Here are our outlooks on the short- and long-term prospects of the top running backs prospects taken in the 2019 NFL draft:
Raiders take Josh Jacobs in Round 1, No. 24 overall
Jacobs is a physical, three-down back with good speed, quickness and acceleration. His lateral agility sets him apart, and he consistently tends to fall forward to add a few extra yards on his carries. He has very good, natural hands to contribute in the passing game, which is huge for Jon Gruden's offense. And while he's not a polished pass protector, he proved on tape he's willing to try.
He's also inexperienced — he has 251 career carries and 48 career catches with only three games with 15-plus carries. Some may consider that a positive, as he also doesn't have any major injuries on his record.
I would expect Gruden to keep Jacobs' touches fairly limited early on — his track record suggests splitting carries between multiple backs until he has one he can trust on a play-to-play basis. That shouldn't take too long with Jacobs. Gruden's had a running back catch at least 40 passes in nine of his 12 seasons and has helped a rusher to over 1,000 total yards 10 times in those, with seven seven-score seasons.
I wouldn't get so excited about Jacobs that his draft stock rises into Round 2 or even Round 3 range. Round 4 will be a great time to get a lead back with big potential. I expect him to be taken with a top-50 pick, maybe top-55 in PPR.
If you're drafting with the long term in mind, Jacobs should settle in around 40th or 45th overall in dynasty start-ups and long-term keeper formats. I do think Jacobs is in the conversation as the top pick in rookie-only drafts, too.
The guy behind Saquon Barkley for two years at Penn State, Miles Sanders has a chance to evolve into a three-down running back for the Eagles, but not right off the bat. Instead, he'll share with Jordan Howard -- not that it should scare you from taking him. Sanders has a nice combination of lower-body strength and good speed, but his best asset is his very good lateral quickness to make cuts and create room to run.
He can stop on a dime and burst past defenders for additional yards. He also has good, underrated (and under-utilized) hands that, combined with an improvement in route-running technique, can push him into a bigger role. He needs volume for his Fantasy stock to skyrocket, but for now the fit with the Eagles is very good.
Expect him to get taken just a couple of rounds after Howard -- could be a deal where Howard goes in Round 5 and Sanders gets snapped up in Round 7. He'll also be a top-eight pick in rookie-only drafts (potentially a top-five pick) and a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues.
If you're a Rams fan, you'll love this pick. If you're a Todd Gurley fan, you'll be nervous.
Henderson is a big-play threat with some of the best speed among the running backs in the class. In time, with coaching, he could be special, but expect his rookie season to feature him on a limited basis unless something happens to Gurley.
He passes the eyeball test as a big back but he's not physical. He tends to get what's blocked and then make defenses pay when he's in the open field. He's also a little weak as a pass catcher with small hands and not a lot of experience, but Sean McVay could bring that aspect of his game alive. I'm also not convinced he's a great pass protector.
Fortunately for him, the unteachable skill of speed is something he's blessed with, using solid acceleration to jet downfield. He's the one to draft as a handcuff to Gurley with a pick in Round 10-plus. I'd get him then in seasonal and dynasty/keeper leagues. He'll be a top-15 pick in rookie-only drafts.
Pre-draft, David Montgomery was my No. 1 running back in this class for many of the same reasons the Bears have paired him with Tarik Cohen. He can do it all. Montgomery totaled more than 1,300 yards and double-digit scores each of the past two seasons at Iowa State.
The Bears were tired of teams knowing they were going to run when Jordan Howard was in the game and pass when they put in Tarik Cohen. In Montgomery they have another running back who can succeed in all facets of the game. His upside will be limited by the fact he's sharing the load with Cohen, but he's well worth a fifth or sixth round pick in redraft and a top-five pick in a Dynasty league.
-- Heath Cummings
Singletary's nickname is "Motor" but it should be "Creator" because all he does is create yards. Over three years at FAU, he had the uncanny ability to consistently juke defenders, break tackles (113 in 2018 to lead NCAAs), slip out of defenders' grasps and power through for extra yards -- in spite of being just 5-foot-7 and just over 200 pounds.
I suspect he'll spend 2019 in a very limited role behind LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, two guys who have much to teach this young grasshopper. I'm not sure he'll ever be a featured back like he was at FAU but when you combine his patient, balanced running with great lateral agility with the crumbcake O-line he had with the Owls, you admire his abilities even more. He's one to wait on -- let's pass on him in seasonal leagues and hope a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper start-ups and a top-15 pick in rookie-only drafts pays off in 2020.
I was a fan of Damien Harris, a two-down bulldozer with good speed and very good acceleration, but I can't recommend him if he's going to end up being a part-timer with the Patriots behind Sony Michel and James White. Frankly, he's an unfathomable backup in that he's built like an adonis and never ever goes down to an arm tackle. He can wear out tired defenses in the fourth quarter real quick. But he's not shifty and is a gets-what's-blocked runner.
