Well, I have been talking about the WR talent-flood potential in 2020, following a flood from 2019…the NFL WR-levees are about to burst…but with that I’ve also marveled at the lack of RB talent flowing in, by comparison.
For those with Dynasty/Fantasy concerns, you want to know how bad the WR flood is…and thus our early-start/publish on the NFL Combine WR previews. But then it struck me, we should also get an early start on the RBs to see what kind of flow we might get/the RB prospects to look at for Dynasty Rookie Drafts…and whether ‘the one’ (or more) is out there.
In 2019 it was all about Josh Jacobs, and not much else. In 2018, it was all about Saquon Barkley and no one else really compared. In 2017, it was all about Leonard Fournette and then everyone split debating and wondering how Christian McCaffrey might fit in the NFL. Is there ‘the one’ this year? Who is it? Let’s look at the contenders…
*I’m going to add two NFL Combine RB prospect previews everyday for the middle of February…starting with the consensus top names and working down until we have something on every RB attending (30 of them), and I will add them in order of my preview grade (low-to-high).
RB J.J. Taylor, Arizona (5’8”/185)
Comp: If Darren Sproles was too slow to be in the NFL.
Is in great shape, muscular, tough for his size but he’s still quite small and not very fast…maybe a 4.6+ runner at that size = XFL bound. I’ll adjust if he shocks with speed at the Combine.
RB Salvon Ahmed, Washington (5’11”/196)
Comp: A lesser Myles Gaskin…i.e. future NFL forgotten RB, quickly.
Not much here. College useful/OK, but not enough size or speed/elusiveness for the NFL. May never see an NFL field.
RB Benny LeMay, Charlotte (5’8”/216)
Comp: A slower DeAngelo Henderson. A smaller Bennie Snell.
Bowling ball-ish, a little bit shifty but pretty slow in burst and open field running. He just doesn’t have the ‘it’ factor for the NFL. He’d have to grind his way to a practice squad.
RB Javon Leake, Maryland (6’0”/206)
Comp: If Robert Woods was a bit bigger and a running back instead of a jet sweep WR.
Good speed. Has a role as a kick returner and couple touch specialist RB maybe – but doesn’t seem to be a real running back, like a read the hole, make cuts, push for extra yards runner. He’s more a fast dude getting the ball and running the direction the play was called and it goes as far as the hole allows.
RB Darius Anderson, TCU (5’11”/212)
Comp: Like a Jeff Wilson/SF…a gamer, wouldn’t embarrass himself on the field but not a memorable or key backfield asset. Just a warm body.
From my Senior Bowl preview…
UPDATE: Had a solid Combine. Showed he wasn’t overmatched, but he wasn’t any type of ‘wow’ player either.
Org. Comments: I don’t see an NFL RB prospect here. In fact, I have no idea why he’s at the Senior Bowl…there are more interesting RB prospects at the East-West game. Is this a down year for secondary RB prospects? Very average in all aspects…not bad, but not good for the NFL. Probably a 4.6+ runner with nothing special on agility. He tries hard and is college decent…but not an obvious NFL guy.
RB Tony Jones, Notre Dame (5’11/224)
Comp: A little stronger, bigger, better hands version of last year’s Fighting Irish RB draft prospect Dexter Williams.
One cut runner, and a pretty raw talent/decent prospect for that style – would fit well with the 49ers, for example. Has size, decent straight-line speed, decent hands…has potential but not off-the-charts sleeper prospect.
RB James Robinson, Illinois St. (5’9”/220)
Comp: Very discounted Ezekiel Elliott, like an XFL Zeke.
From my East-West previews: Robinson might be a ‘B-‘ prospect…or he might be a ‘D’. He’s hard to get an early read on. 1,917 yards and 18 TDs rushing are impressive output numbers in 2019…but he did that at the FCS level. He’s just bigger and badder than the defenses he faced. He shows some skills, but against FCS defenders it looks more impressive than it might really be for NFL prospect scouting. My eyes say he’s more of a 4.6+ runner and is a backup-type NFL RB prospect, but his Combine/Pro Day could reveal a better back. So, we’ll have him in the C-D grade range until we see more info. He was a bit of a beast-mode for the FCS level.
RB Patrick Taylor, Memphis (6’1”/222)
Comp: Jeremy Hill?
The more I watch him the more nervous I get that he’s a 4.65+ runner and not as instinctive as I thought first watch heading into the East-West week.
From my East-West previews…
1,000+ yard rushing season in 2018 with 18 TDs and then his 2019 was hindered with an early injury after he ran for 128 yards and a TD against Ole Miss in the opener and he missed several games. He came back for the last five games but wasn’t at full effectiveness it appeared.
Taylor is a horse of an RB prospect…big, muscular, physical, punishing, hard to tackle. He has nice hands in the pass game. His speed is questionable…a 4.5s/4.6s runner. He has tools. He’s willing to block. There’s something here, but we’ll need to see the 40-times and three-cone to get a better picture of it.
RB Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss (5’8”/211)
Comp: Ito Smith?
Shorter, solid/compact body runner with decent speed. He’s not terrible…just nothing electric. Had a few big games against weaker opponents and then mostly flopped against Alabama, LSU, Auburn, etc. He’s not terrible, just forgettable.
RB Rico Dowdle, So. Carolina (6’0”/215)
Comp: Reminds me a little of less-impressive Mike Davis…a great Gamecock RB. An NFL RB who is better than the treatment/opportunity he has been given.
From my East-West previews…
Dowdle pretty much had a nothing career at South Carolina. I looked at his stats first and thought he would be a waste of time looking at him (764 yards and 6 TDs rushing was his best season…as a freshman), but his tape isn’t bad at all. A total block of granite…very muscular with decent speed, burst, power, hands. I’m not sure why he was so ‘meh’ in his career. Split time with East-West game teammate Tavien Feaster. Dowdle rushed for 102 yards against Alabama this season. Deep sleeper RB talent I wanted to learn more about.
RB Cam Akers, Florida State (5’11”/212)
Comp: Had to reach for a comp…maybe/reminds me of DeAndre Washington (OAK).
Not much here as a runner of the ball, but he could make the league as a decent receiving back. He has good hands and gives a good effort…but running the ball – he’s not a legit NFL interior runner, aside from a carry or two a game. He dances around all the time, chewing up time and energy. He doesn’t see the holes well enough, on an NFL level. When he tries to dance and race from congestion he’s easily caught up to/brought down…he doesn’t have an NFL ‘kick’ to make plays. He’s a forgettable RB prospect in my first look.
RB Lamical Perine, Florida (5’11”/218)
Comp: A bigger, slower Duke Johnson-type
From my Senior Bowl scouting…
UPDATE: He’s OK, but a slightly extra boost because so many people like him and thus he’s going to get opportunities that, maybe, others deserve.
Org. Comments: A slower Duke Johnson-type…weak runner of the ball – doesn’t seem natural running the ball at all. However, is a very good receiver out of the backfield – great, smooth hands catching passes. 40 catches for 262 yards and 5 rec. TDs in 2019. Useful RB body for pass game, but more likely a fringe NFL back these days…a lot of guys can catch the ball well out of the backfield AND are better runners of the ball. At Perine’s size, as a pass catcher/satellite back…he could do some damage in the NFL in the right spot.
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn (5’10”/215)
Comp: A more nimble, less instinctive Mark Ingram?
Two underwhelming years at Illinois, then transferred to Vandy and had back-to-back 1,000+ yard seasons. Averaged 7.9 yards per carry (6th best in all the NCAA) and scored 14 total TDs in his 2018 season. Solid speed (4.5-4.6?), solid size…but great balance/toughness after contact and above average agility/shiftiness. He’s an NFL worker for sure, but I don’t think he has the high-end overall ability of a future superstar runner at the next level.
RB Brian Herrien, Georgia (6’0”/210)
Comp: Some Kenyan Drake flashes, some Wendell Smallwood.
I was more impressed with Herrien’s 2019 tape, than D’Andre Swift’s. What we don’t is – how would Herrien operate in the central workhorse role? He was the relief back for Swift in 2019 and never a true starter his whole career. Good speed, quick feet, very tough runner with excellent balance…takes hits and keeps on trucking. Arguably a better runner of the ball than Swift, and Herrien has good hands too. A mini-Josh Jacobs’ situation at Alabama…the better back played a lesser role to a solid starter (Damien Harris)?
RB Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State (5’11”/200)
Comp: A smaller Marlon Mack/Le’Veon Bell hybrid…a very patient runner, picking his spots and punching it when he finds what he’s looking for.
Evans looks a little slow on tape, but I think it’s deliberate patience. He looks like he’s cruising and then all the sudden he’s sliding by tacklers/pursuers. He may be more C+ if he’s a 4.5s runner with sub-7.0 three-cone. Solid hands. Smart runner. A talent that can get overlooked. Rushed for 1,480 yards and 18 TDs playing a better than we think schedule. App State went 13-1 in 2019 (one loss by 3 pts) and beat both North and South Carolina.
RB A.J. Dillon, Boston College (6’0”/250)
Comp: Whatever 245+ pound RB that is too slow to be a star but could work between the tackles straight ahead just fine on a decent blocking team. A bigger Jeremy Hill? Bennie Snell-like.
Big back who will probably run 4.6-4.7+ 40-time and be drafted later in the NFL Draft to be part of an NFL duo as ‘the bruiser’ or short yardage specialist. He just doesn’t appear to have the pop to be a three-down back, nor is he gifted for his size like Derrick Henry or LeGarrette Blount. If he cuts 10-15 pounds, transforms his body radically, you never know how much more movement skill he might have (a la the Le’Veon Bell transformation after he hit the NFL). His Combine will make or break him for drafted 4th-5th round or 7th-round/undrafted.
RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia (5’9”/215)
Comp: If Alvin Kamara was slower and less shifty but more sturdy running the interior.
This is the second time I’ve sampled tape and looked at output on Swift and walked away unimpressed (from a ‘top guy’ perspective), and it’s especially exasperating because this appears to be the consensus #1 RB prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft at this time – I don’t get it.
I’ll try to briefly explain my position, but I’d say -- go watch the Georgia v. Notre Dame tape of Swift and you tell me how that guy is a franchise NFL RB? He cannot escape/get by Notre Dame’s defense, but he’s going to be a franchise guy in the NFL?
It makes me think back to last year – football people were telling the unwashed masses about how great Elijah Holyfield was. He was a top 5 RB prospect early on…and then by the time we went through the whole process Holyfield went undrafted and isn’t really in the league and probably will never be – but people saw a top RB prospect in February 2019. Is it the Georgia uniform that does this to us?
Swift is not as good as Chubb, Michel, or Gurley…but is better than Holyfield. Swift might be a high 4.5s or 4.6+ runner, and that will kill some of his draft buzz at the top…he’s not a burner. He’s worse going wide/east-west to avoid defenders…I don’t see him doing that at a high-end level. He does not have the juice to go from congested middle to burning to the sidelines past everyone to make lemonade out of a blocked off interior.
Swift has a decent burst and NFL-worthy one-cut stick-and-move. He’s physically sturdy to run on the interior but he’s not a truck up the middle, he’s just plausible at 215 pounds. He’ll be good for the 49ers and others that run one-cut styles.
Swift has good hands, and wore #7 at Georgia, so people ‘see’ Kamara comps…I didn’t get Kamara when he was coming out of college but when I went back and looked, after I realized I was wrong, I saw that shiftiness and high-end receiver that I missed because I was too concerned with his ‘workhorse’ back, interior running flaws/ways (which are real in the NFL). Kamara is great at being Kamara, not at being a Todd Gurley. Swift is a lesser Kamara…and given the other talent in this draft, in the NFL – that’s not all that valuable.
Let’s see what the Combine brings, and deeper tape study in March – but in my initial previews…I don’t get Swift as a top guy at all. Go look at him vs. Notre Dame, it’s on YouTube cut up in less than 10 minutes you can watch him. None of his output numbers in college scream ‘star’ either.
