Who are the running backs who’ll matter in the 2020 NFL Draft, and what’s the college perspective on all of the top prospects?
2020 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings
It’s a strong year for running backs with a whole lot of flash about to enter the league. There’s great value in the mid-to-late rounds, but there are more potential franchise-makers up top than last year.
From the college perspective, here are the top running backs in your 2020 NFL Draft, starting with the ones who’ll be in the mix, and then diving into the five who’ll actually matter over the next ten years of the pro football world.
15. Javon Leake, Maryland
Size: 6-0, 215
The Good: A big back with good all-around skills, he has a whole lot to bring to the NFL after not seeing a ton of work with the Terps and only producing in his final year. He averaged close to eight yards per carry for his career with 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons, with good quickness to go along with his pop.
The Not-So-Good: It would’ve been nice to have seen a little more speed at the combine. The 40 is hardly a be-all-end-all, but the 4.65 was a bit slow for a guy who plays a whole lot faster. He doesn’t bring a lot of pop for a player of his size.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: There’s a shot for the stars here. He only carried the ball 145 times in his career, and he’s got the upside to be used a lot more as a receiver. Throw in his abilities as a top-shelf kick returner, and he’ll find a role.
Projected Round: Fifth
14. Patrick Taylor, Memphis
Size: 6-1, 217
The Good: It’s a shame he was never able to get everything going last year. Devastating over his previous two seasons, he ran for 29 touchdowns and closed out his career with 2,884 yards. He’s all muscle, lean, and looks like he’s shot out of a cannon when he gets a shot to score. There’s just enough power to get the hard yard.
The Not-So-Good: He’s not going to be your No. 1 back. Fantastic as part of a rotation, he was almost always fresh and wasn’t much of a workhorse. Never able to get right with a nagging ankle injury, he wasn’t able to show off last year when it was supposed to be his time.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: There’s a reason to be a bit wary of Memphis backs – the system was able to generate a whole lot of home runs – but Taylor has the upside to turn into a productive part of a puzzle. Some guys just know how to score, and in a positive way, missing most of last year should send him to the NFL fresh.
Projected Round: Fourth
CFN in 60: 2020 NFL Draft Top 5 Running Backs
13. Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Size: 5-11, 212
The Good: One of the bright spots in the first two years of the Chip Kelly era, Kelley managed to battle through injuries, an inept passing game, and being the one guy that everyone keyed on to run for two straight 1,000-yard seasons. Rocked up, he’s got the body type, and he showed off the wheels with a sub-4.5 40 at the combine. He’s a tough guy who always gives a big effort, but …
The Not-So-Good: He takes a LOT of big shots. He’s got the speed and explosion to be a little shiftier, but instead he’s more of a power back who can set a tone, or he can get knocked around too much. He never seemed to be 100%, but …
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He gutted it out time and again. There were long stretches when UCLA’s offense had absolutely nothing, but Kelley managed to produce over five yards per carry with 24 career rushing scores. There’s a shot he becomes a good starter for a short time, but he’s worth the pick for the upside that he really is a main man to carry an attack.
Projected Round: Fourth
12. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
Size: 5-10, 214
The Good: A tough back who was good at Illinois, and cranked up two 1,000-yard seasons after transferring to Vanderbilt. He ran for 21 touchdowns for the Commodores and wasn’t bad as a receiver. Built well, he’s great at battling for yards and he’s got more than enough speed to rip off big runs once he gets into the open field.
The Not-So-Good: There isn’t a whole lot of wiggle to his game. He’ll fight through tackles, but he’ll also take his share of big shots and might not have a long shelf life at the next level. Not all that smooth, there’s nothing all that pretty about his style, but …
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s effective, and he gets the job done. Considering he ran for over 2,000 yards in his two seasons in the SEC behind a Vanderbilt line, he is more than proven. He’s a terrific all-around back who could be a sneaky-good mid-round starter.
Projected Round: Fourth
11. Anthony McFarland, Maryland
Size: 5-8. 208
The Good: A good pound-for-pound back who’ll always bring an honest thump, he also showed off the needed speed with a 4.4 at the combine. When he was right two years ago, he ripped off big run after big run – averaging almost eight yards per pop – in a 1,034-yard season. Last year he was banged up, but he still averaged over five yards per carry with eight scores.
The Not-So-Good: He’s built well, but he’s not big enough to push a pile. When he had an ankle problem, he’s not able to crank up the same flash. He didn’t catch the ball all that much, and he’s not going to be any sort of a workhorse at the next level.
NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Think Devonta Freeman – the two have almost the exact same size and build, but McFarland is a bit more of a home run hitter. He’s a tough guy for his size, but his job will be to crank up the big plays in a rotation.
Projected Round: Third