Pre-Combine Rankings for the 2019 Running Back Class

This article is my personal breakdown of the 2019 running back draft class pre-combine and specifically from tape review. These rankings relate specifically to how these players will translate to fantasy football.

I’m positive these rankings will change as the NFL Draft process progresses, but this makes for a great starting point. This running back draft class, as a whole, has gotten a back reputation but there is a lot of potential for fantasy football value. Here we go!

 Let’s talk about them-let me know what you think on twitter!

For more on the fantasy football values of the 2019 Draft Class, check out the 48 Report: our 2019 Rookie Database

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15. Bryce Love (5’10”, 202), Stanford

Here’s Love’s upside (from 2017): he’s elusive and navigates through the tackles with ease. He also shows off some nice acceleration to beat the defenders and break off a TD run

Love dominated the college football landscape in 2017 whenhe ran for 2,118 yards (2nd most in NCAA) and 19 touchdowns. Love’s8.1 yards/carry average helped him finish 2nd in Heisman voting, andwin the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. Love chose to return to theCardinal for his senior season-a decision that has tanked his draft stock. In2018, he ran for 739 yards (1,379 less than 2017), 6 touchdowns (13 less), andran for 4.5 yards/carry (3.6 yard/carry less) on 166 carries (97 less). Hisdownhill senior season hit its disappointing apex in Stanford’s final game,where Love tore his ACL.

Loves tape shows good burst and sharp cuts. He can accelerate well in space and keeps his feet moving quickly-allowing him to have upside as an elusive back. Love wasn’t asked to contribute to the passing game much but was effective when targeted. Past that, he comes off very pedestrian. He has capped breakaway speed, and although he does display burst-it’s not consistent or as powerful as his draft classmates.

He’s not effective outside of the B gap-limited his usefulness as an NFL running back. His vision often failed him, and he’s an ineffective pass blocker. It’s believed Love was banged up for most of the 2018 season, and his 2017 production shows big upside-but there’s a lot that will need to happen before I think he’s worth investing a rookie draft pick on.

14. Myles Gaskin (5’9”, 191), Washington

Gaskin is seriously quick when he has space to work in, this play shows off his elusiveness too

Gaskin was an effective and consistent running back for the Huskies. He ran the ball at least 222 times in all 4 of his seasons starting for Washington. He ran for at least 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of those seasons. Additionally, he caught 65 passes for 465 yards and 5 touchdowns. Gaskin finished 13th in career rushing yards and 17th in career rushing touchdowns for the NCAA.

Gaskin is an interesting tape study-I find myself wanting tolike him more than I actually do. He’s a shifty runner with quick movements andoften makes big plays out of nothing. He can accelerate downfield and burstsoff the line of scrimmage. Gaskin has solid vision and is effective navigatingin between the tackles. His vision, however, is limited-he often tries tocutback and reverse field and more times than not it ends with him gettingblown up by defenders. He lacks strength and often gets swallowed up in the backfield.He will put his head down to take on a defender, but rarely overpowers them orscrapes out extra yardage.

I think he can best fit in an NFL offense as a pass catcher-he’sgreat in space and displayed good hands when utilized in the passing game.Gaskin, however, struggles in pass blocking; he fails to read blitzes and getsrocked by linebackers crashing the quarterback. Gaskin has the elusiveness tobe a PPR threat, but he has a lot of developing to do before contributing tofantasy football rosters.

13. Mike Weber (5’10”, 214), Ohio State

Weber played three seasons for the Buckeyes and rushed for atotal of just 455 attempts. In that fairly limited workload, he averaged 5.9 yards/carry(2,676 yards) and totaled 24 touchdowns. He also caught 54 passes for 297 receivingyards and a touchdown.

Weber is slow off the line of scrimmage but has great vision and a nasty jump cut that helps him bounce through gaps or to the outside. He’s effective on the edge and can make 10-15 yard gains up the sideline look easy. Weber, however, lacks true breakaway speed. He has great vision and patience-often squeezing himself through small holes and emerging for first down gains. Weber doesn’t have overwhelming strength and lacks the balance to fight through tackles.

He is, however, a very strong pass blocker-and I think that will land him on a roster on early Day 3 of the NFL draft. Weber lacks the ceiling of some other prospects I have ranked above and below him but he is a solid prospect that has the traits that will lead teams to get him the opportunity to succeed.

