We have finally arrived! In this article – RB Rookie Film Scores Part 4 – we round out the top 30 incoming running backs. These rankings are based upon my personal evaluations of college game film regarding these players.
21. J.J. Taylor – Arizona
Film Grade: B-
As a prospect, J.J. Taylor can be described as average. Obviously, that is not the greatest compliment, but it is also not an insult. There is no glaring hole in Taylor’s game. He is ranked between 14th and 22nd in all of my major evaluation criteria including footwork, balance, and burst.
His best attribute may be his control over his body. Taylor runs with a low pad level when having to fight through contact. He also has a good bend in his hips and ankles in order to change direction easily and evade would-be tacklers.
Taylor can also contribute in the passing game. He is a pretty good route runner for a player at his position and can get it done from anywhere. On film, Taylor will line up in the slot, run out of the backfield and even motion out to different spots. He does not necessarily make highlight catches, but his route running and ability to get open can serve him well at the next level.
22. Deshawn McClease – Virginia Tech
Film Grade: B-
In a way, Deshawn McClease is similar to J.J. Taylor. He is ranked between 15th and 18th in several major categories of evaluation including footwork, balance, and burst. In fact, McClease actually ranks better than Taylor in those three traits. Why is Taylor one spot higher in my film grades? It’s because McClease’s body position score comes in outside the top 30 among rookie running backs. He often runs upright and does not lower his pad level before making contact with defenders. This usually causes players to lose their forward momentum. Because of this, it actually makes his 15th ranked balance score all that more impressive. McClease is decent at running in a straight line. However, his poor body position score is also indicative of poor flexibility. This negatively affects McClease’s elusiveness.
As a receiver, McClease is able to high point the football and make catches away from his body. He would at times line up in or even be used in motion to different parts of the formation. These elements are useful tools that can help McClease carve-out an NFL job.
However, McClease presents a curious case in pass-protection. At times, he demonstrates the proper technique by exploding into defenders. However, he will also dive at pass-rushers. While this can work, elite defenders can either jump over him or get around him fairly easily. If McClease can develop into a consistent pass-protector all across the line, then it will improve his odds to get a regular role in the NFL.
23. Joshua Kelley – UCLA
Film Grade: B-
Arguably Joshua Kelley‘s best trait is his vision. He can read and react easily to pre and post-snap clues as to what the defense is doing. Kelley also ranked 16th in burst score and 18th in body position for my evaluations of the incoming RB class. Both of those attributes enable him to take advantage of his good vision for the game. When anticipating defenders’ moves, Kelley’s burst allows him to quickly gain yards. The body position score is indicative of his low pad level when running through contact, as well as his flexible hips to help him evade tacklers.
Unfortunately or Kelley, his footwork needs drastic improvements. With a footwork rank of 24th place from the incoming RB class, Kelley is one of the weakest players in that regard that I have outlined so far. This low score mostly has to do with his tendency to stop churning his feet when taking first-contact. Part of the ability to gain extra yards boils down to maintaining forward momentum. Keeping one’s feet moving is a good way to do that. This weakness in Kelley’s footwork also affects his balance score. Too often on tape, Kelley is going down on first contact, sometimes du to arm tackles. With a balance ranking of 28th among rookies running backs, Kelley certainly has a way to go in that regard.
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Unlike some other players mentioned throughout this series, Kelley does not often line up outside of the backfield. His routes run from the backfield demonstrate some versatility with slants, crossing and swing routes as examples. Kelley also has decent pass-protection technique and instincts to block the correct defender. Furthermore, his hands should make him a more-than-capable pass-catcher at the next level.
24. Kennedy McKoy – West Virginia
Film Grade: C+
Kennedy McKoy offers some excellent traits, such as his footwork. He plants very well, and uses minimal steps to change speed and direction. McKoy also keeps his feet moving through most contact. While I have him ranked 12th in footwork, he is placed even higher in body position score, #11, among this RB class. McKoy has flexible hips, which allows him to be elusive when running the football. It’s not just on the ground where this body control becomes important. When targeted, McKoy can do whatever is need to come down with the reception. He can high point the football, or turn his body and adjust to poorly thrown passes.
