As we continue to break down the rookie running backs pre-draft, you can circle back to the opening post of RBs 1-5 to get a little more background on the top of the position and some of the methodology that goes into the ranks. You can also find the rest of the rookie rankings and all other 2020 rankings for seasonal and dynasty formats as they arrive in our 2020 rankings hub as they arrive and are updated throughout the offseason. But other than that, we’re going to continue to roll along.
2020 Pre-NFL Draft Rookie Running Back Rankings
6. Zack Moss, Utah, FY Age: 22.1 (MR RB10): Moss has seen his yards per touch rise in each of his four collegiate seasons as he closed his career out with 1,804 yards on 263 touches (6.9 YPT) in 2019 to go along with 17 touchdowns. Out of the backfield, Moss caught just 38 passes for 297 yards (7.8 Y/R) prior to catching 28 passes for 388 yards (13.9 Y/R) this past season. He was credited with 87 missed tackles forced this past season, which was second in the country. The model discounts Moss for similar reasons as another back this list, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, though Moss has a better production profile and averaged slightly more receptions per game. Moss is a non-early declare back that never played alongside NFL-caliber talent as a roadblock while he tested out as a 34th percentile athlete at the combine, which is ahead of only Clyde Edwards-Helaire among backs we’ve covered to this stage in ranks. I still believe the NFL will value his size (5’9” and 223 pounds) and all the missed tackles he put on tape over his career in a similar fashion they did with David Montgomery a year ago and make him the next back selected after the top-five.
7. AJ Dillon, Boston College, FY Age: 21.7 (MR RB4): No back in this class averaged more touches per game for their collegiate career (24.7) or touches per game in 2019 (27.6) than Dillon. Dillon handled 300, 235, and 331 touches over three seasons at Boston College en route to 4,618 yards from scrimmage and 40 touchdowns. He then went into the combine at 6’0” and 247 pounds and notched a 97.8 percentile physical score, which was higher than Jonathan Taylor’s. The issue Dillon has, however, is that at 20 pounds heavier than Taylor and having a non-existent receiving profile that he’s going to fall into an archetype of being a two-down back in the NFL. Those backs are waning among NFL bell cows. The archetype that Dillon projects as is why I’m so far away from the model rank. Just 21 of Dillon’s 866 touches were receptions. It’s also hard not to draw parallels from Dillon to former Boston College back Andre Williams, who ran for 2,177 yards exiting to the NFL with no receiving value and then also showed up to the combine as a strong athlete.
8. Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State, FY Age: 21.6 (MR RB9): After 1,274 yards on 191 touches (6.7 YPT) in 2018, Evans doubled down in 2019 with 1,678 yards on 276 touches (6.1 YPT) and 23 touchdowns.He also added five receiving touchdowns this past season to go with 21 catches for 198 yards (9.4 Y/R). I’m cautious on Evans due to his strength of competition and size (5’8” and 203 pounds) as being potential issues next level. Evans was plenty fast (4.41 40) and explosive at the combine in jump drills to show that he was at least a strong athlete not solely inflated by crushing the Charlottes and Coastal Carolinas of the world, but that measured athleticism likely made him one of the better athletes on the field in those games. He has an immediate inroad in the NFL as a return man, where he averaged 25.7 yards per kickoff return with three touchdowns on 56 career returns.
9. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State, FY Age: 20.7 (MR RB7): Benjamin is young, plenty productive and has the most career receptions (82) among backs in this class. He was a true workhorse at Arizona State, handling 335 touches and 295 touches over the past two seasons. Benjamin accounted for 80.3% of his team non-QB rushing attempts and 83.6% of those rushing yards, the tops in this class while he also led in percentage of team receptions (18.0%). Benjamin went from 195 pounds at the Senior Bowl up to 207 pounds at the combine to show that he can add weight without sacrificing a ton of athleticism. We’ve seen backs that play better in space handle huge workloads in college before moving on to a satellite role in the NFL. Guys like Tarik Cohen (966 college touches), Darren Sproles (881), Ito Smith (940), and Ameer Abdullah (886) are just a handful of guys of similar archetype that were collegiate workhorses transitioning from college to NFL. Benjamin has a bit more size than the Cohens and Sproles of the world, but he’s right in that Smith and Abdullah zone. Despite his workload, Benjamin was outside of the top-15 in yards after contact and explosive runs.
10. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, FY Age: 22.7 (MR RB11):After two pedestrian seasons at Illinois, Vaughn (5’8”, 214) transferred to Vanderbilt. After sitting out the 2017 season due to the transfer, he then tallied 1,414 yards and 1,298 yards over the 2018-2019 seasons to go with 24 touchdowns. In 2019, nearly no back in this class was asked to do as much as Vaughn across the board for his team’s offense. He accounted for 70.7% of the team non-QB carries (second), 69.7% of the non-QB rushing yards (second), 36.2% of the team yards from scrimmage (third), 13.9% of the receptions (second), and scored 47.6% of the team touchdowns (second). The model downgrades Vaughn for being a non-early declare and as a byproduct, the oldest prospect we’ve ranked so far due to that lost season switching programs.
11. James Robinson, Illinois State (MR RB6): Robinson is a small-school workhorse stud. In 2019, he handled a gaudy 380 touches for 1,997 yards and 18 scores at Illinois State. Robinson produced 43.7% of the Red Birds’ offensive yardage, the highest share for a back in this class while also scoring 52.9% of their touchdowns. Although he only caught 16 passes all season, that number was 12.1% of the Illinois State receptions (gross), which is the seventh-highest reception share for backs here. Not wasting his combine invite, Robinson (5’9”, 219) scored in the 59th percentile in physical profile for backs (the sixth-highest rate of this group) on the strength of his high marks in agility and explosion. The one area where he was not good was in the 40, positing a 30th percentile speed score with a 4.64 run. That lack of speed isn’t a killer, but it still doesn’t alleviate any concerns that he was propped up to a degree by his lack of competition.
12. Joshua Kelley, UCLA, FY Age: 22.2 (MR RB13): Kelley transferred to UCLA for the 2018 season in which he posted 1,436 yards on 252 touches (5.7 YPT) and 12 touchdowns while catching 27 passes in 11 games. In 2019, he took a slight step back, tallying 1,131 yards on 240 touches (4.7 YPT) with just 11 catches out of the backfield in 11 games. Not particularly outstanding in any area, Kelley was 50th or lower in the country in missed tackles forced, yards after contact and carries of 15-plus yards per Pro Football Focus. Kelley (5’11”, 212) did test well at the combine, ranking fourth among workout backs with a 63rd percentile physical profile.
13. Anthony McFarland, Maryland, FY Age: 21.9 (MR RB16): McFarland had a tale of two seasons while at Maryland. As a redshirt freshman in 2018, he was electric with 1,107 yards on just 138 touches (8.0 YPT). In that season, he was anchored by back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, with the latter coming in a game versus Ohio State where he had 21 carries for 298 yards and two touchdowns. This past season, he took a step back, posting just 740 yards on 131 touches (5.6 YPT) with just two 100-yard rushing games. Not a collegiate workhorse and having a limited receiving profile (27 catches in 23 games) suggest McFarland will continue to be a committee back at the next level, but he’s a young back with big-play upside should he fall into the right situation. If given a runway, he can fly, positing the fifth-best speed score in this class by running a 4.44 at 208 pounds.
14. Michael Warren, Cincinnati FY Age: 22.0 (MR RB12): Warren’s yards per touch have decreased every season, but his workload has risen to compensate. After just 59 touches as a freshman in 2017, Warren totaled 269 touches for 1,561 yards and 20 scores and 282 touches for 1,418 yards and 16 scores over his past two seasons to go along with 25 and 21 receptions. A physical back at 5’9” and 226 pounds, Warren ranked seventh in the country in forced missed tackles per Pro Football Focus. Warren ranked seventh in this class in percentage of his team’s rushing attempts (59.3%), but 12th in rate of rushing yardage output (56.3%) as his yards per carry were below (-0.69) the production of what other non-QB runs produced in the offense. Due to a hamstring injury, Warren was unable to perform physical drills at the combine.
15. LeVante Bellamy, Western Michigan, FY Age: 23.1 (MR RB15): Bellamy is a fifth-year senior that converted to running back from wide receiver after two seasons. Over the past two years as a full-time back, Bellamy has produced 1,413 and 1,527 yards to go with 30 touchdowns. At 5’9” and 192 pounds, Bellamy projects to be an ancillary piece in the NFL. The problem with that is that as a former wide receiver, his receiving profile is considerably sparse, averaging just 6.2 yards per catch on 30 catches in 2018 and a paltry 3.7 yards on 15 catches a year ago.