12. Damarea Crockett (5’11”, 225), Missouri

Crockett is equal parts patient and powerful, on display here at the goalline

Crockett played in just 28 games over three seasons at Missouri.He ran the ball 153 times for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns his freshmen year.That season (2016) he finished 9th in the SEC un rushing yards, 10thin touchdowns, and 4th in rushing yards/attempt. His next two years,however, failed to match that production. In 17 games over his sophomore andjunior seasons he ran for 1,190 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Crockett bursts through a gap, with the potential to accelerate quickly downfield. He has a solid cut back and utilizes a mean stutter step to make defenders miss in space. He doesn’t run over defenders but has the strength to fight through tackles and the balance to get plays going. Crockett is a very patient runner, which often helps him find gaps to explode through. Other times, Crockett’s patience gets him caught behind the line of scrimmage-his tape shows many examples of him running right into his linemen.

I don’t love player comps, so I only make them when I see clear alignment in play style; Crockett reminds me of the way Carlos Hyde approaches the game. I think Crockett is a ways off of Hyde in his prime, but he has the potential to develop into an effective fantasy player in time.

11. Darrell Henderson (5’9”, 200), Memphis

This play nicely shows off the pros and cons of Henderson: he’s dangerous when he’s working in open space but is slow off the line of scrimmage and has rounded cut moves

Henderson had a successful sophomore season for the American Conference Memphis Tigers, rushing for 1,154 yards (8.9/carry) on 130 attempts for 9 touchdowns. Henderson took that impressive production to the next level in his junior season: he ran for 1,909 yards (2nd in NCAA) and for 22 touchdowns (2nd in NCAA) while leading the country in rushing yards/carry with 8.1 in 2018.

I like Henderson a lot, but I have him much lower in my rankings than most. Henderson’s tape is flashy-he has great acceleration and explodes down the field. He works extremely well in space and makes defenders miss often. He has great hands and is dangerous as a pass catcher-a role that could make him a big PPR threat. I question Henderson’s vision, though-he failed to fit through small holes and ran into his linemen often. He can absolutely run over defenders but doesn’t have the balance to keep the play going after defenders hit him.

He’s slow off the line of scrimmage and has rounded cuts-which hurt his ability to produce in between the tackles. He’s a very ineffective blocker, something that could stop him from seeing the field quickly. I understand why people are hype on Henderson, and I want to be too-but when I look past the highlights there’s a lot to be concerned about.

10. Elijah Holyfield (5’11, 215), Georgia

Holyfield has great vision, solid cuts, and has the strength to level SEC defenders; there’s much to love with this back

Holyfield spent his first two seasons at Georgia behind NickChubb and Sony Michel. In his junior season (2018) Holyfield took command of thebackfield: rushing for 1,018 yards and 7 touchdowns. In his only season as atrue starter, Holyfield finished 8th in the SEC in rushing yards and5th in rushing yards/carry.

Holyfield checks a lot of boxes: he has wicked burst and when combined with his good vision it makes him a dangerous runner. He can get to the edge to the breakoff a big play, but has capped breakaway speed. He has tremendous strength and often overpowers some of the biggest linebackers in the country-dragging them forward and gaining extra yards on nearly every play.

He’s a good blocker who picks up on blitzes well and stands his ground-popping defenders while protecting his quarterback. Georgia didn’t utilize Holyfield much in the passing game, but then again who did they utilize well in the passing game? With a good combine, Holyfield could shoot up my rankings and be one of the best fantasy football values outside of the first round.

9. Devin Singletary (5’9”, 200), Florida Atlantic

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Singletary ran all over C-USA defenses in his three years in Boca Raton. He ran for 4,287 yards (1,429/season) and 66 touchdowns (22/season). Singletary also caught 51 balls for 397 yards and a touchdown. He finished 4th in rushing yards the NCAA in 2017 and led C-USA in 2017 and 2018. He led the NCAA in rushing touchdowns in 2017 and is 8th in career rushing touchdowns in NCAA history.

Singletary is an intriguing mix of elusiveness, strength, and frame. He’s got a mean jump cut and he’s very quick when moving laterally. He bounces past defenders and can’t be stopped when running behind a good offensive line. He explodes through small holes and is a patient runner. Singletary has great strength and balance. His tape features him throwing defenders off him and absolutely shouldering dudes to finish plays. He has good hands and I can see contributing to the passing game of an NFL offense.

Perhaps more than anyone else, Singletary’s landing spot will be critical to his ability to translate to value for fantasy football rosters.

8. Miles Sanders (5’11, 215), Penn State

Sanders is perhaps the shiftiest back in this class. He has great vision and solid cut moves that help him make big plays out of nothing

Sanders has a small sample size, with just one season as astarter at Penn State to work with. After spending his first two seasons behindthe 2018 offensive rookie of the year, Sanders got his shot to shine for theNittany Lions. He did well with his opportunity: rushing for 1,274 yards and 9touchdowns. Sanders finished 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing yards and7th in rushing touchdowns.

