2017 Draft: Running Back Rankings

Despite Latavius Murray‘s 12 touchdowns last season, the Raiders’ backfield felt underwhelming. There was a hole of sorts. With Latavius Murray now officially gone, that hole has become even larger.

I’ve sung Jalen Richard‘s praises early and often. He was the best back on the roster last season and I think he has a bright future ahead of him; another Reggie McKenzie gem. However, I’m not passing on a running back (early or otherwise) because I have Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Neither player is a three-down back, in my opinion. Many have identified a “big, power back” as the missing piece, but there are plenty of runners that I’d take out of this incoming class that aren’t necessarily in that mold.

Oh. There’s also the Marshawn Lynch thing. Allow me to get these ranks and takes off as if he wasn’t factoring into the Raiders’ plans. Deal?

Here’s how I see things heading into April.

Round 1

1) Christian McCaffrey, Stanford — Best patience, vision, and hands. Only “question mark” is build/weight. Everything he does, despite size, translates to the next level. He’s Brian Westbrook/Tiki Barber-ish. Might be the most talented offensive player in the class, and should succeed no matter what environment he’s placed in. Wrote about McCaffrey’s allure here:

Grade: Top 10

2) Joe Mixon, Oklahoma — The RB2, or perhaps the RB1b? Possesses the ideal build, in addition to McCaffrey-like receiving ability, makings him a true threat on all three downs. Think Le’Veon Bell. Off-field and character concerns, as we know. Detailed him – the running back – here:

Grade: Top 10

3) Dalvin Cook, Florida State — Despite the testing, the film reigns supreme. Arguably the RB1 for many (still), with no argument from my end. Could question some of the scores, but the real concerns with Cook are character-based (involved in a domestic violence case, along with other run-ins with the law). I still stand by that Edgerrin James comparison.

Grade: Top 15

4) Alvin Kamara, Tennessee — Garnered some first round buzz from many #AnonymousScouts. Rightfully so. Little-to-no wear on the tires. Best balance in the class; creative-menace with the ball in his hands. Plays stronger than given credit for. Underrated hands. Complete runner. Some ball security questions, however. Also wrote about him:

Grade: Top 25

Round 2

5) Kareem Hunt, Toledo — If Alvin Kamara has the best balance, Kareem Hunt’s not too far behind. They play very similar. Vision’s solid, and he’s able to consistently create in the open field – real shifty runner. Had just one fumble on over 700 touches, per PFF. Acceleration is perhaps the only trait that’s “lacking” with Hunt?

6) Marlon Mack, South Florida — Could be the premiere home run-hitter in this class. Phenomenal speed, with plenty of wiggle. Hands are up there with any of the top-tier backs. Runs a little upright at times. Questionable up the middle – it’s a power thing. Lean frame isn’t helping matters necessarily. KP’s touted that “home run” ability from the jump:

7) Leonard Fournette, Louisiana State — He’s hovered around the RB6 or 7 spot for me from the beginning. Fournette will need the right environment in order to produce. 4.5 speed at 240 is freaky, and he’s “as advertised” in that regard. Frustrates in the open field, where his hips stay tight as he just hopes to win with brute force (that’ll work at times). He’ll be “fine” at the next level, but the top five running back talk always felt lazy.

Round 3

8) Aaron Jones, Texas, El Paso — Jones does it all, and does it all really well. Conference play will come into question. He made up for that with supreme production. Backed up all the production with impressive workout numbers in Indianapolis. He needs more attention. I wouldn’t necessarily argue with anyone if they had him in their top five (running back) ranks.

9) Samaje Perine, Oklahoma — Big boy that’s extremely nimble on his feet. Great hips and balance, especially once his bowling ball-self gets rolling. I like the speed for a back his size, but he’s not outrunning very many. Lacks patience (and vision), resulting in some dead-runs behind the line of scrimmage. Despite the size, doesn’t add much value as far as pass protection is concerned. Still, not many backs are built like him while having his level of athleticism (Combine wasn’t as grand as I had envisioned, but he constantly popped at Oklahoma). Maurice Jones-Drew-y.

10) Jamaal Williams, Brigham Young — This is the “big back” that I’d offer my Raiders’ pals. Combine was entirely lackluster for Williams, but he’s not a back who I’d expected to bounce out of the gym (doesn’t mean his numbers weren’t concerning). Don’t think his results keep him on the board for the Raiders’ GM Reggie McKenzie, but someone will be getting a player. Foreman definitely closed that gap, all things considered. I talked about him here:

11) Jeremy McNichols, Boise State — In a class with a few notable receiving backs, McNichols stands toe-to-toe with them all. Some of the best hips, coupled with standout vision, to help elude would-be tacklers. Compact build allows him to run low. Best compliment I can pay him is his decisiveness. Biggest concern is his ability to break tackles, and create after contact. Certainly not the power back many are after, but he’ll produce.

12) D’Onta Foreman, Texas — I’ve read Jonathan Stewart, Eddie Lacy, and Steven Jackson comparisons, amongst others, to this point. Smooth runner for his size. Doesn’t have the long-speed, but the burst is evident. Strong pro day showing; answered any athleticism-based questions. You want him going North and South. Despite athleticism and decent feet, struggles on the outside. Fumbling is a concern, as is the workload he’s coming off of. Doesn’t offer much (if anything?) as a receiver.

Round 4

13) Brian Hill, Wyoming — Another “power back” option for Oakland. Nasty between the tackles, and able to grind out the tough yardage. Productive college career; scheme-versatile. He’s not going to “wow” you in the open field, but he’s certainly useful between the tackles. Agility stands out for a back built as he is. Like the work in pass protection, as well.

Round 5

14) Wayne Gallman, Clemson — Underrated back who’s shown flashes while at Clemson. Hard, physical runner. He’s a finisher. Vision’s iffy at best, and he has trouble operating between the tackles. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said he’s a “bull in a china shop“. I think that’s the best way to sum up Gallman’s game.


15) Elijah Hood, North Carolina — I’m assuming he tested hurt, or something, because those numbers (still) make no sense to me. A lot more athletic than the aforementioned results would suggest, Hood’s definitely built like an NFL running back. Returned to school, then later declared. Strong, big back with subtle feet, but the creativity was rarely there. Despite the recruitment status, probably fair to say he never really lived up to his billing. He’ll get his shot in a committee I imagine, but hard to see a role as a 3-down back.

16) James Conner, Pittsburgh — Obviously an incredible story, both on and off the field. Has all the intangibles you could ever want in a teammate, football player, or man, in general. “Throwback” runner; naturally powerful. Runs with all his weight behind his pads. His power’s also his undoing; very little nuance to his game – lacks agility, burst, etc. You want him working around the goal line.

Round 6

17) Joe Williams, Utah — Talented runner who’s quickness is evident. Creative with the ball in his hand. There was that whole “retirement” thing, and he’s not offering anything in pass protection. Probably settles into a change-of-pace role in the league. Raiders’ have a similar player in Jalen Richard already on the roster.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive