The NFL draft season is officially upon us, but we’ve been in serious information-gathering mode for months now. Our Joe Dolan and Tom Brolley watch tons of college football each fall, and they've studied plenty of tape – we’ve included plenty of links for you to watch these prospects too. But we also lean heavily on our friends and sources around the league who not only watch more college football than we do, but they also closely scrutinize these pending rookies’ college tape.

While we’re a fantasy site and these players’ worth in our world won’t be clear until after the draft, we still like to stack these guys against each other based almost entirely on talent and their potential as they transition to the pros. We also break the players up into tiers in an effort to offer more insight into how they project to the NFL and the fantasy world.

Once the draft takes place on April 27-29, then it will be a lot easier to rank the rookies for the 2017 season – and we will in early May. We’ll also reset our long-term outlooks and re-rank the players for keeper and dynasty leagues.

Note: We plan on tweaking our write-ups and rankings prior to the draft after our Greg Cosell is done studying the coach’s tapes of this year’s class.
Note: These players are ranked more so for their long-term value and potential, so these rankings aren’t for just 2017. Once the draft takes place, we’ll rank all rookies for both this year and the long-term.

 

Potential Franchise Backs

1. Christian McCaffrey

School: Stanford Ht: 5’11” Wt: 202 | 40: 4.48 Year: 3Jr

McCaffrey has been one of the best players in college football the last two years, and he probably should have won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2015, when he posted 2664 yards from scrimmage, and added 1200 yards and 2 TDs as a return man. With his 3864 all-purpose yards, he absolutely shattered Barry Sanders’ previous record of 3250. McCaffrey’s junior season wasn’t as good, as the Stanford team around him was appreciably worse, and on top of that he had minor injury issues – he missed one game with an undisclosed injury, and then chose to sit out Stanford’s bowl game to avoid risking his health prior to the Draft (a move we support). But in looking back on McCaffrey’s college career, we see a total-package player who could be an instant-impact fantasy option. The son of former Broncos star WR Ed McCaffrey, Christian doesn’t have ideal size, but he has everything else you look for in a potential star running back. Despite relatively small hands (9”), he had just three fumbles in college. He has the ability to run a full route tree either out of the backfield and split out, and he has the skills to not just torch linebackers and safeties, but occasionally corners as well. McCaffrey’s exceptional agility was on display at the combine, with his stellar 6.57-second three-cone drill and 11.03-second 60-yard shuttle, and above-average scores in the vertical and broad jumps indicate more lower-body power than you might have expected. On film, McCaffrey also excelled as an interior runner, and gave more than enough effort as a pass protector, though he can stand to improve in that area (like most college RBs can, to be fair). In all, McCaffrey fits multiple blocking schemes, with the QB under center or in the shotgun, and can contribute immediately on third downs and special teams. Our favorite comp for him was one proposed by our guy Fran Duffy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com – Brian Westbrook. You can also see some Ray Rice or Tiki Barber in his game. While those guys weren’t big and weren’t going to run people over like Jerome Bettis, they all certainly had major fantasy value as three-down backs. We think McCaffrey will be a first-round pick, and depending on landing spot, could be the best bet for the #1 overall pick in rookie dynasty drafts.

NOTE: For a more in-depth look at McCaffrey, check out Graham Barfield’s Yards Created profile.

2. Leonard Fournette

School: LSU Ht: 6’0” Wt: 240 | 40: 4.51 Year: 3Jr

Let’s just get this out of the way: Fournette’s size/speed combo, at least in conjunction with tape that clearly backed up his workout metrics, is going to be unmatched in this class. He’s big, powerful, and speedy. He’ll be compared to Derrick Henry, but on tape, we think Fournette used his size far better than Henry, despite Henry having very impressive metrics in his own right. Fournette, more so than Henry, had immediate speed, while Henry’s speed was more of a build up. In a very restricted LSU offense, Fournette at times just completely took over games, aWe had to bump Fournette down to 2 because of our concerns about his role and ability to be a true three-down back.t least before his injury-plagued 2016 season (turn on his 2015 Auburn game for dominance personified). Fournette missed five games in 2016 with a lingering left ankle injury, and he opted to sit out LSU’s bowl game to get healthy, and fortunately it looks like he’ll be completely ready to make an impact for his new NFL team. Fournette scored 41 TDs at LSU in just 32 career games, running for 3830 yards and 6.2 YPC. While he wasn’t asked to catch the ball much in college (just 41 receptions), he showed an aptitude in this area that suggests he won’t be a zero on third downs at the next level, especially since he was pretty solid in pass protection as well. Fournette is an excellent interior and outside runner, though he struggled out of shotgun, perhaps a sign of how limiting LSU’s offense was. And given LSU’s passing game has struggled for ages, Fournette consistently saw boxes of eight or more defenders, but was successful as a runner anyway. In 2015, when he wasn’t as limited by his bad ankle, he showed more lateral agility than in 2016, though that isn’t his game anyway. The concern with Fournette – and why we have him ranked lower than Christian McCaffrey pre-draft – is that he needs a specific fit and role to reach his potential. While we don’t think Fournette will be useless on third downs, his struggles in the shotgun in college must be accounted for, and if he lands with a bad team with just an early-down role, he’s likely going to disappoint for fantasy. But there’s no doubt he has the natural ability to one day lead the NFL in rushing, and that’s going to make him very appealing for dynasty players, depending on landing spot. Also keep in mind that Fournette weighed in at 228 pounds at his April pro day, 12 pounds down from his Combine weight. Will teams find that more appealing?

NOTE: For a more in-depth look at Fournette, check out Graham Barfield’s Yards Created profile. For a look at the differences between his healthy 2015 and injury-plagued 2016, check out another analysis.

3. Dalvin Cook

School: Florida State Ht: 5’10” Wt: 210 | 40: 4.49 Year: 3Jr

We were completely prepared to rank Cook #1 among RBs, given his complete game on film and consistent production at Florida State. In three years are a starter with the Seminoles, Cook posted 5399 yards from scrimmage and 48 TDs in 38 games. He ran for over 1000 yards in each of his three years in Tallahassee, and that includes 1691 and 1765 the last two years, respectively. But a shockingly poor performance at the NFL Combine has to give us at least a little pause. Though Cook’s 4.49-second 40-yard dash was strong and not surprising, he was horrific in the shuttle and three-cone drills, posting terrible scores for any RB, let alone one his size. That simply didn’t line up with the player we saw on film, but Cook opted to not repeat the drills in his March pro day, suggesting he was concerned with confirming his struggles there. His combine was a shock to just about everyone who watched Cook in college, who saw a complete back who performed behind a bad offensive line in a variety of run schemes (both under center and in the shotgun). Cook, on film, both ran away from defenders and made them miss in a phone booth. He was occasionally too patient, but often showed how to set up blocks and burst through the hole. Though not a great receiver, he was quick enough to beat linebackers and safeties in coverage, and on a few occasions ran vertical routes when split out wide. He has decent hands, though he had 12 fumbles in college, and that must be cleaned up. Everything about Cook’s tape suggests he’s a future fantasy star and complete NFL back. Most everything about his Combine suggests we’re missing something. Our guess is NFL teams will weigh the tape more so than the metrics, but the metrics, combined with injury and off-field concerns, could knock Cook out of the first round. Cook has had shoulder problems in the recent past, including two surgeries on his right shoulder at Florida State, and one on his left shoulder in high school. Moreover, Cook was placed on trial – and later fully acquitted after a quick deliberation – for an alleged misdemeanor battery involving a woman outside a bar in 2014. In 2015, Cook was also cited for animal cruelty, mostly for tying up some young puppies too tightly. He also had a couple minor transgressions while in high school. Fair or not, Cook’s poor combine is going to place a bigger spotlight on some of his negatives, though we still believe the player’s tape is impressive enough that he should succeed in the NFL.

NOTE: For a look at how Cook’s combine performance and tape differ, check out Graham Barfield’s Yards Created profile.

