The 2017 running back class has the potential to go down as one of the all time greats. The talent is there should the prospects manage to make it in the NFL with at least two running backs projected to be first round picks in the upcoming draft if not more. It is unlikely they will end up in the top 10 picks but I expect at least two of them to be off the board by pick 20.
Here are my top five prospects at running back for the upcoming draft.
1 Dalvin Cook | Florida State | 5′ 11″, 213 lbs
Cook is dynamic as both a runner and a receiver. He looks to be the most complete package going but only by a whisker with explosive play and the ability to catch out of the backfield. He ran for 1,765 yards, 19 touchdowns and more than 6 yards per carry in 2016. He also caught 79 passes in his three years at Florida. There are concerns over his injury history with multiple shoulder surgeries a concern but whoever picks him up in the draft is getting who I would consider to be the best back in the draft.
2 Leonard Fournette | LSU | 6′ 1″, 235 lbs
A close second is Fournette, he is a big bruising back who can pull off those sharp cuts. An ideal workhorse in a power-based system with the speed and power to be a dangerous runner going downhill. Again, there are injury concerns here with Fournette only playing in seven games last season, an ankle sprain had him sitting out the last four. The injury in question is chronic according to SEC Country and could require surgery if it persists. However in 2015 he almost ran for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for 23 touchdowns while breaking LSU’s single season rushing record so the talent is certainly there.
3 Christian McCaffery | Stanford | 6′ 0″, 197 lbs
McCaffery exploded in his sophomore season in 2015 with over 2,000 rushing yards. He is revered highly by some coaches but there a question marks over whether he can maintain the same production levels in the NFL as a starter. He is a versatile player but the devaluation on the running back position will affect his stock in the upcoming draft. In the right hands he could be a star, should he end up with the Saints or the Patriots he would do well with play callers taking full advantage of his versatility. He has the vision, patience and speed to make him a weapon both in the running and passing game.
4 Alvin Kamara | Tennessee | 5′ 10″, 215 lbs
Kamara is another versatile back who could be used well as a third down weapon. He also has a fantastic pass-catching threat out of the backfield. In 2016 he had 103 carries for 596 yards and 9 touchdowns, he also had 40 receptions for 392 yards and 4 touchdowns. He has had his share of struggles around ball security with multiple fumbles against Texas A&M, he has decent blocking skills that will only improve with the experience of NFL coaches.
5 Joe Mixon | Oklahoma | 6′ 1″, 226 lbs
Mixon is probably the most talented in this class but he comes in at number 5 here because of this troubles off the field. Mixon carries a lot of baggage with him and that impacts his grade and projected pick. Again, he is a capable runner and receiver but teams will have to weigh up if it is worth the risk picking him. Recently he was forced to apologise for punching a female student in 2014. She underwent surgery for four facial bone fractures and an AFC executive has described him as “a hard sell to ownership.” With selecting Mixon comes talent on the field but potentially a bag of negative publicity too.