Top Ten Running Backs entering the 2018 NFL Draft

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs the 40-yard dash during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

This year, the crop of NFL rookies across the board is very intriguing. Most of the positional classes are deep with talent and running back is no exception. As many as ten running backs could make deep impacts in their inaugural season.

This class is deep and loaded with talent. Here are the top ten running backs entering the 2018 NFL draft.

2018 NFL Draft: Top Ten Running Backs

10. Ronald Jones II, USC

Explosive and quick, Ronald Jones can hit a hole with some serious power and strength. He’s quick and elusive once he gets to the open field. Jones hurt his hamstring while running the forty yard dash on Friday, but truly he is a very good athlete with a lot of natural athleticism. Not effective in pass blocking, and he wasn’t used much in the passing game at USC. Should be selected somewhere in the third-fourth round range.

Grade – 76

9. Darrel Williams, LSU

Darrel Williams ended up playing behind two great LSU running backs his entire career – Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Despite not having much film to review on the big guy, Williams has NFL measurables (6’0″ and 225 lbs) and blasted enough on film to lead me to believe that he could be a real steal for a team looking for a rotational guy. A ton of upside and potential lies in Williams.

Grade – 77

8. Royce Freeman, Oregon

Royce has been a real treat to watch in the PAC-12 for the last four years. Played his freshman season with Marcus Mariota and competed for the National Championship. Has a good frame and burst through the line. Possesses patience to follow his blockers to make big plays. Excellent blocker. Sometimes gets ancy on third and short and will try to make too much happen. Good value in the third round.

Grade – 79

7. Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

A real beast on the field that reminds you of Le’Veon Bell without the patience. Downhill runner with an excellent jump cut. Powerful, quick and elusive. Johnson is a good threat in the receiving game. Doesn’t seem to have too much value running outside. Still can be a strong contributor as a rotational piece. Excellent blocker. Should go somewhere in the third round.

Grade – 79

6. Nick Chubb, Georgia

Big, bruising back with serious explosion. Chubb is a downhill runner with good value in pass protection. Excellent balance. Just like Johnson, doesn’t have much value on outside runs, and is much more comfortable running it inside the tackles. Had a serious knee injury in 2015 that cannot be forgotten. If his medical concerns are laid to rest, hub can be a serious starter here in a few years.

Grade – 79

5. Josh Adams, Notre Dame

Adams possesses excellent field vision and top end speed. Good pass blocker and looks for contact. Strong and fights between the tackles. Adams benefited from an excellent offensive line in 2017, and never had played outside of rotation. Could be a strong rotational piece in the league, and maybe a star in the future. Second-third round.

Grade – 80

4. Sony Michel, Georgia

Excellent athleticism and speed. Excellent receiver out of the backfield. Has an awesome jump cut. Doesn’t have the frame to hold up as a feature back. Built almost identically to 2017 Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. Makes big plays happen, and can be very useful as a third down back. Should go in the second round.

Grade – 80

3. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Very fluid runner. Penny possesses excellent balance and can torch a defense for giving him a crease to run through. Strong and agile, has elusiveness and a good set of moves to break tackles in the open field. Not much there that you don’t want to see. Struggles as a blocker and played in the MW Conference. Should go in the second round, if not the very late first.

Grade – 81

2. Saquan Barkley, Penn State

Now I know I am going to take some flak for this one, but hear me out on this. Barkley is an incredible athlete and there is no doubting what he is capable of doing in the open field. It is possible that he is the biggest home run hitter in this draft. His speed is incredible, and he is a mutli-threat as a return man, as a receiver out of the slot and out of the backfield. However, his real potential is limited in this league because he cannot run between the tackles. This means that Barkley is a rotational piece and can never carry a full workload in the NFL. Still can make a huge impact for a team. Top 10 pick.

Grade – 83

1. Derrius Guice, LSU

Guice is my number one guy, and I think he is going to make a deep impact in this league. It’s not very often that you see an SEC running back average 7.1 yards per carry over his career. Isn’t the splash player that Barkley is, but Guice is more consistent and you know what you are getting from him. He’s a workhorse with good speed, excellent vision, burst and soft hands for receiving. Guice has the tools to be a star in this league. Could go top 10, but should be a top 20 pick for sure.

Grade – 85

 

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