RB DeeJay Dallas, Miami, Fla. (5’10”/214)
Comp: A bigger Tevin Coleman.
Didn’t have monster stats for Miami but did have solid yards per carry (5.8 for his career). Wasn’t used much in the passing game…but he has really good hands. Basically, Dallas was underutilized at Miami…from what I can see. He’s got breakaway speed, very nice balance (he takes a lot of hits and is like a Weeble that wobbles but doesn’t fall down), good hands in the passing game. He is going to be a sweet bargain/sleeper for some team in this NFL Draft…and, sadly, DeeJay Dallas will probably be buried on an NFL roster for not having big draft status and will be underutilized at the next level as well.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5’8”/209)
Comp: Reminds of a lesser Devin Singletary, a bigger Austin Ekeler.
I need to do more research here, because it will take some time to separate how good Edwards-Helaire is. I mean, he’s good/NFL-worthy but did he have some extra advantages with the LSU offense. He looked really good/tough on tape, but he may have had a bunch of extra space to work with because Burrow was killing it in the passing game. Good strength, toughness, speed, hands…C.E.H. is a real prospect but how high end, I’m not 100% sure.
RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona St. (5’10”/210)
Grade: Grade: C+
Comp: Benjamin reminds me a little of Aaron Jones…plays all out and works bigger than he is with the passion/effort he’s giving.
From my Senior Bowl scouting: Not super talented/athletic – he’s got OK/good speed, pretty decent agility, but does have a higher end instinct running the ball in traffic and is physical for his size (and then some). He’s the kind of worker fans and coaches will like. Scouts may be lukewarm on him but if he gets his chance, he might surprise people. Good running skills, nice receiver…if his Combine times are 4.5s 40-time or better and a sub-7.00, then he’s going to have a nice profile to be a top 125 pick in the draft and a surprise performer in the NFL.
RB Mike Warren II, Cincinnati (5’11”/222)
Comp: Derrius Guice-ish
Very tough, hard-nosed runner with the solid/thick body…hard to tackle straight up. Decent speed, good hands, good vision, and tough. If he runs in the 4.5s, he might be more of a ‘B’ prospect or if a 4.6+ runner he might be more a forgotten D-like grade prospect. He’s a guy who could get made at the Combine (or lost).
RB Raymond Calais, Louisiana (5’9”/185)
Comp: A faster Austin Ekeler?
Calais (Ca-Lay) may be the fastest 40-time runner among the RBs at the NFL Combine. He’s the most gifted ‘punch the accelerator’ RB that I’ve seen/preview halfway+ through the RB list for the Combine (and I’ve seen/previewed all the big names). He is not a natural running back, nor three-down work horse…he’s a get-ball-and-run-fast asset – and there’s a lot of value in that. He has a dangerous, very dangerous breakaway ability. We need to see his 40-time, three-cone, and his hands in passing drills to get more excited…but there is a special weapon asset here, even if just as a kick/punt return ace.
RB Joshua Kelley (5’11”/204)
Comp: A lesser, smaller Nick Chubb/Sony Michel.
The more I watch of Kelley’s work, the more respectful I become. At first, I didn’t see it. Looked like an average RB prospect…smaller size, not bursting with speed, but capable/trustworthy. Watching at the Senior Bowl made me go back and look some more…and I can see on tape what I saw in his Senior Bowl work – he’s just an excellent technician, sneaky-good. He’s not the fastest. He won’t turn seemingly negative plays into home runs with his magical feet. He’s not bowling over tacklers. What he will do is read holes and slither through making 3-4-5-6+ yards where others would get 0-2. He finds a way to make yards like a smaller Jordan Howard or Carlos Hyde.
His next-level issue is he’ll probably be drafted to be the backup to an established RB, and he’ll have to wait his turn. He’s not the kind of runner that will dazzle in preseason work, he’s a savvy grinder you learn to appreciate – so, he’s not likely rolling onto his new team and displacing an existing worker. He’s not that kind of back. He’s the kind that when he gets his chance, he’s going to work well. I just don’t know if he’ll get a real chance for a few years entering the league.
