2020 NFL Draft: Ranking the Running Back Prospects

Mark Morales-Smith

2020 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE

RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5'10"
  • Weight: 226
  • 40-yard dash: 4.39

Taylor is the premier workhorse back of the 2020 running back class. He checks all the boxes when it comes to measurables and durability for a pro rusher. He possesses the size and speed they look for in the league, and his durability has been outstanding as a true every-down back. His blocking won't be an issue on the next level, and he has proven he's more than capable of finding the end zone scoring 21 touchdowns in 2019 and 16 the year prior. Taylor will be drafted in either Round 1 or 2 and could very well be the first back off the board.

The concerns are his fumbling and the fact that he wasn't used much as a pass-catcher. Both issues are very fixable and should have little impact on his draft stock. Others are concerned about how much tread he has left on the tires coming off of a 320-carry season. The truth is no NFL GM looks at a running back and wonders how good he will be in five years. They are short-lived luxury pieces, and he will produce immediately. Plus, coming off a massive workload is better than coming off a massive injury, which would be much more concerning if he showed durability issues.

RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5'8"
  • Weight: 212
  • 40-yard dash: 4.48

Swift is projected to be either the first or second running back off the board. He has a well-polished game and possesses incredible vision for a college running back. His decisiveness stands out on film, as well as his ability to quickly hit a whole. In the debate between himself and Jonathan Taylor for top back, Swift wins in the pass-catching category both as a route runner and catching ability. While he doesn't have quite the workhorse resume, he is a capable every-down back. Physically he is compact and has a strong lower body.

There are concerns as well, though. First and foremost, his fumbling has been an issue. While he's one of the quicker backs on the board, he doesn't necessarily have home run speed. He can also struggle in short-yardage because he is not a punishing runner and cannot run through defenders or move a pile, which could hurt his touchdown production at the next level.

RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5'9"
  • Weight: 209
  • 40-yard dash: N/A

There is nothing fancy about Dobbins game, but it's effective. He's a well-built rusher who will be out there every week. You can hand him the ball over and over, and he will find a way to get you the yards you need. He possesses both the ability to crash through defenders or make them miss. His blitz pickup is also impressive. The Buckeye is a willing blocker and blocks with authority, although he is not as strong a blocker when he stays home. Look for him to be a bell-cow on the next level with high-touchdown upside.

While not being fancy is a strength, it can also be his weakness. He's going with one speed and one direction without a ton of powerful explosion for significant gains or highlight reel type plays. This was a simple film to watch and great if you're an old school rushing attack fan. I expect him to be a guy that gets 18 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown most weeks.

RB Cam Akers, Florida State

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 5'10"
  • Weight: 217
  • 40-yard dash: 4.47

Akers was a good back stuck behind bad blocking at Florida State and still found a way to make do. He's an elusive but tough runner who is dangerous in the open field due to his versatility and ability to either make you miss or lower the pads. You can see his quick feet on film, and he plays with impressive instincts. This tends to earn him that first down, and he has a knack for breaking the goal line. On the next level, I fully expect him to develop into a robust pass-catching option with a ton of PPR value. Although he is more than just a scatback, think more Duke Johnson than James White.

Akers has to work on protecting the ball, and if you noticed, I said he would develop into a strong pass-catching option. This is because he is not quite there yet and needs to polish that area of his game. He's strong once he catches the ball but is still raw in that department. I also don't envision him as a consistent big-play guy out of the backfield; he lacks that elite burst of a stud back.

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5'7"
  • Weight: 207
  • 40-yard dash: 4.6

I expect Edwards-Helaire to be one of the more polarizing backs in this draft due to his frame and measurables. Forget all that. This kid has what it takes to be a productive back on the next level and has limited flaws in his game. He's as compact as they come at 5-foot-7, 207 pounds, and gets even lower. He's well balanced, slippery, and finishes like a bowling ball when need be. CEH has a way about him that throws off would-be tacklers due to a tough to predict run style, quick cuts and changes of speed. In the passing game, he's a keen route runner and adds value as a returner. This is my sleeper pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year in fantasy leagues.

Where he lacks is his pure speed. Getting to the edge could be a bit of an issue, and he's also not a home run guy. However, he seems to manage his deficiencies well, and I expect him to be much more successful than many are predicting.

