NFL Draft 2020: Which Running Back Gets Drafted First?

Who will be the first running back off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft? There are a handful of options to consider.
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Although public events have been cancelled, the 2020 NFL Draft is still on schedule to run April 23-25 in Las Vegas. With betting boards barely flickering, it’s nice to see a variety NFL Draft props popping up at various sportsbooks.

Unlike the quarterback position, where Joe Burrow is a prohibitive favorite to be selected first overall, the running back position is a tight two-player race. Prior to placing a wager, bettors need to consider the talent of the prospects plus which teams are most in need of a running back. Depending on how the free agent frenzy shakes out, the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are teams looking to improve their rushing attack. Odds below are courtesy of BetOnline.

D’Andre Swift, Georgia Bulldogs (-138)

Georgia stud D’Andre Swift is top chalk to be the first running back selected. Swift will join former Bulldogs Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Todd Gurley as an early-round selection. Taking over as the Bulldogs’ top back in 2018, Swift posted 2,267 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, plus 513 receiving yards and four touchdowns, during his final two seasons in Georgia. Due to the pro style offense Georgia runs, Swift is ready to step in as an every-down back. Tampa Bay ranked 24th in the NFL with 95.1 rushing yards per game last season, and the Bucs could use the 14th overall pick on Swift.

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin Badgers (+175)

Following three very productive seasons in Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor is the second-favorite to be the top back taken. Tied with J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State, Taylor finished third overall in the NCAA with 2,003 rushing yards last season. Taking on the featured back role as a freshman, Taylor posted 6,174 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns over three years with the Badgers. After catching just 16 passes during his first two seasons, Taylor had 26 receptions for 252 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year. That uptick in production as a receiver out of the backfield has boosted Taylor’s draft stock.

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Buckeyes (+500)

Another three-year starter, Dobbins rapidly ascended mock draft boards after posting 2,003 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Those are impressive numbers, especially considering Dobbins had 1,403 yards (7 TD) in 2017 and 1,053 yards (10 TD) in 2018. Over three seasons, Dobbins caught 71 passes for 645 yards and five touchdowns for the Buckeyes. Prior to the NFL cancelling all pre-draft visits, Dobbins visited the Dolphins’ facility on March 13. Miami had the worst rushing attack in the NFL last year, so they may use one of their first-round picks on Dobbins.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU Tigers (+1200)

Enjoying a breakout season during the LSU Tigers' 2020 National Championship run, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is another player who improved his draft stock during the 2019 college season. Edwards-Helaire is a versatile back, as he posted 1,414 rushing yards, with 16 touchdowns on 215 carries, and added 453 receiving yards and one score on 55 receptions last season. Pass protection isn’t a strong suit for Edwards-Helaire and it is unlikely he will be the first back taken during the 2020 NFL Draft. Expect Edwards-Helaire to be a late second-round pick who may fall to the third round.

Bottom Line

If a team other than Miami selects a running back (prior to the Dolphins' 26th overall pick), Swift is the best bet to be first off the board. Bettors looking for a value priced underdog should consider Dobbins. Miami may select him as early as 18th overall and they are unlikely to pass on the Ohio State star with the 26th pick.

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