2019 NFL Draft: Here's an early look at seven of the potential top running backs
Let's peek ahead at the possible headliners in the 2019 draft class of running backs
The 2018 running back draft class was one of the best groups in a while, and the 2019 class of ball-carriers has a strong possibility to be just as good.
Bryce Love, Justice Hill, and Damien Harris are the headliners, but there are an assortment of backs who look like future mid-rounders and can be productive, multi-faceted players at the professional level.
Here's an early introduction to the potential top running back prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Experience: Has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in both his seasons at Oklahoma State. Scored 15 rushing touchdowns in 2017 after six in 2016. Caught 31 passes for 190 yards last year.
Strengths: Rare agility and the highlight reel-creating capability to explode through his cuts. Hips are extremely loose. Plays with deceptive power and has top-level balance to stay on his feet after contact. His strong legs never stop churning. Reliable in the pass game and is a menace in the open field because he reads and reacts to his blocks well.
Weaknesses: Sleek, smaller-than-normal frame to be a featured back at the NFL level. Acceleration is outstanding but top-end speed isn't elite.
Early comparison: Devonta Freeman
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Experience: Accumulated 1,146 yards on 258 carries last season for the Cyclones. Has averaged 4.7 yards per carry thus far in college. Also caught 36 passes for 296 yards in 2017.
Strengths: Reacts to defenders in his running lane incredibly quickly and has outstanding cutting ability and balance. Vision is solid. Can create jaw-dropping runs with his creativity and athleticism. Comfortable catching the football and understands where he has to cut immediately after getting the football. Strong leg drive and low center of gravity leads to deceptive power.
Weaknesses: At times tries to do too much like reverse his field when frontside lane is clogged. Doesn't have breakaway speed.
Early comparison: Matt Forte
Damien Harris, Alabama
Experience: Back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the Crimson Tide. Currently averages 6.7 yards per carry in his collegiate career. Rushing touchdowns increased from two in 2016 to 11 last season.
Strengths: Compact, powerful frame that delivers a major pop on second-level defenders and defensive backs. Incredibly light feet and loose hips. Quickly looks for different lane if planned lane is plugged. Above-average acceleration for a back his size. Runs with urgency, especially through contact. Not a burner but isn't slow by down the field.
Weaknesses: At times seemingly seeks out contact instead of trying to avoid it. Not very experienced as a pass-catcher.
Early comparison: Ezekiel Elliott
Bryce Love, Stanford
Experience: Part-time back in 2015 and 2016 behind Christian McCaffrey but still averaged 7.2 yards per carry. As Stanford's workhorse in 2017, he erupted for 2,118 yards on 263 carries (8.1 yards per) with 19 touchdowns.
Strengths: Electric downfield threat. Home-run speed. Twitchy running style to find creases and hit cutback lanes. Can flip it into top gear instantly when he gets into space. Decently powerful for his size. Plenty of experience between the tackles. Speed allows him to bounce off tackles.
Weaknesses: Small, scat-back size. Likely won't be able to consistently bang between the tackles in the NFL. Rarely utilized in the passing game.
Early comparison: Chris Johnson
Experience: One season of full-time usage for the Sooners. Carried the ball 188 times for 1,161 yards with 13 scores in 2017. Also amassed five receiving scores on 17 catches.
Strengths: NFL feature back size. Quick feet and rapidly gets North-South when he notices an open running lane. Used frequently as a pass-catcher, even on downfield throws. Soft hands. Crafty through the third level. Doesn't stop being a running back in the open field, as he'll routinely cut back to pick up extra yards. Flashes of ridiculous ability to stop on a dime and change directions with impressive burst.
Weaknesses: Good but not great long speed. Limited power, which is surprising given his bigger frame.
Early comparison: DeAngelo Williams
Experience: Has already compiled three 1,300-yard campaigns at Washington. Bumped his yards-per-carry average to 6.2 in 2017 after averaging 5.8 yards per carry in 2016 and 5.7 as a freshman. Scored 21 touchdowns on a ground last year.
Strengths: Keeps his head on a swivel and finds lanes backside on inside runs. Fluid hips and surprising strength through arm tackles. Above-average balance and leg-churning power. Hides among the trees and squirts through the second level because of his wherewithal and springiness.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have top-level initial acceleration nor home-run hitting ability. Small frame.
Early comparison: Knowshon Moreno
Experience: Two years of major collegiate production, including a ridiculous 32-touchdown campaign with 1,918 rushing yards on 301 carries in 2017. Carries a 6.4 yards-per-carry average into the 2018 season.
Strengths: Super-springy lightning bug back with loads of experience between the tackles. Excellent long speed. Possesses the athleticism to make multiple cuts to find daylight. Requisite balance for NFL feature back.
Weaknesses: Acceleration isn't as spectacular as you'd expect for him being a smaller back. Doesn't have much power or ability to run through tackles. Vision is good, not great. Occasionally misses out on a big gain because he makes one too many cuts.
Early comparison: Tarik Cohen
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