The Kansas City Chiefs running attack was poor this season, leading many to believe a running back should be a draft priority. Lucky for them, the 2017 NFL draft class is deep at the running back position.
The names at the top of the running back class are well known. Leonard Fournette has been the consensus top running back in the country for two years straight. The LSU back is a beast with the ball. At 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds he never goes down easy. The big knock on him is that he is injury prone, and with his physical style of play that is a red flag. If a team can take care of him physically and not run him into the ground he will be a top 5 back in the league in a couple years.
Dalvin Cook out of Florida State is as fast and shifty as Fournette is powerful. At 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds Cook, runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. His running style should look familiar to Chiefs fans as he runs like Jamaal Charles. Cook has had some character issues in the past but has kept his nose clean his final two seasons at Florida St. He is one of the safest running back choices in the draft and will go in the top 20 as well.
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The last big name back is Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford. That name will sound familiar to Chiefs fans as his dad is former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. He put up video game type numbers during his sophomore year at Stanford. He broke Barry Sanders record for all-purpose yards with 3,864 receiving, rushing, and return yards.
He runs a fast 4.4 40-yard dash and has some of the best hands in the running back class. McCaffrey has great stop and start ability, but is not as smooth moving side to side. He is a high character player who is highly intelligent and has a great football IQ. Most mock drafts I’ve seen have him going in the bottom of the first round meaning there is a good chance he’s available when the Chiefs pick at 27.
Nov 19, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. The Stanford Cardinal defeated the California Golden Bears 45-31. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I have a personal rule when taking running backs in the NFL draft, I would never take one in the first round. I have no doubt all three of those guys I spoke of will be solid NFL players. The history of the NFL though tells us that you can find better value at the position in the later rounds. For every Adrian Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott there is a Priest Holmes and David Johnson. Combine that with the lack of longevity at the running back position and I don’t see the value in it. This is why I’m looking deeper in the class to find the replacement for Jamaal Charles.
The all-time leading rusher in NCAA Division I FBS history should be available in the 4th or 5th rounds. He’s been clocked running a 4.33 40-yard dash and won the 2016 Jim Brown Award as the nation’s top running back. He’s got solid hands out of the backfield and his allusiveness is off the charts and has never missed a game in college. Now you are asking yourself, why is this guy not listed with those top three? The answer is simple, he doesn’t look like a NFL running back.
Donnel Pumphrey out of San Diego State is only 5-foot-8 and weighs in at 170 pounds. Think Dante Hall minus 15 pounds. Yes the size is something to make note of, but it hasn’t held him back yet. He does not go down easy and is not afraid of contact like you might think. He uses his size to hide behind the line to find holes and then finishes off runs like a back 30 pounds heavier. You can never have too much speed and toughness from the running back position, no matter the size.
The Chiefs don’t have the best offensive line in the league. They rated in the bottom half of the league in run blocking ratings from Pro Football Focus. With an offensive line like that, you have to have speed and allusiveness over size and power. We saw this year that Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware are solid backs but they aren’t feature backs.
They each have a hard time staying healthy and have problems making their own holes. Chiefs’ fans got spoiled watching Charles turn nothing into 80-yard touchdowns. But Charles has always had issues staying healthy and at over 30 years old his time in the league is about up. The Chiefs need to find a new Charles who can make something out of nothing but more importantly can stay on the field. Picking a player who set rushing records while never missing a game seems like a good place to start.