The next section in our combine series will focus on running backs. There’s a favorable group of backs entering the draft. Some running backs, like David Montgomery and Devin Singletary, didn’t grade well at the Combine. While they’re both very talented, we’ll focus on a few running backs that opened some eyes in Indianapolis.
The #1 running back recruit in 2016 arrived in Indianapolis with force! The 5’11, 211lb back from PSU put on a stellar performance at the combine. Sanders displayed quickness in the 40-yard dash and finished well in the cone drills. Above all, Sanders was flawless in pass catching drills. The one knock on Miles Sanders is ball security. He fumbled the ball 5 times this year. The other intangibles should help his draft stock, as witnessed from the combine tape. He demonstrates excellent vision and has an exceptional pivot step, as evidenced in the cone drills. Per Pro Football Focus, he finished 1st in forced missed tackles and finished 3rd among backs in the Big Ten with 38 runs of 10 yards or more. The explosiveness is there for Sanders, and with little traction on his tires, can be an excellent running back in the NFL.
This kid came into the combine with a purpose: Dominate, Impress, Rise Draft stock, and leave. Alex Barnes scored flawlessly in nearly every category. Most bench reps at 225lbs, Fastest 20 yard shuttle time, and 2nd in the 3 cone drill. In addition, he placed 3rd in the Vertical and broad jump. Furthermore, Barnes ran a 4.59 40 yard dash. The time wasn’t the fastest, but still recorded a good time for his size at 226lbs. The junior from Kansas State received 1st team all-Big 12 this season. Barnes has tremendous strength and looks excellent in pass protection. Most noteworthy, He’s not afraid to get between the tackles, and has good burst through the hole. Following his performance at the combine, Alex Barnes stock has surged!
Justice Hill, a 5’10 198lb running back from Oklahoma State, put his quickness on display at the combine. Hill was performing exceptionally well until a hamstring injury forced him to pull out of the remaining on-field drills. The 40 yard dash time was recorded at 4.40, which was the fastest of the day. Furthermore, he also finished first in the Vertical (40) and broad jump (130) competition. Hill is an undersized back for NFL standards but can utilize his other talents to contribute to an NFL team. Hill is a shifty running back with some burst and has displayed tremendous ball security, only dropping the ball 5 times in his career at Oklahoma State. Among the areas of improvement, Hill could use work in pass protection. Overall, Justice Hill could utilize his talents as a situational back at the next level.
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If you thought Trayveon Williams was impressive in his 1st few seasons, you haven’t seen anything until Jimbo Fisher gets ahold of him. Williams finished 3rd in the country with 1,760 rushing yards this season. He broke the Aggies single-season record for rushing yards. Just imagine what his career stats could’ve been if Fisher was able to groom this individual for two more years. Insane! The 2nd team AP All-American from Texas A&M flies off the charts as a natural leader. The knowledge he possesses now with playing in a Pro Style offense will go a long way in interviews leading up to the draft. Trayveon Williams will project as a mid-round target for a team looking to fill a void in their backfield.
Mike Weber arrived at the combine on fresh legs ready to impress the masses. The former Michigan recruit turned Ohio State Buckeye spent most of his career splitting time in the Buckeye backfield. Weber carried the ball 455 times in his Ohio State career. That’s very low compared to other backs in his class. He was utilized in the offense as a good off-tackle runner. Weber has tremendous vision and his ability to get into space was exceptional. He excelled at Ohio State in pass protection. Weber scored in the upper echelon of the combined class in the 40-yard dash. Weber is expected to be drafted in the later rounds of the draft. However, his tremendous skill set in all phases of the running game will be beneficial to a team in the NFL.
The running backs in the 2019 draft class may be not flashy like Saquon Barkley or have the dominance of Todd Gurley. However, this class is loaded with depth. With the current state of NFL backfields evolving to more of a dual headed monster, these athletes are more equipped to fit the ongoing trend. These backs won’t fly off draft boards on day 1 but will flood the middle rounds of the draft.