RB LeVante Bellamy, W. Michigan (5’9”/190)
Comp: He’ll remind you a bit of Phillip Lindsay with a dash of Devin Singletary.
From my East-West Shrine preview…
His college tape is terrific. The school claims he was laser-timed in the 4.2s for a 40-time (we’ll see about that at the Combine).
Bellamy rushed for 1,472 yards and 23 TDs in 2019. Lightning fast north-south, and lightning quick east-west. If he gets a seam he’s gone. A little smaller than you want in an NFL RB prospect, but so was Phillip Lindsay.
With Bellamy’s kind of speed, size issues are set aside. He could be a great 7-10 carry, 3-7 target per game type of NFL RB in a nice duo backfield…or possibly he’s a more main carry guy like Lindsay. The NFL Combine and/or Pro Day numbers will tell the full tale.
Studying some of his game tape, he just looks faster than everyone on the field. At the East-West week, he hasn’t had a lot of moments to really show off. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard for the running backs to get noticed in non-contact type work in all-star practices. The receivers and cover guys and the offensive/defensive linemen all have cool 1-on-1 drills to watch and compare them. The running backs, at these all-star events, don’t have the same ability during the week.
RB JaMycal Hasty, Baylor (5’9”/205)
Comp: A quicker Devonta Freeman, a Dalvin Cook-like prospect.
From my Senior Bowl previews…
Small, compact, but nice burst and NFL shiftiness. He reminds me a little of 2018 Memphis NFL draftee Darrell Henderson…but Hasty has nowhere near the college numbers Henderson did, but Hasty was in an RBBC share and split with multiple options in the backfield. There might be some neat hidden upside from the fact that Baylor didn’t feature him for big numbers.
RB Antonio Gibson, Memphis (6’2”/221)
Comp: Dwayne Washington…big WR turned fast RB who had no real experience at RB and got buried and never really used in the NFL (he’s a special teamer for NO…got a chance to start once and ran for 100+ yards in a game). Hopefully the same fate doesn’t belie Gibson.
From my Senior Bowl previews…
UPDATE: He showed all those ‘A’ grade athleticism attributes. He was way more physically gifted than any other RB here. He may be the most athletic RB in this draft but is super-raw. He may be just ‘athlete’ and not a real viable work horse runner…or he’s an ‘A’ grade future star. Hard to know for sure.
Org. Comments: Here we go…the most intriguing RB prospect at the Senior Bowl, and he isn’t even a true running back. A 2018 WR for Memphis, transferring over from the JUCO ranks. He was a WR for most of the first half of the 2019 season…and then they started giving him the ball at tailback some and everything changed.
Gibson is like a wild stallion running the ball…he doesn’t even know his own strength/capabilities – he’s just getting the ball and running to daylight and shedding tacklers. In Memphis’s final 7 games, Gibson ran the ball 30 times for 384 yards…12.8 yards per carry…4 TDs/a TD run every 7.5 carries, and they weren’t cheap TDs either – a 78-yard run TD, an 18 yarder, a 29 yarder, and a 65 yarder.
Against SMU, this past season, he caught 6 passes for 130 yards and a TD, ran the ball 3 times for 97 yards (and a 78-yard TD), and returned a kick for a 97-yard TD.
Gibson is very raw and very interesting. He looks more raw than smooth, especially as a receiver…so he definitely looks better as an RB. An NFL team will definitely take a chance here 3rd-5th-round if his Combine numbers come in well. The problem is – he’s raw, needs more experience and most NFL teams want ‘work right away and save our jobs’ kinda guys.
RB Zack Moss, Utah (5’10”/222)
Comp: Reminds me of Royce Freeman with some Ezekiel Elliott/Jordan Howard…smaller, thick bulldog runners with decent hands (except Howard).
Moss looks like a legit NFL prospect, a throwback one…a 220+ pound, lower to the ground battering ram type runner. Could surprise with his speed at the Combine and drive his grade higher. He might be a low 4.5s runner, which would make a top 100 prospect for the draft potentially, a 4.6+ throws him into the 4th-round+.
