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Published: Oct. 21, 2016 at 11:46 a.m.

10 RBs who can make instant impact in NFL

Ezekiel Elliott already owns one NFL record as the first rookie to rush for more than 130 yards four straight weeks, and he might break several more before the season is over. Teammate Dez Bryant thinks the former Ohio State star will run for 2,000 yards this season.

For all those NFL teams wishing they had a back like Elliott, the bad news is that players of his caliber are hard to find. Here's the good news: College football is loaded with talented rushers. Here are 10 that I believe will be able to make an impact right away whenever they enter the league -- especially if they stay healthy and their offensive line performs as well as the Cowboys' has in front of Elliott.

10 Photos Total

  • The Hurricanes don't give Yearby nearly enough carries. He and sophomore Mark Walton share the load, and Miami also likes to take advantage of quarterback Brad Kaaya's talented arm. But when Yearby gets to the NFL, his compact build (5-foot-9, 200 pounds, per school measurements) and quickness will earn him a lot of carries. He sidesteps defenders near the line, and sets up tacklers for a big move at the second level. Yearby has a second and third gear once in the clear, as well. With Devonta Freeman (5-8, 206) making hay with Atlanta, some scouts will overlook Yearby's lack of height and hope his brand of running will lead to similar success. 10

    Joe Camporeale/Associated Press

    10. Joe Yearby, Miami

    The Hurricanes don't give Yearby nearly enough carries. He and sophomore Mark Walton share the load, and Miami also likes to take advantage of quarterback Brad Kaaya's talented arm. But when Yearby gets to the NFL, his compact build (5-foot-9, 200 pounds, per school measurements) and quickness will earn him a lot of carries. He sidesteps defenders near the line, and sets up tacklers for a big move at the second level. Yearby has a second and third gear once in the clear, as well. With Devonta Freeman (5-8, 206) making hay with Atlanta, some scouts will overlook Yearby's lack of height and hope his brand of running will lead to similar success.

  • Despite being on track for his second straight season with 1,300-plus rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, McNichols is relatively unknown on a national level. However, it won't take long for the fan base of the NFL team that drafts him to see he's the sort of all-around talent that could be a primary ball carrier in the pros. I'm not sure scouts will see him as elite in any one category, but he's very good at nearly everything you'd want to see in a back. McNichols has innate vision and cutback ability, the willingness to lower his pad level to run through contact and a nose for the end zone, as he showed again on Thursday when he scored twice in Boise State's 28-27 win over BYU. 9

    Brian Losness/USATODAY SPORTS

    9. Jeremy McNichols, Boise State

    Despite being on track for his second straight season with 1,300-plus rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, McNichols is relatively unknown on a national level. However, it won't take long for the fan base of the NFL team that drafts him to see he's the sort of all-around talent that could be a primary ball carrier in the pros. I'm not sure scouts will see him as elite in any one category, but he's very good at nearly everything you'd want to see in a back. McNichols has innate vision and cutback ability, the willingness to lower his pad level to run through contact and a nose for the end zone, as he showed again on Thursday when he scored twice in Boise State's 28-27 win over BYU.

  • The redshirt sophomore is as talented as they come, and seeing him in that Sooner uniform brings back memories of DeMarco Murray toting the rock in Norman. He's explosive, and his receiving skills are a major bonus. However, Mixon served a season-long suspension in 2014 after being charged with striking a woman in the face. He took a <a target="_blank" href="http://newsok.com/article/5361807">plea deal in the case</a>. NFL teams will investigate the incident whenever Mixon enters the draft. 8

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    8. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

    The redshirt sophomore is as talented as they come, and seeing him in that Sooner uniform brings back memories of DeMarco Murray toting the rock in Norman. He's explosive, and his receiving skills are a major bonus. However, Mixon served a season-long suspension in 2014 after being charged with striking a woman in the face. He took a plea deal in the case. NFL teams will investigate the incident whenever Mixon enters the draft.

  • Gallman has a devil-may-care running style. He's willing to throw his body into the pile, or into a pass block. While he's not ultra-powerful and doesn't possess elite speed, Gallman's forward lean helps him carry tacklers. His ability to short-step his way through blocking helps him find that crease to exploit, and he has the acceleration to take advantage of it. 7

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    7. Wayne Gallman, Clemson

    Gallman has a devil-may-care running style. He's willing to throw his body into the pile, or into a pass block. While he's not ultra-powerful and doesn't possess elite speed, Gallman's forward lean helps him carry tacklers. His ability to short-step his way through blocking helps him find that crease to exploit, and he has the acceleration to take advantage of it.

