When I was assigned this topic of building the perfect running back, I knew generally how I wanted to craft it. My plan? I wanted to find the perfect loophole and just point at Saquon Barkley. That's it. There's your perfect running back, no questions asked.
But when my master plan was outed, I was given more direct instructions. Build the 2019 Frankenstein's monster by pooling together qualities of 2019 running back prospects. And you know what? I feel like I've got myself a nice little running back here. He's fast, he's agile, he can catch...without further delay, allow me to introduce you to my perfect running back of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Included in each section will be relevant film notes I've taken on each of these players from their 2019 NFL Draft reports.
Vision - Damien Harris, Alabama
"Love his anticipation to press into a gap and react late if his blockers create late movement or scraping defenders over-pursue at the point of attack. Quick to bend back into an adjacent gap. Trusts the power at the POA but isn't married to a gap and can get off script."
Harris is a powerhouse, but he's not just a brute. The patience he shows to set up blocks in the backfield as he presses the line of scrimmage has yielded some big plays and he's not going to smash into blockers like some of the less refined runners in the class.
Feet - Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
"Feet are rapid fire, smooth and confident. Does a really nice job varying his step cadence in order to keep himself balanced and ready to react as action unfolds in front of him. Really sudden with his lateral step and is quick to hop back into position to make another cut."
Listen, Singletary didn't test very well but it literally hurt my soul to not list him under "contact balance" so I needed to find a spot that fit. His feet are like the energize bunny, his step urgency allows him to snap out of the path of tacklers or create redirections as necessary. Not explosive feet, but sudden feet.
Contact Balance - David Montgomery, Iowa State
"Has some of the most unbelievable reps in collecting himself off of contact. Runs with a very low center of gravity and shows urgency through the box to stay ready for contact. Aggression to attack tacklers in one on one situations aids his efforts to stay upright."
D-Mo is like that dummy that you just can't tip over. You can knock him off kilter, but you can't lay him out flat. Or that new baby food apparatus that no matter how you twist or turn it, the Cheerios don't spill out. Montgomery has supreme balance vs. contact.
Elusiveness - Darrell Henderson, Memphis
"One of the most slippery rushers in the entire class. Runs with great wiggle and suddenness. Surreal lateral quickness and start/stop ability to break pursuit. Has a strong sense of defensive flow and a feel for where his open space is. Can wriggle out of tight quarters."
Gee whiz, you mean to tell me the dude who averaged almost 10 yards per carry this season has big play skills? Henderson has got burst, he's got vision, he's got lateral quickness. (He's RB1 for a reason, but don't say that too loud or the Joshua Jacob hive will find you). Love his big play potential and his comfort with the speed of the game.
Long Speed - Bryce Love, Stanford
"Highly elusive runner with skill in setting up tacklers in the alleyway to take false steps and miss. Lateral quickness is superb, capable of cutting or bouncing suddenly into the sideline. Second gear is tremendous...when healthy.
Love had a season to hate in 2018. But when Bryce Love is healthy, he's so damn explosive that he can break pursuit angles by his third step. He's got superior speed and injury prevented him from showing it off this off-season.
Hands - James Williams, Washington State
"Terrific receiving threat. He's a real mismatch in this capacity and is a threat to expose underneath coverage any and every time he touches the football. Was worked in the slot in addition to running his routes out of the backfield."
You know who had 200 career receptions in college? Rodney Anderson. Bryce Love. Justice Hill. Karan Higdon. Benny Snell. Alex Barnes. Jordan Scarlett. COMBINED. You know who has more? James Williams (202). That's also more than receivers like A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, Hakeem Butler, D.K. Metcalf. The dude can catch.
Power - Joshua Jacobs, Alabama
"Urgency and stubbornness to fall forward has allowed him to push past contact in the backfield on numerous occasions. Has the needed lower body explosiveness to squat and pull himself out of wrap up challenges around the legs. Gets skinny falling into gaps."
If you see this man running at you, please do yourself a favor and step aside. Jacobs is thick and he's got brute strength to pair with it. He also happens to have some terrific explosiveness in his frame, most specifically in short area. So if he decides he wants to go through you, he's gonna go.
Durability - Myles Gaskin, Washington
"His ability to stay on the field at college level is pretty impressive, considering his usage rate. That said, long term viability and tread on the tires will be problematic. He's a high snap back who hasn't shown any issues with injury, thanks in part to knowing hot to take on contact."
Gaskin played in 52 games at the college level. Had 1010 touches from scrimmage, an average of 19.4 touches per game. And he was like...never hurt. Either Gaskin has the juiced up TB12 program in his back pocket or he's blessed with a strong sense of diminishing his surface area at contact to diminish damage. I'll let you all decide which it is.
Pass Protection - Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
"He's super sturdy in this capacity. I like how physical he is and how aggressive his strikes and blows are with his pads. He shows good vision and reactive quickness to redirect and square himself in the pathway of blitzers."
What a pleasant surprise this was. Williams has some nice qualities all around. But his skill in pass protection is top shelf stuff. He stands up linebackers like they're small children and he's very tough to stand in deliver blows. He doesn't just catch bodies, either. He'll attack and provide his passer with extra space.
Upside - Miles Sanders, Penn State
"Low mileage back who was boxed in behind Saquon Barkley for several seasons. His ability to carry the load was proven in 2018 for the first time and he did well, despite not really being offered a chance to grind out a lot of games and wear on opponents."
276 college carries. 308 touches. One of the best overall blends of skills in the class. Playing behind the perfect running back (Saquon Barkley) for several seasons at Penn State had to suck. Coming into the pros with great film and essentially zero wear and tear? That's not a bad consolation.