Running Back U: Ranking five Alabama alums who are thriving in NFL for 2020 and beyond
Which Crimson Tide products are owning the RB position in the NFL?
Plenty of schools are known for churning out certain positions at the NFL level, whether it be USC manufacturing quarterbacks or Ohio State producing defensive backs, and Alabama is no exception.
Big-name linemen and corners have hailed from the Crimson Tide, but Alabama is perhaps best known, at this moment, for running back alums. Longtime Seattle Seahawks star Shaun Alexander is easily the best to come from the program, but the trend of 'Bama backs entering -- and then thriving -- in the pros has increased even more as of late. And that's including the fact neither Eddie Lacy nor Trent Richardson, college superstars during their time in the NCAA spotlight, reside on a current NFL roster.
The 2019 season has been a great one for RBs, in general, with five players already over the 1,000-yard mark and at least seven others within reach. With that in mind, we decided to rank the top five Alabama products at the position, with a particular eye toward 2020 and beyond:
5. Bo Scarbrough, Detroit Lions (2018)
A big body like several other famous former Alabama RBs, Scarbrough spent time with three different teams as a rookie, going from seventh-round Cowboys pick to the Jaguars' practice squad to Seattle's inactive list at the end of 2018. This year, however, he's looked like a man on a mission, averaging 4.5 yards per carry in three emergency starts for a backfield decimated by injuries and inconsistency. With his size and power, he's already earned a shot to be Kerryon Johnson's counter-punch in 2020.
4. Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals (2016)
For varying reasons (i.e. Adam Gase), Drake never quite realized his potential with the Dolphins, who made him a third-round pick and saw him average 4.5 yards per carry -- or better -- in three straight years but wouldn't commit to him as a full-timer. Drake wasted no time showing off upon arrival in Arizona via trade this season, and he's been admirable as a spot starter for a rebuilding team and within a crowded backfield. With his pass-catching ability, he should carve out a solid role working under Kliff Kingsbury moving forward. Of course, first, that would mean Arizona would have to re-sign the impending free agent.
3. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens (2011)
If not for his injury history (22 missed games in nine seasons), Ingram might actually challenge for the No. 2 spot. The gap between him and Drake, fair comparison or not, is huge. A first-round pick of the Saints, Ingram is best known for his slow-starting but bruising run as New Orleans' title-winning back, but even approaching age 30, he's a force to be reckoned with. Strictly on the ground, Ingram is on pace for a potential career year, and he's the perfect power complement to Lamar Jackson's blazing speed. You can't do much better than him as a tone-setting starter, and that will remain true in 2020.
2. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (2016)
It's not often you find someone of his size wreaking havoc week in and week out at the RB spot. Henry had a quiet start to his Titans career, splitting carries with DeMarco Murray (remember him?) and then again with Dion Lewis. But he's never had a bad year, he's only gotten better and right now he looks like the surest reason Tennessee might actually be dare we say feared on a playoff run. No one expects him to keep up the 140-yard-per-game pace, but he looks like the real deal. The only concern: Will heavier workloads take a little toll? And can he ever be more than a last-resort option in the passing game?
1. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (2019)
You can definitely make the case for Henry here, but it's just too hard to watch Jacobs, at just 21 years old and practically carrying Jon Gruden's Raiders offense on his back, and refuse to call him the brightest ray of Alabama RB light in the NFL. Like Henry, he's not much of a threat catching passes at this point, but he more than makes up for it with an oh-so-smooth rushing style, not to mention remarkable consistency for today's league, with at least 70 rushing yards in nine of his first 12 starts. On top of it all, he's been fighting through a shoulder injury for the majority of the 2019 season. If Jacobs' rookie year is any indication, Oakland found itself a centerpiece for years to come.
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