Need a running back? The Eagles need one. Thankfully, it’s a good year to need one. There’s about a dozen running backs in this draft that have starter ceilings, and a bunch more who can carve out careers as role players. Earlier this week we looked at the first round talent runners, then veteran running back possibilities. Today we’ll look at a bulk of running backs who could go anywhere from the 2nd round to undrafted free agency.
Corey Clement, Wisconsin
Pros: Hard but patient running one-cut type of back. Good strength and power.
Cons: Lacks the long speed to be a starter, and not much of a pass catcher. After missing nine games in 2015 with a hernia, he entered the 2016 season as a potential first round running back, but ended it as a guy who might not even go on day two.
James Connor, Pittsburgh
Now here’s a guy to root for. At the start of the 2015 he was one of the top RB prospects. In his first game, he tore his MCL. As if that wasn’t enough for a running back to overcome, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. All he did in 2016 was recover from a major knee injury, beat cancer, and set the ACC record for career touchdowns.
Pros: Tackle breaking bruiser that should do well in short yardage and goalline situations. Allayed concerns of being a one-dimensional runner (he entered 2016 with just 9 career catches to 452 rushing attempts) with 21 catches for 14.4 yards per reception and four touchdowns in 2016.
Cons: His running style is susceptible to an even higher rate of injury for a running back and he already has a major knee injury. Questionable long speed. Combine will be big for him, in both showing athleticism and clearing any medical issues teams have.
D’Onta Foreman, Texas
Pros: Came from relative obscurity to run for over 2,000 yards in 2016. He’s got punishing size (6’1”, 249 pounds) and a running style that fits it. Though not the fastest runner, he’s capable of hitting the home run.
Cons: Huge, one-sided workload in his only season as a starter. Foreman had 330 touches in 2016, and just 7 of them were receptions. With Texas starting a true freshman QB and not throwing much (only one other RB caught a pass and the team’s leading receiver—his brother Armanti—had 34 catches), he’s going to have to show teams in workouts and the Combine that his lack of pass catching was circumstance and not talent.
You can read our scouting report of Foreman here.
Wayne Gallman, Clemson
Pros: Versatile runner/receiver who is comfortable between the tackles and in open space. Has a good first gear, breaks his fair share of tackles, and is a good pass protector, which will get him on the field on third downs in the NFL.
Cons: Could add some bulk at 6’1” 210 pounds. Could be a quintessential “good at everything, great at nothing” player. That can get you a career in the NFL, but not necessarily a starting job. Extremely small sample size alert: two of the least productive games of his career came in the title games vs Alabama.
Kareem Hunt, Toledo
Pros: After a down year in 2015, bounced back with a career year in 2016. Like James Conner, after previously not featuring in the passing game, he had a breakout season as a receiver with 41 receptions for 9.8 yards after combining for 32 for 4.8. That gave him nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Cons: A lot of tread as a three year starter who platooned as a freshman, he has 855 career touches. Missed five games in his sophomore and junior year with injuries and was suspended for the opening two games in 2015 for an undisclosed reason. However he didn’t miss a game in 2016.
Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
Pros: One of the quickest backs in the draft but also has enough power to be a versatile runner. Very good receiver out of the backfield. Low mileage as a platoon player in both his seasons. Added value as the team’s primary punt returner in 2016.
Cons: Low mileage could be a double edged sword: he’s seen as the better prospect in Tennessee’s running back platoon with Jalen Hurd, so why didn’t he play more?
Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
Pros: All purpose player with nearly 4,000 yards from scrimmage in his two years as a starter and the team’s primary kick returner in his freshman year. 103 receptions for 10.6 yards per and 11 TD in his career.
Cons: Undersized at 5’9” and lacking the top speed that makes shorter players stick in the NFL.
Marlon Mack, South Florida
Pros: Three down player with good size. Comfortable with the ball in his hands with 65 catches in three seasons.
Cons: Like Gallman, could be a “good at everything, great at nothing” type. Missed the second game of the season with a concussion. Didn’t play great in three games against FSU and Wisconsin.
Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Layafette
Pros: Versatility. 5,700 yards from scrimmage in four years, with 1400 of those yards coming on 130 catches, which is more receptions than WRs John Ross and DeDe Westbrook. Can contribute as a punt returner.
Cons: After a strong sophomore year, his efficiency has declined each year. Probably not an every down back in the NFL.
Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
Pros: Tremendous athlete and all-around player. Excels as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Was 3rd in FBS with 2,300 all purpose yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016 despite not being the team’s leader in rushing attempts. Might be the most gifted running back in the draft.
Cons: Enormous off the field red flags. 2014 assault came to light again in 2016 after video of the incident was released. Was suspended in 2016 after an altercation with a parking attendant.
You can read our scouting report of Mixon here.
Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
Pros: Broke Adrian Peterson’s Oklahoma rushing record with fewer rushing attempts. Perine is built like a power runner at 5’10 235 pounds and runs like it.
Cons: Efficiency as a runner decreased each season after an incredible 1,700 yard freshman year, despite his workload lessening each year. Might be one-dimensional at the NFL level.
You can read our scouting report of Perine here.
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
Pros: Prolific, versatile workhorse. Three straight seasons of over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and had over 20 receptions in all four of his seasons. The catalyst behind SDSU winning back-to-back Mountain West titles and their best seasons since 1969.
Cons: He’s too small to be an every down down back. At the Senior Bowl he measured 5’8” 169 pounds, the only player he was heaver than him one was one of the kickers. He has to add weight to survive in the NFL. On one hand, to log 1,158 career touches from scrimmage (and 376 in 2016) with that size is impressive, on the other that’s a lot of mileage on a compact car.
Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
Pros: Extremely versatile. He’s so good as a receiver that he might be a WR in the NFL, but he’ll get his start in the pros as a runner. Plenty of speed and very low mileage after backing up Ezekiel Elliot for two years and then sharing the backfield in 2016.
Cons: Is he a running back? Is he a receiver? Is he even a starter? Teams will have to figure that out, and if they’re in the market for a starting running back, he might be a risk. If they can afford to use a roster spot on a guy who may not have a defined position, they might get a great return on investment.
You can read our scouting report of Samuel here.
De’Veon Smith, Michigan
Pros: Made a name for himself in January with appearances at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, where he showed more agility than anticipated after being mostly a north-south type of runner, and better hands than expected as well.
Cons: Wasn’t very productive in college, with just 1,600 rushing yards in two seasons under Jim Harbaugh at just 4.4 yards per attempt. As Michigan’s leading rusher for three straight seasons, he’s not an unknown quantity, so his head turning in all-star games needs an appropriate amount of salt.