NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang offers his evaluation of the top running back prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Josh Jacobs, Alabama, 5-10, 220, 4.65
Strengths: Compact, powerfully-built running back whose game is all about explosion, whether it be the initial burst created in his jump cuts, acceleration to slip to and through the hole or when lowering his shoulder into would-be tacklers. Smart scouts will ignore the deceptive 40-yard dash time as Jacobs plays fast and has terrific balance through contact. He is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield and slot and comes with plenty of tread left on the tires after rotating at Alabama.
Weaknesses: While showing good burst to the hole, Jacobs tops out just as quickly and is not a traditional home run threat. His angry, punishing running style could lead to durability concerns if asked to play a bell-cow role in the NFL. Often used as a receiver (but not a blocker) in the passing game and may need some time to adjust.
Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M, 5-8, 206, 4.51
Strengths: Short but not small with a low center of gravity that helps him remain balanced through contact. Productive, patient runner who reads the action well, attacking the hole when it is there but possessing enough burst to bounce outside and create when necessary. Creative in the open, stringing together moves to get defenders off-balance. Quality receiver (66 career receptions) and blocks with a chip on his shoulder. Highly respected by A&M staff, teammates.
Weaknesses: Good, not great athleticism for the position. Undersized to be a bell cow at the next level, especially given the number of carries he’s had in college (600 in last three years alone) and as a featured runner in high school (approximately 4,000 rushing yards in just two seasons).
Mike Weber, Ohio State, 5-10, 211, 4.47
Strengths: Squatty, pinball runner whose best attributes are his vision and lateral agility to elude, making him a constant threat to cut back against the grain. Deceptive speed to and through the hole with enough juice to break off chunk runs. Naturally low center of gravity and initiates contact with would-be tacklers, controlling the pace to squirt free. Productive receiver (54 receptions) and a willing blocker.
Weaknesses: Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none-type with average power and play speed. Does not demonstrate the stop-start explosiveness suggested with his impressive 40-yard dash time. Big man on campus in 2016 (Big Ten Freshman of the Year) but never matched that success his next two seasons as a runner or receiver and appeared to lose confidence as he was supplanted as the Buckeyes starter. Had 20-plus rushing attempts in just three games over his college career.
Miles Sanders, Penn State, 5-11, 211, 4.49
Strengths: Looks the part of an NFL running back with a well-built frame, twitchy burst to and through the hole and the speed to gain yardage in chunks. Has some highlight reel to him, showing good vision and pitter-pat to leave defenders lunging. A bit leggy but lowers his shoulder into would-be tacklers and runs with both good forward lean and determination to finish. Experienced kickoff returner. Plenty of tread left on the tires after backing up Saquon Barkley his first two seasons in Happy Valley with just 346 total touches (rushing, receiving, returning) in college.
Weaknesses: Not the sum of his parts. More of a glider than a grinder who doesn’t always play with the desired grit of a true workhorse back, including as a blocker in pass protection. Fumbled 10 times (losing seven) over his college career, an alarming rate given his relatively light workload.
David Montgomery, Iowa State, 5-10, 222, 4.63
Strengths: Prototypical build for an NFL back with good overall weight distribution, including a powerful lower half. Good vision, initial burst and lateral agility to get to the second level, stringing together moves like an orchestra. Best attributes may be his competitiveness and balance through contact, routinely earning extra yardage because he simply wants it more than the defender. Accomplished receiver out of the backfield (71 career receptions). Served as a dual-threat QB in high school and it shows in his ability to read defenses. Above average ball security with just three fumbles over his career.
Weaknesses: Lacks an explosive element to his game, running for the stopwatch as expected. May not possess the speed to beat NFL linebackers to the perimeter or to get free as a receiver. Starred against questionable Big 12 competition throughout his career and enters the NFL with plenty of carries already logged, earning 20-plus carries in 13 of his last 19 games and 695 touches the past three years overall.