Unfortunately for McKoy, he ranked below average as compared to his RB peers in certain attributes. For starters, his burst score ranked 23rd among the incoming rookies. McKoy’s agility and good footwork should still enable him to get to the outside so the low burst may not be detrimental. It could, however, cap his big-play upside.
Even worse is his poor contact balance. Among all the running backs that I evaluated, McKoy had the second-worst balance score. With not much power behind his running, McKoy will likely have low TD upside in the NFL. A goal-line role is likely not in his future job description. And even though he excels as a pass-catcher, McKoy has some inconsistencies in pass-protection. His blocking technique is fine, but he will take on the wrong defenders at times. If he cleans that up, McKoy could land a decent NFL role.
25. Anthony McFarland – Maryland
Film Grade: C+
Anthony McFarland possesses a few traits that are about average for this RB draft class. For instance, he is ranked 16th in footwork and 17th in balance scores among his position.
More so than a runner, McFarland is an excellent receiver. His hands are only part of the equation, as he can still pull in a pass that is away from his body. McFarland is a pretty good route runner for an RB. He can line up all over the formation and can run a diversified route tree. McFarland can be a downfield threat and not just catch dump-offs.
One area where I may have judged McFarland unfairly is with his overall athleticism. Apparently, McFarland was dealing with an ankle injury throughout the 2019 college season. Ankles are especially important for a running back’s ability to explode off of the first step. I graded McFarland with the 29th best burst score. Without the injury, that score would likely have been much higher. If any of the running backs graded below the “B” level have a chance to elevated their ranking, McFarland is the likeliest case. Medical information will be vital for McFarland entering the draft season.
26. Rico Dowdle – South Carolina
Film Grade: C+
Much like Anthony McFarland, Rico Dowdle‘s film score may have been hindered by injuries. With only one full college season played in 4 years, missing time was unfortunately not uncommon for Dowdle. With clean medicals, Dowdle would likely move up my board. Even with the injuries, I still had him ranked 13th in burst score among the incoming running backs.
Dowdle has incredible burst. He also has the vision and awareness to know when to unleash a burst of speed. Whether it is making a cut inside, or splitting defenders downfield, Dowdle possesses that extra gear that is so coveted.
The problem is with Dowdle is that if he cannot make a defender miss, he is usually going down on first contact. For balance and body position he earned my 27th and 28th ranks respectively in the rookie RB class. He can fight through arm tackles, but taking a full-body hit usually spells the end of the play for Dowdle. My concern is that at the next level, he will not be able to win often with his speed bursts. The NFL is filled with elite athletes. The only other aspect that adds to Dowdle’s profile is that he lined up all over the formation in order to run routes. He may just find success with a team in a pass-heavy role.
27. Scottie Phillips – Ole Miss
Film Grade: C+
Scottie Phillips really impressed me with his footwork. He sets up his blocks really well with his patience, but it is his ability to change the direction that could elevate him beyond where I have him ranked. Phillips can either fool opponents by bouncing outside or cutting inside with ease. He does this by pressing his initial direction as far as he can before turning his hips and bouncing/cutting. Phillips’ sense of timing is evident as he will wait as long a possible before making his move.
The only downside of this patience is that is limited as an athlete. So even if he anticipated defenders’ movements well, he can still get caught by athletic opponents. Among the incoming RB class, Phillips is ranked below average in most of the traits that I evaluate. The expectation is footwork where he is at 12. In contrast, he is ranked 31st for his balance score. If he can use his foot technique to make defenders miss, then Phillips will gain yards. However, if he gets touched by an opponent, Phillips will usually go down on first contact.