RB Ke' Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 5'10"
  • Weight: 214
  • 40-yard dash: 4.51

There is a lot to like regarding Vaughn, but also not a lot to be in love with. He is a physically imposing human being, and it shows on the football field. There is no doubt that he will lay the boom down on defenders, both running the ball and blocking. Hand him the ball and let him make one move and fall forward. However, that seems about what he's going to be on the next level. Don't look for him to make slick moves or many big plays. He lacks the necessary explosion and burst. It's just not going to happen. He has all the makings of a plodder who will need high-volume carries to put up big yards. Luckily, he is capable of handling that volume should the right opportunity present itself, and he's built to smash his way into the end zone as a touchdown vulture.

RB Zack Moss, Utah

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 5'9"
  • Weight: 223
  • 40-yard dash: 4.65

If you're a defender, Moss is a scary runner. He will smash through you, and you're not bringing him down with arm tackles. Watching his film leads me to believe that he is being underrated by most experts in the media. There is no reason he can't handle a heavy workload, put up yardage and score touchdowns. There is plenty of nuance to his game: impressive vision, patience, and navigating in crowded spaces. He's even capable as a pass-catcher if needed. The only real issue I see here is, at times, he needs to hit the hole quicker; he doesn't have overly slick feet. Also, he's not a big-play threat. Still, he will punch you in the mouth and make you look silly if you're not careful. Currently, he's my No. 6 back in this draft but could easily outplay that ranking in 2020.

RB A.J. Dillon, Boston College

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 6'
  • Weight: 247
  • 40-yard dash: 4.53

Dillon is a large man who is surprisingly agile and quick for his size. However, he will likely need to drop some weight on the next level to become faster if he wants to be a starter in the league. His athleticism will prevent him from being viewed as just a power back and rightfully so but make no mistake; he's a power back at heart. His greatest strength is his ability to break tackles, move piles and run defenders over. The biggest issue is that at his current weight he shows little ability to get through the second level. Quick for a 250-pounder just isn't quick enough in this league unless you're an absolute freak. There is promise with Dillon, but he's far from a lock to be a starter and almost certainly won't be used much on third down.

RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 5'9"
  • Weight: 207
  • 40-yard dash: 4.57

Benjamin can truly go either way. He has the potential to be a legitimate three-down back with tremendous PPR value. However, he also has the possibility of running himself out of a starting role. He has a different style of running, which can be both good and bad at times. You can't help but be impressed by his elusiveness and how he can pile moves on moves. His quick acceleration is also fun to watch; however, sometimes he just seems to jump around for no reason instead of exploding through a hole, which will drive fans and coaches nuts. If he falls in the right system with the right coach, he could develop into a fantasy stud. Unfortunately, if he doesn't fall into the right situation for him, he could be mired in mediocrity as an exciting backup.

RB Antonio Gibson, Memphis

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 6'
  • Weight: 228
  • 40-yard dash: 4.39

The one word you are going to hear when it comes to Gibson is upside. The upside is massive. He's a 228-pound former sprinter who runs a sub 4.4 40 and is an impressive pass-catcher. He's an explosive, versatile player who is dangerous in space, breaks tackles and can contribute as a runner, receiver or returner. On 77 touches, he scored 14 touchdowns, and half of them went for over 40 yards.

So, what's the issue? The issue is he only has 34 career carries. Almost all those carries were sweeps and stretches too. With just one year of production on minimal touches, it's tough to evaluate him as more than an athlete with big-play potential and a ton of upside.

RB Anthony McFarland Jr, Maryland

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 5'8"
  • Weight: 208
  • 40-yard dash: 4.44

McFarland is a Day 3 pick. He had a strong 2018 with a massive game against Ohio State, but he's just okay and has been plagued with injuries. He's been hurt every year except for his junior year in college since his junior year in high school. There is no doubt he's a decisive runner, with slick moves brings potential production as a pass-catcher. However, while he's a strong college running back, his film doesn't show him being much more than an average professional running back. Maybe he gets healthy and surprises people at the next level. As of now, the talent doesn't show enough to outweigh the injury risk to make him anything more than a fifth or sixth-round pick and a flier for dynasty owners.

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