Top 5 Draft Eligible Running Backs

Saquon Barkley
Photo Credit Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2018 NFL draft, the premier position this year is the running back. This class is loaded with depth at the running back position with future starters who will be available day three. If your team needs a running back, this is the draft for you to pick one up. Let’s take a look at the cream of the crop of running backs coming out this year.

5. Ronald Jones Jr./USC

Strengths
Very good vision, able to read blocks in the zone run game and find lanes.
Good finish, being very elusive in the open field, making LB’s and DB’s miss in the open field
Weaknesses
Will struggle in the power run game, doesn’t run with power between the tackles
Lack of size makes you wonder if he can be a 3-down back in the NFL.

Ronald Jones has had a stand out season for USC in his junior year. He rushed for 1486 on 242 carries for 6.1 yards per rush. Jones displays good burst through the line and is able to accelerate to top speed when hitting the hole. His elusiveness in the open field makes him a tough running back to take down in space. His lack of size could hurt his draft position. Coming in at only 200 pounds, teams will question whether he can be an every-down back or just a change of pace back at the next level.

4. Kalen Ballage Sr./ASU

Strengths
Does a nice job of finding the lane with consistency, shows good patience in the hole, and is decisive when hitting the hole.
Great burst and ability to accelerate to top speed at the hole with explosion.
Good in the passing game, displaying good hands, routes, and able to get separation against LB’s
Weaknesses
The upright running style allows him to go down easily and he is susceptible to going down with first contact.
Struggles to separate from defenders downfield and doesn’t show he has the long speed.

Kalen Ballage was very under-utilized during his time at ASU. He shared the backfield with Demario Richard, and never got the touches he deserved. Ballage has a lot of good running back traits that make him an intriguing prospect. His vision and ability to find lanes with very good burst make you believe he can develop into a three-down starting running back in the NFL. Plus, he has great skills in the passing game, where he caught 43 balls in 2016. He is one of those players who may be better in the NFL than he is in college.

3. Rashad Penny Sr./SDSU

Strengths
Excellent in the zone run game, showing high mental processing to make the correct read and find the lane.
Good hands, runs solid routes and can be split out wide against LB’s
Very elusive in the open field, using jukes to make LB’s and DB’s miss, and plays behind his pads, which allows him to maintain balance through contact and generate YAC.
Weaknesses
Struggles in pass protection, could become a liability in passing situations, as he struggles to read blitzes and stunts.

Rashaad Penny burst onto the scene this year, rushing for 2,000 yards in his first year as a starter. He did run for 1,000 yards the previous season as well when he was backing up stand out running back Donelle Pumphrey. Penny has the traits for a first round back and is the best zone scheme running back in the draft. He has very good burst, finish, vision, and he can be spread out in the run game. However, his pass blocking is a real concern. He seems overwhelmed against blitzing linebackers and was not much help to his quarterback at all. With that said, he will likely go early on day two in 2018.

2. Derrius Guice Jr./LSU

Strengths
Does a great job of letting blocks develop before bursting through hole.
Hard to bring down in the open field, showing ability to generate YAC and fight through tackles.
Fit for the power run game, excelled in the power run scheme at LSU.
Weaknesses
Struggles in the passing game, does not show natural hands when catching the football and needs to work on running sharper routes out of the backfield.

Derrius Guice has another standout season, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a perfect fit for the power run game with his excellent patience and ability to improvise when the play breaks down. He is very limited in the passing game, only catching 29 balls in three seasons at LSU. You rarely ever saw him on third down and long situations. Guice’s traits are on the higher end in other key areas for prospects, giving him a real chance to be a day one prospect.

1. Saquon Barkley Jr./PSU

Strengths
Great burst, accelerates through the holes and gets to top speed quickly, has the speed to separate easily from linebackers and defensive backs.
Very good finish, maintains balance through contact, generates YAC, and elusive in the open field, uses AA to make defenders miss and runs through arm tackles.
Great in the passing game with great hands, able to gather himself to generate YAC, and runs routes like a wide receiver with great COD at the top of his stem.
Weaknesses
Struggles to find a right lane when blocks open up and needs to be more patient in the hole to find the right lane.

Saquon Barkley is a freakish athlete and a rare specimen at the running back position. His highlights will wow you and he has been fixture on twitter every week with something spectacular. His Iowa tape is probably the best running back game I have ever scouted. He’s effective in the passing game, with solid hands, great routes, and excels with pass blocking reading blitzes and stunts. I don’t think there is a human on the planet that can tackle him in the second level. There is only one glaring issue with Barkley, his vision. He really struggles to be patient and press the hole to allow blocks to develop. This causes him to constantly miss lanes that are open, leaving yards on the field. Is he Zeke or is he CJ Spiller? It’s hard to decide, but I wouldn’t touch him in the top ten.

About Marcus Johnson 17 Articles
I am the Blue HQ media Film room and draft analyst. I also come with training from ex-pro scout Dan Hatman and the scouting academy. I contribute to Blue HQ Media with a vast knowledge of football and the complexity of the positions. I am also a former hip-hop artist and a lover of 70’s soul music.