Cleat Geeks

Don’t Be Draft! – Running Backs

Would you look at that I am back with another one of my ‘Don’t be Draft!’ series, this time I’m looking at the Running Backs. Like the QBs, this is one of the deepest classes in a long old while. You will find great value in the later rounds with guys, such as Mark Walton, Nyhiem Hines, John Kelly and Ito Smith, but then there is the franchise-altering talent that is Saquon Barkley at the top.

The thing about the RBs in this draft and it being so deep, really good players are likely to fall because a team wanting a RB will be happy to wait and bet on getting good value later in the draft. You could get a heavy contributor on day 3, but for sake of time I will only take a look at my top 5 guys, and again in no particular order, but we can all probably guess who is top of my list….

SAQUON BARKLEY – RB – PENN STATE

HT: 6’0             WT: 233           Age: 21

Rushing Receiving
Attempts Yards TD Rec Yards TD
672 3,843 43 102 1,195 8
Image result for saquon barkley

Photo by; NJ.com

Well, well, well, Saquon is a man-beast and is one of the best RB prospects to come out of the draft in the last 10 years. He has massive tree-trunks legs and athletic ability you can only wish or dream of, at 233lbs, he ran 4.4 40 yard dash and had 29 reps on the bench press, just scary. As with the QBs, the only thing I really care about is tape, and my god does Barkley have good tape. His jump-cuts, elite hip wiggle and ability to stop and start seamlessly have made defenders look silly on more than one occasion, just put on his Iowa tape. Some of his cuts and changes in direction are phenomenal so much so, I thought I had torn my ACL. Doesn’t always run with power and relies on his elusiveness to gain yards, this being said, he does have the size and power to run through tacklers and gain some tough yards when needs be. Barkley also shows enough receiving potential to be a legitimate 3rd down back and uses his elusiveness to separate from linebackers in his route running.

Although he is, without doubt, the best RB prospects in the draft and will be entering the NFL as one of the elite guys, there are some issues in his games that he will need to clean up. Barkley didn’t always trust his blockers and would often dance around in the backfield and look for the home run play every single down. You would like to see him put his head down and power for 2/3 yards that have no chance from the beginning. Also, literally 99% of his running plays came from shotgun and he has taken no ‘traditional’ hand-offs, which I think could exacerbate the above problem. But at this point, any ‘issues’ is more about splitting hairs than anything.

With all this being said, he is going to be a top 10 pick and an immediate all-star, I’m super excited to see him play and I think he is as sure of a bet as you can get.

RONALD JONES – RB – USC

HT: 5’11           WT: 203           Age: 20

Rushing Receiving
Attempts Yards TD Rec Yards TD
591 3,619 39 31 280 3

Outside of Saquon, Ronald is my favourite running back in this class. I really, really like Ronald Jones to me he looks like the real deal. He has a great mixture of power and elusiveness and breaks tackles with ease, almost like he is covered in Vaseline. His running style, hesitant to say, reminds me of Kamara or Hunt, in that he doesn’t look fast, but he seems to glide and eats up the ground in front of him. Don’t take too much stock in his 40-yd dash, he pulled his hammy and that affected his time. He sets up his blockers and hides his cuts until the last second creating yards at will and he has some of the best 10-12 yard runs on tape. Jones has great balance and vision, whilst constantly fighting and falls forwards gaining extra hidden yardage, especially prevalent in goal-line situations. Whilst he didn’t catch too many passes at USC, he is more than capable, again making him a legitimate 3 down back.

Image result for ronald jones usc

Photo by; 247sports.com

For me, the issues start and end really at his size and frame, coming off a heavy workload in 2017, 205lbs for a 3 down running back is a little concerning. However, he is 20 years old and an NFL offseason, I’m sure this will change drastically. His running style and aggressiveness can also cause him to take unnecessary big hits and this could be even more of an issue in the NFL. Perhaps, to be hypercritical, he needs to work on his improving his tempo, rhythm and patience, sometimes getting to the line too quickly and missing cutback lanes or open holes.

Like I said, Ronald Jones is my guy, I want to see him play and I want to see him succeed, would not surprise me if he is the second RB taken off of the board, but even that could be mid 2nd. Go get em’ RoJo.

DERRIUS GUICE – RB – LSU

HT: 5’11           WT: 218           Age: 20

Rushing Receiving
Attempts Yards TD Rec Yards TD
471 3,074 29 32 250 3

Image result for derrius guice lsuGuice spent quite a lot of the year injured and not up to his true self, but he showed some flashes down the stretch and that is why he is being considered one of the top guys. Guice, I believe runs with a similar attitude and aggression as his predecessor, Leonard Fournette. However, is not the same size and has a little bit more elusiveness and is a little more nimble. This being said, he can give you a mean stiff arm, or run you over, running with great power. The thing that jumped out on tape about Guice is his elite balance, especially making contact and he can keep his balance even with limbs flailing everywhere, but it also plays a part in breaking tackles. Combine this with outstanding vision and recognition, he is able to set up blocks and find open creases more often than not. He has good enough long speed and does possess the home run capability, but his burst and acceleration do not match the guys above.

