This RB class is rather weak with no current 1st round prospects. You will see a variety on opinions has to who the number one ranked senior prospect even is. Many will say Heisman hopeful Montee Ball, and others will go with Texas A&M’s Christine Michael. But while there may not be a Pro Bowl RB on this list, there are however several intriguing Day 2 prospects that could make a difference as a rookie in the NFL. Ball and Michael both have the looks of future #1 RBs on the surface, but once you put on the tape, the have major questions that need to be answered.
Then you have guys like Andre Ellington and Kenjon Barner, who once they get the ball in their hands in the open field, they are TDs waiting to happen. Ultimately the strength of this draft class will be determined by which underclassmen declare.
These rankings are extremely fluid, especially this early in the season and will change constantly throughout the process. Juniors will be added as they begin to declare for the draft.
1. Andre Ellington, Clemson, 5’10 190: 2nd Round (Scouting Report)
-Ellington is an explosive and creative scatbak type RB who is a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands. After waiting his turn behind other RBs that went on to the NFL, Ellington needs to prove hes durable and progress as a #1 RB in order to hold his current draft stock.
2. Montee Ball, Wisconsin, 5’ 9 212: 2nd Round (Scouting Report)
-There are things to like about Ball, and there are things that question what kind of running back he can be. The Heisman contender has the overall size, strength and skill set to be a bell-cow at the next level, but I question his vision and I question his initial burst coming off the LOS. His total amount of carries could scare off some teams as well.
3. Christine Michael, Texas A&M, 5’11 215: 2nd-3rd Round
-Michael is hard running in-between the tackles running back that has the ability of a #1 back at the next level. He’s very physical and won’t go down on first contact. His balance is probably his most impressive trait, and runs with good low center of gravity. Could be a #1, but probably has maximum value in a committee approach in order to keep him healthy long-term .
4. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford, 5’11 210: 3rd Round
-Taylor brings a little of everything to the table. He can catch, run outside, run inside, and block. However he’s not exceptional in any one of those areas. He has the ability to be a three down back at the next level, but some will question if he benefited by the talent around him. With Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, and Offensive linemen David DeCastro and Johnathan Martin all in the NFL, scouts want to see Taylor continue his success as the main focus of the Stanford offense.
5. Ray Graham, Pitt, 5’9 195: 3rd Round
-Graham will remind you of other Pitt RBs in the past. Not the biggest, but has the skill set to carry a full workload. He shows good initial quickness and solid vision to hit even the smallest holes. Has added value as a receiver out of the backfield. Is coming of a torn ACL so needs to prove he is durable for his senior season.
6. John White, Utah, 5’8 186: 4th Round
-White finished second in the Pac-12 in rushing last season with 1,519 yards to go along with 15 TD’s. He’s undersized and wasn’t an option in the passing game, but he’s extremely quick with great agility. Possesses great downhill speed and will make defenders miss in the open field.
7. Kenjon Barner, Oregon, 5’11 195: 4th Round
-Like former Oregon Duck LaMichael James. Barner has elite speed and play-making ability. He’s little bit bigger than his predecessor, and more of a north-south runner than James, but both bring electricity to the running game. Barner will face the same questions that James did about their size and the system they played in.
8. Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech, 6’0 202: 4th Round
-The A-Back in Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, Smith brings a little bit of everything as a prospect. He was the team’s second leading receiver, kick returner and third on the team in rushing. Very solid blocker, Smith will make his living on special teams and as a third-down RB at the next level.
Recap: (Virginia Tech)
9. DJ Harper, Boise St, 5’9 201: 5th Round
-Harper was granted a 6th year of eligibility and is headed into week 1 healthy and with a chance to put on a showcase for NFL teams. With Doug Martin now with the Tampa Bay buccaneers, Harper will be the Broncos go to guy but must prove his healthy. Good in-between the tackles with underrated speed on the edge. Harper doesn’t go down on first contact and has shown to be a willing blocker in pass protection.
10. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA, 5’10 205: 5th Round
-Franklin shows good agility and quickness, especially when he gets to the second level. A patient runner who sees plays develop and hits holes hard. Does have some ball security issues and doesn’t break as many tackles as you would live at 205 lbs. If he can get stronger in his lower half it would really help towards his development at the next level.
11. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska, 5’11 210: 5th-6th Round
-Don’t be fooled be when you see Burkhead running over people and thinking he’s going to have to be a FB at the next level to earn a roster spot. Burkhead is quicker than you’d expect and is a legit RB prospect. He is a good downhill runner and an underrated receiver out of the backfield. He will never be a full time starter in this league, but is a great 3rd down option.
12. Washaun Ealey, Jacksonville State, 5’11 215: 6th Round
-The highly recruited Ealey started at Georgia, but due to multiple off field problems was forced to transfer to Jacksonville St. He led the Gamecocks in rushing with 1,082 yards. Ealey has a great mix of power, speed, and strength that will intrigue teams in the middle to late rounds, that’s if he can keep his head on straight.
13. Dennis Johnson, Arkansas, 5’9 213: 6th-7th Round
-The return of Knile Davis isn’t all bad for Dennis Johnson. Sure, he won’t get the amount of carries that he would like, but it will give him a chance to show scouts that he’s an all-around player. In Arkansas’ high powered offense, Johnson is going to have plenty of opportunities to catch the ball out of the backfield (24 rec.) and will also have returning duties, something he’s very successful at. Given his size and ability to contribute all over the field, Johnson could easily climb the draft boards as the season progresses.
14. Isi Sofele, Cal, 5’8 186: 7th Round
-Sofele is an under-sized, over-achieving RB who doesn’t really project well to the next level. He has the speed, durability, and home run ability but his small size and lack of production as a receiver out the backfield (6 catches for 33 yards) could be worrisome for NFL teams.
15. Mike James, Miami (FL), 5’11 222: 7th Round
-After the loss of Lamar Miller, James will have the opportunity to be the Hurricanes lead back. James is a tough, downhill runner who excels through the tackles and successful in the redzone. Has played in every game in his 3 years at Miami, and last season scored 8 TDs on only 72 carries.
16. Onterio McCaleb, Auburn, 5’11 168: 7th-PFA
-After playing behind Ben Tate and Michael Dwyer, McCaleb finally has the chance to be the Tigers primary weapon at RB. One of the teams’ fastest players, and more versatile players on the Tigers roster, McCaleb receives a draftable grade with his ability run, catch and return kicks. Something scouts love when looking for RBs late in the draft.
17. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt, 5’9 208: PFA
Recap: (South Carolina)
18. Perry Jones, Virginia, 5’8 185: PFA
19. Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma, PFA
20. Jordan Hall, Ohio State, 5’9 195: PFA
21. Robbie Rouse, Fresno State, 5’7 185: PFA
22. Cameron Marsahll, Arizona State, 5’11 215: PFA
23. Montel Harris, Temple, 5’9 208: PFA
24. Larry Casper, Michigan State, 5’11 223: PFA
25. Curtis McNeal, USC, 5’7 182: PFA
26. Ronnie Wingo, Arkansas, 6’2 232: PFA
27. De’Leon Eskridge, San Jose State, 5’10 205: PFA
28. Zach Line, SMU, 6’1 230: PFA
29. Matthew Tucker, TCU, 6’1 227: PFA
30. Michael Cox, UMass, 6’0 214: PFA
31. Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook, 5’9 205: PFA
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, 6’0 218
Knile Davis, Arkansas, 6’0 226
Eddie Lacy, Alabama, 6’0 220
Jospeh Randle, Oklahoma State, 6’1 194
Silas Redd, USC, 5’10 200
Spencer Ware, LSU, 5’11 223
LeVeon Bell, Michigan State, 6’2 238
Cierre Wood, Notre Dame, 6’0 215
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports