Running Backs: 2019 Draft

During our run down of top prospects at each position on the podcast, it is not possible to really go into as much depth or cover more prospects. So here I have written up my notes on some prospects I really liked, in no particular order, just ones that caught my eye.

This year there is no really outstanding players like we have seen in some recent drafts certainly no Saquon Barkley. However there is depth with some solid starters and starter potential and at what could be called the RB2 position, certainly many players that will compliment a running back corps. I will be as bold to say, pick up two of these and you could have quite a good pairing. I am not going to reel off rushing or receiving stats for these players, because it doesn’t tell the full picture and there is talent here who might go earlier because they have not had as many carries as some, therefore less wear but not quite the impressive collection of numbers. Where I have included arm length it is a relic of my notes as with “lower” rated prospects I was interested at their reach, mainly for blocking purposes. I have left them in, well, just because.

Josh Jacobs, Alabama 5’10” 220lbs

Analysts have him the highest ranked and graded RB in this years draft, and whilst not necessarily exceptional, watching him you can tell he is part of a mould of the modern running back. He is stocky and well built, at 5’10” 220lbs that is in the region of a powerback, and he contributes to the receiving game and could even be used on special teams as a kick returner, as he was used in Alabama. To me he is actually an intelligent runner, yes I think he has a preference for running to the outside (that could be the play calling), but he does take a good enough pause at times and responds when a gap closes and then he still makes yardage. He’s a solid runner, not always exceptionally faster or able to accelerate, though he does have the Bell/Lynch style of initiating contact when he’s being closed in on. He is a bit more of a finesse runner, not necessarily forcing mistackles or even fooling would be tacklers, just avoiding them altogether. He allows his blockers time to create the gaps and is very disciplined in running with his blockers. On the blocking side, he is adequate in pass protection at least does what he is told. I like him, I hope he doesn’t go to the Steelers (who I could see him being taken by) I think the Bucs or Falcons could use him. Also maybe the Bills, I think Josh Allen would like the short pass outlet that Jacobs would provide, as it’s what he did in Alabama.

Damien Harris, Alabama 5’10” 216lbs 

The other Alabama running back, who though by the numbers physically should be similar to Jacobs, they are quite different. Harris certainly saw more of the carries through the season than Jacobs Harris looks like the stockier running back, better running in the inside, good vision good feet and I think a bit better at accelerating away that Jacobs. In someways he is similar as he is not afraid of contact, but is definitely more of the ball carrier. He seems to have good ball security and is actually not bad at forcing miss tackles. He is solid as well and I think cuts well. Actually quite an every down back, though might need a good o-line to run behind, not sure he is always great at creating opportunity though does seem to have the ability to sniff out a gap. I do like him, he certainly partnered well with Jacobs, you know what, maybe he would be quite good with the Saints, he is different enough from Alvin Kamara but still has some receiving ability and Alabama did have a tendency to play both Jacobs and Harris on the same snaps.

David Montgomery Iowa St. 5’10” 222lbs

I feel like I am going to be repeating myself with Montgomery, as in some ways he is very similar to Harris, maybe a bit more of a meld of Jacobs and Harris. He can extend plays well, bouncing and cutting to the outside but what is really impressive is how he can extend plays when lets say his blockers are overwhelmed, he creates opportunity and takes it, showing great awareness and always

looking for possibilities without taking unnecessary risks. He is agile and though maybe not explosive quickness has good speed and more is physical when needed. He is also solid in the receiving game, being pivotal in Iowa States passing game and leading the team in receptions last year. He does not look as solid as he is and I think that takes some would be tacklers by surprise, he is able to initiate contact, and then use good lower body power to break through tackles. There is something scrappy about him but he looked really good last year for Iowa. He has been compared to Kareem Hunt so maybe he would be a good fit for the Chiefs, though again I could see him at the Saints. I think Montgomery may go in the 3rd round, his acceleration maybe letting him down some.

Miles Sanders 5’11” Penn St. 211lbs

A good combine definitely helped raise his profile, he really demonstrated his agility and his speed, and looking at him his feet are excellent, helping him shake would be tacklers. Certainly a word to sum him up is elusive. He has good lower body power which means he is not afraid to initiate contact. Though not explosive he has good speed and is an intelligent runner. He is able to extend plays, as he has very good quick feet and excellent balance, meaning he is excellent at evading would be tacklers, though is happy to make contact and power through trying to break the tackle. He also shows the ability to anticipate where gaps will appear. Happy to run on the inside, between the tackles but will cut and bounce outside. He seems ok in pass blocking. He may not be outstanding as talent but certainly could be a solid starter and a 3 down back (though he was not always used as such) and yes he is somewhat over shadowed by Saquon Barkley interestingly Sanders did not have any runs for a loss of yards, he is a consistent runner. He is certainly an NFL ready running back.

