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NFL Rookie Dynasty Rankings 2024: Running Back, Part Two

Here is a look at Part 2 of my 2024 dynasty rookie running back rankings, headlined by Oregon's Bucky Irving. For the first eight running backs, check out Part One of my running back breakdown.

9. Bucky Irving, Oregon

Irving is my RB9 and is the start of my fourth tier of running backs. Pre-combine, Irving checked nearly all of the boxes. Among all Power Five backs, Irving ranked sixth in Pro Football Focus’s run grade and 13th in yards after contact per carry.

He earned a running back dominator rating of just over 50 percent and was an elite receiver. Irving compiled 413 yards and two scores on 56 catches on top of his 186/1,180/11 rushing line. He averaged 1.4 yards per route run in his career.

After his final season, Irving bombed the combine. He ran a 4.55 at 5-9, 192 pounds and posted abysmal burst numbers. Irving didn’t perform the agility drills and only took a second swing at the vertical jump at Oregon’s Pro Day.

We just saw Kyren Williams, a versatile back with bad measurables, crush in the pros, but he is the exception to the rule. History is littered with poor athletes who posted good college numbers and couldn’t hack it in the NFL. In a weak running back class, I’m willing to stand on Irving’s production in my rankings until we know when and where he is drafted.

10. Kimani Vidal, Troy

Vidal checks the bulk of the small school boxes. He posted elite production at Troy, running for 1,661 yards and 14 touchdowns on 291 attempts in his final season. Vidal led the country in attempts, missed tackles forced, and carries of 10 or more yards in his final season.

Digging a little deeper, his efficiency metrics were good but not great. He averaged 3.5 yards after contact per attempt in his career and .29 missed tackles forced per carry. Vidal posted over 20 receptions per season but did so under one yard per route run. He showed up at the combine with an 8.81 RAS at 5-8, 213 pounds.

Vidal is a strong small school prospect but not a special one. He will still need to play special teams and show well in training camp, hurdles that have sent many small school backs packing.

11. Ray Davis, Kentucky

Davis was productive everywhere he went in college, topping 1,100 yards from scrimmage at three different schools. He put his best work on tape in his final season, averaging 3.8 yards after contact per attempt while earning a top-15 PFF run grade in all of FBS. Davis does the little things well. He protects the ball, follows his blocks, and picks up the hard yards. You would, however, assume a player set to turn 25 as a rookie would have a well-rounded game, so his polish isn’t awfully surprising.

With five years of college ball under his belt, Davis is closer to his ceiling than most other backs in this class. He is a better bet than most Day 3 backs to hang around in the league, but he’s also less likely to take the next step and become an elite producer.

12. Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

A true college backup, Guerendo only accounted for 31 percent of Louisville’s backfield carries in his fifth and final season of college football. He had previously seen 99 carries in four seasons at Wisconsin. Guerendo flashed elite upside while playing alongside fellow NFL prospect Jawhar Jordan in 2023. He ranked 16th in Pro Football Focus rushing grade and sixth in yards after contact per carry among P5 backs (min. 100 carries). Guerendo also excelled as a receiver, ranking top-five in YPRR and PFF receiving grade among Power Five backs. He then put on a show at the combine, running a 4.33 at 221 pounds. The remaining list of backs to run a sub-4.4 at the combine while weighing in over 220 pounds is:

The downside of all of these great numbers is that backups in college rarely transcend to starter status in the NFL. For all of his great traits, none of Guerendo’s coaches chose to give him the rock. Knile Davis is, for better or worse, a strong comp for him.

13. Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss

Frank Gore’s kid is good at football. Who would have guessed? Gore was a four-year producer at Southern Miss who put his best football on tape as a junior in 2022. He rushed for 1,382 yards and nine touchdowns on 228 attempts. Gore averaged 4.2 YAC per attempt and broke an absurd 82 tackles. He still dominated the attempts in his final season but his efficiency numbers took a hit. He did, however, post career numbers through the air, grabbing 27 balls for 221 yards and three scores at 1.3 yards per route run.

Gore does a lot of things well but doesn’t have an elite trait that will earn him playing time right away in the NFL. I could see him hanging around as a backup and giving fantasy managers a few spike weeks whenever the starter goes down.

