2017 NFL Draft – Top Running Backs

Offense: QB | WR | RB | FB | TE | OT | OG | C

Defense: DT | DE | OLB | ILB | CB | S

Note: These are ordered in regards to general overall rating.  This is not necessarily a reflection of predictive draft order as other variables such as scheme, coaching, etc. will alter each team’s rating of each prospect.

  1. Dalvin Cook, Florida State – Dalvin Cook is an extremely productive running back that can bounce it out and recover with an impressive ability to change gears and accelerate. Superior vision and patience, Cook is an out of the box, NFL ready running back that can be highly effective running the ball in most any NFL offensive scheme. A proficient pass catcher, Cook will be effective as part of any passing attack, but needs to work on pass protection skills.
  2. Leonard Fournette, LSU – Leonard Fournette embodies everything that an NFL team is looking for in a running back- ferocious running ability, with ability to pound it inside and bounce outside and shift into full speed quickly to turn out big plays whenever he has the ball. Truly elite combination of power and balance, and very difficult to bring down. Fournette is part of a recent resurgence in featured backs, just when that position was seeming to be going away.  The only knock on Fournette is that he might too often rely on his athletic ability, foregoing proper fundamentals- something that would be expected and can be corrected.
  3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford – Off the charts burst, acceleration, balance, and agility. Possesses a more solid build than expected. Excellent change of direction skills, coupled with superb vision. Very good receiver out of the backfield. Versatility will be a huge attraction to creative offensive coordinators.
  4. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee – In a deep class of explosive running backs that are going to be heavily used in the passing game, Kamara might be pushing for first round consideration.  Not used much early in his career, Kamara still produced big and balanced numbers coming off the bench, displaying a rare combination of balance, agility, change of direction skills, and explosion coming out of cuts.
  5. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma – Explosive, elite athlete with excellent agility and burst to get away from defenders.  Strong with a solid frame, not easily taken down by defenders that are not squared up.  Solid in the passing game and can catch balls smoothly without slowing down. Very prominent red flags that will make teams have to consider the pros and cons of drafting him high. Interviews and research into how he has handled himself since his problems will be very important to where he gets drafted.
  6. Taquan Mizzell, Virginia – Nicknamed “Smoke” Mizzell is an offensive weapon that is a quick twitch type of running back / slot receiver. His size, speed, and build is typical of the versatile type players that are taking over NFL rosters. He can line up in multiple spots as a running and receiving threat. He lived up to his potential in the NFLPA All Star Game.
  7. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma – A power runner through and through. Normally cannot be taken down by the first would be tackler, and punishes defenders that don’t break down and get a clean angle on him. Has enough shiftiness and speed to maximize his strength. Consistent and tough. Keeps legs moving, and has a very effective stiff arm. Used only slightly in the pass game, but does possess good hands, and a willing blocker.  In a draft loaded with RB’s, could slide and end up being a huge value after round 1.
  8. D’Onta Foreman, Texas – A very powerful back that has been the most productive back in the FBS this year. He is not just your typical power back, though, as has the agility to make defenders miss.  He also has the ability to accelerate very quickly for a back his size.
  9. Teriyon Gipson, New Mexico – A super agile, very quick little scat back that constantly produced throughout his collegiate career.  Shined at the NFLPA All Star game, showing the same level of productivity against higher level talent. Very explosive, and when he gets the ball in space is very difficult to catch. Small, but durable, and rarely gets tackled squarely.  Finds a hole or bounces to the outside and hits high gear very quickly.
  10. James Conner, Pittsburgh – A bruising, powerful, inbetween the tackles running back out of another era. Battled cancer and an MCL, and off the charts work ethic and intangibles. Has some shiftiness in crowded spaces, and uses leverage well to maximize any room available. Will have to test well, and be fully healthy from both the MCL and cancer. If healthy, could help a team looking for a reliable goal line presence.

Comments: Three running backs have separated themselves and their value in the draft will be determined by what type of running back a team is looking for. Cook and McCaffrey  are more suited to today’s pass-heavy offenses, but Fournette is a supremely talented “feature back” that has been used in NFL offenses traditionally. Joe Mixon is going to be a wildcard- a very talented running back with character concerns.