NFL draft: the best running backs

As the NFL draft approaches, We Sport offers you five players per position who should liven up the nights of April 29 to May 1. Today after quarterbacks, receivers, as well as offensive and defensive linemen, make way for running backs!

Najee Harris (Alabama – Senior)

Power and ease with the ball: Najee Harris is a versatile running back. (Photo credits:

The Larousse dictionary defines the word  » Aries  » like a  » war machine used to overthrow the walls or gates of a city « . The city is the opposing defense. The war machine is Najee Harris. With insane power, the runner is able to move his 1.88 m and his 104 kg in an almost perfect way to exploit breaches and resist tackles. Even when it means opting for a more “aerial” path.

Although not the fastest running back on the field, the Alabama player has athletic qualities reminiscent of Derrick Henry, a Crimson Tide alumnus. A template that allowed Najee Harris to beat the records for yards (3,843) and touchdowns in the race (57) of his school. But he also has sure hands, able to receive as well as protect the ball: in 638 carries, he conceded only one loss. A complete profile that should find a taker after half of the first round.

His statistics in 2020 (13 games): 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns in the run; 425 yards and 4 touchdowns at reception

His NCAA stats (51 games): 3,843 yards and 46 touchdowns in the run; 781 yards and 11 touchdowns at reception

His achievements: national champion (2017 and 2020), first team All-American (2020), winner of the Doak Walker Award (2020), 5th of the Heisman Trophy (2020)

Travis Etienne (Clemson – Senior)

Will Travis Etienne keep his offensive performance in the NFL? (Photo credits: Jamie Schwaberow – Getty Images)

Explosive downforce, changes of direction, impact on contact: Travis Etienne caused a lot of damage at the university level. Dabo Swinney, his coach at Clemson, even assured ESPN that «  the only person he can compare him to is Walter Payton « . In four NCAA seasons, the running back has won records for yards (4,952) and touchdowns (70) in the ACC conference race, as well as points scored (468).

Also effective at reception, Travis Etienne will still have to be more complete in this area of ​​play to remain a leading offensive threat in the NFL. He also showed himself at times in difficulty when his offensive line was not on top, and should be selected at the end of the first round or at the start of the second.

His statistics in 2020 (12 games): 914 yards and 14 touchdowns on the run; 588 yards and 2 touchdowns at reception

His NCAA stats (55 games): 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns on the run; 1,155 yards and 8 touchdowns at reception

His achievements: national champion (2018), first team All-American (2018, 2019 and 2020), ACC player of the year (2018 and 2019), 7th and 9th of the Heisman Trophy (2018 and 2019)

Javonte Williams (North Carolina – Junior)

Author of a great 2020 season, Javonte Williams has climbed into mock drafts. (Photo credits: Jeffrey Camarati – UNC)

1.82 m for 100 kg: specify that Javonte Williams is a strong running back would almost be pleonasm. While he was not at the top of the North Carolina rider hierarchy at the start of the season, he was able to use his athleticism to form a very effective committee alongside Michael Carter. Williams was thus the leader of FBS in induced missed tackles (47) and first attempts obtained (72) in 2020.

And if his impact on contact and his downforce are impressive, he also knows how to be a successful receiver.  » Kind, intelligent, competitive, strong, works very hard every day », Summarized his coach Mack Brown during the Monday Night radio show. If he manages to assert himself without the help of a second running back, he could make the happiness of a franchise which will choose in the middle of the second round of the draft.

His statistics in 2020 (11 games): 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns in the run; 305 yards and 3 touchdowns at reception

His NCAA stats (34 games): 2,297 yards and 29 touchdowns in the run; 539 yards and 4 touchdowns at reception

Kenny Gainwell (Memphis – Sophomore)

Versatile but less strong than other running backs: what future for Kenny Gainwell in the NFL? (Photo credits: Joe Rondone – The Commercial Appeal)

Will Kenny Gainwell be able to make people forget his lack of experience? Having played only 18 matches at the university level, and after having opted out in 2020, the running back however marked the spirits by its versatility. Capable of both running and receiving, in 2019 he was the only FBS player to have signed at least 1,000 yards on the run and more than 500 yards on reception. His lines and feints are formidable, but his physique more frail (1.80 m, 86 kg) than those of his counterparts and his lack of pure speed could make some general managers doubt his potential performance in the NFL. Kenny Gainwell is expected to be called up at the end of the second or early third round of the draft.

His statistics in 2019 (14 matches – opt out in 2020): 1,459 yards and 13 touchdowns in the run; 610 yards and 3 touchdowns on reception

His NCAA stats (18 games): 1,550 yards and 14 touchdowns on the run; 662 yards and 3 touchdowns on reception

Michael Carter (North Carolina – Senior)

Michael Carter is expected lower in the draft than his partner Javonte Williams. (Photo credits: Getty Images)

 » Michael has a great vision of the game, he can catch the ball, but he also has the speed to go to score and perforate the defense. At the microphone of the NFL Network, Mack Brown enunciated the various qualities which allowed Michael Carter to shine under the jersey of North Carolina. After four university seasons, the runner broke his school’s records for yards gained on average per carried in a single game (12.83), over a season (7.98) and in career (6.62). Beyond his reading and his cuts, he also stood out for his reception and protection qualities. Michael Carter, however, does not have a physique allowing him to repel tackles (1.73m, 90kg), and is applying for a selection in the third or fourth round of the next draft.

His statistics in 2020 (11 games): 1,245 yards and 9 touchdowns in the run; 267 yards and 2 touchdowns at reception

His NCAA stats (44 games): 3,404 yards and 22 touchdowns in the run; 656 yards and 6 touchdowns on reception

Photo credits from: Jamie Schwaberow – Getty Images

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