Fantasy scouting report on top-five rookie running backs in 2018 draft

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Many believe RB Saquon Barkley has the makings of a generational talent. What makes him so good?
Many believe RB Saquon Barkley has the makings of a generational talent. What makes him so good? (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

While we won’t know these players’ fantasy values until their landing spots are announced later this month, it is helpful to know what they do (and don’t do) well. Here’s a snap shot of the most commonly ranked running backs. Obviously, the position is deeper than five players. We’ll cover many more names (Rashaad Penny, John Kelly, Kerryon Johnson, Kalen Ballage, etc.) during our LIVE draft coverage on April 26th and 27th. Stay tuned!

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Fun Fact: Per a vote passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, March 14th is Saquon Barkley Day in the Keystone State.
Claim to fame: Put the entire NFL Combine in a clown suit. Has the potential to be a generational talent. In possession of hawk-like vision and ninja-like reflexes. Like an Energizer Bunny, he never stops moving, dizzying defenders with his fast feet and agile frame.
Trying to tame: At times, Barkley relies on his speed and elusiveness, bouncing the ball outside rather than muscling his way up the middle.
Comp: LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders
Fantasy fit: With a workhorse skill-set, Barkley figures to make an immediate impact regardless of where he lands. If it’s with the Browns, he may have to share with Carlos Hyde (though that could be beneficial from a dynasty/keeper standpoint). If it’s with the Giants, he’ll have to contend with a shoddy offensive line. Regardless, he’s going to be one of the hottest fantasy names at the position.

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Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Fun Fact: I’m not being hyperbolic when I call Guice’s journey to the NFL “epic.” Equal parts motivating, inspiring, and frustrating, his story is much more than a “fun fact” and deserves real recognition. That being said, he once rescued a woman from a car wreck.
Claim to fame: With a strong lower body, excellent balance, and an angry running style, Guice is a hard-to-take-down tackle-breaker.
Trying to tame: I love the chip on his shoulder, but running mad can lead to an excess of hits and early deterioration. He’s also got to learn to lead with his shoulder, and not his helmet.
Comp: Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore
Fantasy fit: The Jets are a realistic destination for Guice. After all, Matt Forte has hung up his cleats and Bilal Powell still isn’t the answer (sorry @YahooNoise). But, come on fantasy deities, can we please get this Tiger to the Seahawks? He’s not 100% Beast Mode, but that backfield needs a power element, and with a mobile QB Guice could find some serious holes. #makeithappen

Ronald Jones, RB, USC
Fun Fact: Aggravated a hamstring injury during his first 40-yard-dash run at the Combine. Despite not being 100 percent, Jones clocked a 4.48 time at a USC makeup pro day, for which Sam Darnold rushed home.
Claim to fame: There’s an effortless immediacy to his game. He bursts into action right away, accelerating forward before defensive linemen are even in motion. Hyper-elusive and light on his feet, Jones has the quicks to confuse tacklers and the power to drag them along (which is impressive considering he tips the scales at just over 200 pounds).
Trying to tame: Jones has easy burst, but sometimes he rushes forward before letting blocks develop. He could use some patience. There’s also some concern that given his frame (5’11” and 205 pounds) he won’t be able to handle a full (20+) compliment of touches.
Comp: Jamaal Charles
Fantasy fit: The Broncos have a lot of needs ahead of a running back, so they’ll probably be forced to miss out on Jones. However, the team appears open to moving C.J. Anderson, they did experiment with Charles last year, and that backfield could use some younger wiggle.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Fun Fact: The great-grandson of Nicholas Chubb, who was one of the founders of Chubbtown, Georgia.
Claim to fame: Chubb is a disciplined runner who knows when to rush up the middle and when to bounce it outside. In possession of a tackle-breaking frame (5’11” and 227 pounds), he excels in short yardage and is a threat in the open field. He also does a fantastic job of taking care of the football.
Trying to tame: Some say he’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none (something critics also said about Jay Ajayi, who has a similar athletic profile). He was noticeably less explosive after suffering a left knee injury in 2015, though his performance at the NFL Combine may have scouts looking at him in a new light.
Comp: Jonathan Stewart
Fantasy fit: Get there Detroit! Sure, LeGarrette Blount is the Lions’ current power element, but at 31-years-old he’s not a lock to make the team. And after three underwhelming seasons, it’s safe to say the Ameer Abdullah experiment has failed. Chubb is a balanced rusher that could add some much needed horsepower to the team in Motor City.

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Fun Fact: Has a brother who plays in the CFL.
Claim to fame: A straight-line runner with elite acceleration who shines when running north to south, and can catch out of the backfield.
Trying to tame: An upright running style that invites contact and lacks finesse.
Comp: Tevin Coleman
Fantasy fit: I see some Matt Forte in Michel’s game, so the Jets would make sense. The Bucs also have a need at RB, but I have to imagine they’d want to tap a guy who could handle 20+ touches per outing (Michel is more of an 8-12 carry and 3-5 catch kind of player). Regardless, there’s a good chance Michel is selected in the first two days of the draft, which means he’s likely to make an immediate impact.

Where would you like to see each RB land? Follow Liz and tweet her your projected landing spots @LizLoza_FF.

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