Running backs have seen their draft value fluctuate in recent seasons. Some players are viewed as top five talents (Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette) while some general managers believe no teams should take a running back until the middle rounds.
One running back, Saquon Barkley, is expected to be taken in the early in the first round. Another could end up in that conversation, but the majority will hear their name called later than they should.
Here are the top five running backs as well as an underrated, overrated and a sleeper prospect.
#1 – Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Barkley may be the best prospect in the draft. He has all the tools (speed, vision, elusiveness, catching ability and pass protection) to be a star on any down. He will come in and start from Day 1. While he is a three-down back, he is not an all situation back. He will need to be subbed out in short-yardage situations. He is not going to get the short, tough yards against a stacked front.
#2 – Derrius Guice, LSU
Guice is climbing draft boards. Many experts have him going in late teens or early 20s. He has the speed, vision, balance and playmaking ability to be an immediate starter. He game is not as complete as Barkley. But, if he can smooth out a few things (burst around the edge and vision to avoid the big hit as well as pass protection), he could be as good or better than him.
#3 – Sony Michel, Georgia
Michel is a well-built back with the skills to play on every down. He is a decisive runner that hits the hole with speed. He doesn’t have the home run ability like the two backs ahead of him, but he isn’t going to take as many negative runs as they will. He gets going downhill in a hurry and has the ability to make the first defender miss.
#4 – Ronald Jones, USC
Jones is an elusive runner with home run ability. He is a big play, slasher-style speed back. He does not have the frame to handle every down carries, but can take advantage of situations in his favor. He needs his blockers to open holes and knows how to use them to do it. He will probably be best used in a tandem situation with a back that is better at getting the tough yards.
#5 – Nick Chubb, Georgia
Chubb was the other back in the Bulldogs backfield. That doesn’t, however, mean that he is a slouch. Chubb has very good patience to find and then the burst to hit the hole. He does not have the same explosiveness as he did early in his collegiate career due to a knee injury, but he still can move. He has the balance and strength to run through arm tackles and avoid being tripped up.
Underrated – Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Adams is a big back with the ability to play on all downs. He measured 6-feet-2-inches tall and 220-pounds at the combine. He can use that size to run through arm tackles and smaller defenders. He has the vision and athleticism to find the hole inside or outside. He has the ability to avoid the negative run and make a defender miss in the hole.
Overrated – Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Penny has climbed up the board and is considered an underrated back for a lot of experts. However, he is not a home run hitter and did not make many defenders miss. He is a get the ball and go runner. In doing so, he misses holes and the cutback lanes. He has the speed to be effective in the NFL and the production to back it up, but he was a volume-carry back.
Sleeper – Chris Warren III, Texas
Warren is a physical specimen at running back. He measured 6-feet-4-inches tall and 250-pounds at the combine and ran the 40 in 4.69 seconds. He ran the ball in college with strength and power between-the-tackles and then broke free and pulled away from defenders for big gains. He could be a dominant H-back type player as both a blocker and receiver in the NFL. NFL.com notes in his draft profile that scouts are concerned for his love for the ball, which leads me to believe he is unwilling to switch positions to become a dominant player, if necessary. His mindset and attitude could ultimately determine how good his career will be. It could be anywhere from All-Pro to never making a roster.