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It’s probably safe to rule Kansas City out from drafting a running back in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. You can do that given their investment last season, but also because they’re without a first-round draft pick following the Orlando Brown Jr. trade. At the same time, Brett Veach wouldn’t rule out the possibility of drafting any position early other than quarterback. This team can still add competitive depth and complementary players at the running back position throughout the draft.
If they decide to do so, here’s a look at some of the players that they should be considering in each round:
Round 1: Clemson RB Travis Etienne
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Etienne (5-10, 215 pounds) is one of the most prolific rushers in ACC history. During his career with Clemson, he was one of the most explosive running backs in the FBS, showcasing breakaway speed and elusiveness. He's a heck of a receiver too, catching 85 passes for over 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns in the past two seasons. Our friends at Touchdown Wire believe that Etienne compares favorably to Jamaal Charles. I'm not sure I'm willing to make that comparison yet, but I do think in the right situation he could have a similar game-breaking impact.
Round 2: UNC RB Michael Carter
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Carter (5-9, 184 pounds) split the workload at North Carolina with Javonte Williams in each of the past two seasons and still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards each year. He boasts a great combination of shiftiness and footwork, which he displayed this year at the Senior Bowl. He had 10 touches for 75 yards and one touchdown during the game. He's one of the better pass-blocking backs in this class and is no slouch catching the ball either.
Round 3: Ohio State RB Trey Sermon
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Sermon (6-foot, 215 pounds) is more of a battering ram compared to the other two running backs we've highlighted. He's tough to bring down when he's running north-south with momentum behind him. He can run guys over, but he also has the lateral quickness to juke defenders in the open field. Sermon and Edwards-Helaire would make for a one-two punch that could wear defenses down throughout the course of a game.
Round 4: Michigan RB Chris Evans
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Evans has prototypical size at 5-11 and 211 pounds. He's a physical back, who is at his best working between the tackles as a one-cut runner. He has good contact balance, usually breaking first and second contact. He was also really good receiving back during his time in Ann Arbor, catching 49 passeson 56 targets for 479 yards with two touchdowns during his career. That showed up again during Senior Bowl week, where he dusted linebackers frequently during 1-on-1 coverage drills.
Round 5: UCLA RB/WR Demetric Felton
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I'm not sure if the Chiefs will consider Felton a running back or a receiver, but he can play both in addition to special teams which might add to his value. The 5-9, 189-pound offensive weapon played receiver in each of his first three years at UCLA and he worked at the spot again at the Senior Bowl. 2020 was his lone season playing running back at UCLA. On 132 attempts, Felton had over 600 yards and five touchdowns for the Bruins. He also added 22 catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
Round 6: Coastal Carolina RB C.J. Marable
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Marable (5-9, 195) might be one of the most versatile running backs in the draft. He's a workhorse in the ground game with nearly 500 career carries for over 2,600 yards in the last three seasons with the Chanticleers. He's a great receiver, posting 31 receptions for 228 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games during the 2020 season. He also has contributed to the kick return game. He was a big part of the reason why Coastal Carolina saw such success last year and should make a solid professional in the right situation.
Round 7: Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson
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Patterson (5-7, 195 pounds) was a prolific rusher during his time at the University of Buffalo. He broke the FBS single-game record for touchdowns with eight total against Kent State in 2020. He came a few yards shy of the single-game rushing yards record in that game too. He's shown that he can be hyper-productive as a point-scorer with 53 total touchdowns over the past three seasons. Patterson is also one of the few running backs reported to have spoken with the Chiefs ahead of the 2021 NFL draft.