14. Dylan Laube, New Hampshire

An FCS dominator, Laube logged backfield dominator ratings over 75 percent in each of his final two seasons. On the other hand, he averaged 2.8 yards after contact per attempt and ranked 73rd in PFF running grade in the FCS in his final season. Despite his backfield dominance, I find it hard to believe that an average runner in the FCS will turn the corner after a massive leap in competition.

His value in the NFL and as a fantasy option will come through the air. Laube caught 68 passes for 699 yards and seven scores in his final season. He averaged 1.8 yards per route run throughout his collegiate career. James White is a favorable comp for Laube, who starts my fifth and final tier of rookie backs.

15. Blake Watson, Memphis

Watson spent the bulk of his college career at Old Dominion and capped his time there with an outlandish, 90 percent backfield dominator in 2022. He then transferred to Memphis where he posted career-highs across the board with a 192/1,152/14 rushing line. Watson also dropped a 53/480/3 receiving line at 1.5 yards per route run.

Watson’s counting stats and efficiency were both great in college, but he wasn’t invited to the combine and measured 5-8, 200 pounds at his Pro Day. He will be 25 a month into his rookie season and lacks the top-end speed necessary to out-run defensive backs in the NFL. Optimistically, Watson reminds me of a small-school Giovani Bernard.

15. Will Shipley, Clemson

A four-star recruit, Shipley broke out as a freshman with 11 rushing touchdowns and 732 yards. He posted his best numbers as a sophomore, rushing for 1,182 yards and 15 scores. Still, he landed outside of the top 70 FBS running backs in PFF run grade and yards after contact. Shipley’s efficiency and volume numbers fell in his final season as Phil Mafah took over the backfield.

With Shipley’s best season by volume still seeing him grade poorly in the efficiency metrics, it’s hard to envision him being anything more than a backup in the NFL. And, while he caught plenty of passes in college, Shipley averaged fewer than one yard per route run for his career. Barring a surprise in terms of draft capital, he is only worth stashing in deep dynasty leagues.

16. Rasheen Ali, Marshall

Ali has two strong seasons on his resume, but the better of the pair came all the way back in 2021 when he rushed for 1,401 yards and 23 touchdowns on 250 carries. He missed most of the following season and then returned for another 1,140 yards and 15 scores in 2023. Ali averaged one fewer yard after contact in this season than in his breakout campaign. His receiving numbers, efficiency and volume, also dropped off in 2023. At 5-11, 206 pounds, Ali isn’t small but he doesn’t necessarily have three-down size either. If Ali can regain his 2021 form, he could have a successful career as a backup and spot-starter. That makes him worth a flyer for both NFL teams and dynasty managers.

17. Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State

A small school dominator, Davis racked up 2,839 yards and 28 touchdowns on 455 carries in his final two seasons as a Jackrabbit. He earned PFF’s top run grade in all of FBS and FCS football. The 2023 season marked his fourth with a run grade over 90. At 6-0, 218 pounds, Davis is a big-bodied back who gets what’s blocked and then some, though he’s not much of a home run threat. Davis made this clear with a 4.57 40 at the combine. He also has adequate hands and caught over 20 balls in each of his final two seasons.

Davis has the size and physicality to be a pile-mover at the next level. He was excellent against stacked boxes in college and could carve out a role early in his career. The jump in competition will be steep and take time, but he has a higher ceiling than several backs who will go ahead of him in rookie drafts.

18. George Holani, Boise State

A four star recruit, Holani made an immediate impact at Boise State with 1,220 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns as a freshman. A knee injury limited him to three games in 2020 and he opened the 2021 season on an injury-based snap count as well. Finally healthy in 2022, Holani posted career highs in carries, yards, and touchdowns with a 221/1,157/10 line. That would go on to be his best season because, in the following year, he got hurt in Week 1 and took a backseat to Ashton Jeanty, one of the nation’s best backs, when both were healthy.

At 5-10, 208 pounds, Holani’s 4.52 40 was underwhelming and he struggled in the agility drills. He is an average athlete who flashed NFL-caliber talent as a runner and pass-catcher in college but fizzled out late in his career. If he can stay healthy, there should be a role for him on a team as a versatile backup, though what NFL evaluators think of him remains to be seen.