  • Perine's about as thick an every-down runner as you'll see at the collegiate level. Those tree-trunk thighs make him very difficult to bring down, and he if lowers his pads before contact, look out. Perine's straight-line speed will be questioned, but it's certainly good enough to keep the chains moving. He also has some experience catching the ball in the flat with the Sooners, which will come in handy at the next level. Unfortunately, it will be at least a couple games before we get to see Perine on the field again, as he's nursing a pulled muscle. 6

    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    6. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

    Perine's about as thick an every-down runner as you'll see at the collegiate level. Those tree-trunk thighs make him very difficult to bring down, and he if lowers his pads before contact, look out. Perine's straight-line speed will be questioned, but it's certainly good enough to keep the chains moving. He also has some experience catching the ball in the flat with the Sooners, which will come in handy at the next level. Unfortunately, it will be at least a couple games before we get to see Perine on the field again, as he's nursing a pulled muscle.

  • It's hard to watch Chubb and not compare him to Frank Gore, the longtime NFL back who keeps churning out yards in his 12th NFL season. Chubb's a bowling ball-like back with lateral agility and enough speed to turn the corner. If he can stay healthy, which has been an issue for him in the past year with knee (last season) and ankle (this season) injuries, Chubb will be considered a strong candidate for carries as an NFL rookie. 5

    David Stephenson/Associated Press

    5. Nick Chubb, Georgia

    It's hard to watch Chubb and not compare him to Frank Gore, the longtime NFL back who keeps churning out yards in his 12th NFL season. Chubb's a bowling ball-like back with lateral agility and enough speed to turn the corner. If he can stay healthy, which has been an issue for him in the past year with knee (last season) and ankle (this season) injuries, Chubb will be considered a strong candidate for carries as an NFL rookie.

  • Like his father (former NFL WR Ed McCaffrey), McCaffrey is a tough guy who wants the ball 25 times a game on the ground, 10 through the air, and another five or six times on returns. He has the quickness and intelligence to be a good starting option in the NFL. However, some scouts are comparing him to Reggie Bush due to his lack of power against better tacklers between the tackles. Regardless of whether he functions as a short-yardage back, McCaffrey's ability to slide outside and run receiver-caliber routes, as well as affect a game as a returner, guarantee he'll make an impact for whichever team is lucky enough to draft him. 4

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    4. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

    Like his father (former NFL WR Ed McCaffrey), McCaffrey is a tough guy who wants the ball 25 times a game on the ground, 10 through the air, and another five or six times on returns. He has the quickness and intelligence to be a good starting option in the NFL. However, some scouts are comparing him to Reggie Bush due to his lack of power against better tacklers between the tackles. Regardless of whether he functions as a short-yardage back, McCaffrey's ability to slide outside and run receiver-caliber routes, as well as affect a game as a returner, guarantee he'll make an impact for whichever team is lucky enough to draft him.

  • Yes, Freeman is operating in a system that scouts would not consider "pro style." He'll have no trouble fitting into an NFL scheme, though. He has the 6-foot, 229-pound frame to work between the tackles and rack up yards after contact, as well as the speed to break off chunks of yardage. He'll be a bellcow back. 3

    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    3. Royce Freeman, Oregon

    Yes, Freeman is operating in a system that scouts would not consider "pro style." He'll have no trouble fitting into an NFL scheme, though. He has the 6-foot, 229-pound frame to work between the tackles and rack up yards after contact, as well as the speed to break off chunks of yardage. He'll be a bellcow back.

  • Cook eclipsed 1,600 rushing yards last season despite playing with a bad hamstring. Over the last month, he's resumed his productivity, averaging 168 yards a week by slicing through traffic and turning on the jets. While he needs to become a more consistent pass protector for his quarterback, he'll be a three-down player on Sundays. 2

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State

    Cook eclipsed 1,600 rushing yards last season despite playing with a bad hamstring. Over the last month, he's resumed his productivity, averaging 168 yards a week by slicing through traffic and turning on the jets. While he needs to become a more consistent pass protector for his quarterback, he'll be a three-down player on Sundays.

  • Forget the ankle injury that has sidelined him for a few games this year. Fournette's a beast inside and a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball (he won his state 100-meter title in high school). He's also an outstanding pass protector, much like Ezekiel Elliott. Fournette is the real deal. 1

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    1. Leonard Fournette, LSU

    Forget the ankle injury that has sidelined him for a few games this year. Fournette's a beast inside and a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball (he won his state 100-meter title in high school). He's also an outstanding pass protector, much like Ezekiel Elliott. Fournette is the real deal.