With 11 days until the NFL Draft, we continue my pick six with the best ball carriers of this class. We went through quarterbacks yesterday: today it’s running backs, and then we’ll go to wide receivers, guards, tackles, centers, interior defensive linemen, edge, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. The way these rankings work is I will give you my top 6 at each position, with stats, my round grade, their overall ranking on my big board, and something that wows and worries me about each prospect. With the Jets not having a capable starter in the running back room, I think it’d be smart for them to add a bellcow. There’s been a lot of talk about their offense mirroring San Francisco’s, but I still believe we’ll see Green Bay Packer principles, and they have a primary back in the underrated Aaron Jones to carry the load. The Jets, also, reportedly checked in on Chris Carson during free agency so they could be in the market for one of the bigger-name backs in the draft.
Let’s dig right in, shall we?
1. Clemson RB Travis Etienne
Overall Ranking: 21
Round Grade: 1st
Stats: 914 rushing yards, 5.4 YPC, 14 rushing TDs, 48 REC, 588 yards
Wow: the best feet in the class, Etienne possesses the big play ability from the running back position that you want to see from a featured back. He’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield, shows good balance even when defenders square up, and he turns his hips and gets up field quickly. Etienne, at a young age, has already mastered the ability to not try and do too much as a ball carrier.
Worry: Etienne has struggled a bit with pass protection, though it has improved, and he enters the NFL with a lot of carries.
Overall Ranking: 29
Round Grade: 1st
Stats: 1466 rushing yards, 5.8 YPC, 26 rushing TDs, 43 REC, 425 yards
Wow: a three-down back in the Derrick Henry mold, Harris is a violent runner who hits holes decisively. He shows above average skills as a pass catcher and his ability to withstand contact and barrel through defenders makes him a dangerous weapon at the next level.
Worry: he doesn’t change direction like Etienne and his hips are a little stiff.
3. North Carolina RB Javonte Williams
Overall Ranking: 47
Round Grade: Mid-2nd
Stats: 1140 rushing yards, 7.3 YPC, 22 total TDs
Wow: Williams is an explosive runner who has a good mix of speed and power and a Leveon Bell-like knack for setting up his next move. He keeps his feet moving regardless of if he’s being bottled up by defenders, and he is the best pass blocking running back in this class.
Worry: is not as explosive as Etienne, with a running style closer to Harris, and he showed a tendency to work towards the sideline more than i’d like.
4. North Carolina RB Michael Carter
Overall Ranking: 53
Round Grade: Late-2nd
Stats: 1245 rushing yards, 8.0 YPC, 11 Total TDs
Wow: the other Tar Heel running back in this class possesses excellent vision and displays both patience and decisiveness, which lends itself to Carter being a complete back that should be productive in the NFL. He offers more juice than Williams in the open field.
Worry: doesn’t offer anywhere near as much power as Williams, and is nowhere near the pass blocker he is.
5. Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell
Overall Ranking: 64
Round Grade: 2nd/3rd
Stats: 1459 rushing yards, 6.3 YPC, 51 REC, 610 yards, 3 TDs
Wow: the former Memphis Tiger is the best pass catcher in this running back class, and he possesses great vision in the open field. Gainwell is agile and extremely quick and very shifty with the ball.
Worry: played primarily out of a spread offense at Memphis and only has one year of experience as a RB.
Overall Ranking: 100
Round Grade: 4th
Stats: 858 rushing yards, 6.5 YPC, 7 TDs (6 games)
Wow: Jefferson is one of my favorite prospects in this running back class as he has really good footwork and is able to maintain his balance even when squared up on. He is a home run threat out of the backfield.
Worry: not sure he could ever be a feature back at the next level.