I thought he was a natural receiver out of the backfield, but also a work-in-progress as a pass protector, so his third-down opportunities aren't going to be frequent anytime soon. But he's a mature player with the exact kind of mindset that plays well with Bill Belichick and the Patriots. I can dig drafting him as a handcuff to Michel in the deepest of seasonal leagues, but if you're going 15 rounds on Draft Day, he's probably not in the cards. Expect Harris to file in as a late-rounder in dynasty/keeper formats and as a second-round choice in rookie-only drafts.
Alexander Mattison may not be a name you are familiar with, but with Dalvin Cook's injury history you should want to change that. Mattison ran for 1,415 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior at Boise State and compiled more than 2,900 total yards over the past two seasons combined.
He's a big back, lacking great speed, that could immediately fill the Latavius Murray role in Minnesota. If Cook falls to injury again, Mattison could be a Fantasy starter. In redraft leagues he's solely a handcuff pick, but he's worth a second round pick in rookie drafts. But watch ADP, you may not need to invest more than a third in him.
I love the way Mattison finishes runs, and don't be surprised if he finds a goal-line role as a rookie because he fumbled just twice in 645 collegiate touches.
-- Heath Cummings
Love would have been taken much higher if not for a torn ACL that ended his collegiate career in December. There's probably a good chance he'll start the year on the Redskins PUP list and maybe stay there as a "redshirt" rookie. The talent is evident when you watch him play, though -- the small two-year starter is a burner who makes guys miss and plays stronger than his body suggests. He's also a capable receiver out of the backfield and a willing blocker. His injury history (in addition to the ACL, Love has dealt with consistent ankle issues) and concerns about how well he will hold up in the pros made him a risky pick to NFL coaches. But he broke Christian McCaffrey's Stanford records for most rush yards in a game (301) and a season (2,118), making him an obvious talent. Love will be a late wait-and-see pick in long-term formats and rookie-only drafts.
If the Ravens are building a young relay squad for the 4 x 100, they've got one with Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and now Hill. They might have the nucleus for the fastest team in football, too. Hill is a pure speed back, capable of hitting lanes and delivering big plays at a moment's notice. But despite being willing to run into defenders and block, he's not a big guy, nor is he necessarily adept at pass protection, breaking tackles or blocking for teammates. The hunch is that Hill knocks Kenneth Dixon off the roster and earns a couple touches per week as a change-of-pace back for the run-focused Ravens. I'm not opposed to drafting him late in dynasty/keeper start-ups and somewhere between late Round 2 and mid-Round 3 in rookie-only drafts.
The good news: Snell is a Bettis-sized wooly mammoth who runs patiently. The bad news: He's not a breakaway speedster nor is he a polished pass-catcher. The worst news: If Snell impresses as a short-yardage back this summer, he could take some work off of James Conner's plate. It's not enough to worry about Conner's Fantasy draft stock just yet, but anyone who could vulture touchdowns isn't exactly looked at with warmth and smiles. Our fingers are crossed that Snell is a break-in-case-of-emergency running back who doesn't see much playing time so long as Conner does his thing. He's going to get picked late in dynasty/keeper leagues and with a third-round pick in rookie-only drafts.
This could end up being the backup to Ezekiel Elliott. He'll also return kicks. Pollard is a versatile back who had just as many rushing touchdowns at Memphis as he had receiving touchdowns (nine each). He also had more yards catching the ball (he worked the slot) than rushing it, though he was very good at both in limited reps over the last two seasons. His technique is raw and needs to not only learn the nuances of the pro game but also must work to accept being more physical. If his training camp goes well, Pollard will get some looks late in deeper seasonal leagues as the guy behind Zeke. Otherwise he'll only get picked very late in all long-term formats including rookie-only drafts.
Armstead is a competitive thumper who gets what's blocked and doesn't really have an elusive quality or second gear. Perhaps he reminds Tom Coughlin of a smaller Brandon Jacobs -- smaller being a relative term since Armstead is 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds and Jacobs was basically a brick wall with wheels. He'll provide depth for the Jaguars and could find playing time if Leonard Fournette misses action. Remember, the guys behind Fournette on the depth chart include Alfred Blue, Thomas Rawls and Benny Cunningham. That's beatable competition. Armstead is a late-rounder in all long-term formats and rookie-only drafts.
Ollison has the makings of a zone-scheme running back, perfect for what the Falcons run. To make it, he's going to have to learn to run lower and be a better blocker. But he's got the patience and one-cut ability to get on the field this year if injuries befall Devonta Freeman or Ito Smith. Someone will take a chance on him late in long-term and rookie-only drafts.
Scarlett would have been taken higher if not for some off-field incidents involving a credit card scam and a drug possession, costing him over a year's worth of playing time. He's a well-built back with good speed and blocking skills but doesn't have a lot of elusiveness and isn't a reliable pass catcher (small hands). We're probably not going to see Scarlett on the field much unless something happens to Christian McCaffrey, but there is some talent there so long as he doesn't do anything stupid off the field. He's a risky, low-upside pick in the late rounds of any long-term league.