1. Saquon Barkley- Penn State 5’11” 223 lbs
Saquon Barkley is a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions and has averaged over 5.5 yards per rush every year in college. He has also put up back to back years with over 21 touchdowns.
Barkley’s lower body balance and power are uncanny. His weight room stats are off the charts which include a 455 lb bench press, a 650 lb squat, and a 405 lb power clean which is an all-time Penn State record.
Barkley is a complete prospect that lacks any weaknesses in his game. His top-end speed is great, which Barkley has shown by having 15 separate plays that went for over 50 yards. Barkley’s agility is second to none and he seems to lose zero speed with his quick feet and sharp cuts. He also cuts off his inside foot at times (McCaffrey is the only other recent running back that has done that). Due to his agility, it seems defenders never get a clean hit on Barkley which will help prevent injuries. Pass protection is spot on and he attacks the rusher instead of waiting for them to close the gap. Barkley has better hands than the majority of wide receivers in this draft and lowers his pad level to adjust to the pass which NFL players seldom do.
Player comparison- Ezekiel Elliot as a runner and Christian McCaffrey as a pass catcher
Draft position- Top 10
2. Sony Michel- Georgia 5’11” 222 lbs
Sony Michel is a four year player for Georgia and he averaged 6.1 yards per rush average during that time vs SEC opponents.
Michel is versatile above all else, he can use power, speed, agility, hesitation, or whatever the situation calls for. He is a perfect fit for every offensive scheme and could be three down feature back. He is a first and second power guy and a third-down specialist. Michel has no problem lowering his shoulder and trying to run over a linebacker, but his best move is his fluid hips. When Michel makes a cut his upper body barely moves and he is able to maintain elite speed while doing so. His acceleration at the snap of the ball is second to none. Michel has great pass protection and catches the ball with ease out of the backfield.
Player comparison- Willis McGahee before the injuries
Draft position- Middle to late 1st round
3. Derrius Guice- LSU 5’11” 212 lbs
Derrius Guice stepped in for an injured Leonard Fournette as a Sophomore and has not looked back, posting back to back years with over 1,250 yards rushing in the SEC.
Guice is a north-to-south, one-cut runner that is perfect in a zone blocking scheme. He doesn’t juke back and forth and seems to hate going sideways. If there is any size of hole Guice will hit it hard. Not a bruiser back because of his size but don’t tell Guice that, this kid is tough as nails and tries to give out a beating to the defenders. Guice will fight with all he has for every single yard on every single play. He doesn’t have elite top-end speed and gets caught often of big plays before he gets to the end zone, but he was able to log six separate runs over 50 yards in his career.
Player comparison- A pissed off Devonta Freeman
Draft position- Middle to late 1st
4. Ronald Jones II- USC 6’1” 195 lbs
Ronald Jones was built to run through arm tackles. Jones has an NFL ready body and very strong running style to match. Jones doesn’t go side to side at all but rather stutter steps to get tacklers off balance and runs through their attempted tackles. Jones and Guice are in competition for best short yardage or goal line backs. Jones has great top end speed and when he gets past the secondary he is not going to be caught from behind. Not a lot of experience in pass pro or as a receiver, but Jones seems to be capable at both. Jones needs to go to a power running scheme that can use his talents appropriately but is in a completely different tier from top backs in this class.
Player comparison- Larry Johnson but a little lighter and quicker
Draft position- 2nd round
5. Kerryon Johnson- 6’0” 212 lbs
Kerryon Johnson is a two-year starter for Auburn and in his last year he put up over 1,500 total yards and 20 touchdowns in the SEC. Johnson had some of his best games against the best defenses by posting 100-yard games in seven out of nine games vs SEC defenses and that includes Alabama and Georgia.
He is a powerful runner that is very hard to bring down and his stiff arm is one of a kind. Johnson is a superb athlete with an NFL ready body and has top end speed to break off the big play at any moment. Very physical blocker in pass pro and even gets a few pancake blocks. Johnson hits the hole hard and his big plays are usually between the tackles. Johnson will be a fit for every offensive scheme and could be a three-down feature back.
Player comparison- Poor man’s Adrian Peterson
Draft position- 2nd round
6. Nick Chubb- Georgia 5’10” 220 lbs
Nick Chubb started as a true freshman for the Bulldogs and was absolutely astonishing, posting over 1,750 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Chubb’s sophomore year was stopped early due to a terrible knee injury. He fought back to put up back to back 1,200 plus yard seasons in the SEC.
Chubb is a bowling ball style runner with incredible strength in his lower body. Chubb has a little wiggle in his hips but his bread and butter is decisive running with power and speed. He does a great job of minimizing the tackler’s target at the point of contact and then bounces off the defender. Nick Chubb has very deceptive speed causing defenders to usually take poor angles. Chubb will be an early down running back in the NFL.
Player comparison- Christian Michael with no character concerns
Draft position- 2nd to 3rd round
7. Mark Walton- Miami 5’9” 205 lbs
Mark Walton suffered an injured ankle during his senior season and tried to play through it but decided to have season-ending surgery to permanently fix the issue.
Walton is a tough one-cut runner whose specialty is getting first downs. He is a smaller back but doesn’t play like one, he loves to run through defenders and is not one to avoid contact. Walton is a well rounded back who could play on all three downs and has no problem with pass protection or receiving out of the backfield.
Walton’s injury will push him down draft boards and a team that misses out on guys like Ronald Jones and Kerryon Johnson could grab Walton in the fourth round.
Player comparison- Mike Gillislee
Draft position- 3rd– 4th round
8. Rashaad Penny- San Diego State 5’11” 220 lbs
Rashaad Penny dominated lesser competition, but back to back years with over 7.5 yards per carry is insane. Also, over 2,300 scrimmage yards in 2017 is good against any level of competition. In Penny’s two games vs Pac 12 competition in 2017, he put up 216 and 175 yards.
Penny had a bad Senior Bowl week but made a few big plays during the game to make up for it.
Penny is a strong one-cut runner that has good, not great top end speed to take it the distance. He struggles greatly in pass protection but is a decent receiver out of the backfield. Penny will be an early down and short yardage back until he learns how to pass protect.
Player comparison- Samaje Perine but more polished
Draft position- 3rd-4th round.
9. Kalen Ballage- Arizona State 6’2” 227 lbs
Kelen Ballage is a four-year contributor and three-year starter for the Sun Devils. Ballage’s stats are not the best but after having a great Senior Bowl he has shot up draft boards as a possible day two candidate.
Ballage is a big-bodied running back that runs behind his pads through the hole and doesn’t seem to even attempt to make defenders miss. He is a capable receiver and pass blocker when he doesn’t just dive at the rusher’s feet. Ballage is a jack of all trades type of player that will find a spot somewhere due to his versatility.
Player comparison- Jeremy Hill
Draft position- Day 3
10. Royce Freeman- Oregon 5’11” 230 lbs
Royce Freeman is a four-year starter with over 900 career carriers, 5,621 yards, and 64 touchdowns.
Freeman is a patient powerful plodder back with good vision. Top end speed is not there and will not break off big runs. Decent in pass protection but his role will be on early downs and short yardage. Freeman absorbs contact but always seems to fall forward.