Evaluating the Top Five Backs in the NFL Draft

Top Five Running Backs

Saquon Barkley: By far the best running back in the class, similar to Fournette last NFL Draft.
The pride of Penn State is listed at 5-11, 223 lbs. Barkley showed potential freshman
year before breaking out in his sophomore season. The following summer Barkley broke a Penn
State record when he Power Cleaned 405 pounds. He has been one of the more consistent
players in college football, staying between 5.5 and 5.9 yards per carry in three seasons. Barkley
ran for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns in three seasons. He is also an elite pass catcher as he
grabbed 102 receptions for 1,195 yards and 8 touchdowns. Saquon is a projected top 10 pick
and could very well be in the top 3. He has elite acceleration and explosiveness through the hole.
What really sets Barkley apart is his balance, Saquon bounces off tackles without slowing down
and has to be gang tackled in most situations.

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Barkley is extremely difficult to bring down because he plays like a triple threat in basketball.
However, instead of pass, shoot or dribble, he has the option of dropping his shoulders and
laying a player out, breaking his ankles with an explosive juke, or throwing out that powerful stiff
arm and taking the defender wherever he wants to go. Barkley also hurdles like nobody I have
ever seen.

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Barkley may be the best athlete in the entire draft class and is as much of a sure thing in this
draft as there is. No doubt in my mind he starts as a rookie and dominates. Grab this guy in your
fantasy league and start him, he’s projects to be one of the most entertaining players in the
upcoming draft right behind Baker Mayfield.

Derrius Guice: The LSU balanced back is listed at 5-11, 212 lbs. Guice showed potential
freshman year when he averaged 8.5 yards per carry with a limited workload (51 carries). Guice
dominated his sophomore year behind Leonard Fournette, running for 1,387 yards and 15
touchdowns. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry, a dominant mark for a backup. Guice took over
the backfield junior year once Fournette went number four overall to the Jaguars. He did not
disappoint, running for 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns. He increased his carries by 54 which
dropped his average to 5.3 a carry. This is standard because he becomes the focal point of the
offense, yet still averaged a first down every two plays as the guy with the target on his back. His
touchdowns regressed for the same reason, when he was on the field in the red zone the defense
called run stopping plays so LSU had to counter with passes. I would consider Guice a second
or third round pick. He is not widely regarded as the next superstar back but has a lot of potential
and is an all around athlete. He has above average speed, strength, and instincts. He knows
when to cut and when to drop his shoulders for a few extra yards. He could take over an NFL
backfield but do not expect him to get that kind of work in his rookie year.

Watch as Guice hits the hole patiently before making a mini-hurdle, bouncing it outside, and
shows off the wheels:

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Here is an example of a busted play that Guice turns into a positive play after breaking four
tackles:

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This is just a video of Guice committing a homicide purely for entertainment:

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Ronald Jones II: Jones (6’0, 200 lbs) has accumulated 3,319 yards and 39 touchdowns in three
seasons for the USC Trojans as well as 32 receptions for 302 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns.
He ran for 1,550 yards (8th in FBS) and 19 touchdowns (T-5 in FBS). He has the stats to stand
out in a league of 129 schools and has the tape to back it up. Jones stands out to me because of
his instincts and patience. Not saying he is the next Le’Veon Bell but he does have a similar
running style with a foundation of hesitation in the backfield and explosive cuts at the second
level.

Watch Jones as Colorado floods the strong side gap, forcing Jones to hit the brakes, cut to the
weak side where he makes a defender look silly with a quick juke before wheeling into the end
zone:

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Here’s Jones bobby and weaving some more:

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Ronald appears to have average speed but high end explosiveness and ball carrier vision. I
expect him to get drafted between rounds two and four and making an impact early. If he gets
drafted to a RB needy team, he could play immediately and produce. Jones is getting overlooked
in a RB loaded class.

Sony Michel: Michel (5-11, 215 lbs) as my fourth ranked back is bold, over fellow Georgia RB Nick

Chubb is even more so. Chubb and Michel were called Thunder (Chubb) and Lightning (Michel) at

Georgia. The senior duo lead their team to the National Championship game and should have the

chance to compete for a Super Bowl at the NFL level next season. Michel was the speed back for

Georgia and ran for 3,638 yards in his four seasons and 33 touchdowns on the ground. He also caught

64 receptions for 621 yards and 6 touchdowns. Sony ran for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns his senior year,
proving that he is not just a third down back. Michel plays fast and should have just enough
power to play at the NFL level.

Here’s a clip of Sony breaking an arm tackle and dropping his shoulders to gain a few yards:

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This is a video of Sony Michel running really fast:

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Sony Michel will be drafted in the third round at the earliest, and could slip to the fifth round
potentially. He would be a steal that late, as he could be a third down back as a rookie. He
translates to a James White role where he could be used as a backup and third down back. He
would give an established NFL back some rest while having a role carved out on later downs.
Rashaad Penny: Who? Penny is the pride of San Diego State University, listed at 5’11, 220. He
ran for 2,248 yards which was the most in the entire FBS. He also ran for 23 touchdowns, good
for second in the FBS. Not a bad season, it’s a shame I barely knew he existed until I started
looking at rushing stats for other elite RBs. The senior racked up 3,656 yards and 38 touchdowns
at SDSU. He only got two carries in his freshman season, then logged 69 as a sophomore. It
wasn’t until junior year that he got significant carries (136) where he took off for 1,018 yards (7.5/
carry). He also caught 42 passes over his fours seasons and racked up 479 more yards and 6
more touchdowns. He is a pure power back with the ability to catch the football. Penny is hard to
judge but one thing does stand out, pure power.
Watch Penny bulldoze his way through the Army defense on his way to a TD:

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Here’s another example of his strength as he drags a Hawaii defender like a small child for about
eight yards:

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Penny has a ton of upside and could be effective in a rotation. He seems like a great fit to replace
Jonathon Stewart as the power back in Carolina. His draft stock is a mystery but I do not see him
going before the third round. Regardless of where he ends up, I can’t wait to see how he does in
the preseason to get a better idea of his talents.
Let me know what you think and if I should do a part two with guys like Nick Chubb, Royce
Freeman, and Kerryon Johnson.

– Scott Neville – WTF Sports Nation

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