4. Joe Mixon

School: Oklahoma Ht: 6’1” Wt: 228 | 40: 4.45 (Pro Day) Year: 3So

Nothing we say here about Mixon will be surprising, considering he’s been one of the most Talent-wise, we just don't see any downside at all to Mixon's game. But it remains to be seen just how much his off-the-field issues will affect his draft stock.discussed and debated prospects in the entire class. In 2014, Mixon was suspended for the entire year at Oklahoma following a misdemeanor assault involving a woman at a local café in July of that year. Mixon was captured on tape punching the woman, and the woman eventually needed surgery for a broken jaw. He entered an Alford plea in court and received a one-year deferred sentence. Whether teams believe this is an isolated incident or not (and Mixon did have a later incident involving intimidating parking attendant, though he didn’t strike the attendant), they simply may not be willing to take the PR hit drafting Mixon would entail, especially since the incident was captured on video (like Ray Rice). But all it takes is one team, and we’re certain one team is going to see Mixon’s electrifying tape and measurables and consider him the best RB in this draft class, which on field, he may well be. Big and explosive, Mixon has economy of movement in the short area plus excellent patience and vision. He isn’t as otherworldly patient as a Le’Veon Bell, but he has the subtle movement of an Arian Foster in his prime, with far more burst. He has a subtle understanding of how runs are supposed to work, and sets up his blocks well. Mixon is an excellent blocker and receiver, which gives him instant third-down value in the NFL. Of Mixon’s few on-field weaknesses, one may be a Chris Johnson-like tendency to look to bust a big play instead of using his natural size and power to grind out a few extra yards, ending up with a negative run. Other than that, Mixon really has no discernible serious downside on his game film. In many ways, he was the lightning to Samaje Perine’s thunder, and on film, is the better prospect. What are his prospects for fantasy? Well, that remains to be seen. Some teams with a clear need at RB will absolutely not have Mixon on their draft boards, which could mean he lands somewhere with an already established star back. Mixon wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine because of the incident, so a lot of teams needed to do homework on their own time when interviewing Mixon. There’s no way to know exactly how many teams are comfortable drafting Mixon based on the incident, but given his film shows arguably the best back in this draft, there’s going to be at least one.

 

Future Fantasy Starters 

5. Alvin Kamara

School: Tennessee Ht: 5’10” Wt: 214 | 40: 4.56 | Year: 4Jr

Kamara spent only two seasons at Tennessee after playing at a JUCO for his freshman year, after he spent a suspension-riddled redshirt season at Alabama (he was arrested once for driving with a suspended license, among other charges). At Tennessee, Kamara had just 284 touches in 24 games (11.8 per game), but he showed explosive third-down type ability while splitting carries with other backs (notably Jalen Hurd). More importantly, Kamara dedicated himself to his craft and cleaned up his behavior, and was even a captain as a junior. Kamara has shown no traits of a true feature back, especially with his indecisiveness running inside and Tennessee’s almost exclusively shotgun attack, but he could be an immediate impact player in a rotation or in a certain type of offense. An impressive Combine will just push him up boards. Though Kamara didn’t do the agility drills (which was a common theme among RBs in this Combine), he showed fantastic explosion with an elite 131” broad jump and 39.5” vertical jump. And that explosion shows up on tape, when Kamara gets to the perimeter or is given a bunch of open space as a return man, even though there isn’t much wiggle to him at all. Kamara was often separated from the formation as a receiver or put into motion on jet sweeps, and he has enough short-area burst to bounce off arm tackles. His blocking technique is merely OK, but more importantly, he’s willing to stick his nose in there. On the downside, we’ve already mentioned his previous off-field issues and lack of a true workload, and he missed three games with a recurring knee problem in 2016. That all being said, we can’t forget that Kenyan Drake was the third RB taken in last year’s NFL Draft despite a similar type of skill set, and the usage of a player like Tevin Coleman in Atlanta shows there is going to be a market for someone of Kamara’s versatile skillset and elite lower-body explosion.

