NFL Mock Draft: Ranking the Top 10 running backs available
The importance of having an All-Pro running back on an NFL roster has slipped in recent seasons, but it hasn’t entirely disappeared. It’s possible that no tailbacks will be selected in the first round in the 2021 NFL Draft, but several of these players figure to make an impact on the league in the next few years.
Last week we ranked the Top 10 available quarterbacks in this year’s draft, now we’ll rank the running backs.
10. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Chuba Hubbard probably would have gone a lot higher in the 2020 draft, were he allowed to declare as a sophomore, as he led the nation in rushing yards in 2019 (2,094).
Issues arose surrounding his durability and pass-blocking skills in the 2020 season. Hubbard is likely to be taken in the fourth round or later.
9. Michael Carter, North Carolina
Part of a two-headed monster in the Tar Heels’ backfield this season, Michael Carter ran for 308 yards against Miami in a record-setting performance by North Carolina on Dec. 12 (more on Carter’s partner in crime later). Despite seeing fewer carries in his senior year than his junior year, Carter set a career-high in yards (1,245) and touchdowns (nine).
Carter is versatile enough to contribute in the running and passing game, but his undersized build (5’8, 199 pounds) will likely hurt his draft stock significantly.
8. Larry Rountree, Missouri
Missouri’s offense relied heavily on Larry Rountree in 2020, and he responded with a career-high in touchdowns (14). He also seemingly improved his draft stock in the Senior Bowl.
Rountree is a tough runner, but a one-dimensional back. He’s very likely to be a “Day 3” selection.
7. Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
Though his suspension for marijuana use raises a red flag, Rhamondre Stevenson turned heads with his solid effort in the 2020 Cotton Bowl (18 carries, 186 yards).
He also bumped his draft stock up in the Senior Bowl. Don’t be surprised if Stevenson gets selected as quickly as the third round.
6. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Kylin Hill opted out of his senior season early due to a locker room incident, but the talent is there based on his junior statistics.
Hill rushed for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019 and added another 180 yards as a receiver.
5. Trey Sermon, Ohio State
Though he wasn’t “the guy” in his last two college seasons (split between Oklahoma and Ohio State), Trey Sermon is a potential third-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Sermon may not excel in any one area, but he does a lot of things well and is built like an NFL running back (6’1, 215 pounds).
4. Kenny Gainwell, Memphis
NFL scouts won’t have a lot of tape to analyze on Gainwell, who played 14 of his 17 games at Memphis in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19 concerns. But the form he showed as a sophomore could make him an irresistible Day 2 gamble for some NFL GMs.
Gainwell rushed for 1,459 yards in 2019 and added 610 receiving yards. His 5’11, 195-pound frame stands to develop over the next year or two.
3. Javonte Williams, North Carolina
The aforementioned partner in crime of Carter, Javonte Williams profiles as an excellent power back in the NFL.
He rushed for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns in his junior season while contributing 305 reception yards. He also forced 76 missed tackles, the highest mark in the nation.
2. Travis Etienne, Clemson
Travis Etienne’s running ability took a back seat in 2020 as quarterback Trevor Lawrence came into his own for Clemson, but he certainly hasn’t faded into obscurity.
Etienne averaged 7.2 yards per carry on 686 attempts in his four-year collegiate career and tallied 70 rushing touchdowns. He added 1,155 receiving yards, 1,020 of which he recorded over the last two years.
There are a couple of minor knocks on Etienne though – he’s not overly-big for a running back (5’10, 205 pounds), and has demonstrated some ball-security issues.
1. Najee Harris, Alabama
Najee Harris went from a “nice” running back to a potential NFL star in his senior year at Alabama. He rushed for a career-high 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2020, and posted 425 receiving yards.
Harris is built like a truck (6’2, 230 pounds) and ticks off all the boxes when it comes to speed and power. Don’t be surprised if he’s the first running back taken in 2021.