After running through the quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end rankings, we are continuing to break down this incoming rookie class for Dynasty rookie drafts, startups, and even the potential these young players can have on the 2024 seasonal formats.

Even before the actual NFL Draft in April, rookies are available in Best Ball formats across all platforms.

Now that the NFL Combine has passed, we have a plethora of new athletic data on this upcoming rookie class.

That information can be applied to athletic models and used to shape the full portfolio for prospects to go along with production profiles, which is a general overlay of what these players put on tape for NFL teams.

As we get more athletic testing data via Pro Days, we will add notes here to those prospects.

However, overall, athletic testing has a low correlation to actual fantasy output. When it does, it is typically counted twice from a productive player in the first place.

But when a prospect has subpar athletic testing paired with a limited or nonexistent production resume, then we are playing with fire when attempting to elevate or count on that player for NFL production.

During last year’s draft, we had only 18 running backs selected, which matched the fewest total selected in a draft since 2010 when only 15 picks were used on the position.

This running back class does not carry a lot of high-end profiles while the free agent class of the position was strong

Pairing the two together could signal that this draft could push for another low investment into the position via the draft.

Right now, we do not have a single running back inside of the top 60 overall picks in the Mock Draft Database.

It only takes one team to grab someone higher. But if that were to play out this April, that would be a first.

Just twice since 1960 have we seen the first running back in the draft selected outside of the top 40 picks. One of those years was 1963.

The lowest pick used on the first running back in the draft was pick No. 54 in 2014, which was Bishop Sankey.

I would express caution on elevating any running back this draft season based on invested draft capital or initial landing spot too greatly in rookie drafts and new startups.

That said, even if the NFL and we as fantasy gamers enter the draft with trepidation on this running back class, we also inherently know that there will be a few players here that will run into fantasy relevance.

Even that 2014 draft class that Sankey led produced players such as Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman, James White, Jeremy Hill, and Jerick McKinnon.

Depending on your level of fantasy masochism, what makes this draft class interesting is that the field is largely wide open.

We should see a lot of variance in player rankings versus draft investment league to league this spring.

Post-draft we’ll have the added influence of draft investment and landing spot to add to the layout, but opportunity is the name of the game for the running back position. If you can find the field and accrue touches, that’s the starting block we care about.

For previous reference, feel free to peruse the 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 breakdowns.

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Tier 1 Rookie Running Backs

We have to start somewhere, and these are the backs that I believe have the cleanest paths to early starting roles while also fighting for three-down relevancy when and if they do.

Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

Final Year Age: 20.8

Wright is a tricky prospect (nobody here is squeaky clean), but his ceiling is arguably one of the highest in this draft class.

At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Wright has the requisite size paired with the tangible explosion to churn out splash plays.

At the NFL Combine, he registered a 91st percentile speed score paired with a 98th explosion score in the jumping drills.

That shows up in his metrics as well.

Wright led this class with an explosive touch on 22.0% of his opportunities in 2023.

51.9% of his rushing yardage came on breakaway runs, which was fourth in this class.

13.9% of his runs went for 15 or more yards, second in this class.

Wright’s 7.3 yards per touch were second in this class.

Turning only 21 years old on April 1, Wright is also the fourth-youngest running back in this class.

What does not give Wright a complete outlook is that he played on a committee with Dylan Sampson that improved his efficiency output while added volume could have leveled things off.

Rational coaching should be positive, but we just do not have a large sample of Wright doing the dirty work.

Wright only logged 35.8% of his team rushes, 22nd in this class.

81.0% of his runs came against light boxes (six or fewer defenders) which was the highest rate in this class.

On those runs, Wright averaged a robust 8.0 yards per carry.

Wright only managed 25 total runs against boxes with seven or more defenders per Sports Info Solutions.

On those runs, he averaged 4.8 YPC, which was 16th in this class.

When Wright was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage, he averaged only 1.1 YPC, ahead of only three backs in this draft class.

On runs when first contact came beyond the line of scrimmage, he averaged a class-high 10.6 YPC.

As a byproduct of his role, Wright only had one rushing attempt inside of the five-yard line.

That top-down rushing profile is extremely in line with the one that Jahmyr Gibbs had a year ago.

The difference here is that Wright does not have the pass-catching resume that Gibbs came paired with.

His 1.8 receptions per game for his career are 12th in this class while he averaged fewer than a reception per game in his final season.

I believe that Wright will catch more passes in the NFL than he did in the Tennessee system, but that is why he is not receiving the same buzz that Gibbs did a year ago. He takes more projection.

Trey Benson, Florida State

Final Year Age: 21.4

Benson is not my favorite back through subjectivity, but he has the highest score in my prospect model based on blended age-adjusted production, physical profile, and projected draft capital.

In a year with limited profiles, Benson does check a number of the prerequisite boxes we are looking for and that should not be ignored.

He logged back-to-back seasons with over 1,100 yards at Florida State after transferring from Oregon. He scored 24 touchdowns in the past two seasons.

At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds at the NFL Combine, Benson then ran a 4.39 forty (a 94th percentile speed score) paired with a 62nd percentile explosion score in the jumping drills.

While Benson’s counting stats are solid, they are still not spectacular under the hood.

Playing behind a limited offensive line, Benson was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 46.2% of his rushes in 2023. That was the fourth-highest rate in this draft class per Sports Info Solutions.

That gives him somewhat of a hall pass, but Benson ranked 15th in this class in yards after contact per carry (3.1 yards).

He ranked 14th in missed tackle rate per rush (21.8%) and 25th in rate of runs to result in a first down or touchdown (24.4%).

We also have not seen Benson carry a large workload yet.