6. Kareem Hunt

School: Toledo Ht: 5’10” Wt: 216 | 40: 4.62 | Year: 4Sr

On film, we have a hard time finding a lot of backs we like more than Hunt. He handled a trueThere are some questions regarding Hunt's true playing weight and why he didn't participate in agility drills, but his tape indicates a special back with some serious talent. three-down workload at Toledo, posting 5500 yards from scrimmage and 45 TDs in his four years with the Rockets. Hunt took a huge step forward as a senior, especially in the passing game, when he added 41 receptions to his 262 carries, meaning he averaged 23.3 touches per game in his final year on campus. Hunt has exceptional balance, phenomenal power, and just an innate toughness to his game that is hard to replicate. He’s a willing blocker, a competent receiver, and an all-around competitor. And we were prepared to rank him very aggressively… until a poor showing at the NFL Combine. Now, it’s worth noting the only thing “poor” about Hunt’s Combine was the fact that his 40 time was 4.62. He had a very good 36.5” vertical, and a solid 119” broad jump. He’s not Alvin Kamara in the lower-body explosion department, but those numbers will do. However, he didn’t run the agility drills, and it left us wondering “why?” Perhaps Hunt’s size has something to do with it. Toledo listed him at 225, he played that big on film, but weighed in at just 209 at the Senior Bowl, where he dominated. Then, he weighed in at 216 just a couple weeks later at the Combine. Teams need to figure out what Hunt’s ideal playing weight is, and if his measurables were affected by his changing weight. For what it’s worth, Hunt improved his 40 time into the 4.5s several weeks later at his Pro Day, suggesting he was getting more comfortable with his weight. In college, Hunt also had a couple of issues. He was suspended two games for a violation of team rules in 2015, and also missed time with ankle and hamstring injuries. However, he stayed out of trouble and on the field stayed healthy, and was a truly dominant player as a senior. Teams just really need to do their homework on Hunt’s metrics, because his tape indicates a borderline special player. Hunt’s fantasy prospects pretty much fall entirely with where he’s drafted. Are teams going to be scared away enough to make him just a late-round pick?

NOTE: For a deeper look at Hunt’s fun tape, check out Graham Barfield’s Yards Created profile.

7. Wayne Gallman

School: Clemson Ht: 6’0” Wt: 215 | 40: 4.60 | Year: 4Jr

Gallman isn’t likely to be picked in the first 75 selections or so in April’s NFL Draft, but we maintain that several NFL coaches are going to absolutely fall in love with his game, and he will play early and often in the league. The starting RB for Clemson’s 2015 NCAA runner-up team and the 2016 NCAA champion, Gallman posted 3902 yards from scrimmage and 36 TDs in his three years with the Tigers. While Gallman’s 5.1 YPC won’t stand out compared to other backs in this class, his toughness will. Gallman doesn’t have sudden athleticism, but he rarely goes down on first contact. He’s capable as a receiver, and he absolutely never gives up on a play – no back in this class is more willing to extend plays as a blocker than Gallman. He doesn’t have the contact balance of a Kareem Hunt, but Gallman will fall forward with his tall frame, which allows him to pick up the crucial extra few inches in short-yardage situations. On the downside, he isn’t likely to make defenders miss in the short area, and he has an obnoxious tendency to “tell” when an interior run is coming by leaning forward before the snap. He fits the model of an NFL gap-scheme back who can excel in third-down situations immediately. He’s just a nasty, competitive football player, and at this position, that goes a long way. In many ways, Gallman was the easiest RB in this class for us to scout. What he’s good at shows up immediately, and if coaches are looking for that, they’re going to love him.

8. Samaje Perine

School: Oklahoma Ht: 5’11” Wt: 233 | 40: 4.65 | Year: 3Jr

Perine is a big boy. At 5’11” and 233 pounds, he was the thunder to Joe Mixon’s lightning at Oklahoma, and was an expert in wearing down defenders, as he showed early on in his college career. As a freshman against Kansas, Perine carried 34 times for 427 yards and 6 TDs, setting the FBS single-game rushing record (which Melvin Gordon had set just the week before). In all, Perine ran for 4122 yards and 49 TD in college, with his rushing totals decreasing every year (mostly because Mixon was suspended in 2014 but returned in the final two years of Perine’s career). But nothing on Perine’s film suggests he’s a different player than he was as a freshman. Big and mean, Perine downright bounces off defenders, and arm-tackling him is just not an option. There’s not a lot of nuance to Perine’s game, but he has softer feet than you might think for a guy his size, and Perine did pretty well in Oklahoma’s zone-blocking schemes (you’d figure his skillset would fit better in gap schemes). Not surprisingly, Perine’s timed agility drills at the Combine were subpar, but that won’t deter a ton of NFL teams since agility isn’t his game anyway. Combined with his natural power and lower-body strength, however, Perine has more than enough wiggle to miss tacklers. A willing blocker with decent hands (and he got better at both throughout his career), Perine should be able to play in third-and-short instances, though he wasn’t asked to catch the ball a lot for the Sooners. There are much better prospects in this class, but Perine can fit a role for a team looking for a banger.

