It’s that time of year again, where everybody resets after the Draft is over and begins work for the next year. I’ve spent some time watching the running backs for next year’s draft and while I do not think there are any guys who come into the Saquon Barkley-Derrius Guice level of elite (just yet at least), there is still plenty of talent available. Here are 10 running backs to keep an eye on for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Note: this isn’t a Top 10 rankings of running backs, merely a guide list highlighting some key names to know. This is also NOT a full player profile, again, it’s just a highlight of guys.
Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield and Mark Andrews got a lot of the hype for OU last year, but Rodney Anderson was an important cog for that offense last year, especially down the stretch. After being hurt through his first two seasons, Anderson was introduced slowly into the lineup but exploded on to the scene against Kansas State…literally.
When Anderson took over as the lead back at OU, he accounted for 1,333 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns in the last eight games of the 2017 season. And if you’re worried about his ability to play against top-notch defenses since he plays in the Big 12….
If Anderson played all 12 games like his last eight, he would have had 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 27 total touchdowns. While sharing the backfield with Trey Sermon and the Heisman trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. With OU breaking in a new quarterback next fall, Riley will opt to run the ball even more than he already does. Expect to see Rodney Anderson in contention for the Doak Walker award next season.
Pro comparison: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Montgomery enters the season as a RB1 candidate for many people, and deservedly so. According to Pro Football Focus, David Montgomery forced 104 missed tackles on just 258 carries for about 40% of his carries.
It’s very easy to see why he carries a lot of hype coming into the season. Montgomery had 1,442 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns last year, and it is likely he comes close or passes those marks this year. Montgomery has a fantastic ability to cut on a dime, similar to LeSean McCoy and brings an exceptional ability to break out a big play because of it. Pair his elite cutting ability to his fantastic vision and tenacity as a runner, and Montgomery can turn into a first-round running back prospect.
Pro comparison: LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
Damien Harris, Alabama
Yet again, Alabama is loaded at the running back position. Damien Harris could’ve been a Top 5 running back in the 2018 draft, but elected to stay at Alabama for his senior season. Harris has had some amazing production in the SEC, which bodes well for his future in the NFL. Damien Harris has outstanding vision and cutting ability, and is a decisive runner through holes.
He also shows off nasty burst and speed to take the ball to the house several times. He shows off great vision and patience to let the holes open. Harris, like most Alabama running backs, has the power and balance to fight through tackles.
Harris is another gifted runner coming out of the Alabama running back stable. If he can fight off the depth that Alabama has at that position and produce at the same level, Harris can be a first-round candidate.
Pro comparison: Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins
Bryce Love, Stanford
Coming into the 2017 season, many pundits and media analysts wondered how Stanford would replace Top 10 pick and Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey. Bryce Love took those questions and smashed them onto the floor. Love possesses an acceleration and speed that blew people away.
Bryce Love was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, coming in with a 2,000-yard season. While his offensive line did a great job of opening up lanes for him, Love showed off good vision to find the hole and slice through. Surprisingly for his frame, Love also has great play strength and power to move through tacklers.
Bryce Love’s vision, power, and elite athleticism automatically put him into first-round consideration. However, the main concern with Bryce Love is his injury history. Last year, he was injured several times and will certainly have some wear and tear coming into this season. If he can prove he can stay healthy and continue to produce, Love can certainly reach a Top 15 selection.
Pro comparison: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Devin Singletary, FAU
Every so often, there is a small school back that enters the scene and takes over (David Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard, Kareem Hunt, Rashaad Penny). Devin Singletary will be that guy for the 2019 draft. There is nothing small school about Singletary however. He is a tough, physical fighter running the football and will refuse to go down easily.
Singletary doesn’t possess the long speed guys like Bryce Love enjoy, but he demonstrated good burst through holes to pick up huge chunks of yardage.
Devin Singletary is coming off a monster season of an FBS-leading 301 carries and 33 touchdowns. While expecting that type of season again is unrealistic, Singletary should be the focus of the Owls’ offense again and should put up some great production. If he can keep that up, I’d expect him to enter the conversation for the Top 5 running backs in next year’s draft.
Pro comparison: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Myles Gaskin, Washington
Myles Gaskin was in contention with Bryce Love and Ronald Jones II as the best Pac-12 running back last season and decided to return to play his senior season with the Huskies. Coming off of a 1600 yard, 24 touchdown season, this declaration surprised many, as he was viewed as a Top 50 pick.
Gaskin is a rugged runner between the tackles and does a great job of lowering his pad level and banging through for yards. He’s got good cutting ability and vision to pair with it as well.
When Gaskin hits the hole, he shows off excellent burst and speed to take it the distance. He’s also a very natural receiver.
Gaskin’s small stature might make some NFL teams wary of him, but he possesses an NFL skill set and can be a very good back at the next level. Barring injury, I expect him to be a Top 50 pick.
