Last year’s running back class was supposed to be a changing of the guard loaded with talent. Their profiles got whittled down as the off-season progressed, and it turned into a very ordinary class. This year’s RB group is going to be less exciting. There will always be some surprises later-round prospects hitting. The NFL appears to be moving to a committee while also de-valuing the position. I am going to post a top 20, going into more detail on the top ten. This article will include:

  • The school reported Size/age; I will make it clear which ages I don’t have exactly
    • What size do I actually think they are playing at
  • How many years they are removed from High School
  • NFL Role
  • Projected Draft Cap
  • I do my best on some Player Comps

This will not be a full draft profile. this article would be too long and considered cruel and unusual punishment to our editor at C2C, Dwight Peebles. This article is meant just for the ‘Cliff Notes.’ You will quickly find out that I’m not excited about the class. I will adjust my big board from Senior Bowl performances, NFL Combine measurements, and revisiting tape.

RB1 – TreVeyon Henderson, OSU

Ohio State's TreVeyon Henderson A Top-10 Running Back To Watch in 2024 NFL Draft - Sports Illustrated Ohio State Buckeyes News, Analysis and More
Photo Courtesy of Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch
  • 5’10” / 212 lbs. / 21.1 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Playstyle:
  • Projected DC: 2nd
  • Player Comp: Dalvin Cook

Henderson is the most complete running back coming out this year. He’s a fine runner down the middle, but really nothing special on an NFL level. Henderson has great size, vision, speed, and combined with good lateral agility. He is a plus as a pass catcher, not quite in the top tier of Austin Ekeler and Jahmyr Gibbs, but in that group that would be after. Henderson is the best bet for a long-term workhorse without many miles on his tires. He’s dealt with injuries for half his collegiate career but looks 100% back these final games.

RB2 – Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Photo Courtesy of John Fisher/Getty Image
  • 6’2″ / 245 lbs. / 19.9 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Early Down Back
  • Projected DC: 2nd-3rd
  • Player Comp: Gus Edwards

Allen is a bit of a freight train. He’s one of the best straight-line runners with great vision between the tackles. He’s struggling this year with a new system, but his skill set is obvious. Allen has proven to be good enough in pass-catching. He won’t be running many routes past the LOS, but he can block and catch dump-offs. Allen is a build-up speed runner. Don’t expect him to bounce anything out wide; either a hole opens, or he pushes a pile. He will probably benefit from being paired with a lightning runner while he provides the thunder.

RB3 – Devin Neal, Kansas

Devin Neal – Kansas Jayhawks
Photo Courtesy of Missy Minear/Kansas Athletics
  • 5’11” / 210 lbs. / 20.3 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: Late 2nd – 3rd
  • Player Comp: JK Dobbins

Neal is explosive, dynamic, and wrongfully underutilized. He has a complete skillset and runs behind a line that is suboptimal. He’s a running back capable of catching a deep ball, and he’s tough to bring down. Neal has a complete skillset and is an NFL-level athlete with no glaring holes in his game.

RB4 – Trey Benson, FSU

FSU football earns two ACC Players of the Week honors after beating UF - Tomahawk Nation
Photo Courtesy of Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation
  • 6’1″ / 221 lbs. / 21.4 yrs
  • 4th year
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 3rd-4th
  • Player Comp: Joe Mixon

I’m still workshopping the comp; it’s a bit too generous. Benson was a steep climber last year and has just failed to make an impact this year on the ground. He is an upright runner. It was surprising he broke so many tackles last year, even when you take into account the padded stats from weaker teams they played. Benson is similar to Neal, has a complete skill set, and is a good athlete. He is already down an ACL from his true freshman year. Benson posts good efficiency numbers every time he touches the ball because of one big run he breaks off. but it’s hard not to call this year a disappointment.

RB5 – Marshawn Lloyd, USC

No. 9 USC hopes to show finishing touch on offense hosting Arizona | AP News
Photo Courtesy of David Zalubowski / AP
  • 5’9″ / 210 lbs. / 22.9 yrs
    • (I think he’s playing at 200 lbs)
  • 4th year
  • Role: Change-of-Pace
  • Projected DC: 4th-5th
  • Player Comp: Jeremy McNichols

Lloyd had a disappointing run at South Carolina that was marred with injuries and always looked like a shell of his high school profile. Lloyd has great start-stop ability and great second-level vision. He’s not great behind the line and is weak. He’s unable to push a pile. Lloyd has poor medicals and doesn’t have a physical play style. Lloyd’s comeback is a story of success, and he has demonstrated some NFL-level traits while clearly lacking others. I expect to see him go early on the third day.

