Ray’s Top 20 Running Backs and Comparisons

Please note I am using only current NFL players in my comparisons

  1. Saquon Barkley (Penn St.)

There is no denying that Barkley is a unique talent. Even though Barkley ran for 1,076 yards as a freshmen, he really burst onto the scene in his sophomore year in Penn St. loss to USC in the Rose Bowl. Barkley ran for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns, caught 5 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown and even returned 2 kicks for 57 yards. He followed that up this season with over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns. Barkley is a patient runner with good burst through the hole. He sometimes can get caught moving sideline to sideline and waiting for holes to open up, but that’s rarely an issue.

NFL Comparison: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams


  1. Darrius Guice (LSU)

Guice has not garnered the attention of Barkley but he deserved a great deal of credit. Guice has run for 2,638 yards over the past two season and a total of 26 touchdowns. While he doesn’t have the receiving stats as Barkley does, he is still capable in the pass game. Guice does have some off the field concerns which will hurt his draft stock and there is a little concern about his durability because of his aggressive style of running. Guice will be a very good starter in the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts


  1. Ronald Jones (USC)

Jones has great burst and can cut back very quickly and get back to top speed quickly. He has very good vision and can break off big runs. Jones has good hands but is a mediocre in pass protection. He does have the skill set to be good pass protector. Jones has been productive all three years at USC and will have no issues transitioning into a very good starter immediately. He could stand to add 5-10 pounds of muscle.

NFL Comparison: Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons


  1. Sony Michel (Georgia)

Sony Michel never really got the credit he deserved and a large part of that was due to lack of touches. He shared a backfield with Todd Gurley as a freshmen and Nick Chubb for their entire collegiate careers. Michel stepped up big in 2015 after Chubb went down with a knee injury and showed what he can do. Michel is a very quick back with good burst and put on good weight while at Georgia. He is a good receiver out of the backfield (even though he only had 9 catches this year).  Durability is a concern as he has missed a decent amount of time with injuries throughout his career.

NFL Comparison: Lamar Miller, Houston Texans


  1. Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)

Johnson is an intriguing back. He has great patience and quickness through holes but doesn’t run with a ton of power. He tends to bounce off of tacklers as opposed to running through tackles. He has good hands but he needs to work on his pass protection. Johnson could be a very good running back but has battled a lot of injuries throughout his career. He will be an early day 2 pick who can be plugged into the lineup immediately but my concern is that he may be worn down by the end of his first contract.

NFL Comparison: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings


  1. Nick Chubb (Georgia)

Chubb looked to be on the way to being a top 5 pick after gaining 745 yards in the first five games of his sophomore season (this included a 20-146-1 performance against Alabama). But against Tennessee Chubb tore almost everything in his knee except his ACL. He rebounded in 2016 with 1,130 yards and then 1,345 yards this past year. Chubb is a strong runner who lacks explosiveness but is very difficult to bring down. Still, Chubb doesn’t appear to be the same running back he was after the knee injury.

NFL Comparison: Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles


  1. Royce Freeman (Oregon)

Freeman is the most intriguing running back in the 2018 draft class. After rushing for 1,836 yards as a sophomore, Freeman was held to 945 yards as a junior while battling numerous injuries and poor quarterback play. He rebounded in 2017 in a huge way running for 1,475 yards (over 6 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns. Freeman is a big back who is a very underrated athlete. He has the ability to be a good pass receiver and has improved his pass protection. He has good patience and but needs to use his size better to his advantage. Freeman should be a day 2 pick and could start immediately.

NFL Comparison: Jonathan Stewart, New York Giants


  1. Rashaad Penny (San Diego St.)

For the second year in a row a running back from San Diego St. has lead the country in rushing. In 2016, Donnel Pumphery ran for 2,133 yards and Penny followed that up with 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns. Penny has an ideal frame for the NFL to go along with good vision and burst. He performed well at the Combine to affirm his athleticism. He needs to improve in the passing game if he wants to stay on the field all 3 downs. His production is impressive but it’s a question mark that two different players from the same offense led the country in rushing two consecutive years.

NFL Comparison: Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets


  1. Jaylen Samuels (North Carolina St.)

Jaylen Samuels is a definition of swiss army knife. He can be play halfback, fullback or tight end. He has good hands and can catch the ball from the line of scrimmage or from the backfield. As a runner he will be somewhat limited. Samuels will make numerous Pro Bowls if he gets into the right offense. He can spend every snap on offense in a variety of ways. Samuels could be a day 2 picks but at worst he will end up going in the 4thround and he will be a steal.

