2017 NFL Draft Running Back Ranking

Oct 24, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 24, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft features a lot of talent at the running back position and this running back ranking shows those prospects at the top.

There are going to be a lot of teams that find a highly productive running back in the 2017 NFL Draft. I could see as many as 9 prospects off this list making an impact early in their rookie seasons. This group has it all from sleepers to the big name prospects at the top of the rankings.

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Leonard Fournette is the prospect everyone knows and someone who could come off the board early in the 1st round. He’s an every-down runner who’ll immediately be one of the leading candidates for offensive rookie of the year.

However, there are under the radar prospects who could outperform Fournette if given the opportunity. Toledo’s Kareem Hunt is my top sleeper and someone capable of becoming an immediate force. He’s someone who can hurt a defense both with his running and pass catching.

Several teams will be in the market for a starting running back including the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. Any one of those teams could realistically use a 1st round pick on a running back.

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

1. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford- Mid-1st Round

I may be the only person out there that has Christian McCaffrey ranked ahead of both Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. My reasoning is that McCaffrey is such a versatile prospect that he can impact the game even when the running game isn’t working.

McCaffrey is an elite pass catcher who can work in the slot and create space against top-level cornerbacks. This combined with his skills as a runner means that there are several ways to get him involved in the offense.

It’s also important to note that he’s a difference maker as both a punt and kick returner.

2. Leonard Fournette, LSU- Mid-1st Round

Fournette is a special talent who is more of a workhorse running back. He’s someone who can grid out the tough yards but also features the speed to break off long runs. Fournette has the potential to be the focal point of a team’s offensive attack.

3. D’Onta Foreman, Texas- Late 1st Round

Foreman is a bigger back who also feature home-run ability. He has an explosive burst that allows him to shoot through line and outpace defensive angles. His ability to gain yards after contact makes him someone who’ll move the chains.

Sep 30, 2016; Provo, UT, USA;  Toledo Rockets running back Kareem Hunt (3) tries to find a way around the Brigham Young Cougars defense during the fourth quarter at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Brigham Young won 55-53. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 30, 2016; Provo, UT, USA; Toledo Rockets running back Kareem Hunt (3) tries to find a way around the Brigham Young Cougars defense during the fourth quarter at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Brigham Young won 55-53. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

4. Dalvin Cook, Florida State- Early 2nd Round

Many have Dalvin Cook ranked as an early 1st round prospect based on his big-play ability. I have him ranked lower based on some injury history and off-field concerns. The other factor is that he doesn’t consistently fight through arm tackles.

However, Cook has as much upside as any running back in this class. It’s likely I’m setting myself up for a big miss with Cook becoming a highly productive NFL player.

5. Kareem Hunt, Toledo- Early 2nd Round

This is someone who is still flying under the radar despite his strong Senior Bowl performance. Hunt is a well-rounded back who can work through contact, attack the edge and break off long runs.

His ability as a pass catcher is something that is often overlooked. He’s someone that is a legitimate 3-down back capable of contributing in multiple ways.

6. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State- Late 2nd Round

Pumphrey won’t be a fit for every team based on his lack of size. He’s likely to small to be an every-down back meaning he’s looking at a 3rd down role. However, his game breaking speed will force an offensive coordinator to get him the ball.

There are plenty of examples of NFL running backs who do a lot of damage in an untraditional manner.

Oct 24, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara (6) carries the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland (19) during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 24, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara (6) carries the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland (19) during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

7. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State- Late 2nd Round

Samuel is another undersized but extremely athletic running back prospect. However, he’s different in that it’s highly likely he’s moved to wide receiver full time. Ohio State used Samuel all over the field including working out of the slot.

His skills as a natural pass catcher and route runner are what gives him a great chance of succeed at wide receiver.

8. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee- Late 2nd Round

Kamara is an under the radar prospect who has tons of upside. He spent most of his college career splitting carries, but showed towards the end of last year that he can be just as effective with a heavier workload.

This is an explosive athlete who can quickly get up to full speed. He has a downhill running style and doesn’t waste time dancing in the backfield. His attacking style means that he rarely gets tackled for a loss.

9. Matthew Dayes, NC State- Late 3rd Round

Dayes is a solid running back prospect who does a little bit of everything well. He has sneaky quickness that allows him to shoot through open holes. Dayes also flashes the elusiveness needed to make defenders miss.

He has had some fumbling problems which could end up hurting his overall draft stock.

Dec 21, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Brigham Young Cougars running back Jamaal Williams (21) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Wyoming Cowboys during the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 21, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Brigham Young Cougars running back Jamaal Williams (21) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Wyoming Cowboys during the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

10. Corey Clement, Wisconsin- Early 4th Round

Clement is someone who doesn’t wow you or jump off the screen as an elite player. However, he’s a good athlete that runs with surprising power. He has the makings of an every-down back who sneaks his way into the starting lineup.

Wisconsin asked him to do a lot of things NFL teams will want to see including pass blocking and contributing on special teams.

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11. Jamaal Williams, BYU- 4th Round

Williams is a bigger running back prospect who routinely picks up yards after initial contact. He’s a power runner capable of picking his way through traffic and finishing the run by moving the pile.

The one concern is that he tends to play east-west rather than working downhill. A running back with his size and power shouldn’t try to attack the edge on a consistent basis.

12. Wayne Gallman, Clemson- 4th Round

Gallman has the talent to be an every-down back in the NFL. He has good overall quickness which helps him shoot through tight running lanes. His experience as a pass catcher out of the backfield means he can remain on the field on 3rd down.

However, he’s such a poor pass protector that it could keep him from finding consistent playing time. NFL teams will not put a running back on the field that could get their quarterback injured due to poor blocking.

Jan 2, 2017; New Orleans , LA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs the ball against Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) in the third quarter of the 2017 Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 2, 2017; New Orleans , LA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs the ball against Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) in the third quarter of the 2017 Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

13. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma- 4th Round

Based solely on talent Joe Mixon is a 1st round prospect. However, his off-field issues have resulted in a significant drop in his draft stock. Those problems actually resulted in Mixon not getting an invite to the Combine.

Mixon the running back is a home-run threat who also works well between the tackles. He features quick-twitch ability that allows him to get up to full speed in a hurry. Mixon is an elite pass catcher who is a real difference maker working out of the backfield.

It will only take one team to look past his off-field history, but it seems like the middle part of the draft is his best landing spot.

14. James Connor, Pittsburgh- Late 5th Round

Connor is a bigger running back who has had an extremely productive college career. He flashes the ability to shoot through running lanes and move the chains. However, his upright running style limits his upside.

He will have a hard time breaking tackles and remaining healthy exposing so much of his frame to NFL tackles.

15. Brian Hill, Wyoming- 6th Round

Hill is at his best working between the tackles and shifting through traffic. He’s a tough runner who can break tackles and always fights for extra yardage. His combine performance will be important as he just doesn’t show a lot of explosiveness on film.

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