RB6 – DJ Giddens, Kansas State

K-State Football on X: "First Career TD for DJ Giddens https://t.co/McNo3hGK3R" / X
Photo Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics
  • 6’1″ / 212 lbs. / 20.3 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 4th-5th
  • Player Comp: TBD

Honestly, the more I dive into the profile, the more I’m interested. Giddens found his place at KSU as a preferred walk-on and got his shot during his second season. Giddens is a one-cut runner without too much wiggle to his game, but he’s decisive. He lacks that top gear. Giddens is an underrated pass catcher, with 20 of his 37 targets coming past the LOS. I do think he will come back for another season and has a shot to get earlier draft capital in next year’s class.

RB7 – Jonathon Brooks, Texas

Jonathon Brooks - Football -
Photo Courtesy of University of Texas Athletics
  • 6’0″ / 207 lbs. / 20.4 yrs
    • (I really don’t think he’s six foot tall, which would be better)
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Work-Horse
  • Projected DC: 4th-6th
  • Player Comp: Kareem hunt

Brooks had an unfortunate ACL tear late in the season, and most reactions would be to assume he goes back. Texas has the top true freshman running back, and Cedric Baxter’s been looking decent down the stretch. If Brooks returns, he will be working a split backfield at best, and I don’t know if he’ll look as good as he did this year. His decision this off-season will be to cash in on the performance or return to college, and continue to be a part of the team.

Before Injury, Brooks was more slippery than elusive. He’s got some of the best vision in the class, is consistent at reading the line, and knows when the hole opens. Brooks is a good pass-catcher. He’s nothing special as an athlete very average, not going to make guys miss tackles in the open field. There just wasn’t anything high-end in his profile.

RB8 – Blake Corum, Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Icon Sportswire / Getty Images
  • 5’8″ / 213 lbs. / 23 yrs
    • (I think he’s closer to 5’6″ / 200 lbs.)
  • 4th year
  • Role: Change-of-Pace
  • Projected DC: 4th-6th
  • Player Comp: Jaret Patterson

Corum has benefitted heavily from running behind the two-time Joe Moore award-winning offensive line, and they are finalists again this year. Corum is an excellent collegiate back. He doesn’t have the best vision behind the line and waits for the assigned hole to open. Corum doesn’t run with much power. He is excellent at keeping his feet moving and decent in open space. He’s not a special athlete, nor is he a good pass-catching option. Corum has a stack of accolades from his sophomore campaign, but I don’t see a skill set that will get him playing at the next level. I expect him to be a backup or potentially a committee role.

RB9 – Audric Estime, Notre Dame

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Audric Estimé, junior running back, bellcow, workhorse - NBC Sports
Photo Courtesy of Quinn Harris / Getty Images
  • 5’11” / 227 lbs. / 20.2 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Early Down Back
  • Projected DC: Late 4th-6th
  • Player Comp: Hassan Haskins

Estime is a north-south downfield runner. He is another build-up speed runner; his footwork, on the whole, is not great and offers no wiggle to his game. Estime does not create space on his own but relies on his line to get him to the second level. His stats are misleading, with 12 of his 30 rush attempts over ten yards coming from games against Navy and Central Michigan. The best-case scenario would be to find an early down role in a committee.

RB10 – Bucky Irving, Oregon

RB Bucky Irving, DL Brandon Dorlus named first-team preseason All-Pac-12 - DuckSportsAuthority
Photo Courtesy of Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
  • 5’10” / 194 lbs. / 21.3 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Change-of-Pace
  • Projected DC: 5th-6th
  • Player Comp: Kenny Gainwell

Irving has an affinity for winning with speed and bounce runs outside. His frame is maxed out, and he’s undersized. Irving doesn’t get too much value as a runner down the middle in the Pac-12, and it won’t translate to the NFL. I do find his pass-catching skillset intriguing. He could find a roster and receive limited touches for a few years.

Will Shipley, Clemson

  • 5’11” / 210 lbs. / 21.3 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Pass Catching
  • Projected DC: 5th-6th
  • Player Comp: Pierre Strong

Shipley has just never developed as a runner down the middle, but he has superb hands and can be used in third-down situations. He doesn’t offer much on the ground.

