2017 NFL Draft: Top Five RBs
While this year’s running back class is not deep, it does provide some talent that can boost any team’s backfield corps. In drafts past, NFL fans have watched the first round go by without a running back being selected. That is not the case in 2017, as LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey are locks to be taken in the opening round. Here are the top five running backs in the 2017 NFL draft class.
1. Leonard Fournette, LSU (6’0’’, 240 Lbs.; 4.51 – 40 time, 28.5 – vert)
Leonard Fournette is a gifted specimen, and is almost guaranteed to be the first running back taken off the board. Drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson, Fournette combines power with speed to strike fear in opposing defenses. Fournette is known for his running ability, but showed at the LSU Pro Day that he can be counted on as a receiver. In receiver drills, he lined up at the position and did not drop a single ball. Fournette would be best suited in an offense that focuses on single back formations, where the offensive line has strict blocking assignments opening up holes in between the tackles. Injuries during his college career are cause for concern, but if he can stay healthy, the man is due for a successful career.
Pro-player comparison: DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
2. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford (5’11’’, 202 Lbs.; 4.48 – 40 time, 10 – bench, 37.5 – vert)
The former Stanford running back can do it all as a back, a receiver, and a return man. Christian McCaffrey took the NCAA by storm during his collegiate years, breaking Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards and rushing for over 2,000 yards in his sophomore campaign. He is not the biggest player on the field, but he does play larger than his size leads on. McCaffrey is dangerous in the open turf, and would fit perfectly in a scheme similarly to the Patriots, that utilizes the shifty running back in a variety of ways. Teams should take a chance on McCaffrey, as he has the discipline, skill and character of quality back.
Pro-player comparison: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
3. Dalvin Cook, Florida State (5’10’’, 210 Lbs.; 4.49 – 40 time, 22 – bench, 30.5 – vert)
Dalvin Cook had an incredible career at Florida State. Cook does not possess the strength that some ball clubs may like, but he has excellent vision and would excel in a zone run scheme. Cook has some injury concerns, as he has had three shoulder surgeries dating back to when he was in high school. He is quick and can cut on a dime, bouncing a lot of his runs to the outside often times. Cook has decent hands, but was not asked to be a pass catcher at Florida State. He is a mid-first round talent, but a team could reach for him just outside the top 10, if they believe he is the real deal.
Pro-player comparison – Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia Eagles
4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (6’1’’, 226 Lbs.; 4.48 – 40 time, not invited to combine)
Joe Mixon enters the NFL Draft with the most controversy surrounding him after punching a woman in 2014. Some teams have told Mixon that he is a first round talent, while others have him crossed off their boards due to his past. Aside from his off the field incident, Mixon is an exceptional athlete that produced dominant statistics, even though he split time at Oklahoma. Mixon averaged seven yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore. He also showed his skills as a receiver hauling in 32 receptions that same year. Mixon is a clear-cut three down back that can be featured in different types of offenses. Mixon would be best suited in an offense like the Detroit Lions that combines shot gun sets with single back formations centered around the main back.
Pro-player comparison – Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
5. Wayne Gallman, Clemson (6’0’’, 215 Lbs.; 4.60 – 40 time, 21 – bench, 29.5 – vert)
Wayne Gallman participated on two championship-bound Clemson teams, giving him the winning instincts needed to succeed in the NFL. Gallman proved that he could hang with the big boys, as he earned the starting job as a redshirt freshman. He has the size that scouts and coaches will like, but he does not own the breakaway speed that they prefer. He can run over tacklers and is not afraid to be the workhorse. Gallman cracks the top five because he has the potential to be great, but will be a raw talent early in his career. He would fit very well in a system like the Baltimore Ravens that focuses on controlling the game with a power run attack.
Pro-player comparison – Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Zach Seyko is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in communication arts & sciences. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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