With the NFL Scouting Combine (at time of writing) 13 days away I thought I’d take a look at some Rookie Running Backs coming into the NFL and what it means for Fantasy Football.

As you are well aware Rush Nation, we have Writers and Staff who are more knowledgeable on college ball than I. However, this will be a dissection of my research pre-Combine into some of the players making the leap into the NFL. The takes are mine and mine alone. If breaking down some bits I’ve discovered on my journey into the Rookies helps you as well as me then happy days.

This first article will be about Running Backs. They, along with Wide Receivers, are the two most important positions in Fantasy Football.

At first glance, the 2020 class has an elite first tier of four players. For me, anyway, there is a tie at number one and a close third and fourth. All four depending on who you listen to or read could have a first-round grade dropping to a late third-round grade. That’s what makes this whole process so hard to judge pre NFL Scouting Combine and Free Agency. And then there is the NFL Draft. Landing spot and Combine results will affect where all Rookies are drafted fantasy-wise and what value they have going forward. Let’s have a look at my top tier:

1A, J.K Dobbins – Ohio State

It’s impossible for me to not take a slanted view on Dobbins as he was my workhorse back in my very first College Fantasy Football Championship. Fanboy aside, Dobbins profiles as a perfect NFL Running Back. His measurables are what I think are ideal for the next step. He weighs in at 215 pounds, is 5 feet 10 inches tall and is projected to run a 4.5 40 yard dash.

His year was fairly successful and helped Ohio State get to one game away from the FBS National Championship Game. Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2019. J.K had 2,003 rushing yards with 21 Touchdowns. He also managed 23 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Dobbins has explosive speed which helps him to blast through gaps and break off big chunk plays. No is he afraid of contact and has made some big catches in traffic or getting his pads down to gain a few extra yards through the line. It’s how electric his first step and cut is that makes him able to make Linebackers miss and get into the defensive secondary.

One thing Dobbins has to improve on is his fumbles. He fumbled against Penn State, Florida Atlantic and Michigan. Whilst its not a high number of fumbles, he won’t be given the same number of chances to rectify those mistakes in the NFL.

In terms of fit, he could go to most teams and be the starter but put him behind a good offensive line and he could be elite. If the secondary market has vanished at the end of the first round, wouldn’t it be amazing to see the Chiefs add a stud to their already stacked offence?

Pros

-Played in the Big Ten against tough Competition.
-Unrivalled vision.
-Not afraid of contact.
-Ability to win foot races to the house.
-Hard to bring down.

Cons

-Pass blocking can be a problem
-Struggles occasionally to pick up the blitz
-Had one year of a slight injury that could impact his draft stock

1B, D’Andre Swift – Georgia

It wouldn’t be right if there wasn’t a top Georgia Bulldogs Running Back in the draft. When you think of recent Georgia backs Sony Michel, Nick Chubb and former Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley III jump to mind. When Michel and Chubb were still at the Bulldogs you would think that Swift would have been an afterthought. This couldn’t have been further from the truth with Swift forcing his way into the backfield as a true Freshman.

It can be hard to get many carries in the Georgia backfield due to the amount of future NFL running backs in their locker room. Swift’s 2019 saw him average 6.2 yards per carry. Gain 1,216 yards on the ground and finish with seven Touchdowns. He had 24 receptions for 216 yards and another touchdown through the air.

His lack of usage, like Josh Jacobs last year, means he comes into the league with a fresh set of wheels. Currently weighing 215 pounds, Swift stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and has a projected 40 dash of 4.49 seconds. He has similar measurables to Dobbins.

Swift has great vision and speed alongside tremendous versatility and profiles as a three-down starter from the tape I’ve seen. His razor-like cuts leave broken ankles behind him and whilst his skills are projected better than Josh Jacobs, he isn’t in the same tier as Saquon Barkley is. He could go mid-first round of a team that sees him as a future star and stalwart of their backfield. Texas would be a great fit or even the Colts if they decide to move on from Marlon Mack. My reason for him being my 1b is his lack of usage. Will he break down with a large workload? Only time will tell.

Pros

-Compares very similarly to CMC
-Remarkable feet and vision on either inside or outside the line runs
-A tough runner with relentless effort
-Low workload, lots of tread left on tyres
-Great hands and can win on contested catches

Cons

-Running style could prove an injury concern in the NFL
-Slightly unproven on workload
-Needs to improve his pass protection in order to become elite

3, Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin

One word to describe this lad, Beast. Pure and simple, he wholly destroyed the competition in 2019. Taylor had a career year in college which helped his draft stock no end. What really helped to vault his increasing draft stock, was his improved receiving ability. This was shown by catching ten more balls (26) than his 16 in his sophomore year. Whilst Wisconsin love to pound the rock, it’s one thing doing it with an average back. However, it is another thing entirely to do it with someone of Taylor’s skill set.

JT, as I like to call him in my head at least, broke the goal-line plane more times than any of the other rushers in this elite class. He finished his 2019 campaign with an average of 6.3 yards per carry. He gained 2,003 yards whilst rushing which included 21 Touchdowns. As already mentioned, he had a good number in the receptions column. 26 receptions for 252 yards and five receiving touchdowns.

He really is the total package. His power is all too evident and with the combination of the quickness in his first two steps, means his cut is nasty. Once into or past the line of scrimmage he has great vision to find the holes and if this fails him, has one of the dirtiest stiff arms you’re likely to see.

He measures well too in height and weight. Weighing 215 pounds and standing 5 foot 11 inches off the deck. One slight on Taylor is his slightly slower projected 40-yard time of 4.54 seconds. Whilst minuscule it could mean at the faster level of the NFL gaps seem to shut faster for JT. He may, however, shed a few pounds for the combine and quicken his time across the tape in Indy. He would be a great addition to any Running Back needy team.

Pros

-Can hit the gap or get to the outside fast and is good at both
-Has over 400 carries and has shown almost no signs of injury
-Can put the team on his back if needs be Treats every run as if it’s to win the Superbowl.

Cons

-Workload could limit his time in the NFL, 926 touches in his career
-Has an issue with fumbles. 18 fumbles in 41 games is a concern

4, Zack Moss – Utah

Another monster of the backfield. Moss hasn’t had a season in his three years at Utah with less than ten Touchdowns on the ground. In 2017 he had ten Touchdowns. In 2018 he improved to 11 scores and finally last year in 2019 he again improved to 15 Touchdowns. His prowess for the endzone doesn’t stop there either. A formidable receiver having 28 receptions in 2019, totalling 388 receiving yards and two endzone catches.

Moss has a thick build for a Running Back again like the other above him. He too is 5 foot 10 inches and weighs a decent 215 pounds. His projected 40-yard dash is slightly slower than the top three runners in this class at 4.55 seconds. He runs with a powerhouse style and proved his stature as a work horse back for the Utes over the last three seasons.

One knock on Moss is his injury history. Whilst it isn’t horrific, some NFL teams scouting units have placed a lower grade on him because of this history. In his four seasons in College, he has only played 13 games twice. 2016 he played 10 and 2018 he only managed 9 games. If he has a healthy Combine his stock will increase and put some teams at ease. If he can prove himself healthy, then most teams would be lucky to have him as their rock carrier.

Where Moss sets himself apart from the others is his contact balance. His ability to change the angle of his legs and hips in order to make tackles miss is exceptional. His hitting power is like a JCB and broken tackles happen frequently when in tight spaces. Given the ball at the one or two-yard line and you can be sure Moss will drive it home.

Pros

-Played in a tough division so is tested at a high level
-Tremendous hip turn and looseness allowing him to change direction fast
-A tough runner who sees red when faced with a linebacker at his feet
-Great pass-catcher who can make guys miss after the catch

Cons

-Running style is slightly one dimensional
-Hasn’t been asked to do much pass blocking
-Does not have a high top speed and can’t ask for another gear when needed

That’s the top tier of this season’s incoming rookies. I hope that the info I have acquired and collated from listening to draft experts and watching tape will help in deciding who to take with that all-important first-round Rookie draft pick. Tier two coming next week. There are some beauties awaiting discovery.

Until next week, Keep Rushing!

-Stocks @5yardrush

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