2018 NFL Draft: Running Back Tiers

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2018 nfl draft
Saquon, Say-Gone: Barkley is the Perfect Fit for the Jets

We are officially in the same month as the 2018 NFL Draft. With that said, it is time to break down the draft position by position and identify values, steals, and overrated players. This series will go through each position and tier each prospect to their respective group. Keep in mind that team fit and coaching are huge indicators that will affect the outcome of each prospect. This is why looking at the tier, rather than the ranking is much more important.

2018 NFL Draft: Running Back Tiers

Tier 1

  1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Strengths: Elite in space, great receiving threat. Weight-adjusted agility and the ability to change speeds in space put him on an elite level.

Weakness: Wil refuse to put his head down and take what is given at times. Will lose yards retreating rather than settling.

Usage Comparison: David Johnson

Skinny: In a high octane pass-heavy offense, Saquon Barkley is an elite threat.

2. Derrius Guice, LSU

Strengths: Power back who is going to fight for every last yard, and get it. Top tier change of speed and agility in open space and the ability to turn power into speed at the next level.

Weakness: Was not used often in the passing game. Pass blocking could be looked into as well.

Full Draft Profile with GIFS

NFL Skill Set Comparison: Frank Gore

Skinny: Guice is reminiscent of the old school Frank Gore. A downhill runner who can finish runs with power and elusiveness.

Tier 2

3. Sony Michel, Georgia

Strengths: Decisive one-cut runner with thick lower body strength to finish off runs. Runs with strong vision and the ability to use the whole field, extending runs.

Weaknesses: Was not used in the passing game at Georgia. Michel also has tight hips, and while he can weave in traffic, he is not the most elusive in a tight window.

Skinny: While Michel did not profile as a receiving back his combination of speed, vision, and power in open field gives him a great chance to translate at the next level. He is a pure runner in a zone blocking system and can hold down a backfield.

Full Draft Profile with GIFS

4. Nick Chubb, Georgia

Strengths: Strong combination of size and agility. Is able to wiggle his hips to get into tight holes and explode into the open field with power and speed.

Weakness: Chubb has had a major knee surgery and is still getting back to what he could consistently do beforehand. His explosion and burst come and goes. Does not possess receiving ability.

Skinny: Chubb has some wear and tear coming out of college or he would be looked at in the upper tier. He brings power and is an old-school, between the tackle runner. If he can be elusive in the passing game, he is every down player.

Full Draft Profile with GIFS

5. Ronald Jones, USC

Strengths: Brings great vision and foot quickness. Knows how to change speeds to suck linebackers into gaps and expose them at the second level. His built up foot speed provides surprising power for his size.

Weakness: Was not a factor in the passing game. Suffered drops and was not active in the pass blocking. His quickness and elusiveness in space profile him to being a pass catching threat, but it is not in his profile yet.

Skinny: Jones has claimed to profile his game off of Jamaal Charles, and while he may not have the elite top end speed, the vision to set himself up in the second level combined with the burst and quick speed to spring into the second level is on the same tier. if he can be a better pass catcher, his ceiling is that high.

Full Draft Profile with GIFs

6. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Strengths: Elusive at the point of attack. Does a great job of sidestepping and shuffling defenders away to create extra yards. Explodes into the open field with foot quickness and top end speed. Will immediately provide kick return value.

Weakness: Showed the least desire of any in this tier as a pass blocking option. Penny can run a bit high at times and will lose his power between the tackles.

Skinny: At the worst Penny is a two-down runner who can share a backfield and pick up four or more on first down. Late into games he can wear you down with the deep one. If he can pick up as a passing threat, he can be a true starting back in the NFL.

7. Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

Strengths: Johnson brings a little bit of everything. He brings patience behind the line of scrimmage, and short area burst and agility. Johnson can catch passes out of the backfield and handle a 30 carry workload.

Weakness: At the same time Johnson does not excel anywhere. He does not break long runs and can be caught up in the open field. He is not an elite pass catcher and usually is more of a player who can take what is given.

Skinny: The offense ran at Auburn makes it tough to project his NFL ceiling, but his feel for the game can get him a role in the right offense.

8. Royce Freeman, Oregon

Strengths: Elite vision. Sucks defenders in to beat them to the outside. Can stick on the field for all three downs.

Weakness: Can be brought down by arm tackles as well. Plays better when creating space for himself with vision. Had dealt with some injuries, and lost some of his breakaway speed. Has a supreme workload on his resume.

NFL Skill Set Comparison: Jordan Howard

Skinny: In a zone blocking scheme, Freeman can be a one-cut runner who can break into the second level frequently enough to be looked at as a higher end starter in the NFL.

Full Draft Profile with GIFs: 

9. John Kelly, Tennessee

Strengths: Kelly is a tightly compacted power runner with pass catching ability to navigate through open space. He plays with great balance and playing strength.

Weakness: Does not have great speed or elusiveness in the open field. His body and frame make him what he is and give him a more defined ceiling.

Tier 3

10. Mark Walton, Miami

Strengths: Pass-catching option. Smaller framed but willing in pass protection. Bread and butter are beating linebackers one-on-one in the second level.

Weakness: Dances too much at times. Not strong enough between the tackles to give every down duty to.

Skill Set Comparison: Gio Bernard

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Skinny: Like Bernard, Walton can show up on third down and in the passing game overall. While he can take snaps from shotgun between the tackles and has some willingness, he is best as a complimentary piece to a more physical runner.

11. Kalen Ballage, Arizona State

Strengths: Elite size and athleticism bring high upside. Uncommon flexibility and wiggle in space for his size. Best used as a receiver out of the backfield.

Weakness: Does not have finesse behind the line of scrimmage. Lacks patience, vision and a feel for holes opening up which limit what he can do between the tackles.

Skinny: Ballage has Adrian Peterson size and plays with a Reggie Bush mentality. In the right scheme, his untapped upside is elite.

12. Josh Adams, Notre Dame

Strengths: Brings a combination of speed and power to the open field. Loose hips to wiggle and make cuts behind the line of scrimmage, allowing him to run downhill and gain momentum.

Weakness: Momentum based runner who needs a runway to take off. Can also run upright and lose out on a good portion of his power.

Skinny: Adams has enough pass catching and speed to go with his power punch to hang on every down. The question with him will be whether he can get that quick burst out of his stance to attack downhill instantly.

13. Justin Jackson, Northwestern

Strengths: Great combination of vision and agility. Can wiggle himself into tight holes and has good angle recognition. Vision allows him to run between the tackles as well as in space as a pass catcher.

Weakness: One of only two players in the past 20 seasons to amass 1,100 career attempts. There is tread on his tires. On top of that, his finishing power has always been an issue.

14. Roc Thomas, Jacksonville State

Strengths: Former Auburn recruit. Thomas is a speedy runner who can put his foot down and burst into holes. Displays great balance through contact and is shifty enough to create after contact and in space.

Weakness: Vision runs hot and cold. Thomas should be looked at as a speedy change of pace back more than a back with every down ability.

15. Nyheim Hines, North Carolina State

Strengths: Explosive. Can return kicks and has the speed and vision to take any run to the house. Also will line up out of the slot.

Weakness: Undersized and more of an offensive weapon than true running back. Not decisive enough to consistently run in a zone scheme.

16. Chase Edmonds, Fordham

Strengths: Quick feet display elite agility in tight spaces. Has loose hips to wiggle and shake defenders at the second level, and put himself at advantageous angles.

Weakness: Wear and tear from four years of starting. Death with injuries throughout his senior year. Edmonds is unlikely to be able to put on the strength to consistently hold up in the NFL and is more of a change of pace role player.

Skill Set Comparison: Danny Woodhead

17. Jordan Wilkins, Ole Miss

Strengths: Has the size to hang between the tackles, with the elusiveness to make defenders miss in space. Wilkins wins in the finesse game by setting defenders up and using his quick wiggle and feels for blockers to do damage in space.

Weakness: Does not seem as interested in the downhill, physical between the tackles style. May be reserved for complementary roles. Wilkins also did not pass protect well, which will hinder his usage in the passing game.

Role Comparison: Tevin Coleman

18. Darrell Williams, LSU

Strengths: Goal line back who understands his job and does it well. Runs with power and strength, always attacking downhill and shrugging off defenders.

Weakness: Does not run with patience of vision. Is putting his head down and getting what is there. Will bring little in the passing game and has never been looked at as a starting back.

Skinny: Williams has a role and knows his role, being a career backup. He is a no-nonsense goal line plodder and nothing more.

Tier 4

19. Chris Warren, Texas

Skinny: Oversized back who can also line up as an h-back. Has blocking, and pass catching abilities to go with versatile usage.

20. Bo Scarbaorough, Alabama

Skinny: Poor mans Derrick Henry. Has a similar combination of size, power, and burst without the same vision, lateral wiggle and added health concerns.

Tier 5

21. Akrum Wadley, Iowa

Skinny: Wadley is shifty in open space, but does not have the vision to create space, nor does he have the power to break tackles in any other way.

Skil Set Comparison: Less refined pass catcher version of Theo Riddick

Full Draft Profile with GIFS: 

22. Martel Carter, Grambling State

Skinny: Kick return option who can burst and maneuver through the open field. Has good balance, but does not have the size, vision or power for between the tackle work.

23. Ito Smith, Southern Smith

Skinny: Smith is a productive small back with limited size and breakaway speed. His quick agility makes him an interesting gadget player, but his NFL upside is limited.

24. Philip Lindsey, Colorado

Strengths: Brings enough pass blocking prowess along with elusiveness in space to earn reps as a third down back. Plays with high intensity and can find himself on special teams.

Weakness: Not a big enough back to be trust between the tackles. Vision is not where you would like it to be

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