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Ranking the 25 best running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft

From likely Day 3 picks to potential Pro Bowlers.

Stanford v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Eagles offense lacks a true threat in backfield. Darren Sproles is a few years from a 401K, Ryan Mathews is as dependable as the weather and the rest of the running backs are unproven at best.

The bottom line is that the Eagles need a shot in the arm at the position; be it a starter or a dynamic role player.

Luckily, this running back class is deep with talent. It is more than likely that starting caliber backs will be available on the third day of the draft and multiple backs at the top will have very productive careers. Among dozens of impressive prospects, who is the best?

25. Brandon Radcliffe, Louisville: Radcliffe has no standout traits, but he is a low to the ground back with decent quickness and power. Lack of third down ability will limit his role in the NFL.

24. Elijah McGuire, UL-Lafayette: McGuire has a smaller build for a back, but he has good quickness and is a dependable third down option.

23. Teryion Gipson, New Mexico: New Mexico’s offense is a bit unorthodox, but Gipson’s speed was evident on every run. Though he lacks size, his movement ability should get him on an NFL team.

22. Donnell Pumphrey, SDSU: You may be surprised to see the most productive running back in NCAA history this low, and it is due in part to the depth in this class. Pumphrey barely weighs 170 pounds, but he runs with great vision, pop and quickness. Overcoming his size will be a huge obstacle for him.

21. Corey Clement, Wisconsin: Clement started his career with promise before it was stymied by injuries. This season he showed flashes of talent, but did not look completely healthy the whole season. Clement has a lot of intriguing tools, so here’s hoping he can return to full strength.

20. Tarik Cohen, NC A&T: Despite his diminutive size, Tarik Cohen deserves running back touches in the NFL. The small school dynamo might be the fastest, most dynamic runner in this entire class.

19. Joe Williams, Utah: Joe Williams is an older prospect who contemplated retirement this past season, even missing a few games. However, he has game changing speed and can break off big runs at any moment.

18. I’Tavius Mathers, MTSU: Another older prospect, the Ole Miss transfer was one of the most productive backs in the country this season. He has great quickness and is a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. Though he might be smaller, Mathers looks like an effective third down back in the NFL.

17. Matt Dayes, NC State: Dayes is a sub-210 pound back, but he packs impressive punch for his size. He runs hard and with good vision, picking up consistent yardage despite defenses keying on him. Dayes will not blow anyone away with any one trait, but he could be a solid contributor.

16. Wayne Gallman, Clemson: Wayne Gallman being this low should really speak to how deep this class is. Gallman really does not have a hole in his game. He is able on third down, runs hard, has excellent vision and can create offense. His lack of any elite trait is what holds him back from being a top prospect.

15. Marlon Mack, USF: Marlon Mack is a very dynamic running back with dangerous open field moves, breakaway speed and receiving prowess. His ball security and lack of power may limit him in the NFL, but he is an exciting back who will change the makeup of an NFL offense.

14. Brian Hill, Wyoming: Out of a stacked class, Brian Hill is a personal favorite. He is not a fast back, but he is a powerful workhorse back who will punish defenses down after down after down. He is an incredibly fun back to watch and his power will make an NFL offense as happy as it will make NFL defenders scared.

13. James Conner, Pitt: James Conner enjoyed a great season after recovering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Conner is a big back with a lot of power, but he also showed he had some wiggle and third down ability this season. If he stays healthy, nothing should keep him from being a future NFL starter.

12. Elijah Hood, UNC: Hood’s name gets lost in the shuffle due to a down year, but it is hard not to like his skill set. Not only is he a powerful back with good agility, he also can contribute in the passing game. The key for him is staying healthy.

11. Jamaal Williams, BYU: Jamaal Williams returned from a year long suspension to carry BYU’s offense to a nine-win season. He is not a speedster, but his power, size and consistency make him hard for defenses to handle over four quarters.

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10. D’Onta Foreman, Texas: At 6-1, 250 pounds, Foreman has more than enough size for NFL teams. To make things even better, he has incredible wiggle for any back and is a home run threat on top of having power. He needs work holding onto the ball and is unproven on third down, but he has an immense ceiling.

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9. Kareem Hunt, Toledo: Hunt is a do it all back who has vision, power, agility and receiving ability. He is a bit small and does not seem to have any great athletic traits, but he is bound to produce with his complete skill set.

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8. Jeremy McNichols, Boise State: You are not as productive as Jeremy McNichols by accident. The 5-9, 215 pound back may not have the prototypical size and speed NFL teams want, but he is a dependable, hard running back with “make you miss” ability. Not only that, his impact on third down will definitely convince NFL teams to use him early in his career.

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7. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma: Mixon’s off the field issues are going to scare teams away and his on field game needs a lot of work. Mixon has immense physical talent with size and speed to change a game, but messy footwork and shoddy vision keep him from being among the best backs in the class. His ability as a pass catcher will make a lot of teams consider him very early in the draft, but can they look past his character history?

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6. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee: While the offensive situation limited Alvin Kamara’s numbers, it is hard not to be impressed whenever he did get the ball. Kamara has awesome quickness, strength and balance as a runner with dynamic ability on third down. If he can handle a big workload and work on ball security, two huge unknowns, he will be a star in the NFL.

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5. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford: The former Heisman candidate is one of the more versatile offensive players in this class. McCaffrey’s quickness and vision make him a dynamic running back, but his soft hands and route running give a team a deadly outlet on third down. He is leaner for a running back and lacks overwhelming power, but you can’t tackle what you can’t catch.

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4. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: The most underrated running back in this class is the “other Oklahoma back”. Perine’s junior year was mired by injuries, but the 5-9, 240 pound back has incredible physical talent: He has great strength, burst and quickness to create in space. Joe Mixon may be the more exciting running back, but Perine is more consistent. Perine’s big hurdle will be showing he can be an effective pass catcher, but he should be a starting running back sooner than later.

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3. Leonard Fournette, LSU: At 6-2, 235 pounds, Leonard Fournette is among the most physically imposing running backs I have ever seen. Fournette has unreal acceleration, top speed and power in a straight line. Yeah, he does not change direction very well, but neither does a steamroller and I doubt you want to tackle one of those. Fournette is a bit scheme limited and his receiving ability is unproven. However, stick him on the right offense and watch him rattle off thousand-yard seasons.

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2. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State: There is some debate as to what position Curtis Samuel will play in the NFL. While he would be an excellent receiver, his advantage at running back is too great to ignore. His speed is incredible and matching him up with safeties and linebackers in the passing game is just unfair. Regardless where an offense puts him, he is a weapon.

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1. Dalvin Cook, FSU: Despite losing talent around him every season, Dalvin Cook got better and better. Cook’s breakaway speed makes him a threat to change a game on any touch. However, he is also a consistent back who can grind out tough yardage between the tackles. To make things even better, he is an awesome third down option. Cook is an immediate offense changer who could be a lot of team’s best runner and receiver. Cook has questions to answer about his past and his health, but on the field it is hard to deny that he is a day one game changer.

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