NFL Comparison: Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers


  1. Nyheim Hines (North Carolina St.)

Hines is a shorter back who just misses the 200 pound mark. Hines has elite speed and very good quickness and bursts in short areas. He is also a very good return man. Hines had 43 receptions in 2016 and followed it up with 26 this past year. He ran the ball more though with 197 attempts for 1,112 yards in 2017 after only carrying it for 13 times in 2016. Hines will fit a particular mold in the NFL and won’t be a three down work horse but will be very effective getting 8-10 carries, 5-6 receptions and returning kicks.

NFL Comparison: Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns


  1. Kalen Ballage (Arizona St.)

Ballage is another very intriguing running back. He has great size, speed and over athleticism. He is a very good receiver and could see an interest from teams who want to use him as a receiver exclusively. He has very good speed and burst but his pad level is too high. He is not a great runner and doesn’t always make the best cuts. He can play an important role but will need someone to compliment his style. He has the ability to be very good NFL player.

NFL Comparison: Buck Allen, Baltimore Ravens


  1. Justin Jackson (Northwestern)

Jackson is a strong running back for being just shy of 200 pounds. He runs hard and breaks tackles. He has good speed and quickness but not at an elite level. He can be slippery at the line of scrimmage and he has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield with 122 catches in his career. He could stand to add 5-10 pounds and at the very least should serve as a very good backup in his career.

NFL Comparison: James White, New England Patriots


  1. Josh Adams (Notre Dame)

Adams has a big frame and good athleticism for his size. He had a very productive collegiate topped off with a 1,430 yard performance on 206 carries (6.9 yards per carry) and 9 touchdowns. He doesn’t have a great deal of experience catching the ball out of the backfield but should be a solid pass protector at the next level. Adams profiles as a backup running back who can wear down defenses.

NFL Comparison: Alfred Blue, Houston Texans


  1. John Kelly (Tennessee)

Kelly is another well rounded running back. He had limited usage at Tennessee but proved to be very good in the pass game as well as effective runner. He has a solid frame with good athleticism. Kelly has a chance to be a starter in the NFL but he will most likely be a very good complimentary player.

NFL Comparison: Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos


  1. Mark Walton (Miami)

Walton is a strong, compact running back who gets tough yards and has good burst. He doesn’t have great breakaway speed for his size and won’t break too many tackles. He needs to improve in the pass game as a receiver and pass protector. He does have some red flags as he has had some off the field issues and some injury concerns. These should push him to Day 3 but he could develop into a solid backup or average starter.

NFL Comparison: Paul Perkins, New York Giants


  1. Darrel Williams (LSU)

LSU always seems to produce quality running backs and Williams is no different. He was overshadowed by Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice during his career but chose to stay at LSU. Williams is a big back who runs hard and physical. He doesn’t have great speed (he ran a poor 40 at the Combine) and doesn’t have great acceleration. He can be an effective receiver and will hold up in pass protection. He has some of the best ball security in the draft. He will have a home on a NFL roster.

NFL Comparison: Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


  1. Bo Scarborough (Alabama)

Scarborough is a big, strong back with great athleticism. He fits the mold of other Alabama running backs who are incredibly strong and incredibly athletic but he lacks the production of Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon or Trent Richardson. Scarborough runs upright and his big frame gives defenses a big target to wrap up. He can break tackles but his running style won’t be a perfect translation to the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Matt Jones, Indianapolis Colts


  1. Akrum Wadley (Iowa)

Wadley is one of the smaller backs in this draft and doesn’t have elite breakaway speed. He is quick through the hole and tends to use a lot of shifty moves to make defenders miss. He is a good receiver out of the backfield but will have trouble in pass protection. He also has experience as a kick returner which may be a path to a sustained roster spot in the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals


  1. Chase Edmonds (Fordham)

Edmonds is one of the best skill position players to come out of the FCS this year. He is small, compact running back with good speed and great quickness. He can put his foot in the ground and get upfield very quickly. He is good receiver out of the backfield and can make plays happen when given space. Even though he isn’t the biggest back he can break tackles and he keeps his feet moving. He will make a NFL roster. He did miss some time in 2017 with a leg injury so durability is a question mark.

NFL Comparison: Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders


  1. Chris Warren (Texas)

Warren is a big, strong running back who can serve as a short yardage back and some teams will look at him as a fullback. Warren has good hands and has good vision to make cuts and power through defenders. He isn’t going to make many people miss and is somewhat of a throwback running back. He can be a punishing runner who has adequate speed to be a successful running back.

NFL Comparison: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals