Among all fantasy football positions, running backs are the most likely to produce early. Because of that, I believe that is the best place to start when evaluating draft prospects. Here is how I currently rank the best 2019 rookie RBs.
These rankings are based on several factors including my own views of what I saw from these players in their game tape. When looking at an RB, I evaluate 5 major categories: footwork, pad level, balance, burst, footwork, pad level and vision. Athletic testing and college production were also taken into account.
Without further adieu, here are my rankings of the 2019 rookie RB class.
1David Montgomery – Iowa State
Montgomery has the highest film grade among all of the RBs on this list. The two traits that really stood out to me were his balance and footwork. Those two aspects allow Montgomery to stay up and fight for extra yards. While his combine numbers left something to be desired, he produced in college with good technique and vision as opposed to simply being a better athlete than his opponents. That bodes well for a rookie joining the NFL where teams are filled with superior athletes. He will likely find ways to succeed at the next level.
2Justice Hill – Oklahoma State
Hill has, maybe surprisingly, my 2nd best film score. Surprising because he is not being taken in the 1st-round of rookie mock drafts that I have seen. However, looking at his workout metrics (97th percentile 40-yard dash, 81st percentile speed score, 95th percentile burst score) what I saw on tape was validated. Hill is an explosive athlete and is a great receiver out of the backfield. While I have him ranked at 2, it does not mean that I will draft him above other RBs in this first tier. However, once the other three RBs in tier 1 are off the board, I will have no hesitation selecting Hill, provided that he has a great landing spot.
3Miles Sanders – Penn State
I actually gave Sanders my 4th best film score. However, he is ranked here at 3 because of his excellent combine. Sanders runs a variety of routes, including some with more vertical concepts. He also lined up in the slot. Along with his athletic metrics, and his excellent vision in between the tackles, those pass catching traits will allow Sanders to find a role on any team.
4Josh Jacobs – Alabama
Jacobs has my 3rd best film score but was surpassed by Miles Sanders on this list. Ultimately, all four players in this top tier are very close fo me. I would not be surprised to see any of them become the best fantasy RB from this class. If Jacobs has a better landing spot of these top 4 RBs, then I would consider drafting him first. He demonstrates good contact balance due to a combination of good footwork and keeping a low center of gravity. Having a good pad level and not running upright is important to having production in the NFL as an in between the tackles runner. Jacobs also showed some versatility in college by lining up on the outside and running routes.
5Myles Gaskin – Washington
Much like the top tier, the RBs in this second group are all very close to one and other. I do not expect any of these RBs to jump or drop a tier after the NFL draft, I do, however, anticipate some movement within a tier. Gaskin has my 5th highest film score. A decent combine coupled with a very productive college career, allowed him to remain at 5 on this ranking.
6Rodney Anderson – Oklahoma
Of all the college statistics, a player having a 20 reception season is one of the most important. Among the top 13 RBs ranked here, Anderson is the only one without a 20 reception season in college. That is more of a consequence of his numerous injuries than anything else. Where he was healthy, Anderson was a versatile and productive player who has my 6th highest film score. If his medicals check out and a team places early draft capital in him, I expect Anderson to rise up a little in these ranks. However, if NFL teams are scared off by the injury history, then that he may fall within this tier, if not out of it completely.
7Alexander Mattison – Boise State
Alexander Mattison and Darrell Henderson are almost inseparable for me. They finished 11th and 10th respectively in my film score. However, good combines and athletic testing allowed them both to jump ahead of a few players in this ranking. They both lined up in the outside and were both used as receivers in college. The area where Mattison distinguishes himself from Henderson is contact balance. Mattison’s balance score was second only to David Montgomery in this class.
8Darrell Henderson – Memphis
Another reason why I ranked Darrell Henderson below Alexander Mattison is a negative tendency by the former. At times, when lined up outside as a receiver, Henderson will telegraph when he is not involved with a play. He will simply stand in one place instead of making moves and forcing the defensive back to stay on him and draw coverage away from whichever teammate is being targeted. While that tendency will not affect his fantasy numbers per se, it may prevent him from getting on the field in certain situations.
9Damien Harris – Alabama
Harris is a well-rounded prospect who had a pretty good film score, could function as a receiver in the NFL and put up decent athletic testing numbers. There is one trait to his game that prevented him from being at the top of this 2nd tier: pad level. Harris runs upright too often and that could lead him to being taken down more easily than expected. A specific technical aspect like that can be fixed, however.
10Alex Barnes – Kansas State
Barnes had arguably the best combine among RBs on this list. I have him ranked at 10 in spite of the fact that I gave Barnes my 20th best film score. His combination of strength and agility moved him up to this 2nd tier. That and his receiving ability. Barnes demonstrated the ability to get upfield on routes out of the backfield. Even more impressive were hid great hands and the over the shoulder catches.
11Trayveon Williams – Texas A&M
Williams has the 7th best film score in this class, but he also had the lowest athletic testing numbers of RBs in this tier. Williams’ footwork and balance are among the upper tiers of this class. He even demonstrated the ability to get vertical on routes out of the backfield. Williams has just as much of a chance at getting a significant NFL opportunity as anyone else in this tier.
