With the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine officially over, now is a good time to release the first draft of my RB Rankings for this year’s draft class.
Keep in mind that these rankings are far from being set in stone. We still have 7 weeks until the first round is underway, and a lot can happen still until that point. I’ve watched at least 3 games (for some, even more) of each of the players mentioned below (as well as a handful of prospects that aren’t), but the more I watch and learn about them the more my rankings are likely to change.
So let’s get started!
1. Josh Jacobs, Alabama
There is only one RB this year that is worthy of first round consideration and that’s Josh Jacobs. I gave an initial evaluation on Jacobs a few weeks ago in my “First Impressions” article if you need a quick scouting report on him. And although he didn’t test at the Combine due to a minor groin injury, it’s nothing that’s drastic enough to drop his value. He’s RB1 and that’s unlikely to change.
Grade: Round 1
2. Miles Sanders, Penn St
Sanders’ ranking is probably going to be the most surprising selection on my list. Many evaluators and analysts have him being a 3rd or 4th round guy. However, the more I watch Sanders the more I’m enamored with his potential.
Sanders is a raw prospect. He’s only had one season of being the starter for the Nittany Lions, and it shows. There are inconsistencies with his mental processing, decision making, and footwork approaching the line of scrimmage. They all can be solved with more experience down the line. The main concern to his game though is his fumbling as he lost the football 5 times on 249 touches in 2018.
However, Sanders also might be the most complete back in this draft class after Josh Jacobs. He’s got the vision, elusiveness, acceleration, speed, power, contact balance, and receiving skills necessary to be a lead back at the pro level. And trust me, that’s not just a (over)reaction to his stellar Combine performance; you can see the athleticism and skillset on tape. And because of that, I’m fine with being higher on Sanders than most people.
Grade: Round 2
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 2, 2019
I consider Miles Sanders a potential top-3 RB but he just said he didn’t know Wawa and loved Sheetz so now he’s UDFA 🤷🏼♂️
— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) February 28, 2019
3. Darrell Henderson, Memphis
At 5’8” 208 lbs, Henderson is built like Devonta Freeman, but what’s ironic is that his game is more like that of Freeman’s backfield teammate (or soon to be former teammate) Tevin Coleman. Henderson’s burst and big play ability is near elite and he can take any play to the house. He’s a great weapon to utilize in zone schemes. His balance is also superb and his thickly built lower half helps him fight through a lot of contact. He’s short but he’s not small. His footwork does concern me though, as he does run with a high center of gravity, and as a result, he makes more rounded cuts than quick, sharp ones. Also, he’s got to work on pass protection as that seems to be the weakest part of his game. His receiving skills are somewhat of a question mark in that we don’t really know how good he can be at the pro level, but at the worst he’s very effective on swing routes and screens. He has his flaws, but his explosiveness is just too good to ignore.
Grade: Round 2
4. David Montgomery, Iowa St
I’ve had my eye on Montgomery since last year. His strength and contact balance are phenomenal and you can easily see them on tape as he’s able to shed tacklers and fight through contact so well. He’s also someone who has such a great understanding of how to manipulate linebackers and defensive backs in order to create running lanes. He knows how to use angles and leverage, and pairs that well with a low center of gravity to make quick and sudden cuts. What Montgomery lacks though is speed and explosiveness. Plus, he hasn’t really shown to be a factor in the passing game as a receiver or blocker. He has the size and strength to develop in pass protection, but he’ll have to get coached up as he suffers from pretty poor technique.
Grade: Round 2/3
5. Damien Harris, Alabama
Harris is the other guy I’ve been keeping an eye on since last year. I see him as a high floor, low ceiling prospect. He reminds me a lot of another former Alabama RB, Mark Ingram. He’s a well-rounded runner that has great vision in gap schemes and is fluid when attacking running lanes. He’s one of those RBs who will consistently get you positive yards but can’t rip off huge runs or big plays. When it comes to pass protection, he’s at the top of the class. Harris isn’t flashy, but he’s consistent and reliable.
