With the 2019 NFL Draft coming down the pike at the end of this month (April 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee), NFL Network analyst and former All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew has his eye on the RB class. MJD goes DEEP in ranking this year's prospects at the position, factoring in what he's seen on film, at the NFL Scouting Combine and during pro days.
NOTE: Click on each prospect's name for a full scouting report.
Day 1 starters
1) Josh Jacobs, Alabama: The top running back in this class, Jacobs is a well-rounded player with a lot of experience on a big stage. Unlike Tide teammate Damien Harris, Jacobs didn't log a high amount of carries (251 over three seasons), so he should have plenty left in the tank upon entering the NFL. An explosive player with good vision, he can contribute in the rushing and passing attacks and as a returner. From what I've seen on tape, Jacobs has what it takes to be a three-down back at the next level. One weakness that could hinder him is his lack of long speed, especially against the NFL's athletic, fast defenders.
2) Damien Harris, Alabama: The pair of 'Bama backs bring a lot of the same attributes to the table. Like Jacobs, Harris is powerful with good vision and has the ability to help in the passing game. His size (5-foot-10, 216 pounds), every-down game and patience will bode well for him at the next level. Although he started ahead of Jacobs during much of their shared time in Tuscaloosa, Harris ranks No. 2 on my list because he has nearly twice as many carries coming into the NFL, which makes me wonder if he's already racked up too much mileage on the tires.
3) David Montgomery, Iowa State: The Cyclones star forced 100 missed tackles in 2018 (most in the FBS), according to Pro Football Focus, and knows how to finish runs. He has a pro-ready game with good patience, vision and natural hands.
4) Miles Sanders, Penn State: He wasn't overworked at Penn State, seeing how he spent his first two years backing up 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley. In his one season as the RB1, Sanders showed good contact balance and leg drive, the capacity to create with a variety of open-field moves and natural catching ability. He has all the tools to succeed at the next level, even if his explosiveness is a bit of a question.
5) Justice Hill, Oklahoma State: The 5-10, 198-pound back had an impressive combine performance, ranking first among all running backs in the 40-yard dash (4.40), as well as the broad (10 feet, 10 inches) and vertical (40 inches) jumps, before cutting his day short with a tweaked hamstring. His speed, shifty running style and natural catching ability should give him the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
6) Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma: The 6-foot, 224-pound back has a lot of qualities that scouts look for in potential draftees. Anderson is an explosive runner with good vision, contact balance and long speed. A natural receiver, he will be a pass-catching asset, too. In his best season at Oklahoma (2017), Anderson rushed for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns and hauled in 17 receptions for 281 yards (16.5 yards per catch) and five scores. He has great potential, BUT his injury history is very concerning. His 2015 and '18 seasons were cut short due to leg injuries, and he missed the entire 2016 season because of a neck injury.
7) Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M: Thanks to a breakout season as a junior, Williams shot up the charts. The film shows that this 5-8, 206-pound back has a lot of attributes that will translate to the next level, including sufficient pass blocking, great hands and ability to create and elude defenders in the screen game. Williams has proven that he can be productive against top-tier talent -- he was named a first-team All-SEC back last season -- but his size could deter teams from using him as a three-down back.
8) Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic: Singletary is an undersized (5-7, 203 pounds), three-down running back who had a ton of production in college. He is a long strider with a great jump-cut and quick feet, although a poor combine performance, including a 4.66 40 time, could affect his stock. Singletary is a playmaker, no doubt, but the level of competition he faced at Florida Atlantic could also hurt his draft standing.
9) Darrell Henderson, Memphis: The AP first-team All-American is extremely explosive and great in the open field, averaging 8.9(!) yards per carry over his last 344 attempts. In 2018, he logged 43 carries of 15-plus yards and 11 total touchdowns of 54-plus. Not only is Henderson a home-run hitter in the run game, but he serves as a weapon that can be used in all aspects of the offense. His production is hard to ignore, and I'm eager to see how his game will translate against much better competition.