Projects as a workhorse runner for the NFL and has decent hands in the passing game. Averaged over 100+ yards rushing per game for the last three college seasons combined. He’s going to be a solid NFL RB.
RB Sewo Olonilua, TCU (6’3”/240)
Comp: If LeGarrette Blount could catch passes.
Olonilua is going to be a better pro than college RB…he’s likely to join a team with an NFL existing smaller starting RB and blow up the entire order of things as the power part of an RB duo. He could be a lead power RB, a three down guy a la a Derrick Henry but he’s not that fast…he’s more a weapon to punish the defense with uses in spots like short yardage and late in the game. He’d be perfect for Tennessee to get as Derrick Henry’s backup to keep consistency in the backfield…but that’s too smart for the NFL. He’s not going to bust in the NFL because he’s so freakishly huge/unique…he has NFL value. Criminally underutilized at TCU last year.
RB Anthony McFarland, Maryland (5’9”/198)
Comp: Smaller Alvin Kamara
Maybe the most underrated RB prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft – incredibly quick and agile, a magician with his feet…hidden within a chaotic/dysfunctional college program while he was there/ He ran for 298 yards and 2 TDs against Ohio State in 2018…but 6 carries for 7 yards against OUS in 2019 – his 2019 was disappointing, but the way he was used at Maryland was a crime (and that’s why he left early for the draft despite a weaker statistical resume). McFarland is fast, tough, and has good hands. He’s going to be a great satellite back in the NFL if he can land in the right spot.
RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State (5’10”/217)
Comp: What people hoped Miles Sanders would be, the better, bigger, tougher Miles Sanders.
When I first scouted Dobbins, summer 2019 (on his 2018 work), I thought he was a bit passive/sluggish and wasn’t a big enough specimen to be a workhorse back. Over the offseason 2019, Dobbins became a weight room fiend and took his body to the next level. By his own admission, he didn’t like the way he played in 2018 (nor did I), so he knew he needed to improve his speed, body – and he did. He looks like a bodybuilder in his arms and thighs. He was a totally different back in 2019.
The body transformation has added speed and power, and I’m most impressed with the power, the balance to take hits/bumps and stay on track and going forward. He’s made himself into a legit tailback for the NFL. He has gone from mid-round NFL Draft pick and a nice part of an NFL RB duo…to a legit main carry worker. He will be drafted to be ‘the guy’.
I thought, from my 2019 summer studies that Swift-Etienne-Dobbins were overrated…but the one I’ve changed my tune on, because he changed it by his work ethic/will – J.K. Dobbins.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (5’11”/219)
Comp: Arian Foster/Adrian Peterson
I’ve preview scouted Jonathan Taylor twice, and I walked away thinking the same thing twice – if there’s a better RB prospect in this draft class, then that prospect is going to be amazing…because Taylor is a classic #1 NFL RB.
Had Taylor been in the 2020 NFL Draft – he would have gone ahead of Josh Jacobs and would have been the #1 RB taken. He should be that in 2020, after the D’Andre Swift farce is revealed through the draft process.
Taylor is a classic upright, picks-his-spots master technician running back. A more athletic Jordan Howard…which is a smoother, quicker, better version. He’s got Arian Foster’s smoothness/grace in movement with abilities and is a less violent Adrian Peterson, upright runner with vision constantly chopping through debris at the line of scrimmage and making yards/plays. The only knock I have, so far, is ‘OK hands’. He’s not an ace receiver, he’s just competent. If he had Arian Foster’s hands, he might be an A+ prospect for me. He might develop his hands more and be that A+, eventually.
In Fantasy/Dynasty, I have to believe this is the #1 pick when we get post-NFL Draft (I assume Taylor will be the top RB taken in the NFL Draft and go to a place to be THE GUY, not a part of an RBBC). The analysts like Swift or Dobbins or Etienne ahead of Taylor in most cases, I rarely see Taylor as the #1 ranked rookie prospect today – but I would be a lot of money he will be when we get to the draft.