Grade: Round 3
6. Bruce Anderson, North Dakota St
Anderson might not be a familiar name to some, and the fact that he didn’t get a Combine invite doesn’t help. But the RB from the same school as Carson Wentz has notable talent and is one of the most versatile prospects in this RB draft class. He has a nice blend of elusiveness and balance, stringing moves together seamlessly at all levels of the field. He’s also more physical than you would think. I really wish he would have gotten a Combine invite so we could really see how his athleticism stacks up against the rest of the class, because I have a feeling he would have fared very well. What I like most about him though is his receiving ability. He has showed that he’s a very good receiver and just looks natural catching the football. Anderson is definitely someone who’s stock could be on the rise as we get closer to draft day.
Grade: Round 3
7. Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
No other RB in this class had more to gain entering the Combine than Singletary. If he would have come away with a good performance then his stock could have bumped him up to the 2nd round. Unfortunately for Singletary that wasn’t the case. His below average times confirmed the question marks about his overall athleticism. His tape is still impressive though, and I think his vision and agility will absolutely translate to the next level. He’s a good enough prospect to warrant a round 3 selection in my book, but don’t be surprised if he falls to the 4th round.
Grade: Round 3
8. Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
People are going to see Holyfield here and automatically say “He had a horrible Combine! He can’t be this high!” My response to that: does his tape match what he showed at the Combine? To me, it doesn’t. Holyfield looked faster on the field during games, and I trust that over a 40-yard dash. Plus, he’s not a burner to begin with. He was never expected to run in the 4.4s or 4.5s anyways. So, while his testing times are something to take note of, this is a clear example of making sure you don’t overreact to Combine performances.
Holyfield is a bruising runner with very light feet, especially for a power runner like him. He runs with very short strides which enables him to make sudden cuts. He’s got great feel behind the line of scrimmage and his efficient footwork helps him avoid or shed first contact. He also runs with a lot of aggression and isn’t easy to get to the ground. Out of all the “power backs” in the class, Holyfield tops them all.
Grade: Round 3/4
9. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
From a pure talent standpoint Anderson is a borderline 1st round type of talent. He’s got the size, strength, burst, and contact balance you look for in a lead back. His vision, while not elite, is still very good and he’s a great runner when utilized in gap schemes. He does need to work on being more patient, but it’s not an overly drastic concern. He’s also a great receiver who can line up all over the field and run a wide range of different routes. His hands are very reliable too. The big red flag when it comes to Anderson is his durability. He’s had season-ending injuries in 3 out of his 4 years in college. That is a major question mark to consider, and it’s possible he falls to the late rounds of the draft. It all depends on how much risk a team is willing to take.
Grade: Round 4
10. Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
Here’s another RB prospect who didn’t get a Combine invite but still cracks my top 10. Like Holyfield, he’s another power back who has very good feet (are you sensing a theme here when it comes to how I evaluate bigger backs?). Part of his game reminds me of Jay Ajayi in that he’s a bruising type of back who’s hard to bring down, but his footwork, burst, and patience makes him best utilized in zone schemes because he has the ability to “bang” or “bend” when needed. Ozigbo isn’t the best receiver or pass blocker, but he’s not exactly lacking in those areas either. He can provide enough ability as a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and with some coaching he has the will and want to be counted on in pass protection.
Grade: Round 4
That’s my Top 10, but here are some other Day 3 RB prospects that are worth mentioning:
Justice Hill from Oklahoma St has impressive speed and burst, and his Combine performance verified that. I don’t like his vision as a runner, but if a team can figure out how to consistently get him in space, he can be a very dangerous weapon.
Mike Weber is my “Jack of all trades, Master of none” guy in this draft class. He’s solid all around and can be more than serviceable as part of a rotation. I just don’t see anything special or elite about his skillset.
As I wrote about in one of my “First Impressions” articles, Benny Snell is someone who I’m lower on than a lot of Eagles fans. But if you give him a role as a short yardage runner or late game closer, he’ll thrive. Just because I don’t see him being a lead back that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value.
I was very excited about Bryce Love entering the 2018 season and thought he’d project to be a Day 2 pick. But the more I watched of him the more concerns I had about his game, and that was before the ACL injury. He’s still one of the most explosive RBs in the class, but him having to essentially be “redshirted” his rookie year could drop him to the 5th round.