As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level.
Who are some mid to late round running backs that could be starters or part of a one-two punch?
There aren’t many teams that feature a true No.1 running back as the league moves more toward a running back by committee approach in an attempt to preserve their rushers over the long haul of a full season and also so they don’t have to allocate significant cap space to just one player at that position. Here are some prospects that will be drafted on day two and that could become bell cows at the next level or form dynamic duos with established starters:
• Ryquell Armstead, Temple:
He is a powerful runner who has good speed, quickness and uses excellent vision to find holes and cutback lanes. Armstead grew up idolizing and models his game after the New York Giants two-headed monster of a backfield duo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw as they hammered their way to a pair of Superbowl victories. He is a tackle-breaking bulldozer in the open field that runs can’t be slowed down by arm tackles and plows through those that attempt to wrap him up in their own.
• Karan Higdon, Michigan:
Typically, high profiled prospects from prominent powerhouse programs don’t return for their senior seasons and that’s especially true for running backs after Marcus Lattimore and Bryce Love suffer major knee injuries went the returned for year four instead of going pro after outstanding junior seasons. Higdon decided to roll the dice after totaling 1,125 yards from scrimmage which included nearly topping 1,000 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns as a junior.
He did surpass the 1,000-yard threshold on the ground as in his senior season with 1,178 and is expected to come off the board earlier than he would have in last year’s draft. He is just as dangerous running off tackle as he is in between, shows great burst once he gets through the hole and he finishes all his runs by lowering his shoulder to pick up a few more yards or cross the goal line for a score.
• Jalin Moore, Appalachian State:
If a season-ending ankle injury hadn’t cut his senior season short after just five games, he’d be getting a lot of buzz as a sure-fire day two pick in either the second or third round. However, scouts and general managers won’t forget about the kind of numbers he put up in his sophomore and junior seasons when he torched the Sun Belt Conference for 2,634 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns which included 1,434 yards rushing in his second year alone. He showed off his ability to be a factor as a receiver out of the backfield in his junior season when he averaged 13.6 yards receiving on just 12 catches.
• Nick Brossette, LSU:
Last year he finally got a chance to be the lead back in the Tigers backfield after sitting behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice in his first their years. He took full advantage of the opportunity and broke out in his senior season for 1,039 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Brossette has the same tough in between the tackles running style to his predecessors who went on to be selected high in their respective drafts. He uses great vision to find holes and uses excellent burst coupled with breakaway speed to hit the creases that his line opens up to break off long runs and chunk plays.
• Lexington Thomas, UNLV:
Like Higdon, the former Rebel could have taken his chances and declared for last year’s draft after posting 1,479 scrimmage yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior, but he decided to come back for his senior year, thankfully stayed healthy and put up good numbers. At 5-9 and well under 200 pounds, he’s considered undersized but what he lacks in ideal measurables, he makes up for in explosive playmaking ability.
His short and slender stature allows him to get lost behind his blockers in the eyes of defenders and squirt through slim creases. Thomas is electrifying and elusive in the open field with the way he jukes outs and side steps would be tacklers and turns on the burners once he gets to the second level.
• James Williams, Washington State:
He is perhaps the best pass catcher out of the backfield of this entire class as his 83 catches last season was by far the most by any running back in the FBS last season. With the exception of his freshman year, he has registered more yards receiving than he did rushing during his time with the Cougars which included a career-high 613 as a junior.
He is more than just a good check down or dump-off option, he is a threat to pick up first downs and huge yardage on swing routes and designed screens. Williams is drawing comparisons to three-time Superbowl champion satellite back James White of the New England Patriots. He has great moves in space and a nose for the endzone as a rusher as his 12 touchdowns on the ground last season would lead one to believe.