By Jared Stanger
Remember in the preseason when the Seahawk running back room looked like the deepest position on the team? Maybe not deepEST, but one of the best groups. And then Alex Collins and Mike Davis didn’t make the team. And then Chris Carson got hurt. And then CJ Prosise stepped on a lego, but like really hard, and every week. And then Eddie Lacy was generally not good. And then Thomas Rawls was really hard to figure out. And then they refused to call up Mike Davis to replace any of the above. And then they traded for Duane Brown and suddenly running back was the WORST position group on the team. ‘Member that?
Well fuck all that shit. There are some running backs coming in this year’s draft and man do a bunch of them look really, really good. Real horses. And Seattle is in a position (in terms of “needs”) to be able to spend a high pick on one of them. So this will be an early approximation of the order I would draft the running backs in this class.
#1- Saquon Barkley
5’11″/230 lbs of true football player and off-the-charts intangibles.
152×864 yards, 9 TD’s rushing
39×504 yards, 3 TD’s receiving
2×2, 36 yards, 1 TD passing
13×393 yards, 2 TD returning
1368 yards from scrimmage and 15 combined TD’s.
Some think, due to sliding QB’s, that Saquon may go #1 overall to a team like San Francisco. I think that’s aggressive, but I would think top 5 is a fair estimation.
#2- Damien Harris
5’11″/221 lbs and the sneakiest athlete in the group.
Harris is my personal favorite. I love his blend of power and explosivity, with great vision, and good make-up.
Some people like a RB without a ton of tread worn off the wheels. I don’t generally care. Le’veon Bell came out of Michigan State with 382 carries, over 29 carries per game, in 2012 alone. He’s done fine in the league. Regardless, Harris is the other end of the spectrum with only 10 carries per game so far, and 90 carries total in 2017.
The timeshare Harris has with Bo Scarbrough, however, has perhaps helped Harris stay fresher and more explosive, averaging 8.11ypc this year (10th in the country). Also, 10 TD’s on the ground (20th in the country, but in about 30 fewer carries than everyone above him). Not a ton of receptions, but that’s more the Alabama defense. His hands look fine.
#3- Nick Chubb
5’10″/225 lbs and once the most athletic RB in this group.
After a devastating injury in 2015 some of that athleticism may be gone, and once teams get their hands on his medicals, this may be too high for where he actually goes, but in a vacuum I think Chubb is RB3.
In Nick’s defense, in his career, he’s only actually missed 7 games (all from the major knee injury). This isn’t a guy (like a Prosise) that seems to pull a hammy or a groin or some soft tissue thing every other week. Given Seattle’s recent history, I think this is relevant, and will come up again later.
In 2015, pre-injury, Chubb was averaging over 8.00ypc. In his first year back from injury that number dropped to 5.04ypc, and the tape agreed that he wasn’t fully back. This year, Chubb is back up to 6.19ypc and the tape is showing better movement and obvious improvement in top-end speed/burst.
#4- Royce Freeman
6’0″/238 lbs and probably the most durable RB in the class.
I think I counted Royce playing in 49 of Oregon’s 50 games in the last 4 years. A low of 900 yards rushing, a high of 1800. A low of 5.4ypc, a high of 6.4ypc. The picture of consistency. 54 career rushing TD’s and counting.
Never used frequently as a pass-catcher, but never un-used. When I was at UW-Oregon last week they used him a couple times spread out as a WR.
I will tell you that each of the these first four RB, in addition to their very solid size, all scored over 115 SPARQ coming out of high school.
#5- Ronald Jones
6’0″/200lbs and probably ends up picked later than this.
What a consolation prize. I REALLY like the first four backs. If I’m Seattle I’m making one of them happen by the end of the 2nd round. For other teams, or if there is a run on RB’s earlier than expected, Jones is the fallback plan.
A good mix of all traits, but just a slight degradation in the power and stoutness you can get from the first four.
It could also turn out to be a blessing-in-disguise that my #5 might be drafted after the League’s #6. So that puts your fallback plan at a better value.
#6- Derrius Guice
5’11″/218 lbs but not a guy I trust.
Guice is, again, right in that 5’10”-5’11” and 215-230 lb wheelhouse. Seattle has almost always gone for RB’s over 210 lbs. After posting 1300 yards, 15 TD, and a 7.58ypc average last year, Guice has dropped down to 5.47ypc and only 6 TD through eight games in 2017.
Now, here are my problems with Guice: a SPARQ of 83.37 out of high school, and college tape that seems really spastic and undisciplined. I watch Guice tape and wonder, “what are you seeing, bud?” My hunch, and fear, is that he won’t be a great playbook reader, and he will frustrate pro coaches. I have a feeling he’s Christine Michael but running too upright.
If the league likes Guice more than I do; good. Let him be overdrafted and take one of the others later.
#7- Bryce Love
5’10″/196 lbs and THEE most explosive player in the country.
Love could go earlier than this and it wouldn’t be a shock. He’s doing things this year I can’t remember ever seeing. I mean, his streak of games with a 50-yard play is in double-digits. He hit 1456 yards in 8 games. He’s currently on pace for 2184 yards, and that’s AFTER missing a game. Until his last game, Love was averaging a first down per carry. After his worst game, it’s still 5th in the country at 9.64ypc.
Athletically, he’s a 129 SPARQ with, at max, 4.45s speed.
The downside? I don’t need to risk drafting a McCaffrey.
#8- Josh Adams
6’2″/225 lbs but kind of the biggest wildcard.
He’s built like, and plays for the same school, as CJ Prosise…which terrifies me. I also don’t really love that he’s been wearing a knee brace all year, and I think he left last week’s game earlier with an injury.
Then there’s a very fair question about how good Adams is versus how good the Notre Dame OL is (the latter led by probable 1st round picks: LG Quenton Nelson and LT Mike McGlinchey). Watching Adams’ tape shows me that he’s really getting some monster running lanes to just blast off through.
So that’s a big part of how/why Adams is 6th in the country in YPC at 8.69. I’d really be curious what his yards before contact look like.
#9- Rashaad Penny
5’11″/220 lbs but tough to get a feel for.
I’ve had trouble putting my thoughts on Penny together…who does he comp to? What do I like about him? What are his downsides? Maybe in other years I like him more. This year, I guess I just have too many others I prefer.
But it’s tough to ignore 1600 yards, 15 TD’s in 10 games with the right size frame.
#10- Sony Michel
5’11″/215 lbs but just not that special.
Michel splits time with Chubb in the Georgia backfield, but actually leads him YPC (7.89), with the same number of TD’s on 50 fewer carries. I think his tape is very solid, but something in his intangibles just lacks the special ‘it’ factor. I’ve likened him before to Isaiah Crowell.
I think Michel would be better in the NFL in a role similar to the one he’s playing at Georgia: RB2. That’s just the vibe I get.
That’s my top 10 RB of 2017. Things can change, underclassmen can stay in school, guys can get hurt…but in theory this group coming out together would make for a VERY strong draft class. With the draft value of RB dropping the last 5 years, or so, it’s very plausible you can find a top 5 RB through the end of the 2nd round. And the top 10 backs should last into day 3. If I’m Seattle, I’m targeting a top 5 RB.
It’s a good draft season to have a bad RB situation for Seattle.