Pro comparison: Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
The Air Raid attack of Oklahoma State drew most of the attention last year-with QB Mason Rudolph and WRs James Washington and Marcell Ateman all getting drafted in the 2018 draft. However, Justice Hill was a key component of Oklahoma State’s offense last year and certainly figures to be this year with the departure of so much talent.
Hill plays with extreme speed and is a home-run threat to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball. This explosiveness shouldn’t surprise anyone given his testing of a 4.43 40 and a 38.5” vertical. He’s got patience enough to set up blocks and has a great initial step to burst through holes.
My main concern with Hill is his frame. He’s 5’10, 180-190 pounds and thinly built. He showed an ability to fight through guys in the Big 12, but I don’t know if that will hold up against the bigger and faster guys in the NFL.
Justice Hill’s athleticism and patience will entice some teams this year, but he has to prove he has the ability to be more than a role player in the NFL next year. If he can add a little more bulk and keep up his speed with the weight, he’ll have a shot to be a solid mid-round draft pick in 2019.
Pro comparison: Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
Benny Snell, Kentucky
Benny Snell is a punisher as a running back. Snell has 1,638 career rushing yards AFTER contact. He will gladly bowl you over and force you to stay down. He was the workhorse back for Kentucky last year and will more than likely continue that role in the 2018 season. He already has the career touchdown mark at Kentucky and will look to add to that record this season.
As was stated earlier, Snell is an extremely powerful runner who possesses great contact balance and will not go down easily. He displayed excellent vision to find open lanes and bowl his way through the defense.
My main concern with Benny Snell is a true lack of burning speed. He can take it to the house, but it would not surprise me to seem him test with a 4.6 40 time. Long speed is an area of concern for him going to the next level.
However, Snell’s punishing ability as a runner and his vision to diagnose a defense quickly should sell him to NFL teams as a dependable two down back who can consistently get 5 or 6 yards a carry. If a team is looking for a workhorse to spell their RB corps, Snell is that dude.
Pro comparison: Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
Williams is a true home-run hitting back. He is very similar to Justice Hill in the fact that both possess smaller frames but elite athleticism and quickness. Williams demonstrated outstanding acceleration and speed to go the distance at Texas A&M.
Williams does a good job of running with low pad level to keep his balance, but running with power is definitely not a strength of Williams. His vision as a runner to me is questionable at best, but when he finds a crease-watch out.
Trayveon’s frame and questionable vision may limit him at the next level, but he can be an outstanding gadget type player in the NFL. His speed and quickness almost guarantees he’ll be drafted. With uncertainty at QB going into the season, A&M will be relying on his home-run ability in 2018.
Pro comparison: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
LJ Scott, Michigan State
LJ Scott is a rugged runner. Coming in at 6’1, 230 pounds, Scott is a power runner through and through. He’s got a great ability to power through guys and and knock over defenders who were unlucky enough to be in his way. While Scott does not display the patience of former fellow Spartan Le’Veon Bell, he’s still patient enough to let blocks develop in front of him (which weren’t always great last season.)
The thing that was surprising to me was Scott’s ability as a receiver. He showed a natural feel for catching the ball and an ability to be a dependable, well-rounded back.
Scott isn’t the flashy athlete that most of guys on this list are, but he’s extremely well-rounded and a true workhorse back who can play all three downs. If he can test even slightly above-average, Scott would definitely be worth a mid-round selection in next year’s draft.
Pro comparison: Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys
Miles Sanders, Penn State: Former #1 running back who sat behind Saquon Barkley for two years? Something tells me he’s going to be a star. The only reason I did not highlight him with the above guys is a simple lack of film to make an adequate read. He flashed when he got carries, so expect that to change by the offseason.
Damarea Crockett, Missouri: Crockett is coming off of a shoulder injury, but flashed big-time athleticism last year in Missouri’s offense. If he returns healthy, he can be a guy to watch.
Sewo Olonilua, TCU: Olonilua, much like Miles Sanders, just hasn’t played enough time to justify a grade on him yet. When he played, he flashed incredible power and was often used as a goal-line power back. He and fellow Horned Frog Darius Anderson will form a solid RB committee for TCU next year.
Alexander Mattison, Boise State: Mattison is an extremely under-the-radar kind of runner that I could not leave off the list. He flashed off a ton when I was watching Rypien and he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on going forward. He’s coming off of an ankle injury that kept him out of spring practice, but if he remains healthy and plays the same or better, Mattison will be a guy to keep an eye on.
Travis Homer, Miami: Homer is the Miami running back that took over when starter Mark Walton went down with an injury last season. He’s an excellent do it all back who can line up as a runner and a receiver. Look for Homer to become a quick riser on draft boards this season.
Jalin Moore, App State: Jalin Moore is a super flashy athlete for App State who has had some amazing production in his college career. Unfortunately, his injury history may keep him from being viewed as a top round pick, but his flashy athleticism is definitely worth a pick.
Agree or disagree with my observations? Follow me on Twitter and lets discuss. @AJDraftScout.