With the 2020 NFL Draft rapidly approaching (April 23-25), NFL Network analyst and former All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew eyes the RB class, ranking this year's top prospects at the position, factoring in what he's seen on film and at the NFL Scouting Combine.
NOTE: Click on each prospect's name for a full scouting report.
Day 1 starters
1) D'Andre Swift, Georgia: The best back in this draft class, Swift has great acceleration, short-area quickness and can make multiple cuts without slowing down. Swift, a fitting name for a running back, understands block timing and is great in space. The 21-year-old wasn't overused at Georgia -- he averaged 171 touches per season over his three years in college -- so he'll be fresh from the get-go as a reliable three-down back.
2) Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU: The 5-foot-7, 207-pound back's game is versatile. As a runner, he has great contact balance, good vision and is elusive with the ball in his hands. In fact, 36 percent of his carries went for first downs or touchdowns in 2019. In the passing game, Edwards-Helaire has soft hands and can pick up the blitz. His well-rounded skill set will allow him to be a Day 1 starter in any system.
3) J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State: Coming off a 2,000-yard rushing season in which he averaged a robust 6.7 yards per carry, Dobbins has the goods -- ability to break tackles and a second gear to take it the distance -- to make it in the league. He's proven he can carry the load out of the backfield as a runner and pass catcher.
4) Cam Akers, Florida State: Akers totaled 18 touchdowns in his final season at FSU thanks to his consistent, powerful running style. At 5-10 and 217 pounds, he's a smooth runner who sets up his blocks well, catches the ball naturally and will provide an NFL team with a solid three-down threat. He's an absolute dog who gets the job done time and time again.
5) Zack Moss, Utah: Moss is very quick for a guy who weighs 223 pounds, and his Marshawn Lynch-like style makes him a tough tackle. He was quite productive at Utah, averaging at least 5.5 yards per carry in each of the past three seasons by consistently falling forward at the point of contact and making positive gains. He'll be able to not only contribute but dominate in any system at the next level. The one concern is his injury history.
6) Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor reminds me of Christian McCaffrey when he came out of college in the sense that the 5-10, 226-pound Badger has so many miles on his tires after recording 926 carries for 6,174 yards in three years at Wisconsin. This was my concern with McCaffrey, but the Carolina Panthers have used him in a way where he doesn't take as many hits. Unfortunately, Taylor's size and downhill running style will make him more susceptible to hits at the next level. He was durable in college, so hopefully that continues because he's talented enough to be a starter immediately.
7) Joshua Kelley, UCLA: He's been productive everywhere he's played and that counts for something. Reminiscent of Justin Jackson when he was at Northwestern, Kelley is an all-around football player who makes positive gains every time he touches the ball. He has good contact balance, breaks tackles and could contribute for a team that embraces downhill runners.
8) Mike Warren II, Cincinnati: A standout in high school, Warren ended up at Cincinnati after not being widely recruited. The joke's on everyone else, because all he's done is produce. Warren is a physical back, and I could see him working his way into a starting role on Sundays.
9) Eno Benjamin, Arizona State: Benjamin is a tackle-breaker who is violent at the point of contact. His beastly TD runs against Cal showed his toughness, as he repeatedly ran through defenders. Thing is, though, he plays that way every time he touches the ball, with a mindset to punish his opponents.
10) Levante Bellamy, Western Michigan: I like this kid a lot. He did more with less at Western Michigan and had productive games vs. big-time opponents. The 5-9, 192-pounder has great dip when he runs, as well as good acceleration and vision -- and he knows how to set up blocking receivers. The one concern is that he's already 23 years old.
11) A.J. Dillon, Boston College: The 6-foot, 247-pounder is the kind of big bruiser running back coaches love. His strength is running downhill through the A-gap with square shoulders, and he has some speed for a guy of his size.
12) Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State: Speed, speed and more speed. Evans ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, further proving that he's a home-run hitter when he gets into the open field. The concern here is I didn't see Evans break enough tackles at Appalachian State, which is problematic because he won't see a lot of huge holes in the NFL. If he can improve this part of his game, watch out.
13) DeeJay Dallas, Miami: A utility man, Dallas was a running back, receiver and returner for the Hurricanes. He has a lot of shake to make people miss when the ball is in his hands. I see him as a third-down back who will give linebackers fits in coverage. Dallas has a lot of similarities to Austin Ekeler when he entered the NFL.
14) Rico Dowdle, South Carolina: Dowdle is one shifty dude -- it's like trying to catch a jackrabbit for defenders. He's explosive and can make as many as three people miss in a phone booth. One area of improvement I'd like to see is his catching ability.
15) Lamical Perine, Florida: Perine has the prototypical build for a pro back at 5-11, 216 pounds. One NFL running backs coach told me he has good hands, contact balance and would be a solid third-down option.
16) Anthony McFarland, Maryland: He uses his thick lower body to accelerate into contact and reach top speed as he hits the second level. The 5-8, 208-pound speedster will be a playmaker with the ball in his hands at the next level.
17) Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt: Vaughn gets skinny through the hole and has great leg drive on contact. A natural catcher out of the backfield, the 5-10, 214-pound bruiser can be effective in both the run and pass games.
18) Javon Leake, Maryland: The former Terrapin is a one-cut speedster with big-play ability. His vision and efficiency in the open field derive from his experience as a returner.
19) JaMycal Hasty, Baylor: The 5-8, 205-pound back is a physical runner for his size and runs behind his pads well. He's a solid third-down option as a natural catcher and has ability to make people miss in the open field.
20) Raymond Calais, Louisiana-Lafayette: Similar to Darrynton Evans out of Appalachian State, Calais is a track star on the gridiron. He's a one-cut runner who can take it to the house from anywhere on the field.
21) Scottie Phillips, Mississippi: Phillips was inconsistent at Ole Miss, but showed a lot of promise when he was on. When he flashed, the 5-8, 209-pounder showed great burst, was explosive and was a sure-fire threat out of the backfield.
Guys who need time to develop
22) J.J. Taylor, Arizona: He's quick and tough, but size (5-5, 185 pounds) and speed (4.61 in the 40) are big issues. You can't be that size and run a 4.6. I see him in a Dion Lewis/James White type of role.
23) Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis: At 6-1, 217 pounds, Taylor is a big and fast running back with a versatile skill set. He's a very capable receiver in the screen game and was even used as a quarterback in Wildcat formations during his time at Memphis. To be fully utilized at the next level, Taylor needs a system that is going to be creative.
24) Benny Lemay, Charlotte: Lemay has really good vision and quickness, making a lot of people miss in short areas. He was productive in big games, but lacks speed (4.75 40)
25) James Robinson, Illinois State: Robinson does a great job of being patient, which allows his teammates to set up blocks. And although he runs really well in a power scheme, he -- like a lot of others in this section -- lacks speed (4.64).
26) Brian Herrien, Georgia: Herrien was the thunder to Swift's lightning at Georgia, as a back who looks for contact. Herrien runs to punish his opponents and will likely be used in short-yardage/goal-line situations and to close out games.
27) Darius "Jet" Anderson, TCU: Quickness is one of Anderson's best attributes, as he's extremely slippery and tough to tackle. He has open-field moves and his return ability allows him to be a weapon in space for an offense and on special teams.
28) Sewo Olonilua, TCU: He's a big running back (6-3, 232 pounds) with versatility. Similar to Patrick Taylor, Olonilua could thrive under an offensive coordinator who uses him creatively.
29) Salvon Ahmed, Washington: Ahmed has quick feet and was a contributor for a talented Washington offense. He lacks long speed, good field vision and doesn't break many tackles in the open field.
30) Tony Jones, Notre Dame: Jones is a big, downhill, one-cut runner who breaks a good amount of tackles, but he's at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to raw talent.