To be fair, let's not compare any of the running backs in the 2019 draft class to Saquon Barkley. Ball-carriers with his ability are scarcely found throughout the course of NFL history.
While last year was all about Barkley, Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and a few others, this year's group lacks a true alpha runner who became a household name at the collegiate ranks. However, it's a deep position in which many teams will get awesome value added to their backfields in the middle of the draft.
This is the second installment in a position-by-position breakdown of the rankings of prospects you need to know in the 2019 NFL Draft.
*Important note: These rankings are subject to change -- albeit slightly -- after the combine.
1. Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
2. Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
3. David Montgomery, Iowa State
4. Josh Jacobs, Alabama
Singletary has it all. Really. He's a light-footed, hard-nosed runner with top-level burst and downfield speed. He has upper-level balance when absorbing contact or when he has to make a variety of cuts to get through a running lane. Singletary is electric in space and can be efficient between the tackles.
Holyfield is extremely nimble. It's almost as if he spent time in the ring with his dad as a kid learning the importance of footwork. He can chop through traffic quickly and explode through the second level. Impressive vision in tight quarters. Serious power packed into a smaller-ish but compact frame. Quicker than fast, but he has some juice when turning the corner.
Montgomery is a bit of a throwback type mainly because he's not an "air back" who thrives in space and can hit 50-yard homers. But his jump cut is the most devastating in the class, as is his contact balance. He absorbs tackle attempts and is deceptively elusive in the open field.
Jacobs reminds me of Holyfield, a smaller-framed but power runner capable of deploying serious lateral cuts. He's not as nimble as Holyfield and looks for contact a bit more often, which is a negative.
Short-term feature backs / high-quality No. 2 RBs
5. Benny Snell, Kentucky
6. Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
7. Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
8. Darrell Henderson, Memphis
9. Damien Harris, Alabama
10. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
11. Miles Sanders, Penn State
12. James Williams, Washington State.
13. Alexander Mattison, Boise State
As is the case with all running backs in today's NFL, a fair amount of the success or lack thereof of the members of this group is contingent upon variables outside their control. Offensive lines. Offensive coordinators. Initial depth chart placement based on draft position, etc. Keep that in mind with these rankings. Despite being a big runner, Snell has outstanding jump cut ability and is very patient behind his blockers. He's decently powerful too. Just lacks in the speed department. Hill is a modern-day air back with fluid hips and ankles. His vision fails him at times.
Ozigbo is a borderline freak at right around 220 pounds with excellent efficient cut and jump-cut ability. He can hit home runs in some instances and make bigger defenders miss at or near the line often. Henderson has some Dalvin Cook to his game, as his straight-line explosiveness and downfield speed are eye-popping. Some, not much elusiveness to his game. Give him a lane and... bye bye. Harris is a bowling ball who simply doesn't go down on first contact often, and I love how he runs with such a low center of gravity. Anderson is a tall but smooth space back with plus receiving skills and one-cut capabilities.
Sanders can tear off high-end runs that showcase an above-average skill set across the board. Explosiveness. Vision. Contact balance. Even some hurdling. Williams was essentially the James White of the Washington State offensive the past two seasons, and you do not want to see him out in the flat if you're a linebacker or even a defensive back. His lateral mobility is remarkable... and seemingly effortless. Mattison has a between-the-tackles feature back body and flashes the bounciness needed to make multiple cuts through the line. He's not very elusive in space and lacks juice once he reaches the second level.
Short-term No. 2 RBs / potential gadget players
14. Myles Gaskin, Washington
15. Jordan Scarlett, Florida
16. Bryce Love, Stanford
17. Travis Homer, Miami
18. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
19. Dexter Williams, Notre Dame
20. Darwin Thompson, Utah State
Gaskin's size worries me. He's small and skinny for the position. He's a tremendously natural runner with strong, twitchy legs which help him with elusiveness and contact balance. Scarlett is a jump-cut extraordinaire, and he has the explosiveness to deploy a few them in a given run to leave multiple defenders whiffing at air. Love's production fell off a cliff in 2018 after a 2,000-yard season in 2017, but Stanford's blocking had much more to do with that than Love's ability. He's tiny but possesses dynamic feet, the ability to erupt through a hole when he finds it and the top-level long speed to score from anywhere on the field.
Homer is a lot like Rodney Anderson. Taller, smooth mover in space with some power. Willliams has elite-level flashes yet is much quicker than he is fast and his speed is almost all of the build-up variety. He doesn't absorb contact well either. Thompson looks like the smallest back of this bunch and has Love-like explosiveness. He's just not nearly as impressive of a make-you-miss back as you'd expect for his size.
Rosterable No. 3 RBs
21. Matt Colburn, Wake Forest
22. Ryquell Armstead, Temple
23. Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh
24. Karan Higdon, Michigan
25. Mike Weber, Ohio State
Colburn is a shorter but adequately-built back with plus lateral movement ability and a center of gravity so low, he easily bounces through arm-tackle attempts. He can make many sideways cuts in a run to get to open space. There's not much downfield acceleration to his game, but Colburn's been blessed with light feet and loose hips. Armstead is an authoritative back who gets to top speed quickly but doesn't have another gear in his arsenal to hit big-gainers. His feet are impressive at times. He's not that elusive in space, and despite his powerful running style, he doesn't bounce off many tackle attempts. Ollison is a tall, zone-blocking back with good one-cut ability for his size and above-average ankle flexion that allows him to hit those cutback lanes he sees. There's some power and contact balance to his game too but stiffness in his hips.
Higdon runs much bigger than his size and is a marvel finding tiny creases between the tackles to accelerate through. Like Armstead, his initial burst after getting the ball pops on film. His sustained speed is lacking, and he's not a contact balance player. Weber has a smaller-scat back body and flashes springiness in his step to bounce to the outside where he can exhibit decent speed and a well-timed stiff arm on occasion. He misses holes due to below-average vision.