The 2020 NFL Draft class was littered with running back talent. LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor and Georgia's D'Andre Swift were jockeying for that top spot most of the process. Fans were familiar with their names. Despite all of the attention, arguably the most productive rookie running back has been undrafted James Robinson. Teams can find talent at the position from the first day of the draft until after it concludes if they do their homework.
Here are some of the names that will find their way to the big board in the coming months, with a look at how each fared this week:
Travis Etienne, Clemson
Etienne holds about every record imaginable within the ACC. Clemson did not require his best effort this weekend. The Tigers jumped out to a lead on Pittsburgh and cruised to victory where the Louisiana native was able to turn over the running game to Lyn-J Dixon and Chez Mellusi. Etienne averaged 5.3 yards per carry and finished with two touchdowns. His longest run went for 12 yards and his touchdown was a short burst up the middle. To the senior's credit, he has really improved his pass-catching out of the backfield, which has validated his position as one of the top running back prospects available.
Najee Harris, Alabama
Harris is a bad man. He recorded 96 yards and his college football leading 17th rushing touchdown on 11 carries. On his 39-yard rushing touchdown, the senior approaches a pile of bodies at the line of scrimmage while setting up a jump cut to greener pastures outside. His motion was swift and effective. No defenders were even able to lay a hand on him. By traditional standards, Harris is a large running back similar to Derrick Henry. However, he does not compromise some of the athletic traits that enable success at the position in the NFL.
Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
A little more than a week ago, Patterson topped 300 rushing yards against Bowling Green. It was a remarkable performance and a reasonable person would not have expected to see a similar outing by a running back in 2020. As it turns out, that was child's play for what Patterson had prepared for Kent State. The junior had six runs of 30-plus yards. He finished with 409 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns on 36 carries. Patterson fell 18 yards short of the NCAA single-game record previously set by Oklahoma's Samaje Perine.
On the majority of his touchdown runs, Patterson met little resistance. He hit the line of scrimmage in stride and never broke it en route to the end zone. On his final touchdown run, he encountered a defender at the line of scrimmage, truck sticked him and scampered another 58 yards. If he had not been pulled from the game late, he likely would have broken Perine's record.
Trey Ragas, Louisiana
Louisiana found travel easy on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. The Ragin' Cajuns averaged eight yards per carry. Ragas, a senior from New Orleans, had 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries as well as one reception for three yards. He is a bigger back who displays good balance through contact and a strong lower body. Despite his size, he is able to get up to speed quickly and has done a good job catching passes out of the backfield when called upon.
Larry Rountree, Missouri
The story of this game was the appearance of Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller, who became the first female player to appear during a Power 5 football game. However, Rountree's performance was also noteworthy. In the conversation of top NFL Draft running back prospects, Rountree is rarely mentioned alongside Clemson's Travis Etienne, Alabama's Najee Harris, etc. ... and that may need to change.
Rountree has full body strength and he takes being tackled personally. His first and third touchdowns on Saturday were not complicated. He waltzed through the Commodores' defense en route to six points. The second touchdown run was evidence of his angry running style. Vanderbilt defenders got their arms on him but he simply refused to be tackled and re-directed his path to the end zone. On the day, the senior from North Carolina had 160 rushing yards, 23 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 22 touches in an impressive 41-0 victory over their SEC East counterpart.