1. Clyde Edwards Helaire
Joe Burrow called CEH the best player on a very talented LSU offence. Patrick Mahomes was asked who he wanted as his favourite weapon at the RB position, he chose CEH. Andy Reid talks about CEH being as good as Brian Westbrook. It’s also the first time Reid has ever spent first round draft capital on a running back. It’s not because Damien Williams doesn’t matter (although I’d be surprised to see them renew his $2.7mil contract after this season). It’s because CEH is a great runner and an even better receiver. In college he was split outside as a receiver more times than Kamara and McCaffery and was extremely productive. He’s worthy of the tag of the number one back and for me he’s the 1.01 overall in all rookie drafts because he’s a dual threat in the no.1 offence in the game.
2. Jonathan Taylor
If their is one player I could be persuaded to take over CEH in rookie drafts it’s Jonathan Taylor. There’s only one way to describe a player with Taylor’s production of over 6000yrds and 50 TDs and that’s an absolute beast. Now if you could choose a landing spot sticking him behind a guard like Quentin Nelson and the best offensive line in the game, after my beloved colts and the great Chris Ballard traded up to take him ahead of the jags, what’s not to love. The knock on Taylor will be that he has a lot of tread on his tires, but we’ve seen players like Zeke and Christian McCaffery stand up to high volume college usage and go on to handle the rigours of the NFL. Taylor feels like he’s cut from the same cloth. He’s just below CEH for me because while he can catch a pass he’s not as proficient in the passing game as CEH. I also think Mack is an underrated back and the colts will use both the take the pressure off an ageing Phillip Rivers.
3. JK Dobbins
There was a lot of surprise when the ravens took JK Dobbins with the 55th overall pick because their committee of Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards looked good last year and Justice Hill was an explosive pass catcher in college even if he is too undersized to be a 3 down back. Dobbins skill and value were just too good to pass up and he is an extremely talented runner who glides through tackles and has great pass catching chops. Ingram is reaching the magical age of 30-31 where running backs can fall off a cliff and the end can come quick but he still retains the lead role and so Dobbins could have a high ceiling in the event of an injury but his floor in 2020 could be extremely low. Add into the mix the rushing numbers for Lamar Jackson who will no doubt create lanes for a back as talented as Dobbins but could also vulture his touchdowns. If you draft Dobbins you have to hold him and ride whatever 2020 brings. The results could be spectacular in 2021 though for those prepared to wait patiently for the reward.
4. Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Ok so Vaughn here will be a spicy take for some people. So I'll cut straight to the chase, Ronald Jones will get usage but he's pretty bad at 2 things, pass blocking and pass catching. Now if i'm Bruce Arians trying to provide the GOAT (yes that hurts as a colts fan but it is true!) with the tools to make a superbowl run I'd be concerned with 2 things. That my pocket passer has an outlet when he's put under pressure (Brady made outstanding use of James White in New England) and I wann't someone who is going to make sure when the blitz comes the GOAT isn't going to end up on his back looking at the sky. Vaughn is an excellent natural pass catcher with soft hands and he's excellent at pass protection. If he's out their protecting Brady he'll get opportunity and I think that will translate to touches and reception's. He's a tough hardworking player and in rookie drafts currently he is falling to the late first round/early second round. We saw the impact Austin Ekeler had last year filling a similar role alongside Rivers and Vaughn has the talent to claim a similar role in the Tampa/Brady offence. The doubters will say he's not fast enough to break the big plays but with the weapons and the spread of the Bucs offence I think he'll have some excellent opportunity to find his way into open space and Arian's was excellent scheming for David Johnson in a similar way. I'm a big fan of Vaughn and I don't think there is alot in front of him to stop him from having a great future in this offence.
5. Cam Akers
Ok so the Todd Gurley era at the rams is well and truly over. I think McVay and Snead have learned the hard way what happens when you put all your eggs in the basket of revolving your offence predominantly around one running back and so they have tooled up by pairing Akers with 3rd round pick Darrell Henderson from last year. Akers has the heart of a lion and somehow managed to maintain good production running behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. He's going to need every ounce of that as he's now moving to running behind the second worst offensive line in the NFL. While the rams were taking running backs with high round picks they weren't investing in their offensive line and while Akers has proven he can be productive behind a bad line, and has the opportunity to become the lead back, as Henderson struggled at the end of last year, I think McVay will go full Shanahan and mix in Malcolm Brown, Henderson and Akers meaning at least for this season his ceiling and big play upside are capped.
6. DeAndre Swift
Landing in Detroit, the place rookie potential at RB goes to die (Ameer Abdullah anyone?), Makes swift a really difficult evaluation. Amongst devy players for a long time Swift was touted as the top RB in the class (I've always preferred Taylor and Dobbins.) There is no doubt about it Swift is a talented pass catcher and a great runner but there are 2 major problems with his landing spot first Kerryon Johnson is an extremely talented Running Back and an excellent pass catcher and while he hasn't been healthy I could still see a split backfield unleashing Kerryon and cutting into Swift's production significantly. In fact if both play 16 games I have Kerryon stated to finish above Swift this season. The second problem is this myth that the lions are a run heavy offence, they aren't!! In his first 6 games Stafford was on track for career best passing numbers before injury and the emergence of Kenny Golladay alongside Marvin Jones has led to a much higher passing rate than anyone was anticipating. Detroit was in the bottom half of the league for rushing production which also speaks to the need for further improvements on the offensive line. For me let the Swift truther in your draft pay you a kings ransom to move up and take him and trade back and reap the rewards of some smart draft work.
7. Antonio Gibson
Listen to Ron Rivera talk about Gibson and he comps him to Christian McCaffery. While he isn't going to be the great CMC he certainly has the skillset to be a very productive piece of the skins passing offence in the slot and out of the backfield and could be a bit of a sleeper going in the 4th round of most rookie drafts at present.
8. Deejay Dallas
Carson isn't yet fit and had some fumbling issues last season, Penny will likely start the season on the PUP list and may be missing till as late as november. The Seahawks have shown they are no respecters of draft capital when it comes to utilising running backs. This all means Dallas could walk into a significant role come the new season.
9. Anthony McFarland Jr.
Conner can't stay healthy, Samuels and Snell don't look up to the task. McFarland is a good back who could win the backup job and see his role in the offence increase if Conner continues to struggle with injury.
10. Zack Moss
Will get the role behind Singletary in replacing the great Frank Gore. He's elusive and can catch a pass but doesn't look quick. Expect he and Singletary will steal work from each other and neither will hit the heights expected of them.
11. Darrynton Evans
Pass catching option out of the backfield for the titans unlikely to get a high volume in year 1. Worth keeping an eye on if Henry's situation changes.
12. Joshua Kelley
Starts the season behind Ekeler and Justin Jackson but more prototypical RB size than either. A late flyer for your taxi squad in dynasty