He had 167 and 176 touches the past two seasons with one game reaching 20 carries in his collegiate career. His 13.5 touches per game in 2023 rank 21st in this class.

Only 33.3% of Benson’s runs came on inside runs, which was ahead of only Ray Davis (29.1%), Daijun Edwards (29.1%) and Kendall Minton (28.1%).

On those inside runs, Benson averaged 2.2 yards after contact per rush, second to last in this class.

Just 21.2% of those inside runs resulted in a first down or touchdown, the lowest rate of this class.

On outside runs, he averaged 3.5 yards after contact per rush, which was eighth.

Benson’s measured speed does show up in games. He can hit home runs and as noted, received the majority of his runs on the perimeter.

59.3% of Benson’s rushing yardage in 2023 came on breakaway runs, which was the third-highest rate in this class.

Jonathon Brooks, Texas

Final Year Age: 20.4

Brooks was buried behind both Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson during his first two years at Texas, but when allowed to carry the workload this past year for the first time, he excelled.

Only one running back in this class has fewer career touches in college than Brooks does.

Brooks only logged 64 total touches over his first two seasons but was impressive with 7.0 and 7.3 yards per touch on those plays.

Ramping that touch-sample up to 212 opportunities this past season, Brooks still sustained a gaudy 6.7 yards per touch, producing 1,425 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns.

Brooks rushed for 6.2 yards per carry against heavy boxes (third in this class) while 54.5% of his runs came against those fronts.

Brooks also had 51 reps in pass protection and did not allow a single pressure or sack on those plays.

I believe Brooks is in contention for being the best running back in this class, but we not only have to project a small sample of collegiate opportunities, but he also is returning from a torn ACL in November.

Brooks did check in at 6-foot and 216 pounds at the NFL Combine, but that injury prevented him from doing any physical drills.

He did say that he was targeting a July 1 return to full-time activity and expects to be ready for training camp, but that injury could push down his draft investment and Year 1 production. That leaves the door wide open for future outcomes.

Brooks could be someone who comes on to end the season, or he could be limited altogether in his first season paired with marginal draft investment, which adds to the potential that he never leads a backfield.

Blake Corum, Michigan

Final Year Age: 23.1

Corum does not have a tantalizing profile or any absurd bells and whistles in the efficiency department, but this is a back that I believe the coaching staff will trust and allow him the opportunity to exceed his top-down profile.

I do not believe Corum is much different in that regard from what we had in Brian Robinson a few years ago. Gamers may want a more intoxicating profile, but Corum is going to be drafted highly regarding this class.

Corum continuously produced less efficiency per touch as his career went on in college.

After averaging 6.6 yards per carry in 2021, dipped down to 5.9 YPC in 2022. and then averaged 4.8 YPC this past season. His yards per touch went from 6.5 yards down to 6.0 and 5.0 in those seasons.

The only running back in this draft class to average fewer yards per touch in 2023 than Corum was Miyan Williams (3.8), and Williams only had 53 opportunities over his six games played.

There were rumors that Corum played with injuries this past season, and the results showed in terms of sapping explosive plays.

Corum had a run of 15 or more yards on 5.0% of his rushes in 2023 (27th in this class) after rates of 8.9% in 2022 and 9.0% in 2021.

Michigan’s structure on offense did not do him any favors.

A class-high 77.1% of Corum’s 2023 runs came against seven or more defenders in the box.

42.2% came against eight or more defenders in the box, which was also the highest rate in this class.

But while he was forced to run into heavy boxes, Corum was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on a class-low 31.8% of his runs and only averaged a class-low 6.2 yards per carry on his runs in which he was contacted beyond the line of scrimmage.

That said, NFL teams know what they are getting here.

Corum is a back who turned 73.0% of his short-yardage runs into a first down or touchdown (fourth in this class) while leading the class in those runs a year ago (63).

He converted 80.0% of his rushes inside of the five-yard line while leading this class with 25 carries in that area of the field.

The interesting component there is that Corum is not very big.

He was 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds at the NFL Combine. He participated in every drill outside of the broad jump and logged a 67th percentile athletic score.

Corum only registered a 40th percentile speed score (4.53 forty) which backed his lack of explosive runs, but he stood out with an 88th percentile agility score.

Tier 2 Rookie Running Backs

MarShawn Lloyd, USC

Final Year Age: 22.0

Lloyd is arguably my favorite runner in this class, but he takes a step of faith in terms of career opportunity and current projected draft capital. Of these backs we have covered so far, Lloyd has the most fragile price tag.

Lloyd did not have more than 129 touches in any season at South Carolina and then USC.

His 11.6 touches per game this past season ranked 24th in this class.

But the good for Lloyd in 2023 was really good.

He led this draft class with 8.2 yards per touch in 2023.

66.1% of his runs did come against light boxes (fourth highest in this class), but he led this class in yards per carry against seven or more defenders in the box (7.1 YPC) as well.

Lloyd forced a missed tackle on a class-high 37.1% of his rushes a year ago.

Lloyd was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 41.4% of his runs (fifth highest) behind a banged-up offensive line.

When hit at or behind the line of scrimmage, Lloyd rushed for a class-high 2.9 YPC.

When he was allowed a clear lane, Lloyd also rushed for 10.0 YPC on runs in which first contact came beyond the line of scrimmage, which only trailed Jaylen Wright.

Lloyd takes some squinting in terms of extended opportunity versus his limited collegiate resume, and he also had some issues in pass protection.

He only played 35 snaps in pass pro but allowed an 8.6% pressure rate on those plays, which was 25th in the class.

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Final Year Age: 19.9

Allen is one of the more intriguing prospects in this crop of running backs.

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