The NFL goes through fads. Like an old pair of flare jeans in your mom’s closet, philosophies might become outdated then “in” again. Trent Richardson nearly ruined it for everyone. He bombed so hard that teams were afraid to even take an RB in round 2. After a successful campaign by Todd Gurley, going in the first round is possible for an RB again. Just look at Zeke Elliot who went 4th overall.
This year, we have the honor of seeing 3 elite RBs who are all first round talents. This RB class is so deep, that even the second tier guys are pretty good. The focus of the draft is typically on the QBs but 2016/2017 will be the year of the running back.
I’d like to recognize a few who are expected to have big seasons.
Before I get started, let me highlight a few guys who may be surprises or aren’t quite draft eligible yet.
- Bo Scarborough (RS Soph, Alabama). This guy is the freaking son of Zeus. With Derrick Henry gone, expect him to carry the load for Bama. PS. He’s draft eligible.
- Damien Harris (Soph, Alabama) At Bama, if you’re the backup RB that means you’re good enough to start elsewhere. Expect him to get lots of carries when Bo Scarborough is pulled out the game to have his battery recharged.
- Jordan Scarlett (Soph, Florida) With the underrated workhorse Kelvin Taylor gone, Florida is looking for the next guy up. Well, Jordan Scarlett could potentially be that guy. He didn’t get a lot of playing time last year but the talent is definitely there.
- Derrius Guice (Soph, LSU) If LSU didn’t have a cyborg starting at RB, we’d know a lot more about Derrius Guice. (Look at his highlights from the Texas A&M game)
- Saquon Barkley (Soph, Penn State) – There is a lot of hype swirling his name. With Hackenberg gone (lol) expect Penn State to lean on him more for production (lmao)
- Joe Mixon (Soph, Oklahoma) – As talented as this guy is, there’s still a dark cloud looming over him. Who knows what will happen this year.
James Conner (RS Jr, Pittsburgh)
He recovered from an MCL tear and conquered cancer, so any on-field opposition he faces on the field this season should be easy compared to what he’s gone through. He’s a workhorse RB and hopefully he’s back at full health. His story is one of the best in college football.
Alvin Kamara (RS Jr, Tennesee)
This guy would possibly be Bama’s starter or at least change of pace back if he wasn’t dismissed for disciplinary reasons. After a stop at JUCO, he’s found a home at Tennessee where he’s become their jack of all trades weapon. He’s a very capable receiver, a threat for special teams and of course a pretty damn good RB.
Jalen Hurd (Jr, Tennesee)
At 6’4 240, Jalen Hurd possesses a rare combination of speed and power. One paper, he should be the most dominate RB in the nation. The whole package hasn’t come together yet, though. I expect him to make a big leap this season. I just hope he goes absent on September 24th and October 15th.
Royce Freeman (Jr, Oregon)
Royce Freeman isn’t your typical Oregon running back. He plays like he’s starting for Texas back in 1998. Now, that’s not quite my comparison but he just looks out of place with the rest of the tiny ducks. Surprisingly, though, the Oregon offense doesn’t skip a beat with this guy. His teammates called him the best RB in the country. That’s one hell of a hill to climb.
Sony Michel (Jr, Georgia)
Yes, Georgia’s OTHER running back. Although “other” is totally disrespectful because he went on to have a 1600 yard season in Nick Chubb’s absence before he too was hurt. He hasn’t been cleared for contact yet but he’s sorely needed if UGa even has a chance this year.
Elijah Hood (Jr, UNC)
Maybe if he chose to go somewhere else he’d be getting more love now. He was ranked as the 4th best RB in his recruiting class so the opportunities were there. But he opted to stay home and attend that stupid North Carolina school with powder blue uniforms. His 2015 season was his introduction to the nation but he should have an even better season this year.
Samaje Perine (Jr, Oklahoma)
I don’t think we quite know now good Semaje Perine is. He’s a guy who probably won’t test well at the combine, will end up a 3rd or 4th rd selection but a full-time starter for some NFL team. He’s put together some of the most impressive runs since he’s been at Oklahoma.
Wayne Gallman (RS Jr, Clemson)
When it comes to Clemson’s exciting, fast past offense, Gallman is probably the least interesting member of it. But…you can’t help but like the guy. There’s no flash to his style of play, he just gets the job done. He’s made plays in the games that matters and frankly that’s all that counts.
Nick Chubb (Jr, Georgia)
Posting anything but this pic would’ve been asinine. I don’t care that he’s not wearing pads, this is the greatest display of his athleticism I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, like his fellow Bulldawg in crime Sony Michel, he too is recovering from an injury. But because he’s half man, half rhinoceros, he’s ready to go for Georgia’s season opener and won’t be held back.
NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE BIG 3!!!
Christian McCaffrey (Jr, Stanford)
Yes, the Heisman voters got it right last year. Derrick Henry won the Heisman because he had an incredible season. Otherwise, Christian McCaffrey’s name was all over it.
I watched every Stanford game last year like “Nah, he’s really not doing this, is he? Nah, he can’t be serious”. I can’t remember the last time a skill player, specifically RB, has been a home run threat every time he touched the ball since Sir Reginald Bush of Troy. McCaffrey is the real deal.
Dalvin Cook (Jr, FSU)
In my mind, Dalvin Cook is undoubtedly the best RB in the nation. He just has the misfortune of playing in the same era as a once in a generation talent (coming later).
Don’t let his seemingly “small” 5’11 213 frame fool you, if he can’t run around you then he will run through you. You accelerates quicker than any other RB listed here and is just fast as hell in general. He gets a few knicks and bruises occasionally but he should be a Heisman favorite if he can stay healthy.
Leonard Fournette (Jr, LSU)
As James Earl “Boobie” Miles once said, “All I know howta do is play football”. That’s Leonard Fournette. He was born for this. He was in the womb doing squats. At three years old, he was already benching a plate. He’s that once in a generation talent.
I generally hate hyping players but when I hype them, it’s for damn good reason. I would not only take this guy in the first round of the upcoming draft, but I would take him #1 overall if I was feeling sassy that day. He’s the truth.
What he did to Auburn’s defense is still illegal in 38 states.
QBs will always be mainstays. There’s also a boom of WRs right now. This group should put the spotlight back on the RBs though. If your team needs an RB or two (cough Eagles!) then keep an eye out on these guys.