Emani Bailey, TCU

Emani Bailey - Football - TCU Athletics
Photo Courtesy of TCU Athletics
  • 5’9″ / 207 lbs. / 22 yrs
  • 4th year
  • Role: Change-of-Pace
  • Projected DC: 5th-6th
  • Player Comp: Jacquizz Rodgers

Bailey’s pass-catching skill is what sets him apart as an NFL prospect. He is a fine collegiate running back, but what he offers is in the pass-catching capacity could set him apart.

Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

  • 5’11” / 210 lbs. / 22.4 yrs
  • Early Declare
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 5th-7th
  • Player Comp: Tevin Coleman

Alright, this one frustrates me. I love the box score scouting. I watch him run and it’s a lot of bouncing runs outside. Wright is great when a hole is opened up for him, but I find him to be an indecisive runner when the hole doesn’t open. He’s not the toughest runner either; he doesn’t run will the lowest pad level. Wright will not sift and avoids contact but doesn’t win too often. Wright doesn’t have a top-end burst or acceleration. His profile on paper is very interesting; the tape leaves more to be desired. Wright slides into that tier of “good enough.” I think he will go back for another year; excited to see more.

Blake Watson, Memphis

  • 5’9″ / 195 lbs. / 23+ yrs
  • 6th year (Basically dust)
  • Role: Pass-Catching Specialist
  • Projected DC: 5th-7th
  • Player Comp: Chase Edmonds

Watson is very experienced and has been around college since 2018. He’s not a guy we will see running the ball at the next level, but he has a very good pass-catching skillset and transitions to a runner after the catch smoothly.

Dylan Laube, New Hampshire

  • 5’10” / 207 lbs. / 23.X yrs
  • 6th year
  • Role: Pass-Catching Specialist
  • Projected DC: 5th-7th
  • Player Comp: Evan Hull

Laube is going to offer the NFL nothing on the ground, but I believe he’s one of the smoothest pass-catching running backs coming out this year. Not a special athlete, an older prospect, but Laube really is comfortable catching the ball and has the vision in space to get a few more yards.

Ray Davis, Kentucky

  • 5’10” / 216 lbs / 24+ yrs
  • 6th year
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 6th-7th
  • Player Comp: TBD

Davis is the next Kentucky 1,000-yard rusher with 10+ TDs. He’s a power back who specializes in running down the middle and is a capable pass catcher.

Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech

  • 5’10” / 230 lbs. / 21.X yrs
  • 4th year
  • Role: Early Down Back
  • Project DC: 6th-7th
  • Player Comp: Michael Warren II

The meatball running back from Texas Tech lacks NFL burst and acceleration but shows some good contact balance and lateral agility to be a short-yardage specialist at the next level. Brooks deserves a shot in the NFL. He may not get the workload fans want, but he can find a place in a committee or practice squad.

Cody Schrader, Missouri

Cody Schrader - Football - University of Missouri Athletics
Photo Courtesy of Missouri Athletics
  • 5’9″ / 214 lbs. / 23+ yrs
  • 6th year
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 6th-7th
  • Player Comp: Mike Davis

Probably the oldest RB coming out as a sixth-year prospect, Schrader led the SEC in rushing this year. His running style is gritty, with no wiggle, running with blinders on, and is violent – old school. I don’t think this style will translate to today’s NFL, and the age will be a deterrence.

Dillon Johnson, Washington

  • 6’0″ / 218 lbs. / 22.5 yrs
  • 4th year
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 6th – UDFA
  • Player Comp: Isaiah Spiller

Johnson has turned himself into a workhorse in the Pac-12. He’s benefitted from weak matchups but is doing enough damage to be considered.

Jase McClellan, Alabama

Jase McClellan Draft Profile | Alabama, RB Scouting Report
Photo Courtesy of Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
  • 5’11” / 212 lbs. / 21.5 yrs
  • 4th year
  • Role: Workhorse
  • Projected DC: 7th – UDFA
  • Player Comp: TBD

McClellan’s collegiate career has been a disappointment. He had the highest SPAR-Q score in the recruitment class, but I haven’t seen that level of athleticism on the field. McClellan is a fine runner, and there’s really nothing special about his game; he can do everything fine. He’s failed to earn substantial snaps. McClellan still has that “A” on the side of the helmet and will likely test well at the combine.

I truly had a hard time thinking of 20 running backs that I thought were NFL-worthy. There’s going to be a handful of names that go back to college. We will get some surprise performances at the combine, and we’ll get guys with minimal production profiles but showcase an NFL level of athleticism. Anyway, I think this will be the weakest RB class we’ve seen in a while; I hope to be proven wrong.

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