Related Tags: NFL Draft
With the NFL free agency period about to begin, the draft is just right around the corner. Several teams are in search for a top running back. One of those teams will immediately bolster their rushing attack when free agent Le’Veon Bell signs. For the remainder, they will look towards the draft. While there is no Saquon Barkley is this year’s draft class, there are several backs that should pay dividends at some point this season. Here at the top running backs entering the draft.
Josh Jacobs (Alabama)
His overall statistical numbers may not overwhelming impress, but Jacobs was part of a deep rotation in the back field with Damien Harris and Najee Harris. However, his production when he got the ball is undeniable, as is the skill set he brings to the table.
During his freshman year, Jacobs averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns on 85 attempts. Jacobs saw his production drop in 2017 after appearing in only 11 games. Despite the decline in touches, Jacobs still averaged over six yards per carry and had two receiving touchdowns. In 2018, Jacobs ran the ball for 120 times and while his average dropped to 5.3 per carry, he found the end zone 14 times.
At 5’ 10” and 216 pounds, Jacobs has good size and displayed enough speed at 4.49 in the 40 to run past people. He has all the tools NFL scouts crave in a running back, which includes quickness, power, balance, instincts and pure athletic ability. Another positive is that being in a collegiate system that rotated backs, Jacobs enters the league with less miles on his body that other backs in the draft.
Justice Hill (Oklahoma State)
A three-year starter at Oklahoma State, Hill has his best collegiate season in 2017 when he rushed for 1467 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also caught 31 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown. Hill did not get the ball as much as he perhaps should have last season, but averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 158 attempts over ten games.
Projected to be a second or third round selection, the 5’ 10”, 185 pound Hill has 4.5 speed and excellent quickness. A strong attribute is his willingness to let plays develop before bursting through the holes. Hill displayed many times through his collegiate career the ability to cut and maneuver through defenders in the open field. He’s also a good receiver out of the back field. While he may not be a featured back in the NFL running the ball 25 times a game, Hill could be very effective in a system that features a two-back rotation.
Damien Harris (Alabama)
Part of the potent back trio at Alabama, Harris averaged only about ten carries per game over his final three seasons. However he made the most of the opportunities, averaging over seven yards per carry in both 2016 and 2017. Harris found the end zone on the ground 20 times over his junior and senior season combined.
A very physically gifted athlete, Harris has the size (5’ 10”, 214 pounds) and the speed (4.5 in the 40) to be a potential first or second round pick. Scouts around the league were impressed with his dedication and work ethic to improve. Harris runs with strength, excellent vision and balance upon contact, making him a tough back to bring down. There has been questions about his ability to catch the ball out of the back field, since Alabama never used him in that capacity.
Harris was Alabama’s leading rusher in 2017 and had 3070 yards on 477 carries in four seasons. Like Josh Jacobs, Harris doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his body.
Mike Weber (Ohio State)
Weber has very similar size and speed to Harris and is projected to land in the second or third round. At the combine, he was noted as one of the most impressive backs. In 2016, Weber won a competitive competition to replace Ezekiel Elliott at running back. He delivered with 1096 yards and nine touchdowns.
He had an injury-plagued 2017 season, but still rushed for 626 yards and ten touchdowns. Although sharing time in the back field last season with a few other backs last season, Weber rushed for 954 yards and averaged 5.5 per carry.
Weber has enough size, strength, quickness, receiving ability and speed to be a sleeper in the draft. The potential is there for Weber to eventually be a very good full-time NFL starter.