Sanders’ tape is a seriously fun time. He’s very athletic and makes plays out of nothing. He has a mean jump cut, bounces around the field, and there are examples on Barkley-esq hurdles. He’s explosive in between the tackles. He has great vision and fits himself into small holes. He’s shifty with great lateral speed.

He’s a good pass blocker and shows great strength; he has the ability to run over defenders. One of my favorite parts of Sanders’ game is that he seems to always get tackled forward; he never stops fighting for extra yards.

Sanders didn’t contribute much to the passing game, and his skillset at this point seems limited to first and second down work. His fantasy football potential, for now, is limited to fitting in well to a committee style role. Still, there’s a lot of potential for Sanders and can return great value as a mid-round rookie draft pick.

7. Justice Hill (5’10”, 190), Oklahoma State

Hill has the potential to be a significant PPR threat: his quickness and ability to accelerate are on full display with this pass at the line of scrimmage

Hill contributed to the Cowboys offense immediately as a freshman: running for 1,142 rushing yards (4th in the Big 12) and 6 touchdowns. He built on that in his sophomore season: 1,467 rushing yards (1st in the Big 12), and 15 rushing touchdowns (1st in the Big 12). His junior season, he totaled 930 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns in just 10 games.

I didn’t expect to like Hill’s tape as much as I did. He has strong burst and is very (very) quick. He has sharp cuts that allow him to shred Big 12 defenses with ease. Hill is perhaps the best running back in this draft class when it comes to working in space. His elusiveness and ability to make defenders miss will be a tremendous asset to his fantasy football value. H

ill may not be the most talented back in this class, but I think he slots perfectly into a PPR role. He has good hands and often bails out bad passes from his quarterback; Oklahoma State did well to give him targets in space and it paid off.

6. Trayveon Williams (5’9”, 200), Texas A&M

Williams shows off his catch passing skills and elusiveness on this TD reception

Williams surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in two of his threeseasons in College Station. He led the SEC in rushing yards and rushingtouchdowns in 2018, with 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns. These stats were alsogood for 3rd most rushing yards in the NCAA and 5th mosttouchdowns in the country.

Williams is quick off the line of scrimmage, has top end acceleration, and great downhill speed. He sees holes well and has a great cut when moving in between the tackles. Williams is dangerous in space and it makes him a dynamic pass catcher. He has great hands and can make catches over the middle of the field like some of the best wideouts in the class. Williams hits the hole hard and levels SEC linebackers. He breaks off tackles consistently and fights for extra yards consistently.

Williams is a dynamic combination of pass-catching upside and speed and strength. He’s one of the few players in this class who I can see having long-term three-down potential. He’s not a locked and loaded pick but Williams has a ton of potential and I’ll be rostering him wherever I can.

5. Benny Snell (5’11”, 225), Kentucky

Snell racked up over 1,000 rushing yards in all three of hisseasons with the Wildcats-an impressive feat against SEC East defenses. Snell’s1,449 rushing yards in 2018 was 2nd best in the SEC and 6thbest in the country. His 3,873 career rushing yards are 12th best inSEC history and he finished top 3 in the SEC in rushing touchdowns in all threeof his seasons in Lexington.

Snell hits the hole hard, fights for extra yards on everyplay, and drags defenders forward consistently. He has great vision and is apatient runner-he consistently fits into small holes that no 225-pound manshould be able to squeeze through. He’s not the quickest off the line ofscrimmage but has great downhill momentum which turns into powerfulacceleration. He’s more effective through the A-gap but can get to the edgequickly for his size. He’s a great blocker who aggressively meets blitzers andkeeps his feet moving while protecting a very mobile quarterback.

Snell didn’t contribute much to the passing game for the Wildcatsbut made good catches when asked to. His pass blocking ability should get himon the field for 3rd downs, but Snell will be more productive earlyon with first and second downs. I’m higher on Snell than most, but I think he’sa great combination of strength and speed.

4. Damien Harris (5’10, 215), Alabama

Harris produced efficiently in his sophomore-senior seasonswith the Crimson Tide. Despite never rushing the ball more than 150 times (dueto scheme and surrounding talent) he finished with 850 rushing yards in those 3seasons. He also totaled 22 rushing touchdowns. Harris totaled 48 receiving yardsand 394 yards and 2 touchdowns in the passing game.

Harris was one of my favorite running backs in the class prior to this season, and although he slipped a bit for most he still deserves to be considered amongst the top backs in this class. He has good acceleration, quick burst, and sharp cuts that he uses to weave in between the tackles. He’s got solid vision, often working precisely through small holes and with a great instinct to cut back and reverse the field with success. He’s an aggressive runner that runs with a high motor but doesn’t level defenders. He has good hands and is extremely effective in open space.

