2021 Draft Prospect Rankings: Running Back Edition (1/6/21)

(These are rankings based on current information acquired. Subject to be updated in a different article and assuming all prospects declare for the draft. Thanks for reading and enjoy!)

*NFL Player Comparisons (Comps) are NOT career arcs but more so play style and archetype category. Using comps are a good way to envision how a player may look in a certain scheme, their best usage or their mannerisms during game situation.*

1.) Najee Harris 6’2″ 230 lbs. – Le’Veon Bell

“This ranking is primarily based on the possibilities of what he could become based on how the NFL is changing. Defenses are going smaller to combat the high frequency of passing and that makes bigger RBs with speed like Harris a commodity. (See Derrick Henry.) His ability to break tackles and power his way into the end zone in the red area is one of two translatable traits that are special. The other is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He’s now a player that can be a sustainer, short yardage and third down back. Those are qualities of a RB1. I will have to say his suddenness and wiggle aren’t special and he’s the ultimate boom or bust prospect due to his upright running style and less than ideal flexibility. He’d be lower in my rankings but I’m not going to overthink what I believe teams are going to covet. The Le’Veon Bell comp is inspired by his underrated pass catching ability and dancing bear like approach while running.”

2.) Travis Etienne 5’10” 205 lbs. – Kareem Hunt

“Everyone’s RB sweetheart. I like his breakaway speed and pass catching skillset but outside of that I’m left asking for more. His vision is inconsistent and runs flat footed. However, in today’s NFL the ability to be on the field on third down and having homerun ability is not to be ignored. Like Kareem Hunt, he can pack a wallop when he gains momentum and is headed downhill. But like Najee Harris, I do question how he’ll hold up at the next level. He’s a freak but they’re both very unconventional archetypes in my opinion.”

3.) Javonte Williams 5’10” 220 lbs. – Mike Davis/James Robinson

“Javonte Williams is probably the most physical runner in this draft. He could be your Week 1 starter or an excellent change up back. I’d imagine him being a tough task for defenders to handle late in games as he finishes every run with physicality. There’s much to be desired from his juke package but he makes up for it by being decisive and prompt. He’ll be an average receiver out of the backfield and better suited for a traditional RB role. The Davis and Robinson comp come from the similarities in aggressive running styles and immediate decisiveness using their sequential running style.”

4.) Kylin Hill 5’11” 215 lbs. – Alvin Kamara

“Honestly, I think Kylin Hill has the potential to be the best RB in this draft when it’s all said and done. He’d be ranked a lot higher if it weren’t for his long speed and projected situation. There’s a possibility he could slide and that would imply him being behind a starter or put in a position he’s not utilized. All things being equal, I’d stand on the table for this guy in the late second to third round on a RB needy team that employs a 2 back system. Hill’s lower body explosiveness, paired with his competitive nature and finishing ability makes him one of the more complete pure runners in this draft class. If you don’t agree with the Kamara comp, I’d assume you didn’t watch his tape when he was at Tennessee. His evaluation was all about environmental projection. From body type once introduced to an NFL weight room, all the way to the system he was placed in. Hill is a different animal but that exact same beast.”

5.) Michael Carter 5’10” 200 lbs. – Dalvin Cook

“Michael Carter is incredibly light on his feet. He moves as if he’s tiptoeing on feathers. He’s primarily an outside zone runner. He does like to bounce it sometimes as opposed to bang it up the middle and because of that it effects the maximization of his touches. He’s another back that could surprise many depending on the situation he goes to. If they use his excellent vision and put him in space he could have immediate impact. The Dalvin Cook comp might be generous to some but I believe it can be right on par. Carter just has to develop a between the tackle game and finish his runs with toughness.”

6.) Trey Sermon 6’0″ 216 lbs. – Arian Foster

“I randomly saw Trey Sermon run the ball over the past year without knowing much about him and based on that small sample size, I just knew he’d be a premier RB. I first noticed his start and stop ability which is extremely rare and that translates well at the next level. He plays behind his pads and runs with excellent pace. Another trait I observed is he’s always falling forward. He rarely gets stopped in his tracks and that hidden yardage adds up. He reminds me of Arian Foster because of how fluid he is in and out of his cuts. Sermon does have to remember to protect himself because he has a penchant to bring his pads late and at 6″0″ maybe more, he really has to play with leverage at the next level.”

7.) Chuba Hubbard 6’0″ 207 lbs. – Kenyan Drake/Fred Jackson

“Everybody that knows me, knows that I can’t stand a RB who fumbles too much. It’s almost a non-negotiable. Hubbard had 11 collegiate career fumbles on 585 carries. After I saw what Coach Belichick did with Sony Michel though, I came to the conclusion I guess all it takes is some good coaching. Hubbard has a ceiling, in my opinion, that could make him dangerous at the next level. I believe he could get stronger and faster and that’s rare this late in a RB’s progression. Especially one who has a ton of carries and has surpassed 2,000 yards in a season before. He wins with straight line speed. He struggles with ball security and pass protection. There’s a lot to like about Hubbard. He just needs an excellent coach to bring it out of him.”

8.) Rakeem Boyd 6’0″ 213 lbs. – David Johnson

“Rakeem Boyd moved in and out of my top 10 but apparently he was undeniable. His size and running style prevailed. I watched him as he displayed above average vision and finish ability. He produced vs. big time opponents and was a chain mover. There’s nothing flashy about his game he just gets the job done. He can catch and be present on 3rd down and he’s strong enough for short yardage. He possesses a very similar skillset to David Johnson. They are both linear runners with a good set of hands and are tough.”

9.) Kenneth Gainwell 5’10” 191 lbs.- Austin Ekeler

“Gainwell is getting a tremendous amount of leniency here at this spot for a player that’s not yet a pure runner. (Meaning: a runner that displays patience, vision, and pace.) With NFL coaching he’ll get there though. What stands out most about Gainwell is his build and his catching ability. He doesn’t look it on tape but he’s stout with big hands and he’s a monster competitor. A scheme like the Chargers or even the Patriots, where pass catching RBs flourish, would be ideal. Hence, the Ekeler comp.”

10.) Rhamondre Stevenson 6’0″ 240 lbs. – LeGarrette Blount

“Stevenson can benefit from an NFL weight program but even with his current physique he’s impressive. He breaks tackles with ease and incorporates a mean stiff arm to keep would be tacklers at bay. He’s nimble on his feet and shows good contact balance and burst for his size. The Blount comp is legitimate but the sample size is small. He only had 165 carries in college.”

(RBs 11-34: Zamir White, Khalil Herbert, Akim Rose, Mohamed Ibrahim, Javian Hawkins, Pooka Williams, CJ Verdell, Demetric Felton, Dameon Pierce, Larry Rountree III, Brian Robinson, Master Teague III, Mekhi Sargent, Ronnie Rivers, Trey Ragas, Josh Johnson, Max Borghi, Jaret Patterson, Kennedy Brooks, Gerrid Doaks, Trestan Ebner, Deon Jackson, Jah-Maine Martin, Spencer Brown)

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