College football starts in less than a week and it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft. Continuing off my top five quarterbacks list, is the top five running backs in the 2019 NFL Draft.
1. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma, Redshirt Junior, 6’1″ 220
In the wake of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon leaving Oklahoma for the NFL Draft, Rodney Anderson established himself as the lead back in OU’s two-back rotation. Anderson has taken advantage of his top-back status and worked his way to the top of the running back rankings for the 2019 Draft.
Anderson combines strength and athleticism into an NFL-ready body. He has the breakaway speed and lateral agility that you normally wouldn’t associate with a guy his size. He has good vision in the open field and makes defenders miss regularly and he’s hard to bring down once he gets going.
Anderson isn’t a one-trick pony either. Anderson is a legit weapon in the passing game, showing natural hands and a willingness in pass-blocking. He can also line up in the slot and create mismatches with linebackers.
Where Anderson can improve is his vision behind the line of scrimmage. There were plays where he’d get tunnel vision and miss bigger holes or even run into his linemen.
2. David Montgomery, Iowa State, Junior, 5’11” 216
David Montgomery is fun.
What? You want me to expand on that? Fine. David Montgomery is like a wrecking ball when he runs. He keeps a low center of gravity and has amazing balance through contact. There are tons of plays where Montgomery just bounces off of tackles and doesn’t miss a beat. He also has great agility and puts defenders on the turf with his cuts.
Similarly to Anderson, Montgomery also provides a lot of value in the passing game. Montgomery lined up all over the field in addition to running routes out of the backfield. His routes weren’t overly complicated, but his athletic ability makes me believe that his route running can became top notch.
The issues in Montgomery’s game are centered around his decision making as a runner and his pass-blocking. Montgomery, like many talented runners, will try too much to make defenders miss or look for the big gain and end up losing yardage. When pass blocking, Montgomery doesn’t have a good base and often seems disinterested, or his vision is that bad. I saw him on more than a few plays run away from rushers instead of taking them on. If he can make his pass-blocking passable, his hard running style combined with his swift feet and lateral agility makes him a prime candidate to rise even higher than his ranking right now.
3. Damien Harris, Alabama, Senior, 5’11” 215
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Damien Harris returning to Alabama surprised many, including myself. He would have been a day-two selection last year and still projects there.
Harris isn’t going to wow you with any one physical trait. He isn’t overly fast or powerful, but he has the necessary speed and strength to be an NFL starter. He also does a little bit of everything well-enough. Where Harris shines is with his vision and all-around skills. Harris follows his blocks very well and knows which holes to hit on each play. He also knows when to bounce out or cut back inside.
In order for Harris’ draft stock to rise, he needs to be featured more in the passing game. He was never really tasked with being a receiver out of the backfield and he needs to improve his technique and power as a pass-blocker.
Honestly, Harris probably won’t get this opportunity because of how stacked Alabama is at the running back position. The Tide’s crowded backfield includes an elite talent like Najee Harris and another talented back in Josh Jacobs. Damien Harris, despite how good he is, will lose touches and give up some of the spotlight. However, he is an NFL running back and should get the respect of one.
4. Bryce Love, Stanford, Senior, 5’10” 202
Bryce Love provides an interesting conundrum. His stat-lines and pedigree would lead you to believe he should be the top running back in the class, but there are faults in him as a prospect.
Despite his flaws, there is a very convincing argument to be made that Love is the best pure runner in the class. He has good vision to go with elite long-speed, burst, and lateral agility. He also runs tougher than you’d think from his size. But his biggest problem is that–his size, as well as a couple other things.
Love’s small stature does not bode well for his chances of NFL success. It’s fair to wonder if he can ever take a dull season’s beating in the league, as he was already hampered by injuries in college. Love also, to this point, has shown nothing in the passing game. He caught only six passes last year (29 in this three year career) and has next to no value as a pass-blocker. Love looks more like a change of pace back (an elite one don’t get it twisted), but the odds are stacked high against him as a starter.
5. Jacques Patrick, Florida State, Senior, 6’3″ 234
Overshadowed by teammate and elite player Cam Akers, Jacques Patrick gets is still a legit NFL running back in his own right.
Patrick has monster size as a running back and it shows in how powerful he runs. Defenders have a tough time trying to bring Patrick down, especially one on one. Patrick also shows off his power as a pass-blocker, sometimes stonewalling rushers entirely.
Patrick also isn’t just a battering ram either. His vision is good and he follows blockers, but his lateral agility and burst are surprising for his size. He’ll never be a burner on the field, he doesn’t have the long-speed, but he has enough athleticism to not get stuck in the mud. He also flashed receiving ability, which scouts and NFL teams will monitor as it grows.
Patrick will probably never be a high-end draft pick (the top two rounds), but he’ll be a good fit for a team that wants a bruiser that can excel in short-yardage situations and provide some burst as a “closer” late in games.
Other RBs to watch: Myles Gaskin (Washington), Travis Homer (Miami), Devin Singletary (Florida Atlantic), Justice Hill (Oklahoma State), Bennie Snell Jr. (Kentucky), Zack Moss (Utah), Karan Higdon (Michigan), Damarea Crockett (Missouri), Mike Weber (Ohio State), L.J. Scott (Michigan State), Soso Jamabo (UCLA), Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M), Jordan Scarlett (Florida), Tony Brooks-James (Oregon)