Harris is a nice combination of experience without too much wear on his body. With hype around Jacobs, Harris has started to become very cheap-and I’ll be taking advantage of that as often as my league mates allow me to.

3. David Montgomery (5’11, 216), Iowa State

Montgomery came onto the scene in 2017; as a sophomore at Iowa State he ran from 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns on 258 attempts. He also pulled in 36 receptions for 296 yards. Montgomery built on his breakout season in 2018 with 1,216 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 257 attempts. He finished 3rd in the Big 12 in both rushing yards and touchdowns in 2017 and finished 2nd in the Big 12 in both rushing yards and touchdowns in 2018.

Montgomery is a well-rounded running back prospect that does a lot of things very well. He has good speed, solid burst, and great agility. Although his breakaway speed is capped, he has very clean cuts and is a very patient runner. He has great vision and anticipates contact well; helping his elusiveness.

Montgomery has a low center of gravity and stays on his feet after contact. He puts his head down to take of defenders and fight for extra yardage but rarely overpowers them. He is rarely utilized in the passing game but has solid hands when thrown to. Montgomery’s blocking needs improvement but can get the job done with less than ideal technique.

I’m not sure Montgomery is great at anything, but he’s very good at a lot. His well-rounded traits, though, give him great potential to be a 3 down back in the NFL. With the right landing spot, Montgomery can jump to RB1.

2. Josh Jacobs (5’11, 215), Alabama

Jacobs has quick burst and some of the best acceleration in the class. He’s got great balance and shows off his strength by dragging his tackler an extra 10 yards after finally being caught

Jacobs’ small sample size makes him one of the most polarizing running backs in this draft class. Jacobs played three seasons with the Crimson Tide, but ran the ball just 251 times, and caught just 48 receptions. His freshmen year (2016) he ran for 567 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 85 attempts (6.7 yards/carry). Jacobs ran the ball just 46 times for 284 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and a touchdown.

His senior season was his largest workload; he ran the ball 120 times for 640 yards (5.3 yards/carry) and 11 touchdowns. His career receiving totals are: 48 receptions, 571 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns.

The numbers might not be impressive, but his tape absolutely is. Jacobs bursts seriously quick off the line of scrimmage and has top end acceleration. He has a juke move that mirrors my best work when playing Madden and very crisp cuts. He’s very shifty and dangerous in space and looks like a receiver when catching the ball out of the backfield or over the middle of the field.

Jacobs is a solid blocker-not the best in the class but he’s strong and holds his ground when asked to block. He doesn’t have the best vision, and rarely makes plays out of nothing-something that makes me very nervous about his fantasy football value if he goes to a team with a poor offensive line.

Jacobs is also a truck out of the backfield: he runs right at defenders and rolls over them while fighting for extra yards. Jacobs can be effective on first down, third down, and on the goal line. There’s so much to love about Jacobs’ tape, and I’m completely okay with those who have him as their RB1.

1. Rodney Anderson (6’2”, 220), Oklahoma

It’s hard to summarize Anderon’s game in one clip, but this one shows his strength, balance, speed, and aggressive approach to the game. The way Anderson runs gets me fired up, and health aside he’s far and away the RB1 in this class

Anderson also has a small sample size, but for a muchdifferent reason than Jacobs. He has just one full season with the Sooners: in2017, his sophomore season, he ran for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns on just188 carries (6.2 yards/carry). He also caught 17 balls for 281 receiving yardsand 5 touchdowns. That season he led the high scoring Big 12 in rushyards/carry and finished 2nd in rushing yards and rushing touchdownsin the conference. Anderson ran 11 times for 119 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2018before tearing his ACL in his second game-cutting his would-be breakout seasonshort. Anderson also broke his leg in 2015 and broke a bone in his neck in 2016.

A lot are steering away from Anderson due to his injury history, but my rankings are rooted strictly in tape until the combine, and his tape is very impressive. Anderson is extremely explosive in between the tackles: he has quick burst off the line of scrimmage and had some of the best acceleration in the class. He has a mean jump cut and moves with ease through would-be tacklers.

He’s a patient runner and always finds an open hole. He’s a decent blocker, not the best but good enough to keep him on the field on 3rd down. He is dynamic in space and proved he can make big plays after catching balls in the flat or off the release. He truck-sticks line backers and it takes two or three defenders to pull down Anderson on almost every play.

There’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Anderson, but if he clears medical checks at the combine, he will remain my RB1. No player in this class has the ceiling of Anderson: he’s both powerful and elusive. He’s one of just two running backs I can legitimately see being a top 12 fantasy football running back from this class.

Published by

Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing is focused on dynasty and devy fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @TheFF_Educator

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