Seven running backs have gone in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2015. Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott are then obvious headliners that have made a huge contribution in their young careers. This year, the class lacks any name that carries that kind of star power and it’s possible not a single back goes on the first day. However, that hardly means it’s a bad running back class, rather that the value will be extremely hard to pass up on day two. Here are the 10 best players in a crowded class.
10. Elijah Holyfield, Georgia: Son of the famous boxer, it’s no surprise that Elijah Holyfield spent all of 2018 beating down defenses (while keeping his ears intact). Holyfield won’t wow with speed, but he is a strong, grinding runner who can make an impact on first and second downs.
9. Devin Singletary, FAU: With 66 rushing touchdowns in three years, it’s obvious Devin Singletary has a nose for the end zone. What the junior runner lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and toughness.
8. Bennie Snell, Kentucky: Ranked well below how much I enjoy watching him play, Bennie Snell is one of the baddest dudes in the 2019 class. Snell carried Kentucky on his back for one of the best seasons in the school’s history. Snell is a big, strong, aggressive runner who beats defenses down quarter after quarter.
7. David Montgomery, Iowa State: David Montgomery’s best football is still ahead of him. Due to offensive woes, Montgomery could never really produce elite numbers at Iowa State but would constantly flash immense talent. Montogomery is well built but remains light on his feet. He’s a quick, hard running missed tackle machine.
6. Justice Hill, Oklahoma State: Justice Hill is the best athlete in this running back class. 40-inch vertical, 130” broad jump and a 4.4 second 40 yard dash (1.48 second 10-Yard Split) are all incredibly impressive numbers. His athleticism is on full display in game as he was a constant home run threat for the Cowboys. Hill’s usage was low volume and it would’ve been nice to see the undersized back be a bigger factor in the passing game. However, it’s clear Hill has big play potential teams should covet.
5. Bryce Love, Stanford: Speaking of big play potential, we are only a year removed from Bryce Love rushing over 2,000 yards for Stanford and being talked about as a special NFL prospect. Injuries and offensive regression meant a disappointing senior season for Bryce Love, but his talent is still evident. Love is effortlessly fast with the ability to handle a lot of volume over the course of a season despite being a “smaller” back. Love is short, but well built and he could be the best value pick in this class of backs.
4. Damien Harris, Alabama: One half of another impressive Alabama duo of running backs, Damien Harris has a strong argument for the best back in the class. A lack of dynamic ability might affect his stock in the eyes of NFL teams, but Harris could be a big bruiser in the NFL.
3. Miles Sanders, Penn State: No longer in the shadow of Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders had an outstanding final season in Happy Valley. Sanders, a very good athlete, was a dynamic player for Penn State this year and flashed as an every down back. Sanders could keep riding that momentum to a very productive NFL career.
2. Darrell Henderson, Memphis: Darrell Henderson has been stupid productive in the last two years. Henderson has over 3,000 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns on the ground since 2017, averaging a tremendous 8.9 yards per carry. Henderson mah be a small back, but he’s speedy, quick and runs with a great feel for where holes are and will be. Henderson’s size might scare some (stupid) teams away, but he has every down ability in a very big way.
1. Josh Jacobs, Alabama: Josh Jacobs is probably the least productive consensus top running back in recent history. Turn on the tape, however, and is easy to see where the love comes from. Jacobs consistently did the most with his few touches during his career and was an excellent pass catcher for the Tide. Jacobs was caught in the purgatory of the Alabama running back depth chart for so many years, but separated himself on the field as an NFL caliber talent. The only question is how that talent will translate to a much bigger workload ...