NFL Draft Late Round Sleepers: Running backs

And just like that, the 2019 NFL draft has concluded. The draft is that time of the year for NFL fan bases to be eternally optimistic. Now, we must digest and pick apart the new players on their respective teams. According to Rich Hribar of Rotoworld, 49% of the players drafted this past weekend will not receive a second contract. That is a shocking statistic which makes me think, for all the studs we know plenty about in the first three rounds, who are the unknown players from the fourth round and beyond that may surprise us?

Below, I will go over a few names of running backs that landed in promising situations.

Justice Hill (RB) Baltimore Ravens

Round 4, pick 113

I’m going to be honest, during the pre-draft process, I didn’t love Justice Hill. I saw instances where Hill would completely whiff on his pass blocking duties. As well as a back who avoided contact.

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Needless to say, I really like this landing spot. I’ve changed my thought process about him because he will not be relied upon to do the things that he is not good at. The Ravens signing of Mark Ingram this offseason is perfect for Justice Hill to carve out a role as the change of pace back. Drafting Hill in the fourth round shows that they have a plan for the speedy change of pace player.

The team may finally be over Kenneth Dixon, but even if they aren’t, Hill should still be able to find the field early. He scored well into the 90th percentile ranges in both 40-yard dash and burst score showing that he has the type of speed in the open field to run away from defenders. Do not ask Hill to be an up the middle runner, leave that to Ingram and Dixon.

If the coaching staff finds ways to get Hill in space he will have opportunities to showcase his speed skills. This clip highlights his breakaway speed, he will never see a hole this big in the NFL.

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Benny Snell Jr. (RB) Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 4, pick 122

If there is an ideal team fit for any of these rookies styles of play, it would be Benny Snell. Snell fits the Pittsburgh Steelers style of physical play. He will not wow you with his top speed, but has good burst when he touches the ball. He runs hard and is not easy to bring down. Hence why he was used as a bulldozer at the goal line in the wildcat formation often.

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Snell had a wonderful career at Kentucky in the almighty SEC. In fact, I am shocked he is not discussed more in fantasy circles. He finished his three years at Kentucky with over 4,000 yards from scrimmage, averaging over five yards per carry in that span. He finished his college career with a 91st percentile in college dominator rating.

Obviously, Snell arrives in Pittsburgh to a busy backfield. If the coaching staff chooses to limit James Conner’s touches, I could see him being used in short yardage or goal to go situations right away. He won’t come in and steal the show from Conner or Samuels, but don’t sleep on Snell providing some value for the Steelers in year one.

Darwin Thompson (RB) Kansas City Chiefs

Round 6, pick 214

Don’t judge me! Yes, I am a Kansas City resident. I love this pick. If you follow me on Twitter you would see I was loving on Thompson well before the draft. I love his ability as a pass-catching change of pace back. He is definitely one of the most explosive later round running backs. He scored in the 91st percentile in burst score and you can see it in his ability to stop and start explosively. According to Evan Silva from Rotoworld, he led the nation in yards after contact per rush attempt.

I’d be really worried if I were a fantasy owner of Damien Willams or owners trying to draft Williams in the first three rounds of a startup. Yes, Thompson is only 5’8’’ but he weighs 198 lbs. I would say the majority of that weight comes from his massive tree trunk thighs that he uses to churn out yardage while defenders helplessly try to bring him down.

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He has a similar stature to Darren Sproles but doesn’t possess the same top speed Sproles displayed. Thompson is extremely shifty and has great tackle breaking ability. Combine these traits with the fact that he will be with Andy Reid in Kansas City and you can see the potential. It is hard to forecast this backfield as of right now, but if you see any news about the coaches in KC talking up Thompson this summer, it would be wise to pull the trigger on him quickly.

 

Don’t sleep on another KC running back who was just picked up as an undrafted free agent, James Williams out of Washington State. The guy is nothing special as an in-between tackles runner, but he possesses elite traits at catching the ball out of the backfield. I keep comparing him to James White from New England. He caught 167 balls in three years at Washington State. Once again, Andy Reid system makes his name worth remembering during offseason reports.

Check out my other work below and you can find me on Twitter @DFF_JWalt

jwalter

Husband, soon to be dad; Dynasty & NFL Draft writer for @DFF_Dynasty & @DFF_College; #DFFArmy; #SFB8; University of Kansas Alum. You can find me on Twitter @DFF_JWalt.

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