NFL Draft Running Back Rankings 2021: From The College Perspective

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NFL Draft Running Back Rankings 2021: From The College Perspective

2021 NFL Draft

NFL Draft Running Back Rankings 2021: From The College Perspective


Which running backs will matter in the 2021 NFL Draft, and what’s the college perspective on all of the top prospects?

2021 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings

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Who said that running backs are interchangeable and not worth the high pick draft value?

Okay, so running backs are sort of interchangeable now and not worth the high pick draft value, and this year there are plenty of good runners who’ll make a big splash from Day 3.

There are a few excellent prospects up top, too.

From the college perspective, the top running backs in the 2021 NFL Draft are …

15. Larry Rountree, Missouri

Size: 5-11, 211

The Good: An unsung SEC producer for the last four years, he showed off enough burst to average five yards per carry and can be used a little bit as a receiver. He’ll bring the energy with every carry and brings nice pop and power to finish off his runs.

The Not-So-Good: The raw speed isn’t there. He’s around a mid-4.6 runner and doesn’t tear off too many big runs when he gets into the clear. He’s quicker-than-fast, though, but not enough to be much of a third down pass catcher.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: There’s a chance he finds a job in a rotation by adding a different look and style. He’s almost like a knuckleball pitcher in the way he runs – he’s always moving, and he’ll get the positive yard when needed.

Projected Round: Fifth

14. Spencer Brown, UAB

Size: 6-0-220

The Good: The workhorse carried the offense and the team at times with over 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first two seasons and remained as one of the best Group of Five backs despite a drop-off in production. He’s tough, he’ll carry the load, and he should be good as a No. 2 option in a rotation.

The Not-So-Good: He has a whole lot of wear on those tires. He carried the ball 858 times in his four hard years. For good and for bad, he’s not afraid to blast over someone, and he took a pounding. He’s not enough of a receiver to find a role in the passing game.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: It’s hard to underestimate just how much he meant to the rebirth of UAB football. Great around the goal line and strong for the hard yard, he’ll be a tough cut and could find a job in an offense with speed backs.

Projected Round: Sixth

13. Pooka Williams, Kansas

Size: 5-9, 175

The Good: Ultra-explosive and tough enough to be a steady workhorse if needed, he did what he could as one of the only positives for Kansas football over the last few years. A 4.39 runner who can catch, he can be used in a variant of ways including as a kick returner.

The Not-So-Good: Way too small to be any sort of a blocker, he can’t do too much on third downs if he’s not getting the ball. He was suspended for a game back in 2019 after a misdemeanor domestic battery charge.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s not getting enough respect and attention from the scouting world. He’ll make a team as a return man and a jack-of-all-trades playmaker for an offense. No, he won’t be a steady feature back, but the ability is there be a difference-maker.

Projected Round: Sixth

12. Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech

Size: 5-9, 204

The Good: A short, compact runner with a great burst, he was good at Kansas over his four years, and then was amazing in his one season at Virginia Tech averaging 7.6 yards per carry with eight scores. Strong when he gets a seam, he finds the hole and tears off yards in chunks.

The Not-So-Good: He’s not quite as quick in the short yard situations as you might like. A bit scheme specific, he was more of a run through space guy than a blaster of a workhorse. He’s not enough of a receiver to step in and be a third down guy.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’ll be an interesting call. He got a whole lot of work over the last five yards, but he only carried the ball 475 times. As part of a rotation he’s a fun runner who could work well in an up-tempo  attack.

Projected Round: Fifth

11. Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State

Size: 5-9, 210

The Good: Ultra-productive for an offense that didn’t have a whole lot of weapons, he was the focus of every defensive gameplan and he still always found ways to produce. He’s short, but he’s ultra-quick, delivers a punch, and he always came through – he was a 100-yard machine. While he wasn’t used much as a receiver over his last two years, he can catch.

The Not-So-Good: He’s not quite as fast as some might like. He’s got a burst, but he’s not going to be a breakaway threat. While there’s no issue with his power and toughness, he’s not a big enough back to wear down defenses.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Sometimes running backs get lost in the NFL draft shuffle, and rise up and rock when they get a chance. He’s going to be one of those guys who goes on Day 3, gets into a camp, and then comes through whenever he gets a chance. Again, everyone tried to stop him, and he kept on producing.

Projected Round: Fifth

NEXT: 2021 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings Top Ten


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