The aforementioned injury history is one of the reasons I would be wary of taking him. At the next level, this type of running style is very hard to keep up for 16 games, just ask Fournette. Again, with his running style, he does opt for contact and can miss creases and thus leaving yards on the field. Touching on his elusiveness, it is more one-cut upfield and go, doesn’t have the necessary hip wiggle to make tacklers miss in the hole. Finally and perhaps most importantly in this day and age, whilst he is adequate out of the backfield, he is not on the same level as some of the top guys in the league and the guys above.

You can’t help but admire the way Guice runs and plays the game, he is aggressive, competitive and makes some highlight reel runs. I can see him being successful as part of a tandem, where he isn’t the bell cow, but early on in his career can take the short yardage and 4th quarter snaps. Whatever, he will still be good fun to watch.

RASHAAD PENNY – RB – SAN DIEGO STATE

HT: 5’11           WT:220            Age: 22

Rushing Receiving
Attempts Yards TD Rec Yards TD
487 3643 38 42 376 6
Image result for rashaad penny sdsu

Photo by; SDSU NewsCenter

Penny led the nation in rushing in 2017 with 2,246 yards and 23 TDs and is one of the more productive runners in the class. Why is he not at the top of the list? Because production is not everything. This is not to say that Penny doesn’t deserve praise because he does and I like what I see on tape. He is a big-bodied back and has the capability to be an every-down back in the league, he spots a hole and then bursts through it, one of the better guys to do this. Like Guice, he is more of a one-cut guy and will not necessarily make you miss with devastating jukes, but has enough hip wiggle. I like the power that he runs with and will drop the shoulder and gain the necessary ugly and hard yards. Also, has great speed and has the ability to turn the corner and hit the big run, especially for his size. Most of his time was spent in ‘pro-style’ offence, so I don’t think the adjustment will be as big for him.

Even though he has good vision and bursts through arm tackles in the hole, sometimes he can be a little hesitant to the line of scrimmage and slow down before contact and his upright running style concerns me. Trust me, he will only do this once in the NFL, when someone like Kuechly demolishes him. He doesn’t always break the good, strong tackles, can be taken down a little too easy in my opinion, and he can be a little too eager to bounce runs to the outside, especially in the second level. Again, like Guice, not the most gifted receiver and you would like to see him become more effective in the passing game.

Overall, I liked the flashes I saw from Penny, but he can be a little frustrating to watch and he doesn’t necessarily excite me as a prospect. I think at best he will be an above average starter for a team and be REALLY good value in the 3rd/4th round.

SONY MICHEL – RB – GEORGIA

HT: 5’11           WT: 212           Age: 23

Rushing Receiving
Attempts Yards TD Rec Yards TD
591 3638 33 64 621 1

A 2-year captain and known for his leadership and on the field personality, Michel formed part of the ultra-productive duo, with fellow prospect Nick Chubb, that led Georgia all the way to the National Championship game. Michel has a good, strong, muscular frame that sees him break arm tackles with unnerving ease. I think he perhaps has the best rushing discipline of the group and always seems to find the open hole and very rarely do you see negative running plays from him. Very patient and lets blocks set up in front of him and then has good enough burst to make the most of it. He does show a good blend of open field moves and power, but these are not as electric as you see from Jones or Barkley. However, like Jones, he does eat up the field and despite his 40 does have decent speed, 6 of his TDs went for 16 yards or more. Not mentioned much in this article is pass blocking as rookies are rarely asked to do it, but Michel is probably the best of the bunch in this aspect of the game.

As mentioned he doesn’t have the stop-start or cutting ability of the top guys and is more of an angular runner, lacking the agility to elude tacklers late. Also, I know this is not his fault but his offensive line did open some MASSIVE holes for him and while this was great for his success, was detrimental to showing off as a prospect. I do think that whilst showing great discipline, he is a little quick to give up on a play and would rather take the short yardage, bulldozing, leaving yards on the field at some points.

Michel has shot up draft boards and it is easier to see why, as I think he projects very well, but he just doesn’t get my juices flowing. I think in a good system and a good offensive line, he can be a great complimentary back and has shown willingness to be part of a productive duo, that’s where I see him in the NFL.

Image result for sony michel georgia

Photo by; FanRag Sports

At this point, I should say, outside of Barkley, you can order these guys anyways you want and I wouldn’t disagree, a testament to the depth of this draft. Mostly, it is personal preference and gut feeling, for some people, Michel is the top guy, for some, it is Guice etc. I know I said at the beginning it was in no particular order, but looking back, I do think this is the order I have these guys.

Well, that wraps it up guys, again, it is my first attempts at properly breaking down prospects, I’m really enjoying these posts and I hope you are as well.

Hit me up (@edmardon23), berate my analysis and we can discuss all things draft!

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