10) Bryce Love, Stanford: There's a reason Love was a 2017 Heisman Trophy finalist -- that season saw him log 2,118 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He is explosive and gets to top speed quickly. Alos, he can contribute in the pass game and as a returner. He's a tough back who is willing to play through the pain, but his durability is worrisome -- and he just suffered a torn ACL in December.
11) Ryquell Armstead, Temple: He has continually improved his stock with a good showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Armstead, who ran a 4.45 40 time in Indy, has top speed (although, honestly, he didn't always play at that speed), good footwork in the hole and through contact, and the physical style to finish runs. He must continue to work on catching the ball out of the backfield and refining his moves in the open field.
12) LJ Scott, Michigan State: Although Scott never hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark as a Spartan, the 6-foot, 227-pound running back has a lot of potential. Scott doesn't have a second gear, but he's slippery with quick feet and great vision, and has a lot of patience -- think of fellow MSU product Le'Veon Bell -- when he gets the ball. He can also contribute in the pass game.
13) Jalin Moore, Appalachian State: His redshirt senior season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he is a proven blue-collar back who finishes runs, often falling forward at the point of contact.
14) Karan Higdon, Michigan: The Michigan product is a solid running back with good vision, feet and short-area quickness. Higdon is a consistent one-cut runner, but lacks elusiveness in the open field.
15) Mike Weber, Ohio State: Weber has speed and accelerates through any hole that has been paved by the O-line, but he struggles at times to follow his instincts and create on his own.
16) Myles Gaskin, Washington: Despite a smaller frame (5-9, 205), Gaskin was extremely productive at Washington, becoming the second player in FBS history with four seasons of 1,200-plus rushing yards. Gaskin is shifty, great in space and has proven he can be a major asset in the pass game. His college career was certainly impressive -- he rushed for over 5,300 yards and 57 TDs on 945 carries (5.6 ypc) -- but my worry is that Gaskin's mileage is far too high before entering the league.
17) Dexter Williams, Notre Dame: A one-year starter at Notre Dame, Williams hasn't been overworked like some other prospects, but his lack of experience could hinder him at the next level -- along with off-field concerns, as he was suspended (undisclosed reasons) for four games in 2018. On the field, though, he has potential to develop into a productive NFL back as a downhill runner who is tough to bring down.
18) James Williams, Washington State: He was excellent as a weapon out of the backfield in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, with more yards receiving (613) than rushing (560) in 2018. Williams' quickness and shifty footwork make him tough to tackle in space and make me believe he could handle more complex routes in the passing game. The question I have is: Can he run through the tackles?
19) Tony Pollard, Memphis: One of college football's top return specialists over the last three seasons, Pollard is an offensive weapon rather than a true running back. Averaging a touchdown every 13.5 touches and 9.2 yards per touch, he could be utilized in certain packages as a gadget player in the NFL, much like Tavon Austin.
20) Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky: The Wildcats star is a downhill back who runs with attitude -- an athletic, throwback running back who earned every touchdown he got (48 in three seasons). His size (5-10, 224 pounds), toughness and nose for the end zone could play well in the NFL if he lands in the right system.
21) Darwin Thompson, Utah State: The versatile Utah State product runs low to the ground, can break tackles and excels with short-area quickness and long speed. Thompson, who also has skills as a returner, possesses good vision and a knack for finding the end zone (16 scrimmage touchdowns on 176 touches in 2018). His smaller stature (5-8, 200) could deter teams from drafting him.
22) Wes Hills, Slippery Rock: A LeGarrette Blount-type back, Hills has size (6-2, 218) and routinely falls forward due to his good footwork and acceleration at the point of contact.
Guys who need time to develop
23) Alex Barnes, Kansas State: The 6-foot, 226-pounder has a downhill running style, often falling forward at the point of contact, but lacks agility and goes down pretty easily. In the pass game, Barnes is good at picking up the blitz and could be a pass-catching option.
24) Elijah Holyfield, Georgia: The former Bulldog is very strong and physical with short-area quickness, but a poor combine performance caused his draft stock to fall. He was minimally used in the pass game at Georgia, so that's an area where he must improve as he transitions to the NFL.
