Here are the top 10 running back prospects (with projected round) for the 2020 NFL draft, which is set for April 23-25:
1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin, 5-foot-10, 226 pounds (first round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the combine. Taylor had 926 carries over three seasons, averaging almost 309 per season. He caught 42 passes for 407 yards and five touchdowns. "He can step right in and provide early stability and production as an efficient, every-down back with offensive rookie-of-the-year potential," according to NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein.
2. D'Andre Swift, Georgia, 5-8, 212 (first round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the scouting combine. While at Georgia, Swift became the fifth running back in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He had 1,218 yards rushing and 216 receiving with a total of seven touchdowns last season. Those totals would have been much higher had Swift not been injured at the end of the 2019 season. He was limited to six touches and eight total plays in his final two games because of a bruised shoulder. Swift left school with 2,885 yards rushing and 666 yards receiving. He ranks seventh on Georgia's all-time rushing list, just behind Lars Tate (3,017) and just ahead of Knowshon Moreno (2,734).
3. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State, 5-10, 209 (first/second round): He was a rare freshman starter with the Buckeyes and was highly productive over three seasons. He rushed for 1,412 in 2017, 1,053 in 2018 and was one of three backs in the nation to rush for more than 2,000 yards (2,003) last season. He also caught more than 20 passes (22, 26 and 23) in each of his seasons. He didn't run the 40-yard dash at the combine. He lifted 225 pounds 23 times.
4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU, 5-7, 207 (second round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 15 times at the scouting combine. He has some wiggle to make defenders miss. A total of 36 percent of his carries went for first downs or touchdowns in 2019. He was named All-SEC first-team at running back and returner as he rushed for 1,415 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 55 passes and averaged over 21 yards on 10 kickoff returns.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
5. Cam Akers, Florida State, 5-10, 217 (third round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 20 times at the scouting combine. He was a dual-threat quarterback who passed for more than 8,000 yards and 78 touchdowns in high school in Mississippi. He broke Dalvin Cook's FSU freshman rushing record with 1,024 yards in 2017. He had a dip to 706 yards rushing in 2018 and bounced back with 1,144 yards last season. He also caught 30 passes in 2019.
6. Zack Moss, Utah, 5-9, 223 (third round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 19 times at the scouting combine. He is the cousin of former NFL players Santana and Sinorice Moss, who both played in college at Miami. Zack Moss was set to follow, but elected to go to Utah after Hurricanes coach Al Golden was fired. He had a productive career and made the Associated Press All-American third team last season. He rushed for 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Utes. He also caught 28 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
7. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt, 5-10, 214 (fourth round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds and did not participate in the bench-press at the scouting combine. He started his career at Illinois in the Big Ten. After two seasons, the former Mr. Football in Tennessee transferred to Vanderbilt and sat out the 2017 season. He rushed for 1,244 yards in 2018 and managed 1,028 yards last season as the Commodores' offense struggled.
8. Anthony McFarland, Maryland, 5-8, 208 (fifth round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and did not participate in the bench-press at the scouting combine. His last season at Maryland was marred by an high ankle sprain, but in 2018 he dazzled at times. He had runs of 75, 81, and 52 yards against Ohio State. "His projection can't just rely on a couple of splash performances from 2018," Zierlein said. "He appears to have low-end backup potential, but it's worth noting that some NFL teams are much higher on him."
9. Michael Warren, Cincinnati, 5-9, 226 (fifth round): He did not run the 40-yard dash, but lifted 225 pounds 16 times at the scouting combine. He played in 12 games for as a freshman for the Bearcats. He took over as the lead back in 2018 and rushed 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 232 yards. In 2019, Warren rushed for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns.
10. (Tie) Eno Benjamin, Arizona State, 5-9, 207 (fifth round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 12 times at the scouting combine. He carried the ball a school-record 300 times as a sophomore and rushed for 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Sun Devils. He has the balance, vision and ability to break tackles at the NFL level. Arizona State coach Herm Edwards believes he can develop into a fine pass-catcher.
10. (Tie) Lamical Perine, Florida, 5-11, 216 (fifth round): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 22 times at the scouting combine. He's a hard-charging runner who also can catch passes out of the backfield. He amassed 181 total yards, which included a 61-yard touchdown run, when Florida beat Virginia 36-28 in the Orange Bowl. The Mobile, Ala., native also had a strong Senior Bowl showing. His father, Terrance, played at Auburn, and he's related to Dolphins running back Samaje Perine and Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack.
Best of the rest: Boston College's A.J. Dillon, UCLA's Joshua Kelley, Maryland's Javon Leake, Illinois State's James Robinson, Appalachian State's Darrynton Evans, TCU's Darius Anderson, Arizona's J.J. Taylor and Memphis' Patrick Taylor.
Teams in need. Miami (77.2 yards rushing per game, 32nd of 32 in the league), New York Jets (78.6, 31st), Falcons (85.1, 30th), Pittsburgh (90.4, 29th) and Los Angeles Chargers (90.8, 28th).
Need area for Falcons? Yes. The Falcons have to establish the run, and Todd Gurley may not be able to carry a bell-cow load like he did a few years back for the Rams. Ito Smith has shown flashes, but has not played a full 16-game season in his first two years in the league.
Top 5 seniors for 2021 draft. Clemson's Travis Etienne, Alabama's Najee Harris, Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard, Oregon's C.J. Verdell and Mississippi State's Kylin Hill.
AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES
Quarterbacks:Joe Burrow leads class | Top 10 QBs Running backs:Cam Akers' life lesson | Top 10 RBs Part 3: Tight ends Part 4: Offensive line (guards/center) Part 5: Offensive line (tackles) Part 6: Wide receivers Part 7: Defensive tackle Part 8: Defensive end Part 9: Linebackers Part 10: Safeties Part 11: Special Teams Part 12: Cornerbacks
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.