Running Backs- NFL Draft 18

1. Saquon Barkley (Penn State)– He was such a special player to watch in 2017 for James Franklin’s Nittany Lions and when you watch his highlights, you see everything that he does and ask yourself one thing: What can’t he do? He returns kicks (remember how he silenced the shoe with his opening kickoff return), he can run routes and impact the passing game as he does the running game and we know what he can do on the ground as a runner. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Saquon Barkley won’t be the number one running back on many draft lists this Spring. He’s always moving and he never quits on any play. He’s a high-tempo runner with a vision of the whole field and keeps his eyes darting while navigating interior running lanes. He shows a tremendous ability to cutback and turns his speed on another notch when he hits the corner. As a receiver, he wins each battle against anyone trying to defend him. He’s an effective separator when it comes to running his routes and he bullies linebackers on wheel routes. He steps onto the field with a high competitive drive.

2. Derrius Guice (LSU)– He was a part of the tandem the LSU Tigers used when Leonard Fournette still played. When Fournette decided to go pro, the keys were handed to Derrius Guice. He has an electric trio of speed, power, and balance and can show great awareness to escape away from trouble, make alterations and also has the footwork along with the athleticism to spin away from tackle attempts. Guice has quality field vision and can make sudden cuts without rolling into low gear. He’s a hard runner that will push himself to obtain those extra yards. I’d like to see him improve as a receiving back especially at the next level where the quarterbacks enjoy checking the football down to their running backs. He’s not your typical third-down back, but he has the engine to get large chunks of yards.

3. Ronald Jones (USC)– When he was a true freshman, he didn’t start a single game. In 2016, Ronald Jones became the full-time starter after Justin Davis was injured and never looked back. He’s a bigger and more powerful Jamaal Charles. He’s a very patient, yet calm runner and that shows when oncoming traffic is in his presence. For the position, he plays with very light and electric feet that help him get through tight quarters and spaces. He’s elite when it comes to planting the foot down and accelerating and he also a deadly start-stop motion to ruin a linebacker’s pace to bring him down. He has ways to slide himself through traffic and maneuver to the outside track. He has no problem squaring up for contact balance and he fights for every yard. He isn’t necessarily the sharpest pass-catcher out the backfield, but he’s more than capable of doing so.

4. Sony Michel (Georgia)– Along with Nick Chubb, I became a big fan of his this past season and he was a big reason why the Georgia Bulldogs were so successful and had the season they did. Throughout the year, I found myself quite often comparing him to Alvin Kamara, especially with how he found ways to impact the game. He’s a smart runner and he doesn’t try to spin away from tacklers because that can always backfire and it can result in losing yards. He’s extremely durable and no matter where the ball maybe sitting, he’s a threat to take it to the endzone. Six of his touchdown runs went for 16 yards or more this season. He has a stout lower body that allows him to rip through arm tackles and balance his way through contact. He’s outstanding when it comes to blitz pickups and will make sure he blocks and picks up his assignments. He was a major factor in the Bulldogs come from behind win against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl.

5. Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)– He was the best player on Gus Malzahn’s SEC West division champion Auburn Tigers. When the offense needed a big play, Kerryon was always there to answer the call and make it happen. He’s a former basketball player like so many others made the transition to the football field and he plays with fast feet. He shows instant burst to rocket through the offensive line and gets into the second level of the field. He’s a physical runner that still uses the stiff-arm to this day, something you don’t see much of from backs today. He’s more likely to be the hammer than the nail when it comes to finishing. He shows his smarts and when defenses try to take away his runs, he can still impact the game by touching the football in multiple capacities. He’s very effective on screen passes, swing routes and check routes and makes adjustments to throws outside his frame.