Draft

2019 NFL draft: Developmental RB prospects Jets could target

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - JANUARY 21: New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan listens in as Head Coach Todd Bowles addresses the media during a press conference on January 21, 2015 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
FLORHAM PARK, NJ - JANUARY 21: New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan listens in as Head Coach Todd Bowles addresses the media during a press conference on January 21, 2015 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) /
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The New York Jets adequately addressed their running backs unit this offseason.  But any great franchise keeps developing talent.  Here are 20 young runners who, with a little bit of coaching up, could step in and contribute to this program.

Mike Maccagnan is building a solid offensive unit around young Sam Darnold.  But there’s still much work to do in terms of a feature receiver and overall WR/TE depth.  The GM’s draft-day whiffs on Devin Smith (10 career receptions), Chad Hansen (nine), and ArDarius Stewart (nine) have come back to hurt this franchise.)

The running back stable looks set.  The one-two punch of Le’Veon Bell and recent signing Ty Montgomery, spelled by Elijah McGuire and/or Trenton Cannon looks tremendous on paper.  The overall upgrade, from a 2018 offense based on featured back Isaiah Crowell, will be incalculable.

One thing is for certain: the Jets have no need to spend draft capital on another RB.  However, there will be a hearty pool of undrafted projects, to stash on the practice squad, and groom to contribute moving forward.

This multi-page analysis below breaks down the best available backs, based on where they rank in the overall draft and UDFA process.  One or two smart decisions could propel Gang Green back to relevance.

Next: 1. Priority Free Agents

WACO, TX – NOVEMBER 19: Alex Barnes #34 of the Kansas State Wildcats runs the ball against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
WACO, TX – NOVEMBER 19: Alex Barnes #34 of the Kansas State Wildcats runs the ball against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Priority Free Agents

Alex Barnes, Kansas State — The Big 12’s top rusher flashed skills at the Combine and set a bench press record of 34 reps. He particularly impresses LaDainian Tomlinson.

Lexington Thomas, UNLV — The All-Mountain West back raged as one of the nation’s most explosive rushers.  Valued as a lethal kick returner.

Aeris Williams, Mississippi State — A tough runner and solid blocker noted for his ball security.  Yet none of his rushing credentials jump off the board.

Darnell Woolfolk, Army — The bruising back behind a rejuvenated West Point squad might be worth the wait.  Might have to wait a while before this Cadet sees the field.

Tyrone Owens, New Mexico — Two years ago, the Lobo slasher was a surefire NFLer.  Then came losing seasons and academic ineligibility.

Next: 2. Surefire Camp Invites

LOUISVILLE, KY – SEPTEMBER 15: Running back D’Andre Ferby #32 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers runs with the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY – SEPTEMBER 15: Running back D’Andre Ferby #32 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers runs with the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images) /

Surefire Camp Invites

D’Andre Ferby, Western Kentucky  — An All-Conference USA selection as a freshman, whose since dealt with injuries and under-utilization.  A punishing old-school feature back.

Nico Evans, Wyoming — The fifth-year senior, a top student who nixed an Ivy League full ride to Penn, in 2018 ranked #4 in FBS total rushing yards.

Darrin Hall, Pittsburgh — He and Quadree Ollison formed FCS 2018’s most underrated RB duo.  A power-rusher, akin to his predecessor, Steeler James Connor — or that guy Curtis Martin.

Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State — The Shelby, NC slasher overcame a season-ending dislocated ankle injury to rehab and excel at the Combine.  With Moore, it’s all about potential

Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State – Some insiders feel this undersized small-college rumbler could be the next David Johnson.  Any questions?

Next: 3. Camp Worthy Talent

TUSCALOOSA, AL – OCTOBER 14: Devwah Whaley #21 of the Arkansas Razorbacks rushes against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 14, 2017. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL – OCTOBER 14: Devwah Whaley #21 of the Arkansas Razorbacks rushes against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 14, 2017. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Camp Worthy Talents

Devwah Whaley, Arkansas — The most underrated underclassman in this draft.  Whoever takes this Razorback will reap immediate dividends.

Squally Canada, BYU — A beast of a back, not particularly fast or shifty, but averaged 5.0 yards per carry over four seasons.  Strong backup potential.

Marche Dennard, CSU-Pueblo — The PHX-bred All-RMAC back looked like a man among boys, leading his D-II ThunderWolves back to the DII playoffs.

Brycen Alleyne, Delaware State — This elusive All-MEAC KR/RB long-shot could battle the Jets’ Trenton Cannon for a spot.  A leader with a real work ethic.

Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly— The FCS All-American propelled a small-school triple-option offense, with 1,334 rushing yards as a blocking fullback.  Would look great opening holes for Le’Veon Bell.

Next: 4. Wild Cards and Honorable Mentions

HADLEY, MA – SEPTEMBER 30: A.J. Ouellette #45 of the Ohio Bobcats stiff arms Jesse Monteiro #27 of the Massachusetts Minutemen during the first half of their game at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Hadley, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
HADLEY, MA – SEPTEMBER 30: A.J. Ouellette #45 of the Ohio Bobcats stiff arms Jesse Monteiro #27 of the Massachusetts Minutemen during the first half of their game at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Hadley, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /

Total Wild Cards

Gabe Watson, Sioux Falls — The NCIS Offensive Player of the Year broke every school record, rushing for 1,957 yards and 26 touchdowns.  Deserves a serious look.

Jaquan Hemphill, Hardin-Simmons — Two-time D-III All-American and ASC Offensive Player of the Year.  A devastating performer who must prove it on the next level.

Chandler Burks, Kennesaw State — The Big South Conference’s first-ever Offensive Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year in the same season.  The two-time FCS All-American QB with kick return skills could be the Jets’ next Brad Smith talent.

Lorenzo Alexander, Southern Arkansas — A devastating small-school star with nothing else to prove.  Worth the round-trip tickets to try him out on One Jets Drive.

Ra’Quanne Dickens, Incarnate Word — Scouts are quite familiar with one the FCS most productive rushers.  One of those small-town kids with bad grades, an incredible potential.

Honorable Mentions:

A.J. Ouellette, Ohio

Patrick Laird, California

Kealand Dirks, FB, Furman

Kenny Young, Miami (Ohio)

LeAnthony Reasnover, Eureka

Darian Green, RB, Portland State

Trevon Walters, RB, Alabama A&M

Sam McPherson, RB, Eastern Washington

KeShawn Williams, RB, Arkansas Pine-Bluff

Jaymar Anderson, RB, East Stroudsburg

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