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2020 NFL Draft Stock - Running Backs

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: July 16, 2019, 11:31 pm ET

Draft capital is the single most important stat for projecting NFL production for rookies, and the goal of this “NFL Draft Stock” series is to accurately project where prospects WILL be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, not where I think these prospects SHOULD be drafted. I’m using consensus mock draft data, player production and efficiency stats, and historical draft data to guide my draft capital projections. You’ll probably think your favorite draft prospect is projected too low, but the reality is there are more legit draft prospects than actual draft picks. 

Round

RBs Picked on Average Since 2010

1

1.6

2

2.7

3

2.6

4

4.3

5

3.2

6

4.8

7

4.1

Total

23.3

 

The plan is to update the projections every month. And with each update, my projections will become more precise. The goal of the first round of projections is to separate prospects by which day they’ll be drafted, but I’ll get down to the actual pick eventually. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have any questions. 

 

2020 Draft Stock

2020 Running Back Prospects

Projected Draft Day

D’Andre Swift

1

Jonathan Taylor

1

Travis Etienne

1

Eno Benjamin

2

J.K. Dobbins

2

Kylin Hill

2

Najee Harris

2

A.J. Dillon

3

Zack Moss

3

Cam Akers

3

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

3

Kennedy Brooks

3

Joshua Kelley

3

Lamical Perine

3

Trey Sermon

3

Anthony McFarland Jr. 3

Chuba Hubbard

3

Scottie Phillips

3

Juwan Washington

3

Tavien Feaster

3

Reggie Corbin

3

Patrick Taylor Jr.

3

J.J. Taylor

3

Larry Rountree

3

 

 

D’Andre Swift (Georgia, JR) - Day 1 Projection

Receiving Ability: D’Andre Swift has caught 49-of-61 career targets for 450 yards (7.4 YPT) with only three drops, making him the best pass-catching back among Day 1 and Day 2 prospects. Last season, Swift caught 19-of-22 targets coming behind the line of scrimmage and turned them into 152 yards. And that’s his specialty. He just wins on those short-yardage dump-offs, turning nothings into somethings with elite speed. I project Swift for 257 receiving yards in 2019 and that number could be a lot higher in the NFL. 

Elusiveness/Broken Tackles: Per PFF, Swift averaged 3.89 yards after contact (above average) and averaged 0.23 missed tackles per carry (average) last season. Swift can make defenders miss with strength, speed, and wiggle. The trifecta. In space, Swift will beat defenders to the edge with high-end speed, and he can bounce off tackles with power up the middle. 

Rushing Production: D’Andre Swift racked up 618 rushing yards as a freshman despite playing alongside Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield. Even in a group that talented, Swift stood out because of his athleticism and three-down skill set. Last year, the backfield was primarily his and he broke out for 1,049 yards (74 YPG) and 10 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. It should be more of the same in 2019; I project Swift for 1,091 yards (99 YPG) and 11 touchdowns over 11 regular season games. Swift should be checking all analytical boxes -- breakout age, total production, etc. -- if he stays healthy. 

Athleticism: Swift (5’9/215) has a chance to crack the 4.40 mark at the Combine after recording a 4.43 forty in high school. His speed has been called the best in the class and his agility looks insane, too. There shouldn’t be any concerns with Swift’s athleticism.

A Play That Summarizes:

 

Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin, JR) - Day 1 Projection

Receiving Ability: Jonathan Taylor has caught 16-of-28 career targets for 155 yards (5.5 YPT) with four drops. And it’s really notable that Taylor has zero (0) third-down receptions according to Sports Info Solutions. Mind-blowing. Maybe it’s the system -- Taylor lined up outside of the backfield on just 5-of-427 snaps last year per PFF -- but it’s hard to see past the drops and low YPT. The good news is Taylor knows this and how the status-quo will threaten his Day 1 projection. Taylor has reportedly spent the summer running routes, catching passes, and working on pass protection in an attempt to be a three-down back. I originally projected Taylor for 82 receiving yards for the 2019 season, but I’m upping that towards 150 yards (still not a lot) after hearing how serious Taylor has been about becoming a better pass catcher. If Taylor can’t reach my low receiving projection, then I’ll be out on Taylor as a late first-round prospect.

Elusiveness/Broken Tackles: Per PFF, Taylor averaged 4.28 yards after contact (above average) and averaged 0.22 missed tackles per carry (average) last season. Taylor’s speed and power are noticeably better than his elusiveness in space, which explains his above-average YAC and average missed tackle numbers. There’s not enough of a sample to judge his elusiveness as a pass-catcher, but I’d guess Taylor would be average. 

Rushing Production: Taylor has a chance to be the career college rushing leader, and he’d be doing it in three years, not four. As a freshman, Taylor picked up 1,977 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns and followed it up with 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. Incredible. For 2019, I project Taylor for 1,669 yards (152 YPG) and 13 touchdowns across 11 regular season games. The rushing projection is over 200 yards more than the second-place projected finisher. 

Athleticism: Taylor (5’11/219) is a freak athlete. As a high schooler, Taylor had two New Jersey high school records in the 100-meter dash, and he’s developed even further at Wisconsin. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reports Taylor has run a 4.3 forty. That equates to an insane 128.7 speed score if Taylor hits that time at his listed 220-pound weight. Taylor can also squat 605 pounds leading to a 37.5 vertical jump. Agility scores are the only potential concerns in Taylor’s athletic profile.

A Play That Summarizes:

 

Travis Etienne (Clemson, JR) - Day 1 Projection

Receiving Ability: Travis Etienne is straight-up not comfortable as a receiver right now, and he admits that. "I feel nervous I guess. Cause the ball is coming, and I always feel like the defender is right there, so I run before I catch the ball and get spooked by my surroundings." Last year, Etienne dropped four of his 17 targets, and Clemson knows how one-dimensional he is right now. Etienne only had 19 offensive snaps coming from somewhere outside of the backfield and 14-of-17 targets were behind the line of scrimmage. It matters that Dabo Swinney is choosing to not utilize Etienne as a receiver and that worries me. I project Etienne for only 66 receiving yards in 2019 and that would keep me out on Etienne as a late first-round prospect, even if he is a stud runner. 

Elusiveness/Broken Tackles: Per PFF, Etienne averaged 4.33 yards after contact (above average) and averaged 0.25 missed tackles per carry (above average) last season. Etienne’s burst is the primary reason he has high-end YAC numbers because he gets away from defenders quickly after contact. With the small sample, there’s nothing to make of Etienne’s 0.33 missed tackles per reception average. 

Rushing Production: Etienne picked up 766 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on just 107 carries as a freshman while splitting carries with RB Tavien Feaster and QB Kelly Bryant. In 2018, Etienne established himself as the clear lead back, forcing Feaster into a backup role. Etienne finished the year with 1,658 and 24 touchdowns (!!!) across 15 games. This season I project Etienne for 1,322 yards (120 YPG) and 16 touchdowns across 11 regular season games. Production is not an issue. In fact, it’s a major plus.

Athleticism: Etienne (5’10/215) has recorded a 4.38 forty before and looks every bit that fast on tape. Speed is his best athletic trait, especially considering he’s listed at 215 pounds, and athleticism is probably his best trait overall. There’s a chance Etienne finishes with the top-three forty time among 2020 running backs.

A Play That Summarizes: