhorses at the next level.