Editor's note: NFL.com analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter will provide overviews for each position group in the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia) over the next two weeks, beginning today with running backs.
Heading into the 2016 college football season, the running back class showed potential to be one of the best of all-time. The hype has waned a bit, but there's still a chance that four backs could go in the first round. That hasn't happened since 2008.
Even if that doesn't happen, NFL teams will be finding good prospects at the position throughout all seven rounds of the draft. The devaluation of the position might push some of those backs further into the draft than you'd expect, but eventually teams will pick up values like the Raiders' DeAndre Washington, the Giants' Paul Perkins, and Chicago's Jordan Howard -- all fifth-round selections last year.
Let's explore the 2017 RB class.
Note: Click through the tabs above to see overviews for each position.
Teams with greatest need at RB
Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top 5 players at the position
Note: Click on a prospect's name for a complete scouting report.
1. Leonard Fournette, LSU: Behind an NFL offensive line, Fournette's game will look an awful lot like Adrian Peterson's. Scouts also had concerns about Peterson's health when he came out of Oklahoma, but his productivity when healthy has made him one of the best backs in NFL history. Fournette has a similar ceiling.
2. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford: McCaffrey is one of the best football players in the class -- not just one of the best running backs. His vision as a runner (and on returns) is amazing, and his athleticism is top-notch. While he's not technically a power back, he's certainly up for any challenge a defender wants to bring his way. He also runs routes like a pro slot receiver, giving him versatility that many NFL offensive coordinators covet.
3. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma: Mixon could be the best all-around offensive talent in this draft class. Running, receiving, returning -- he can do it all. However, Mixon's off-field issues have reportedly led some teams to remove him from their draft board.
4. Dalvin Cook, Florida State: In most classes, Cook would be the consensus No. 1 RB. In fact, some have him ranked at the top of the list this year. His skills in slaloming through traffic and catching the ball out of the backfield will make him a very valuable weapon in an offensive coordinator's arsenal. His past shoulder injuries are a concern for scouts, though. Finishing runs in the NFL takes a toll on backs, but hopefully he'll stay healthy enough to make good on his potential.
5. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee: Kamara didn't receive a ton of touches at Tennessee, which is good for his "mileage" coming into the NFL. But every time he did get the ball in his hands, whether as a rusher or receiver, it looked as though he would make a big play with his agility and smooth acceleration. It won't be surprising if the Alabama transfer is picked before Cook and lands in the first round. Kamara has a chance to be a Pro Bowl back.
Sources Tell Us
"Fumbles and arrests are a bad combination. He's got a lot of ability but he's got on-the-field problems with ball security and multiple arrests off of it. You have to decide if he will be responsible with more money and more time on his hands. If you have any doubts, just wait around for another running back because there will be plenty this year." -- NFC executive on Dalvin Cook
D'Onta Foreman, Texas: At 230-plus pounds, Foreman's sub-4.5 speed at his pro day surprised scouts. He will explode for yardage if he finds a lane between the tackles, as he did often enough at Texas. But can he create space for himself among NFL-caliber front sevens in order to take advantage of that speed? Can he consistently run through contact when it's an NFL defender bringing the tackle? Those are the questions teams are asking themselves when considering him as a second-, third- or fourth-round prospect.
Christopher Carson, Oklahoma State: Carson is a middle-round-pick-turned-NFL-starter waiting to happen. At nearly 6-foot, 220 pounds, he plows through the competition, lowering his pads for contact despite his height. While he's not the fastest back in the class, he is explosive enough to make teams pay for an open lane. Carson might not go very early in the draft, but he will make an impact in the league.
Boom or bust
Joe Williams, Utah: This Ute presents the speed and nifty feet to contribute to any NFL offense. He's a willing pass protector and receiver, as well, which makes him a potential Day 1 contributor. However, Williams had fumbling issues and gave up football for a while during his senior year. The "retirement" will not be forgotten by coaches who want their guys to live football, not just play it.
Joe Yearby, Miami: Yes, I know The U isn't known for providing sleepers -- its prospects are usually heralded. He was going to be stuck behind 'Canes star back Mark Walton again in 2017, so he decided to enter this year's draft. Yearby was the best back outside of Joe Mixon who wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, however. He should be an excellent change-of-pace back for an NFL team relying on cutting ability and explosiveness. His low center of gravity helps him stay upright through contact.