One year after three running backs were drafted in the first round and seven were selected in the top-two rounds, 2019’s crop of runners leaves much to be desired. I have a first-round grade on Josh Jacobs, a second-round grade on Miles Sanders and the next five backs on my board are graded as third-round values. There isn't a deep pool of prospects teams can choose from to draft and become the focal point of their rushing attack.
What this is a good year for is snatching a niche back on Day Three, but those options are available every year. The final day of the draft is littered with pass-catching specialists and power backs to round out a stable of backs.
Without further ado, my evaluations of the 2019 running back class are complete and it’s time to talk about it. My full rankings can be found at the bottom with scouting reports on each prospect if you click on their name.
Josh Jacobs is RB1
bUt hE wAsN’t eVeN rB1 fOr AlAbAmA?!?!
Scouting football players is about extrapolating traits and projecting them to the next level. I don’t find it to be particularly close - Jacobs has the best overall skill set of any running back in the 2019 class.
Jacobs truly blends size, power, burst, balance, vision, elusiveness and receiving ability that makes him a true multifaceted back. Checking every box in terms of top traits, I love how competitive Jacobs is. The way he finishes runs, grinding out yards and battling for every inch is the competitive toughness that I love in a runner. He’s a scheme-transcendent back that enters the league with very little wear and tear on his frame.
Miles Sanders Has Everything
I was really impressed by Sanders' tape. Stashed behind Saquon Barkley in previous years, Sanders took over as Penn State’s feature back in 2018 and be cashed in a productive season. Jacobs and Sanders are the only two backs in this year’s class that are multifaceted backs that project favorably as lead backs at the next level.
Sanders has inside/outside run ability but also excels as a receiver. While there a few items to cleanup, Sanders has to eliminate his fumbling issues. Sanders had five fumbles this past season and he is just too loose with the football. The good news is that there are plenty of prospects who have been able to make their fumbling woes disappear and it will be critical for Sanders to do the same.
If a team misses out on Jacobs, Sanders is one heck of a consolation prize.
Mike Weber is Under-Appreciated
Weber has been a productive back across the last three seasons for Ohio State and I think he is being slept on a bit as a prospect. I really love his nuanced approach to carrying the rock. He attacks defenses with good vision, pace, rhythm and balance. He features terrific spatial awareness and seems to always be two steps ahead as a ball carrier.
Weber’s hands are reliable and he has the tools to succeed in pass protection, make him a viable every-down contributor. As boringly solid as they come, Weber might ultimately end up a Day Three pick but I think he’ll out-play his draft slot.
What’s Not To Like About Justice Hill?
What a fun watch Hill was on film. He is a shifty runner that makes dynamic cuts with exciting lateral agility. I loved how often he made the first man miss and how frequently he got himself out of situations most running would be dead to rights in. And it's not because Hill makes bad decisions with the football, there are just times where tacklers are greeting him as soon as he gets the football and he pulls out wizardry to escape.
Hill's been a steady back across three seasons for Oklahoma State but I'm surprised he wasn't utilized more in the passing game where I think he will factor in heavily in the NFL. He caught 49 passes across three seasons as the feature back for the Cowboys but he is capable of so much more. His hands are very natural and those same elusive traits that make defenders look silly trying to tackle Hill in space show up as a route runner.
Bruce Anderson Is My Favorite Sleeper
There are several things that pop with Anderson but my favorite traits are his contact balance and competitive toughness. His ability to keep his feet moving through contact while remaining upright and battling/wiggling for more yards is very impressive. I'm not calling him Alvin Kamara but there were moments while studying his tape where I got that vibe.
Anderson blends that balance and competitive toughness with good acceleration and elusive traits that give him some dynamic upside. He showcased a really sound receiving skill set tape, lining up all across the formation and impressing with his excellent ball skills. I think he'll make a major impact catching the football in the NFL.