25) Alexander Mattison, Boise State: Although he's a stiff runner with limited open-field moves, Mattison's exceptional hands in the pass game could give him a leg up on other prospects. The 5-11, 221-pound running back is a tough, physical workhorse who could earn carries with a good showing in offseason workouts, training camp and the preseason.
26) Travis Homer, Miami: Homer was an asset in both the run and pass games for the Hurricanes. The 5-10, 201-pound rusher has natural catching ability and excels in pass protection. His upright posture, stiffness and lack of elusiveness causes him to leave yards on the field.
27) Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh: The 6-1, 228-pounder takes a second to get going ... but is tough to bring down once he does. He is an upright, stiff runner who must improve in several areas (open-field moves, vision, pass pro) to earn touches at the next level.
28) Nick Brossette, LSU: A strong, patient runner and willing blocker, Brossette led LSU in rushing yards (1,039) in 2018 -- his only season with more than 20 carries. He protects the ball well, but doesn't have great burst. A big thing playing in Brossette's favor is that he played in a pro-style system in Baton Rouge.
29) Jordan Scarlett, Florida: Scarlett is a tough, downhill runner who reads holes well. There's no question that he has top speed (4.47 40 time), but he's often hesitant early on in runs. The biggest issue here is off-field concerns (suspended for the entire 2017 season for credit card fraud), but he does have potential to earn carries.
30) Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State: The Bison product is known for his smooth, downhill cuts and short-area quickness. He also brings special teams experience (kick coverage and return).
31) Craig Reynolds, Kutztown (PA): Although Reynolds played at a small school, his skill set is impressive. He has good vision, excels when using the stiff arm and can contribute on special teams as a returner.
32) Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska: A physical, downhill runner, Ozigbo could be a bruiser for a team looking for a back to complement its quick, elusive types. He breaks tackles and has good vision, but he didn't consistently produce against good defenses in college. Against Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa combined, Ozigbo had 41 carries for 170 yards.
33) Kerrith Whyte, Florida Atlantic: Despite playing behind Devin Singletary, Whyte strung together an impressive 2018 campaign with 10 trips to the end zone in 144 carries. He has straight-line speed (which is why, in part, he excels as a kick returner) but must improve lateral quickness and learn to break tackles.
34) Jacques Patrick, Florida State: His big frame (6-2, 234 pounds) makes him a punishing, downhill runner who excels in short-yardage plays and at the goal line. I'm looking for him to improve his lateral movement and speed.
35) Ty Johnson, Maryland: Johnson has the skill set to not only contribute in the run game, but in the pass game and as a returner. He has good hands and decent vision, but lacks explosiveness and speed.
36) Aeris Williams, Mississippi State: Williams possesses ideal size (6-foot, 207 pounds), runs behind his pads and finishes at the point of contact. He needs to get better at creating and hitting holes before they close.
37) Jordan Ellis, Virginia: Ellis is a strong runner with good acceleration, but his best games were against lower levels of competition. That's obviously concerning, considering the caliber of players in the NFL.
38) Taiwan Deal, Wisconsin: The 6-foot, 226-pounder is a downhill runner who specializes in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He was hampered with injuries throughout his college career, but heads into the draft after a solid 2018 season (82 rushes for 545 yards and six touchdowns) as the Badgers' RB2 behind Jonathan Taylor.
39) Khari Blasingame, Vanderbilt: Blasingame excels in specialized roles like short-yardage situations, blitz pick-ups and special teams. Plus, he has third-down potential. Never having more than a limited role at Vanderbilt will hurt is draft value.
40) Joe Conner, Concordia-Ann Arbor: He was a star NAIA running back thanks to his explosive, decisive downhill style. The level of competition in the NFL will certainly be a wake-up call, but he could snag a roster spot.
41) Alec Ingold, Wisconsin: The only reason Ingold holds this last spot is that he's a fullback and there aren't a ton of NFL teams that routinely utilize the position. That said, Ingold does a great job of staying low, drives his feet on contact and isn't afraid to get after it. He's instinctive and excels at uprooting the linebacker out of the hole.