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Unlike the wide receivers, this year’s class of running backs DOES have a No. 1 consensus pick, and you’ll find his profile below. After Josh Jacobs (spoiler) however, things get a bit muddy. Most of these prospects figure to be selected on Day 2 or 3 of the draft. That makes projecting their landing spots a bit tricky, but I still gave it a shot. (Note: I did not send any of the below backs to the Bears because ANY of them could land in Chicago).
The below players are my personal top-five picks. For a deeper dive, download the April 10 episode of the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast, wherein Matt Harmon and Eric Edholm scout the lesser-known names in this year’s incoming class (including a value pick that I LOVE).
1. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
Fun Fact: Has one of the most inspirational stories among prospects in this year’s draft, as he spent many of his formative years sleeping on sofas, hotel beds, and even in the back of his father’s suburban.
Claim to fame: In possession of a sturdy and compact build (5-foot-10 and 220 pounds), Jacobs is a hard-to-take-down power-runner of the one-cut variety. While the Oklahoma native has the speed and explosiveness to get to the edge, he also has the patience to let blocks develop, and the vision to spot holes. With expert decisiveness, Jacobs attacks all levels of the field, breaking tackles and knocking defenders off balance. The 21 year old is also an ace receiver who can track and catch the ball. He adds value on special teams as a returner.
Trying to tame: Purists take issue with the fact that Jacobs was never Alabama’s featured back, but worked in a platoon with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. Of course, that also means his odometer reading is lower, which could be seen as a positive. Other notes include Jacobs’ lack of long speed and average testing numbers.
The Take: The hands-down best running back in this year’s class, Jacobs has the physical and mental tools to be a premier player at the next level. His aggressive running style and all-out effort may make him vulnerable to injury, but the extra yards he gains and the thrill he provides to viewers will be greatly valued.
NFL comp: Kareem Hunt
Fantasy fit: Jacobs has been linked to numerous teams throughout the pre-draft process, but reports indicate that Oakland, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia have the strongest interest. Of those teams, the Raiders have the biggest and most obvious need. Were Jacobs sent to the Black Hole, he could expect upwards of 15-17 carries per contest.
2. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State
Fun Fact: Montgomery has said that his experience as an Eagle Scout taught him a significant amount about “health, survival, and leadership” and has helped to provide him with the “mindset” necessary to excel on the football field.
Claim to fame: Racking up over 1,400 rushing yards and close to 200 receiving yards as a starter in back-to-back seasons, the Cincinnati native has proven to be a reliable and productive back. With good size (5-foot-10 and 222 pounds) and a powerful lower-half, Montgomery is a hard runner with the instincts and patience to collect yards. What sets him apart, however, is his creativity and his ability to fool defenders into thinking he’ll either quit or go down.
Trying to tame: His speed is just average (4.63), as he’s missing a second gear to make home-run plays. He can make guys miss, but he’s not necessarily explosive enough to blast through the next set of obstacles. Averaging nearly 280 total touches in each of the last two years, there’s additionally some concern about his odometer.
The Take: A converted quarterback, Montgomery has the build, vision, and balance to work in a starting platoon at the next level. His willingness to fight for extra yards (whether he’s utilizing expert elusiveness or employing a nifty head fake) is admirable, but some self-editing could reduce wasted movement and streamline his running style.
Comp: Carlos Hyde
Fantasy fit: Both of the Bills’ backs will be over 30-years-old when the 2019 season opens (LeSean McCoy is entering his age-31 season and Frank Gore will be 36 in May), which means Buffalo is likely looking to add some youth to their roster. Montgomery could have the opportunity to be mentored by two of the league’s most dominant players while also existing as an insurance policy for the team. That’s a win-win.
3. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic
Fun Fact: Shares the nickname “Motor” with his father, who played running back at Norfolk State.
Claim to fame: Singletary has a nose for the end zone, as evidenced by his college production (4,287 rushing yards and 67 rushing TDs while at FAU). A seemingly inexhaustible player, the Owl has an astounding ability to shimmy, shake, and slip through even the tiniest hole.
Trying to tame: At just 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, Singletary could benefit by adding bulk to his frame. The extra mass could certainly help his work in pass protection, which has been a weak point thus far in the 21 year old’s game. If he were to add weight, however, he’d need to be mindful of not losing any quicks, as he already lacks straight-line speed.
The Take: While he plays bigger than his size, Singletary’s small stature and lack of receiving experience (just six catches in 2018) will likely keep him limited to a change-of-pace role at the next level. A combination of toughness, balance, and creativity contribute to his rare elusiveness and make him an interesting Round 3 prospect.
Comp: Dion Lewis
Fantasy fit: A player called Motor landing in Motor City makes too much sense, especially when he can spell and compliment Kerryon Johnson while performing in Darrell Bevell’s run-friendly offense.
4. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
Fun Fact: Grew up playing youth football with Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham, who is also a prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Claim to fame: A composed and deliberate power runner, Harris is fearless when charging up the middle. His solid build (5-foot-10 and 216 pounds) and impressive balance after contact make him a reliable and effective rusher. Experience as a receiver (22 grabs in 2018), additionally boosts Harris’ draft profile.
Trying to tame: Harris doesn’t have break-away speed and he’s not particularly elusive, which makes his game fairly predictable.
The Take: There’s nothing “extra” about Harris’ playing style. He’s a dependable north-south runner who can catch out of the backfield but is lacking the explosiveness and creativity to emerge as a foundational back in the modern-day NFL.
Comp: Mark Ingram
Fantasy fit: Despite the fervor of his truthers, Kenyan Drake is not an every-down back. He could, however, shine with Harris doing the dirty work on early downs in Miami.
5. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
Fun Fact: Despite growing up in Batesville, Mississippi and amassing nearly 6,000 yards and 68 TDs while playing for the South Panola Tigers, neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State recruited Henderson. However, he continued to rep the big cats and committed to Memphis where he averaged 8.9 YPC in back-to-back seasons and racked up over 2,200 scrimmage yards in 2018.
Claim to fame: The second-leading rusher in Memphis history, Henderson averaged over 20 catches per season for 3 years and managed 22 rushing TDs in his junior campaign. An explosive back with quick acceleration, Henderson fearlessly darts through holes and lowers his shoulder through contact for ultimate yardage.
Trying to tame: At just 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds, Henderson’s size could limit him from early down usage. Some argue his numbers are inflated due to the lower level of competition he faced. He’s also had limited experience as a pass protector.
The Take: A multi-dimensional RB with an underdog grit to his game, Henderson has the electricity and speed to fly around the edge and make highlight-reel plays in space. Given his size and struggles in pass protection, however, he’s likely to be deployed as a complementary weapon.
Comp: Somewhere between Giovani Bernard and Tevin Coleman
Fantasy fit: Current buzz suggests that Henderson is climbing up draft boards, and is likely to disappear in the second round. His physicality and pass-catching prowess would mesh well with the Eagles’ scheme, especially with Jordan Howard now in Philly to share the load.
Which prospects intrigue you the most? Where would you like to see them land? Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF and start a conversation.