The NFL Draft is fast approaching and draft stocks for players are pretty much set as we settle in for the wait.
So now that the dust has settled on many pro days and such, where do the running backs stand in the draft?
1. Leonard Fournette
This is a no-brainer for me. Fournette has immense talent that is reminiscent of players like Adrian Peterson and Bo Jackson. The 6’0″ 230 lb running back has 4.5 40 speed to mix with incredible power that will allow him to run between the tackles at the next level. However, Fournette does have his downsides.
While his power and speed are incredible, he lacks elusiveness as a runner and much prefers contact to making a man miss. While being an incredible runner, he also lacks the ability to be a legitimate receiving threat as a back, though he does have soft hands. Fournette also isn’t a perfect pass protector and his technique is going to need some refining at the next level. Despite all this, Fournette is talented enough as a runner to warrant a top-15 pick in the NFL Draft.
2. Joe Mixon
Mixon is a unique case among running backs in the 2017 Draft. While he has immense talent, as indicated by his ranking on this list, he has been plagued by off-field incidents that have haunted his draft stock. He wasn’t invited to the combine, leaving teams to schedule their own visits with him in order to evaluate his character.
As for Mixon as a player, he is a top-15 talent and looks like a carbon copy of Le’Veon Bell. Mixon mixes his 4.45 40 speed at 6’1″ 228 lbs with good power and outstanding elusiveness that makes him a threat to take it to the house any given play. He also is dangerous as a receiver and has very soft hands and good route-running ability.
He cannot be left un-accounted for in the passing game at the next level or he will burn you. Mixon also shows outstanding patience as a runner which helps him pull off long runs, but he also takes zero and negative yard gains once in a while because of this. Joe Mixon is probably at best a late 1st round selection because of his character concerns but he is an outstanding player.
3. Christian McCaffery
McCaffery over Cook? That’s right. McCaffery has shown that he can truly have a large amount of value at the next level by returning kicks, playing the receiver position, and being a ridiculously elusive running back. In fact, had McCaffery came out as a receiver, many believe he would’ve been drafted as high as the 2nd round.
The 5’11” 202 lb running back is one of the most elusive backs in the class and was easily one of the most electrifying players in college football the last two years. But McCaffery has quite a bit of tread on the tires, amassing 748 total touches over his last two years at Stanford. There is also the question if he has the power to run in between the tackles at the next level due to his low weight but this isn’t a big concern. I expect McCaffery to be selected in the top 20 picks.
4. Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook goes to the number 4 spot in my rankings, but that doesn’t mean much, as there is little separation between him and McCaffery. Cook has rare elusiveness with functional power that he has used to become the all-time leading rusher at FSU. Cook has gone over 1,000 yards rushing in each of his years at and had a junior season in which he had over 2,200 yards from scrimmage. Cook is a classic slashing running back that can easily make defenders miss in open space and take it the distance.
He has also shown above-average receiving ability as well with the ability to be split out-wide as a receiver. The questions with Cook start with if his lingering shoulder issues will be an issue in the NFL. There is also the issue of ball-security with Cook as well having 13 career fumbles at FSU. There are whispers of character concerns with him too, having had issues in his high school days along with a battery charge that was dropped in his sophomore year at FSU. But as I said Cook is still a top-20 talent as a running back.
5. Alvin Kamara
There is a little bit of a drop-off here in talent, as I don’t expect Kamara to be a 1st round selection even though he is still talented. Kamara is a slasher who has bit more power than you’d expect out of a 5’10” 214 lb back also. He tested well at the combine, putting up a impressive 39.5″ vertical and a 131″ broad jump showing off his strong lower body. Kamara didn’t put up ridiculous numbers at Tennessee, never putting up more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage his last two years though he was in a committee system.
This is actually a blessing in disguise, as he will have fresh legs for the NFL and might be less susceptible to injury. He is also a capable punt returner and receiver as well. Kamara however did have knee issues in college and might not be ready for a starter’s load right away in the NFL. I expect his name to be called in the 2nd round on draft day.
(Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com)