The one area where Phillips ranks among the elite in the class is pass-protection. He demonstrated the proper technique by using his shoulder to deliver blows to oncoming pass-rushers. Phillips can diagnose the blitz very well in order to put himself in the proper position. When exploding into a defender to block him, Phillips turns his hips and feet in an upward motion. He produces arguably more power than he does by running the football. While a great pass-protector is a bonus, we do not get any fantasy points for blocking. In order for Phillips to be a worthy selection in fantasy drafts, he will need to improve upon his running abilities.
29. DeeJay Dallas – Miami
Film Grade: C+
DeeJay Dallas is a powerful runner who could potentially excel in the NFL as a short-yardage specialist. In my evaluation, Dallas finished 10th among rookie running backs in balance grade. This ranking is partially due to the violent nature of the hits that he puts on defenders.
However, for every other attribute that I evaluate, Dallas ranked below average. In fact, for his burst score, Dallas ended up outside the top 30. For a player of his size, that initial step does not provide enough momentum to get his speed up to par.
The other role that Dallas could get in the NFL is as a receiver. He has excellent hands to catch the ball away from his body. Dallas will also occasionally line up in the slot both to run routes and to block in space. His violent running style translates to his blocking technique. Dallas uses his entire body leverage to block defenders which can be devastating if he connects. However, the flaw of his full extension pass-pro style makes him a very all-or-nothing blocker. Either Dallas stops the pass-rusher in his tracks, or he misses the block and the defender gets a free shot at the QB.
29. Raymond Calais – Louisiana-Lafayette
Film Grade: C+
Raymond Calais had one of the worst footwork scores that I evaluated in this class. His change of direction, especially in short areas, is not great. He also often stops churning his feet the moment that he is contacted. This actually makes his balance score all the more impressive. With a rank of 18th, Calais is able to withstand contact and maintain balance at about the class average. Normally, with that poor footwork, it should be easier to take down Calais.
Calais does have decent grades in my other important areas of evaluation. Most notably, his burst scores ranked 14th among rookie running backs. This allows Calais to run outside even in spite of the footwork.
Calais also adds the pass-catching dimension to his profile. In college, he was moved all around the field. At times, he lined up outside or in the slot, at other points, he motioned out to those places. Calais was even used as a downfield threat. He is also decent in pass-protection. While his footwork scares me, there are aspects to his game that could intrigue NFL teams.
30. Darrynton Evans – Appalachian State
Film Grade: C
Darrynton Evans does possess some desirable traits of a rookie RB. For instance, he ranked 11th among all the incoming rookie running backs in body position score. Mostly, this is due to his tendency to keep his body square when running downhill. Even when Evans does run East-West and cuts, he quickly transitions his body position to face defenders and not get tackled from the side. Also, when he does get contacted, Evans gets his pad level low. However, that does not always equate to breaking tackles.
The major concern surrounding Evans is his lack of contact balance. Out of all the RB prospects that I evaluated, Evans possessed the worst balance grade. If Evans cannot stay upright and gain extra yards after contact, he may struggle to find success (fantasy or otherwise) in the NFL. Furthermore, his footwork score was below average. One aspect where Evans really needs improvement is to keep his feet moving when taking contact. This may also assist his balance score.
For Evans to carve out a role at the next level, it may need to be as pass-catcher. He is capable of catching and turning quickly, and will even line up in the slot at times. His 18th ranked burst score among the incoming RB class is indicative of an average athlete, someone who can at least use space as a receiver to gain extra yards. Evans does however, struggle with pass-protection. While his blocking technique is fine, it is his pass-pro vision that is really lacking. Sometimes he will double-team the wrong pass-rusher. Other times, he simply misses his assignment. As we get this low in the rankings, the odds of players becoming full-time NFL performers diminish greatly.
Just Missed the top 30:
Peter Guerriero – Monmouth
Javon Leake – Maryland
Salvon Ahmed – Washington
Patrick Taylor – Memphis
Thank you for reading RB Rookie Film Scores Part 4. Be sure to check out the abundance of great draft content available on Full Press Coverage.