It’s mid to late February, and the CFF crowd is buzzing with way too early mocks and even a few low-dollar amount best ball drafts. There’s a lot to digest even this early on in the season, but I have found the RB rankings of three of the best Big Ten teams to be quite fun to discuss. Let’s dive into the RB groups for Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State and determine if where they’re currently being drafted is too high, too low, or just right…

Michigan Wolverines

Donovan Edwards (RB17)

Kalel Mullings (Outside the top 55)

Of course, we start with the National Champion Michigan Wolverines, who have produced some incredible RBs in recent years. Last year’s RB1, Blake Corum,  is off to the NFL. Not surprisingly, Donovan Edwards is the guy everyone likes to replace him as the RB1(A) for the Wolverines. He’s currently being taken as the 17th RB off the board so far this year, and to me, that’s just too high. I’m a known Edwards hater, but let’s look at the facts.

Courtesy of Fox News

After an impressive 2022 campaign (140/991/7), Edwards struggled until the National Championship game, where he had two huge touchdowns in the win over Washington. Throughout the 2023 season, he consistently had prop lines in the mid-20s for rushing yards! In 15 games last season, Edwards hit 30 yards just seven times. 

With 497 yards and five TDs on 119 carries, it is a decent year, but funny enough, that Washington game really showed me why I’m not high on Edwards going into the 2024 season. His first long TD against the Huskies only happened because he ran into the backs of two offensive linemen before popping it outside. He has consistently shown a lack of vision, which concerns me at this level of RB ranking.

Edwards also doesn’t fit the mold of what Michigan has tried to get out of their man RB in years past: to control the football with positive runs to set themselves up for very manageable second and third downs. There’s no doubt that Edwards can break the big play that changes the game (see OSU in 2022 and Washington in the NC game), but throughout the long haul, this contrasting style doesn’t fit the RB1(A) mold for Michigan in my eyes. 

Sherrone Moore and the Wolverines will be looking to continue their heavy rushing attack ways. While I believe Edwards has that first crack as RB1(A), I believe Kalel Mullings has a real shot at taking that top spot. Edwards is not a small guy (6’1″, 210), but Mullings is even bigger (6’3″, 239) and was the short-yardage guy for the Wolverines when Corum went down in 2022. Mullings was the clear RB3 in 2023, but he performed well in limited time (36/222/1) and saw snaps on the first drive of that National Championship game, rushing for 18 yards on two carries (Edwards would see his first carry on two plays after Mullings second carry in the game).

Ultimately, this is purely an RB ranking thing for me now. Give me Mullings mid to late in best ball draft formats due to his upside and the decent floor for RB2s in Michigan’s offense (144, 140, and 119 carries the past three seasons). I think it’s way more likely that Mullings will end up in the top 50 RBs by the season’s end than Edwards in the top 20. 

Penn State Nittany Lions

Nicholas Singleton (RB28)

Kaytron Allen (RB55)

Thinking that Singleton would almost last to RB30 in 2024 drafts a year ago would have been foolish. Yet, here we are. Both Singleton and Allen saw their usage stay similar year over the year (31.9% to 33.2% of the team carries for Singleton, while Allen saw a slight decrease: 34.2% to 33.4%). But the TD rates took the major hit (Singleton went from 7.7% down to 4.7%, while Allen went from 6% down to 3.5% in 2023).

The two combined for 14 rushing TDs in 2023, down from their combined total of 22 in 2022. When looking at basic counting numbers like rushing yards, both saw a decrease, going from 1,928 rushing yards to 1,654 year over year. The only real positive for these two is that they combined for 40 receptions and 389 yards through the air in 2023 compared to 31 and 273 yards in 2022.

Kaytron Allen Courtesy of MyTwinTier.s.com/Getty Images

Touchdowns solve everything, and Singleton/Allen didn’t have a high enough share of the team’s TDs like they did the prior year. Six TDs were scored on the ground by non-Singleton/Allen players in 2022, but in 2023, that number rose to 12 even though they scored two fewer TDs on the ground. Penn State scored 28 out of their 57 TDs in 2022 and 26 of their 56 on the ground in 2023, so it wasn’t even an offensive production issue. 

Is there anything here that could bring Singleton/Allen back to their 2022 effectiveness based on the 2024 roster? Beau Pribula and Drew Allar return to the Nittany Lions, bringing back a combined stat line of 130/539/10. This is a significant concern for me, considering both of their abilities to run the football.

But wait! There is some potential hope thanks to the hiring of Andy Kotelnicki, the former Kansas/Buffalo Offensive Coordinator hired to take the same position at Penn State. While early quotes on the hiring talk “simplifying some things down” and “it’s a lot of carryover from last year,” it’s hard not to love the addition of a guy who has had his hands on impressive RB seasons from Devin Neal, Jaret Patterson, and Kevin Marks Jr.

I don’t hate the Singleton RB ranking based on early drafts when all is said and done. He certainly has some big upside with the hiring of Kotelnicki, but I think I’ll lean toward Allen in 2024 based on him not even being a top-50 RB. Allen has had more rushing attempts than Singleton in the past two seasons. While I think the consensus is that Singleton is the guy to want for NFL purposes, Allen has also proven a worthy college RB with potential. The gap here is too large not to like Allen more than Singleton. 

Ohio State Buckeyes

Quinshon Judkins (RB24)

TreVeyon Henderson (RB43)

I don’t have many rules in life, but two I’m allowed to share are that there are no redheads and draft zero flex players from Ohio State in CFF. Regarding the latter, Judkins and Henderson pose as interesting CFF options in 2024. Chip Kelly was brought on to help run the Ohio State offense. Judkins also joined the Buckeyes this offseason, transferring in from Ole Miss, subsequently really muddying up these waters.

Touching on my “draft zero OSU flex players” rule, I worry about how much this team has to play their stars consistently. We’ve seen in recent years their star players that are closer to 75% than 100% sit against some of the softer Big Ten teams. That’s possible, even with four strong teams added to the conference this season.

The Buckeyes have an incredibly soft non-conference schedule (Akron, Marshall, and Western Michigan) and only play (at) Oregon among the four new teams added to the Big Ten. Their toughest opponents are at Oregon, at Penn State, and home against Michigan, with two-plus weeks between each of those games. The possibility of a guy like Henderson, Judkins, Egbuka, etc., sitting for random games against teams like Purdue, Northwestern, MSU, and/or Indiana is going to be high if they’re even banged up in the slightest. 

What should we expect out of these RBs in 2024? Judkins and Henderson are obviously incredibly talented players. Will these two become true RBBCs with a running QB under center? It seems that way to me, thus making that RB24 ranking for Judkins a little too rich for my taste. Henderson is more appealing at a lower cost. He is familiar with the OSU team and coaching staff and is in the same talent range as Judkins. He would become a significant value with an injury to Judkins. And at least if we get burned by Ryan Day’s antics, I’m missing games out of a guy drafted in the 7-9th round range compared to a top 4-5 rounder.

TLDR:

At this point in the offseason, the RB “2” in each of the above offenses is the guy to target due to question marks and how late each is going compared to their counterparts. 

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