PRESEASON 2021 DRAFT PROSPECT REPORT:
The 2020 College season will produce another good stable of running backs for the NFL. We won’t get a chance to see all of them play but some of the top ones are still in the mix. Player opt outs for the season may see some new backs emerge on this list but I am ranking them in the preseason without that in mind.
Najee Harris – 6’2” 230 – Alabama – Senior – Rating (3.64)
2019 Stats: 1614 rushing yards / 13 rushing touchdowns
27 catches / 304 receiving yards/ 7 receiving touchdowns
Strengths: Powerful runner with good balance, good receiving skills, and always falling forward to finish.
Weakness: He doesn’t have a lot of experience in pass protection.
Player Comparison: Derrick Henry light with better receiving skills – Tennessee Titans
Overall: Harris will take on the heavy workload this year for Alabama with the departure of Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs. He has all the skills to be a productive back at the next level. The feature back has become rarity in today’s game but Harris has the skills running inside, outside, and catching balls out of the backfield to be a 3 down back in the NFL. He doesn’t have the wear and tear some Alabama backs have had in the past because of the Crimson Tides move towards more balance in their offense. Look for Harris to be in Heisman contention all season.
Kenneth Gainwell – 5’11” 191 – Memphis – Senior – Rating (3.32)
2019 Stats: 1459 rushing yards / 13 rushing touchdowns
51 receptions / 610 receiving yards / 3 receiving touchdowns
Strengths: Explosive back with good receiving skills. Gainwell has great moves in the open field (spin move) to make defenders miss.
Weakness: Will not play this season and will leave college with one year of experience.
Player Comparison: Warrick Dunn former Tampa Bay Buc and Atlanta Falcon running back.
Overall: Gainwell swiss army knife at running back for Memphis in 2019. He can line up as a traditional tailback, wildcat quarterback, and a slot receiver. Basically find a way to get him the ball and he will make plays. Sadly, he lost 4 family members to Covid-19 and has opted out of the 2020 season. He will spend his off season preparing for the 2021 draft. Hopefully he can get to an organization that will utilize his excellent skill set.
Travis Etienne – 5’10” 210 – Clemson – Senior – Rating (3.28)
2019 Stats: 1614 rushing yards / 19 touchdowns
37 catches / 432 receiving yards / 4 touchdowns
Strengths: Hits the hole hard and runs through first contact.
Weakness: Needs to improve pass protection
Player Comparison: Terry Allen former Vikings, Redskins, Patriots Running Back
Overall: Overall a very complete back. Etienne has a nose for the end zone with 62 touchdowns in his career and counting. Has been durable in his 3 years but should see his workload increase in 2020. Etienne’s versatility is perfect for the spread offense. The senior has played big in the most important games in college football including the game winning touchdown vs. Ohio State and 8 total touchdowns in the college playoff games.
Chuba Hubbard – 6’1” 207 – Oklahoma State – Junior – Rating (3.14)
2019 Stats: 2094 rushing yards / 21 rushing touchdowns /
23 receptions / 198 receiving yards
Strengths: Has a ton of speed in the open field and if he gets a crease is a threat to score from anywhere.
Weakness: He bounces to many of his runs and doesn’t break a lot of tackles.
Player Comparison: Melvin Gordon – San Diego Charger
Overall: Chuba had a monster season rushing last year and is sure to do more of the same in 2020. Oklahoma State is sure to use him more in the passing game this year to get him more touches in space. Pass protection will be something he will need to improve on if he wants to be an every down back in the NFL.
CJ Verdell – 5’9” 210 – Oregon – Junior – Rating (3.14)
2019 Stats: 1220 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns /
14 receptions / 125 receiving yards
Strengths: Good balance, runs downhill with violence, good zone cut back runner, gives great effort in pass protection.
Weakness: Hasn’t been utilized as a receiver enough.
Player Comparison: Priest Holmes potential former Kansas City Chief’s running back
Overall: Verdell will not be seen this fall due to Oregon postponing or cancelling the season. He would have been in line for a productive Heismen season. Come spring time Verdell will have to show a strong proformance at work outs if he decides to enter the draft. In 2019 he played behind a great offensive line. He is a speedster in the open field that can be utilized further in the pass game lining him up in multiple positions.
Jaret Patterson– 5’9” 195 – Buffalo – RS Sophomore – Rating (3.04)
2019 Stats: 1799 rushing yards / 19 rushing touchdowns / 13 receptions / 209 receiving yards / 1 touchdown
Strengths: Powerful lower body, runs low behind his line, patient weaves in and out, and has an explosive burst through the hole.
Weakness: Had minimal involvement in the pass game at Buffalo and his season is being postponed.
Player Comparison: a lighter Doug Martin former Tampa Bay Bucs running back.
Overall: A workhorse at running back. He is an excellent inside runner who can find the crease with his excellent vision. His feet are very quick and never stop moving on his runs. Playing at Buffalo he doesn’t get to play against top competition week in and week out but watching his tape you can slot him into almost any power 5 school and he would be a stud.
Up next Wide Receivers!