Examining The 2019 NFL Draft Running Back Class

There’s been a lot of talk saying that this is a weak RB class, and in respect to other classes, there is a lot less top end talent this year. There is no undisputed RB1 that will go in the top 10. No Saquon Barkley, Zeke Elliott, or Todd Gurley, but there certainly is a ton of depth in the 2nd and 3rd round range.

There’s no shortage of starting RBs. Maybe there is not an RB that is labeled with the vilified “generational” talent tag, but there is certainly good football players of all different styles to pick from in the middle rounds. I have decided to highlight a few of those guys that could be contributors, including some guys you might not even know about. All these guys I am about to mention to you have that day 2 to early day 3 value to them, and I believe can be productive at the next level.

David Montgomery, Iowa State

Montgomery is by far the consensus RB1, and he is the one RB that has the best chance to be a 1st round pick, but that doesn’t mean his gap is very far. Yes, he is my current RB1. But I can tell you with certainty that there are guys nipping on his heels.

Montgomery’s a bit of polarizing prospect because he does not have the “second gear” and he is not a particularly elusive guy. However, he just does not go down. The guy has fantastic contact balance and plays with a relentless tenacity to grind out yards. While not elusive, he is smooth, as he can cut on a dime. His receiving ability is underrated as well. The guy has some natural hands that have only gotten better.

He is a great day 2 value pick for any team and will be an immediate contributor somewhere.

Elijah Holyfield, Georgia

Holyfield has risen up boards pretty fast and for good reason. He is elusive, shifty, and downright quick. His agility and lateral quickness are his best qualities. It is so hard to bring him down, and frankly, it doesn’t help that he has great contact balance too.

Holyfield has proven to be a pretty complete RB overall. He is the modern RB and continues the great line of Georgia RBs to come out and be great NFL prospects. I wouldn’t say he is on Michel’s or Chubb’s level, but he certainly has their qualities. He is a big play threat and can catch out the backfield just fine too.

It will not shock me if Holyfield is the first RB off the board simply due to the prototype of RB he is.

Damien Harris, Alabama

Harris might be the smoothest back in the class. His feet are so light, and he changes direction so easily. He is not a fantastic or explosive athlete by any means, and he doesn’t have to be. His contact balance and vision make up for that any deficiencies. They are elite.

Coupled that in with the fact that he is a fantastic receiver who turns dump offs into huge gains, and in addition to that, a great pass protector, I would say Harris is what NFL teams love to see in an RB.

For that, he very well might be RB1 by the end of this process.

Reggie Corbin, Illinois

Corbin is a human joystick. I hate to make the comparisons, but yes he does remind of Tarik Cohen in some ways. His change of direction is ridiculous. He just jukes out guys with ease and whew that blazing speed too. Those two together already make him a great RB prospect that is a big play threat. His contact balance is not great. But his hands have improved, and he is going to be at the very least, a 3rd down back. The guy is a sleeper who should be getting way more attention.

He likely goes on Day 3 because the NFL still hasn’t woken up to these types of RBs quite yet.

Zack Moss, Utah

Moss is similar to David Montgomery in that he is not a spectacular athlete by any means. There is no second gear or even very good lateral agility to his game, but man does he ever run hard. This guy not only trucks over guys, but thinks ahead of how to use his center of gravity to stay up. It is clear that he runs with a plan. He processes the line and then hits the hole with a thought out plan. His contact balance, is thus, fantastic. And he is a very good receiver that can work out of the slot, so he is easily a 3-down back.

He is a fantastic value pick on day 2 and will gain traction as this process goes on.

Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

Williams really doesn’t wow you anywhere other than in the receiving department. He sees usage everywhere in the receiving game and runs about as many routes as you could want a RB to run. He rarely drops passes. Although he is not great in space, he is elusive enough to make plays. I still think that he just a solid runner. He is smart and understands how to get yards, plain and simple. The guy finds the hole and hits it with precision. He doesn’t have fantastic contact balance, but he sure does have the acceleration and change of direction to break runs with great vision.

It is tough to put a finger on how high Williams will go, but he easily has late 2nd to early 3rd round value in today’s NFL.

Darrin Hall, Pittsburgh

Hall is an under the radar guy with a late 3rd grade from me because of just how adept he is to the modern NFL. He is not particularly fast, but he shows shiftiness and lateral agility. His vision has always been a point that I have loved; the guy is just a smart runner that communicates and works off his offensive line with ease. However, his calling card has and will be his receiving ability. He is a great receiver that can work out of multiple alignments. I think he is a slightly less version of Trayveon Williams.

He will go day 3, but some team will be happy with the skill set he brings to the table.

Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh

Ollison is a bit of throwback. He is not much of an athletic running back but is more focused on power over anything. He has shown the ability to crank up the speed when he needs to, though. His burst and agility aren’t his best traits, at all. His vision and the ability to set up defenders in open space are great traits. That ability to make the angles harder for guys in space is desirable, too, especially with his fantastic contact balance. His pass blocking is fantastic, and he needs to work on his hands a bit, but they are clearly willing.

Again, he will go mid day 3, but I see early day 3 value in him as a bruising runner who can develop into a 3-down type of guy down the line.

Darrell Henderson, Memphis

Henderson is simply electric. He is not overly fast, but he is extremely quick. This guy knows how to cut-on-a-dime with such ease and just get into a second gear after that. He just doesn’t go down. His contact balance, coupled with that ability to bounce it outside has been a huge treat to watch on film. Also, he catches the ball and can make guys miss in space with good processing of the field in front of him. The real issue with him is that his vision is spotty, and I hope that the transition doesn’t hit him too hard.

His big-play ability will be a huge appeal, but his vision issues might cause him to drop to late day 2 or early day 3, but he is of day 2 value.

Miles Sanders, Penn State

Miles Sanders is an interesting RB for me. His change of direction is ridiculous, and the guy just never goes down. As a runner, he is super similar to Saquon Barkley. Sometimes spotty vision, bounces runs outside, great change of direction, elite contact balance, and a second gear that allows him to break big runs. However, unlike Barkley, he is just a raw receiver. He has to catch the ball better, even if those hands show that the potential is there. That is his biggest downfall, but he still should be a day 2 pick

RyQuell Armstead, Temple

I really want to highlight Armstead because his name just isn’t talked about that much but I slapped an early 3rd grade on him. This guy just has absurd contact balance and shiftiness. He is not overly fast, though he does have a second gear, but he is agile. The power and agility combination is pretty dang dangerous, and he has a potent spin move to complement that. His vision has been consistently solid too, and with that, he has shown processing to avoid pursuers with ease. The only knock on him is that he has to improve as a receiver, but I think it will come with time.

Remember this name; this game is really good.

Benny Snell Jr, Kentucky

Snell is an intriguing runner because there isn’t anyone like him in the entire draft. He isn’t a decisive runner, but he is a great processor and is good with vision. He is powerful and has fantastic contact balance, but he really just isn’t overly intimidating and grinds out yards more so than breaks tackles. His athleticism is nothing to write home about, but he is more than quick enough to be adept enough at the next level. I will say that he is a very underrated receiver, though, and that propels him.

His style seems to be a paradox to itself, but he is easily of day 2 value.

Matt Colburn II, Wake Forest

Colburn is an elusive and decisive runner. The guy is slippery in the open field, and while he doesn’t run through you, he only needs a little shake and bake to break big runs. His receiving has ascended to the point where he is a clear 3-down back, and people should be higher on the guy. He works out of the slot and fits best in a zone-run scheme, but he doesn’t need to be limited there.

Colburn is a guy that I feel will honestly go higher than people think he will, but I am not against that, there is Late day 2 value there.

Myles Gaskin, Washington

Man, I have not seen anyone in this class like Gaskin who can fit through the tight spaces as he does. He can contort his body in ways that he really shouldn’t be able to. Gaskin’s is incredibly agile and uses his center of balance to set his balance at a premium level. Gaskin might have the best contact balance in the class. He can catch the ball, but he needs to be more decisive and learn to time his runs better. He just doesn’t work off his OL as well as he should.

Gaskin is pretty slept on, but, yeah, he is a top 10 RB easily and could be top 5.

Travis Homer, Miami

I guess it was about time I revealed the one RB I’m super high on that I haven’t let on to yet. Homer is that guy. I recently got around to studying him, and I have loved watching his film. His blend of RB skills draws me in. He has home run burst in the open and parlays that with amazing contact balance. He works off of his blockers beautifully and hits the hole at full speed. His vision is just great, and he has shown the ability to lower his shoulder and get himself into the end zone in the red zone. I do wish he were a bit more agile and that his hands were more natural, but I think he has R2 to early R3 value.

Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

Quick, shifty, and versatile is how I would describe Hill. He is decisive in his runs but he cuts on a dime, that is for sure. He can break the big play, but he also can churn out 5-8 yard gains off of his quick cuts and agility. His vision is solid to do that, and he lets his instincts just take him to the hole. However, it’s his receiving ability that makes him a 3-down back that is made for today’s NFL. He has worked out of just about every alignment possible, and especially from the slot.

I expect Hill to go day 2 in the 3rd round, and I think that is perfect for him.

Karan Higdon, Michigan

I heard great things about Higdon but have only gotten around to him recently, and I gotta say that I like him. His running game is just purely dynamic. Not only is the guy slippery, but he is a straight up hard hitter when it comes to downhill running. He has no trouble lowering his shoulder to lay the boom. He certainly is explosive as well and can break big runs at any time. The guy needs to show more in the receiving game, but he is a fantastic pure runner.

Higdon gets that 3rd round grade, and I think that is where he will go too. I could see him being a big player down the road.

Mike Weber, Ohio State

Mike Weber is tough as nails, and I love it. He runs with ferocity, and even with his lighter frame, the way he runs with a mix of balance and power is so refreshing to see in this day and age. He has that burst to turn into a home run hitter, and with his vision, it happens more than it should, so it is an incredible use of his skill. I wish he were a bit more agile, but with his balance, it is fine. He has limited reps as a receiver, so it is an unknown, but when he has gotten the opportunity, he looks good.

Weber might split time with JK Dobbins, but make no mistake about it, Weber is very, very good.

Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

Anderson’s Torn ACL makes this a bit more questionable, but man his tape is just fantastic. If he were not hurt, he would have an R1 grade and be my clear-cut RB1. His contact balance is silly good, and his burst is good enough to be a big play guy. His cutting ability has somehow maintained itself even after numerous leg injuries, and I hope that stays, but I don’t know if it will. The vision and sense of patience he has with his OL is the best in the class, and on top of that, he has natural hands.

Anderson could be an R1 talent, but durability concerns are very real. I think he goes day 2, but to a team that has to be willing to be aggressive. 

Joshua Kelly, UCLA

The sleeper that needs to be talked about more, I hope Kelly gets more attention. He doesn’t go down easily at all and with his active and nifty feet, good luck bringing him down with his lateral agility. His vision is just fantastic, and he works off his OL so well, that patience he shows just allows him to bounce runs for big plays. He honestly has enough burst to be a home run hitter too. I don’t know how good he is as a receiver due to his limited opportunities, but he has been solid when asked to do so.

Kelly is a sleeper that should go Early day 3, even though he is a day 2 talent easily.

This RB class has some real depth to it as you can see. I haven’t finished scouting the class, and this could grow or even shrink if I cool on some of this guys. There are about 20 guys I see right now that have that mid-round appeal and could be something at the next level. Will they all be? No, but I think they all will, at the very least, be rostered next year.

Have any questions about the article? Leave a comment below. Or hit me up @FarabaughFB with any questions regarding the article.

nfarabaugh

Hello, I’m Nick Farabaugh and I’m an aspiring Sports Jounalist / Broadcaster / Football Scout. You will notice that I love three things in football: The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Draft, and the backstory of everything possible in the sport. I’m in the Devy department and love the draft and scouting players. I try my best to get all evaluations correct but I’m never perfect. I also write for SB Nation’s Behind the Steel Curtain and Blitzalytics. On both platforms I write about things different than on here. BTSC is a Steelers site, so it’s all Steelers. And Blifzalytics is more analytically driven content. If you need contact me, find me on Twitter @FarabaughFB or at my email nfara2000@gmail.com

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3 Comments

    • Frankiedynomite

      December 26, 2018

      I agree there may not be that generational running back like Todd Gurley or Saquon Barkley, but there are quite a few really good running backs with explosive speed, quickness, agility… Guys who are three down backs in the NFL… Sure, they don’t have the size you want but they play bigger than listed size. Miles Sanders, Josh Jacobs, just as hell, Myles Gaskin Are all exceptional running backs regardless of their size… As a Bears fan, I respect Jordan Howard, but I don’t like is limited running ability… They really need a dynamic going back to make an offense more complete. And one of those running backs will be perfect… My favorites are just a hill and Miles Gaskin… Both have explosive abilities even though there are barely 200 pounds… It’s not like they can’t put on a few pounds in the NFL. – Jacob is also very underrated and Miles Sanders is coming out, he would be one of my are all exceptional running backs regardless of their size… As a Bears fan, I respect Jordan Howard, but I don’t like is limited running ability… They really need it I never going back to make an offense more complete. And one of those running backs will be perfect… My favorites are just a hill and Myles Gaskin… Both have explosive abilities even though there are barely 200 pounds… It’s not like they can’t put on a few pounds in the NFL. Josh Jacobs is also very underrated and if Miles Sanders is coming out, he would be one of my first first choices

      Reply
      • Shane Manila

        December 26, 2018

        I personally think Sanders is going to be a stud, his only sin in college was choosing one that already had Barkley.

        Reply

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