The next installment of the draft prospect series is running back. There are several good backs in this years’ draft.
Round 1 Caliber
Leonard Fournette (LSU) may be the top back in the draft. He was a monster at LSU in 2015 with 1,953 yards and 22 TDs. Fournette had a solid yet injury filled season in 2016 with 1,034 yards and 10 TDs. He is a workhorse power back with some speed. Fournette breaks tackles with ease and gains yards after contact with a bruising style. He must work on his decision making in hitting the holes but should be a Round 1 work horse running back for a lucky team. He may be a top 10 pick.
Dalvin Cook (Florida State) is another workhorse back out Florida State. Cook is 5’10 and 210 pounds. Cook has good vision and power. He has decent speed with a 4.53 40 time. Dalvin was very productive in his two years starting at Florida State. Cook has some fumble and shoulder injury issues but can be a good back in the NFL with his speed and athleticism.
Christian McAffery (Standford) is a borderline Round 1 pick for the 2017 draft. McAffery stands 5’11 at 202 pounds and was incredibly productive at Stanford. Mcaffery is good in space and will be a patient runner in the league. He is a good receiver and rarely fumbles. He must work on his pass protection and bulk up a little to handle the rigors of the NFL.
Alvin Kamara could be in the Round 1 conversation but leads the way for the second tier backs. Kamara is 5’10 and 224 pounds and will be another bruising workhorse back. He is a good athlete with acceleration and athletic ability. He was only a one year starter and teams will want to see more durability and production. He has some tunnel vision for holes and ball security issues.
Joe Mixon has the talent for the second tier. However, Mixon has a major off field incident due to punching and knocking out a girl at a bar on video. Some teams have taken him off the draft board, but others are keeping him on. Mixon was productive for Oklahoma and is athletic with some power. He can create space but doesn’t have elite burst. He should be a weapon in the passing game with good ball skills. Mixon has some fumble issues as well. It will be interesting to see if he is a day 2 pick or falls all the way to day 3 due to his off field issues.
Kareem Hunt (Toledo) and Marlon Mack (South Florida) are two other day 2 prospects at RB.
James Conner (Pitt), D’Onta Foreman, Samaje Perine (Oklahoma), Wayne Gallman (Clemson), Corey Clement (Wisconsin), Jamaal Wiliams (BYU), and Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State) are day 3 picks in this draft. All excel in one area but have limitations in either size or athleticism.
Team Running Back Needs
The Packers and Lions could use a work horse running back. Ameer Abdullah (Det) and Ty Montgomery (GB) are good backs but may not be able to handle over 150 carries in a season. Abdullah should be recovered from his foot surgery and ready by OTAs. Riddick, Zenner and Washington are solid backups for Detroit but are not 15-20 carry options. Theo Riddick is a great receving threat but recovering from double wrist surgeries for the Lions.
Christine Michael will add depth in Green Bay. Chicago should be set with Jordan Howard (starter), Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. Minnesota could add a third back to pair with new free agent addition Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon. Murray underwent ankle surgery already and his progress should be monitored.
Green Bay and Detroit could take a day 1 back if Cook or McCaffery fall to them. Day 2 or Day 3 is more likely for each team. Minnesota will wait until day 3 and Chicago probably won’t select a back.