Mandrew’s Summer Running Back Rankings

Andrew Harbaugh | July 16th, 2019

Yesterday we had the joy of having my top five quarterback rankings released, which can be found below, that was just the start of this scouting frenzy.

We had some surprising names in the top five and when I rounded out my top ten on twitter I think I shocked some more people with some new names and some names people were higher on.

That’s the beauty of scouting, it’s in the eye of the beholder and we each have different eyes for talent. If we all had the same views then optometrists would be in trouble.

Now, keep in mind while reading to let me know what players I’m missing out on, what players I’m low on, and what players I’m too high on. The beauty of the NFL draft is everyone has an opinion and it is important every gets a chance to share how they feel on players.

Past years have been very kind to us in terms of producing elite NFL running back talents. We have the likes of Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and so many more. This incoming class in 2020 is getting talked about as an All-Time class in itself. Does it deserve the hype though?

1) D’Andre Swift

School: Georgia

Year: Junior

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 215

Tell me if you have heard this line before? Georgia has a top running back prospect and he may be the best one coming out of college yet. Swift comes from Georgia running back bloodlines that have had Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel precede him. Swift might be the most NFL ready of the bunch due to his unique skill set.

Swift has the best pass-catching ability of any prospect in this class and it doesn’t seem to be really close. Players like Etienne and Dobbins just don’t have the tape or stats to back up an argument that they are a pass-catching back ready for the NFL. Because he has this unique skill he should be a first-round pick next year and an impact player on whatever team drafts him.

One thing I want to see him do though to get ready for the NFL is to add maybe 10-15 pounds to his frame. Runners like Jonathan Taylor have earned the bell cow label because of his size (5’11” and 221 pounds) and Swift deserves that label as well. It’s just at Georgia they spread the love around so much at the running back position he is in a similar situation that Josh Jacobs was in last year, which is a dual-edged sword at times.

2) Travis Etienne

School: Clemson

Year: Junior

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 200

A player we have seen grow up in the College Football playoff, Travis Etienne is another complete back in a deep running back class. Etienne has been dealing with some backlash from admitting he sometimes is “scared” of catching the ball. I see it as a great showing of his maturity.

Etienne has certainly benefited from playing with great quarterbacks such as Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence that allow the box to not be stacked against him. All of that means nothing without vision which is Etienne’s elite trait. His vision was on full display against Alabama in the National Championship but that’s not even his best run. That came in the ACC Championship Game when against Pitt he broke the first play of the game for a 75-yard score where he cut through the line and then across the field through the whole defense.

As I mentioned earlier with Etienne, his pass-catching is what needs to be a focus for him going forward. He has addressed the issue publicly which, as I said, speaks volumes to me about his maturity. Not many players would publicly announce an issue in such detail but he did. If he can work on that this year I think the sky is the limit for Etienne.

3) Ke’Shawn Vaughn

School: Vanderbilt

Year: Senior

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 214

My first my guy of the draft year is Ke’Shawn Vaughn. He could have come out last year and been a day two pick of the draft but he decided to stay in school and be apart of a complete Vanderbilt offense. This year expectations are high for the team and Vaughn will be a major factor in how far this team goes.

Vaughn has shown to be a complete back with both great powers running and pass-catching ability when needed. Last year in the bowl game against Baylor we saw his power skillset on display not just on tape but in the boxscore. He ran the ball just 13 times but had 243 yards on those carries. He plays with ruthless aggression that we haven’t seen from a runner in several years.

Much like Etienne, Vaughn needs more work in the passing game. He only had 13 catches last year but with transfer quarterback Riley Neal coming in from Ball State I expect them to look to pass a little more this year. With Vaughn getting worked into that he has a chance to climb these rankings even more.

4) J.K. Dobbins

School: Ohio State

Year: Junior

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 215

J.K. Dobbins last year saw a drastic drop in not just stats but hype. He lost a significant amount of reps to Mike Weber, who is now in the NFL, and now many evaluators are looking to see more of what we saw freshmen year.

Dobbins for me has this beautiful patience, it’s almost Le’Veon Bell like. Now Bell is a better back obviously but they both wait for the play to develop a little before making a decision on what to do. In the TCU game last year Dobbins had 121 yards on just 18 carries and his patience and vision were on full display. 

Dobbins for me I want to see develop a little more speed and I want to see that freshmen year wasn’t a fluke. He came in and lit up Virginia Tech for 181 yards in his first career game and showed vision, strength, and breakaway speed. I want to see that all again but he has grown a little and added a few pounds bulking up to 215 pounds. If he can show that old speed mixed in with his patience we may have another elite talent next year coming out.

5) Eno Benjamin

School: Arizona State

Year: Junior

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 201

Another player who really popped last year but was overshadowed by N’Keal Harry was Eno Benjamin. Benjamin looks small on tape but when he measures in and weighs in its a different story.

Of these top five, it seems Benjamin and Swift are the only two have the stats to back up their pass-catching prowess. Benjamin put in the work last year quietly catching 35 passes while also amassing 1,642 yards on 300 carries in the desert. This year with the aforementioned Harry being in the NFL and Emmanual Manning leaving as well, this team and offense will go through Benjamin and I expect him to be able to handle that workload with ease.

The biggest thing I want Benjamin to do this year is to eliminate unnecessary moves and contact. People love filet mignon why? No fat, all meat. Benjamin right now is a very good new york strip steak but can become a filet once he runs more straight line and avoids the unnecessary contact when a first down or score is right in front of him.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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