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic 5’7” 203lbs

He is an interesting prospect as he did not have a great combine and he appears to be a bit slower than the other backs in this class. However, on tape he looks good, though undersized, uses this very much to his advantage. He is not afraid of contact but does not try and power through tackles more manoeuvrer out of them, he is a wriggler. He has a sharp and quick cut, and though there is evidence of him running up the middle, his straight line speed is not great and he relies on his exceedingly quick feet to get him out of trouble. He might become predictable, but there is enough evidence to show that he is an intelligent back, who can anticipate plays especially when the blocking falls short, bouncing and cutting to the out side and slipping through tacklers. This though is a bit of vulnerability when at the NFL level, and against elite tacklers I think he is just going to be swamped. But he is a determined and skilled runner, like quite a few others in his class, he does not give up and with his pass catching ability, especially out of the backfield, could easily be on the field for 3 downs and offering an outlet for getting much needed yards. He really does appear to skip and bounce, it is quite something to watch.

Dexter Williams, Notre Dame, 5’11” 212lbs

Character issues will probably see him drop, especially for marijuana possession and sometimes hanging around with what could be considered the wrong crowd, though in some instances this seems to be wrong place and wrong time, at the right team he could florish. There is enough on tape to show he could be a solid every-down back and has a solid, powerful yet fluid running style and with enough vision and timing to allow blockers to create gaps, as well as see gaps when they form as well as spot when a hole closes. He might be a bit on the easier side to tackle, apparently because he is slight (put on a bit of muscle and will be a different prospect) and does not necessarily go in to break tackles, more try body rolling would be tacklers. It might be that he runs with a narrow base, which makes him more easy to bring down rather than his frame as he seems solid enough. However, in his last year he certainly developed into an every-down back and has that potential. He needs a year behind a more experienced back, so maybe Buffalo spending time behind LeSean

McCoy or maybe Atlanta behind Devonta Freeman. He could also develop behind a good o-line, so work well with James Connor with the Steelers or even with the Titans.

Justice Hill, Oklahoma State 5’10” 198lbs

The main take on Justice Hill is his speed. He is fast, mainly on the straight though he does cut pretty well. Probably not an every down back and he is a tad on the light side, so his blocking is not great but his explosiveness and acceleration is excellent. It is the main take away. Fun to watch and if the hole and opportunity is there will burn defenses. Also has upside on the return game.

Bennie Snell Jr. Kentucky 5’10” 223lbs

Has RB in his genetic make up with Matt Snell, his grand uncle, being a decisive influence in the Jets win in SB 3. He is definitely a powerback, a grinder, there to gain that much needed short yardage, though when he makes more yards that is generally through the work of his blockers and a mistake by the defense. He does not quite have the ability to avoid tackles (he has a could turn but not really good at cutting) or the explosive speed or even the high end speed for large gains but he can really hit into would be tacklers and power his way through closing gaps. He is not really any good at creating opportunities, reacts more than reads and is far more a straight line runner, though he can weave pretty well, he does not really cut well. Defenders can close him down, but he can be a challenge to tackle. He is willing in pass protection and as he is quite solid is not too bad a blocker, though not great with his hands, more relying on his stockiness to see it through.

Why I highlight him is that he could be an endzone hog a bit like Blount or maybe closer to Mike Tolbert, cannon balls to launch to blast their way through. Though the third down back does not really exist, Snell is that kind of guy, a short yardage, end zone kind of speciality, used carefully could really cause the defense to pause or he can just power through for the TD.

Bryce Love Stanford 5’10” 196lbs

Bryce deserves some love and that is why he is getting a mention. In 2017 he looked really good, a solid energetic and elusive runner for Stanford. However in 2018 his season was plagued by injury and all the excitement turned to concern for his longevity and his stock has fallen from a 1st rounder to far later. However, he is a talent and watching the 2017 tape it is clear he has the speed, agility, intelligence and hands to make it as a modern back. Yes he is a bit on the lighter side, will need to put on a bit more mass to help increase his survival of hits, but I hope someone does take a punt on him. I really liked him coming out of 2017 and was sad about 2018, where when he did play he struggled.

Darrell Henderson Memphis 5’8” 208lbs

This guy deserves a quick mention as being 5’8 and 208lbs (shorter and heavier than what his college report said) he also has 31” arms just shy of David Montgomery’s (though 14lbs lighter), making him a strong stocky player. He had a good combine, showing that he has good speed (4.49s 40 yard dash, similar to Miles Sanders) and 22 bench press reps shows he is strong. This is why I like him, because though he is short he is solid and explosive, keeps on driving and relies on his stockiness to bounce in contact. Problem is his reels and impressive touchdowns come from some sloppy defensive fronts and really he needs help to hit the gaps. However his receiving skills are solid and coming out the backfield, once he has his speed up he could certainly surprise some teams. He is not an every down back, and from what I’ve seen he does not create opportunities as some of the others, however I could see creative thinking coaches use him, especially on teams with good run o-lines. Really he is a Patriots type pick, or the Falcons for replacing Tevin Coleman (though Coleman is far better) or maybe even the Eagles, in a Darren Sproles type role (due to his backfield catching).

So what do you think? Let us know on twitter, enjoy the draft!