Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) warms up before the game against the Clemson Tigers at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
The 2017 NFL Draft has some quality talent at the running back position. Here are the top five running backs to keep an eye on in this year’s draft.
The evaluation of the talent in the 2017 NFL Draft seems to be based on an old model of what we think a running back is and should be/do. This is the type of thinking that needs to change since running backs now aren’t simply stuck pounding out extra yards on a run, but rather, bring versatility on offense.
In 2017, it’s not necessarily about banging through the line and wearing down the defense with 30+ carries per game with a bruiser. It’s about much more.
With the high rate of pay going to the quarterbacks, you need players who can do many things. For instance, a wide receiver who can line up in the slot or the outside, a tight end who can play in-line or the slot, and a running back who can line up anywhere.
That’s just on offense. If you have a running back, wide receiver or defensive back that can return kicks, that’s added value as well.
So we need to judge the running backs in this draft accordingly. It’s not the 90’s anymore. This year’s draft brings some incredible running backs that are ready to take the NFL by storm as soon as their first year. Here are the top five running backs to keep your eyes on heading into this year’s draft.
Next: 5. D'Onta Foreman
Nov 12, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman (33) carries the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the third quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The Mountaineers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
5. D’Onta Foreman
Foreman had a breakout season in 2016. It was a year in which he became the 28th man to run for 2,000 yards in a college football season.
With that said, he still has a lot of work to do. He wasn’t utilized in the Longhorns’ passing game, so we really don’t know what he can do there.
Foreman is also not a great blocker either, which makes him a two-down back. With all of that said, he’s a quality runner.
He has a good combination of speed, power, and elusiveness that’s suitable for an NFL running back. He will have to put the whole package together, though, as the years progress.
Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd Round
Next: 4. Leonard Fournette
Oct 17, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) receives the snap from the shotgun and runs for a touchdown against the Florida Gators during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
4. Leonard Fournette
Despite his obvious deficiencies for today’s game, he can’t really be knocked down any further. Fournette is your prototypical north-south, power back.
He has one move, and that knocks you down. He also has the burst to burn people if they take poor angles on tackles.
The problem is that in the NFL, he won’t be a man among boys, which means he won’t be able to run over everyone. He’s also limited in terms of blocking and pass catching, which is problematic.
This makes Fournette a true two-down back, and that diminished his value. Unfortunately, people will be enamored by his breakaway runs and power that he will be overvalued in some cases.
Draft projection: Top-20
Next: 3. Alvin Kamara
Nov 12, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara (6) runs for a touchdown against the Kentucky Wildcats during the fourth quarter at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 49 to 36. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
3. Alvin Kamara
Here’s one of those undervalued from a talent perspective. That’s a misguided idea based on what a running back should be.
Kamara had 210 carries and 74 catches in his career. Despite only having those 284 touches, he scored 23 touchdowns.
He’s as sure-handed as they come as a receiver, and he played the slot some with the Volunteers. In addition, he returned 26 punts and one returned for a touchdown.
Kamara’s projection will be lower than what his actual value is. He will be a steal at No. 33 overall on.
Draft Projection: Second Round
Next: 2. Dalvin Cook
Nov 26, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball past Florida Gators defenders during the second half of the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
2. Dalvin Cook
Cook has breakaway speed and has solid pass-catching skills out of the backfield. He isn’t the kind of guy that has tackle-breaking strength, though.
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Cook has the ability to cut back and find the open lanes at times, but his vision comes and goes. He also has had issues with fumbles in his career, but even Tiki Barber turned that around.
He needs to work on his blocking skills at the next level to be a three-down back. However, his speed and elusiveness make him a quality back in the right system.
He can become a quality weapon for an NFL offense. He will be an excellent pro.
Draft Projection: Top-15
Next: 1. Christian McCaffrey
1. Christian McCaffrey
McCaffrey isn’t what most people would think of a prototypical running back. With that said, he fits the mold perfectly for a running back in this era.
He has the patience to take the ball up the middle and wait for the hole to develop. McCaffrey also has the speed and quickness to take the ball to the outside.
When it comes to catching the ball, he’s the best in this draft. McCaffrey is an outstanding route runner, and he can line up in the slot as well. That can present problems if a team were to line him and another running back at the same time on the field.
He can also return punts and kickoffs. With all of that ability, he can get 30+ touches per game and also contribute in the receiving game. McCaffrey will easily surprise the football world this upcoming season.