12Mike Weber – Ohio State
Weber has a similar film score to Alexander Mattison and Darrell Henderson. However, his athletic testing numbers are closer to Trayveon Williams. Weber is a well-rounded prospect who doesn’t really excel at any one trait. He demonstrated enough receiving ability in college to be part of this 2nd tier but is not that far from falling into the 3rd tier.
13Devin Singletary – Florida Atlantic
Singletary has my 8th highest film score. However, his athletic testing scores indicated to me that he belonged in the in this 3rd tier. While Singletary had caught a lot of passes in college, he often rounds his routes instead of cutting sharply. NFL teams may not give him the opportunity to improve his route running and he may be stuck as an early-down RB.
14Elijah Holyfield – Georgia
Similarly to Devin Singletary, Elijah Holyfield dropped a tier due to his poor combine numbers. Unlike Singletary, Holyfield was not a proficient pass catcher in college. With the 9th best film score, there is a chance that he could be a successful between-the-tackles grinder. However, his lack of breakaway speed will limit his big play ability.
15Travis Homer – Miami
Homer is a player who was difficult to rank. His film score was the 16th highest for this class which is why he is behind Singletary and Holyfield. However, Homer’s athletic testing numbers were the best among the tier 3 RBs so there is an argument to be made that he actually belongs in tier 2. He fell just short of the 20 reception threshold as he caught 18 and 19 passes over each of the last 2 seasons respectively. Homer’s routes were limited to screen except on trick plays such as fakes and reversals.
16Darwin Thompson – Utah State
Darwin Thompson is rated very closely to Travis Homer. Thompson has the 18th highest film score and showed similar athletic testing numbers to Homer. His passing game usage was also limited to screens and the occasional crossing route. With more consistently creative usage in the passing game, both Homer and Thompson could improve their stock.
17Wes Hills – Slippery Rock
Hills is from such a small school that it is difficult to find much information on him. From the game tape I saw, he did run really well vs Division II competition. Hills has the 13th highest film score in my evaluations. He was not used much as a receiver in college and a lack of pass-catching opportunity in the NFL will limit his fantasy upside. Still, he is worthy of our attention in fantasy drafts.
18Bruce Anderson – North Dakota State
Yet another small school prospect. Even more similarly to Wes Hills, Bruce Anderson was not a proficient pass catcher in college. However, unlike Hills, I saw some receiving ability from Anderson on tape. He demonstrated the ability to get downfield and make hands catches not body catches. Anderson’s film score was lower than Hills which is why they are ranked here in that order.
19Benny Snell – Kentucky
Snell is one-dimensional RB who will likely not be a factor in the passing game at the NFL level. We have seen that type of player succeed in the NFL recently (i.e. Jordan Howard). What Snell has working against him is the fact that John Fox is no longer an NFL Head Coach as Howard was able to garner 250+ carries on an offense that ran the ball often. Furthermore, Howard was arguably a top 3 between-the-tackles runner in his draft class. Snell meanwhile, only ranked 17th on my film score list.
Just some quick thoughts on the Tier 4 RBs:
Ty Johnson and Devine Ozigbo had similar film scores and athletic testing numbers. Both demonstrated some decent receiving ability on tape, but nothing like the player ranked immediately after them. James Williams is by far the most proficient pass catching RB from this class with 202 career college receptions. If Williams goes to an NFL team where he will act as the primary 3rd down back, he may move up a tier or two in these rankings.
Both Ryquell Armstead and Qadree Ollison were difficult to place. Their film scores appear closer to those in tier 5. However, their athletic testing results were good enough to bump them up to this 4th tier. Also, Armstead ran a slightly more diversified route tree than most RBs.
20Ty Johnson – Maryland
21Devine Ozigbo – Nebraska
22James Williams – Washington State
23Ryquell Armstead – Temple
24Qadree Ollison – Pitt
Just some quick thoughts on the Tier 4 RBs:
Dexter Williams is a similar prospect to Ryquell Armstead from Tier 4. However, Williams has the 3rd lowest film score among players on this list. That was just ahead of Kerrith Whyte who had arguably better athletic testing numbers than anyone outside the top 2 tier. Whyte’s main problem was that he ran upright far too often. With an improvement in that trait, he could move up a tier or two.
Jacques Patrick was the opposite of Whyte in that he has a decent film score but had arguably the worst athletic testing numbers on this entire list. Patrick did show enough receiving ability to believe he may be used in that fashion.
Both Jalin Moore and Bryce Love and recovering from injuries and that may impact their participation in NFL offseason programs. The appeal of rookie RBs is how strong of an immediate impact they can make. Especially in the case of Love, there are even concerns that he may miss regular season time and that would almost make him undraftable, even with his talent.
L.J. Scott received the worst film grade among the RBs on this list. However, he is ranked ahead of Karan Higdon because of the latter’s lack of receiving game usage.
25Dexter Williams – Notre Dame
26Kerrith Whyte – Florida Atlantic
27Jacques Patrick – Florida State
28Jalin Moore – Appalachian State
29Bryce Love – Stanford
30L.J. Scott – Michigan State
31Karan Higdon – Michigan
One of the primary causes of production is opportunity. Therefore, these rankings may change significantly after the draft, but I still believe that it is important to evaluate these players before we associate them with NFL teams.
Thank you for reading. An abundance of 2019 NFL draft content can be found at Full Press Coverage. Be sure to stay tuned during the entirety of the draft weekend.