9. James Conner

School: Pittsburgh Ht: 6’1” Wt: 233 | 40: 4.65 | Year: 4Jr

Conner doesn’t have elite athleticism, but he’s a back who uses his size very well and will make some NFL coaches absolutely fall in love with him. On the field, Conner has outstanding vision for running inside. He’s big, strong, and rarely will go down on first contact. Conner scored 56 TDs in 39 career games, and was the heart and soul of Pitt’s team on and off the field. A respected team captain, Conner tore his MCL just one game into the 2015 season, and was soon after diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By the next May, Conner declared he was cancer-free, and he returned to play a full season in 2016, rushing for 1092 yards and 16 TDs. Conner’s work in short yardage and high character are going to get him drafted, and he deserves to be. However, for a guy his size he isn’t a particularly good blocker, and he’s not necessarily a very good receiver either. Those are two things he must improve if he wants to be anything more than a role player at the next level. But one thing for sure is that Conner is going to work like crazy to get better.

10. D’Onta Foreman

School: Texas Ht: 6’0” Wt: 233 | 40: 4.45 (Pro Day) | Year: 3Jr

When turning Foreman’s tape on, we were… bored for lack of a better term. That’s hard to justify considering he’s a 230-pound back who ran for 2028 yards and 15 TD in his junior season, his first as a full-time player. But Texas’ offensive line opened massive holes for Foreman, and we very rarely saw him against heavy boxes, like Leonard Fournette and even Christian McCaffrey consistently saw this year. In many ways, we didn’t think Foreman used his size well, and he exhibited just about no wiggle in the open field. Of course, we went back and watched Foreman again after reports of a blazing 4.45-second 40-yard dash at his late March pro day. No doubt, Foreman’s timed speed is impressive, and we’d be surprised at this point if he isn’t a top-100 pick, but we still didn’t feel as if he was particularly impressive on film. He didn’t run as tough as a guy like Samaje Perine, nor did he have any other areas of his game that impressed us. He was horrendous in pass protection, didn’t do anything as a receiver, and lost six fumbles. So really, we saw a back who did one thing pretty damn well – run in a straight line (and in short yardage). That doesn’t mean Foreman can’t fit with a team that can put him in a position to succeed, but what is his fantasy upside if he’s going to be a zero on third downs?

 

Rotational Backs

11. De’Veon Smith

School: Michigan Ht: 5’11” Wt: 223 | 40: N/A | Year: 4Sr

If you like measurables, we’ll tell you now that Smith is not your guy. He didn’t even run the 40-yard dash at the Combine, and his jumps and agility drills were either mediocre or poor. But he’s the opposite of a guy like D’Onta Foreman, who had some standout measurables but just left us wanting more on film. A favorite of our guy Fran Duffy from PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Smith does all the little things well on the field. Though he never really had a full-time role at Michigan (2486 yards from scrimmage and 23 TDs in 41 career games with the Wolverines), Smith did enough in his split role that suggests he’ll have a similar role in the NFL. Smith is an incredible blocker for his position, one of the best we can remember watching, and though he wasn’t terribly productive as a receiver in college, he had soft hands and can clearly do it. As an interior runner, he exhibited stellar vision, power, and the ability to fall forward. He had excellent contact balance, and rarely went down at first touch, though there was just about no open-field slipperiness to his game. There’s something here to suggest Smith can be a LeGarrette Blount type of runner at the next level, with a little less athleticism but potentially more third-down value. Perhaps he’s not a fantasy stud, but there’s a chance you could hate this guy at some point because he vultures TDs and is always in the game in critical situations, a la a Robert Turbin type.

12. Jeremy McNichols

School: Boise State Ht: 5’9” Wt: 214 | 40: 4.49 | Year: 3Jr

An excellent showing at the Combine boosted McNichols' stock, but there are some noticeable issues in his game, including pass blocking and ball-security.McNichols was an absolute workout warrior in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, and was incredibly productive at Boise State as well. A full-time starter for the Broncos each of the last two seasons (following the departure of Dolphin star Jay Ajayi), McNichols finishes his college career with 4294 yards from scrimmage and 55 TD in just 34 games. A former high-school WR, McNichols took to RB well, and should interest NFL teams looking for an explosive rotational type of back. At the Combine, McNichols ran a strong 40 (4.49), posted good lower-body explosion jumps (35.5” vertical, 121” broad jump), and ran a strong three-cone drill (6.93 seconds). He also had huge hands (10”) and solid arm length (31.5”), suggesting he should be able to fit the role as a receiver at the next level. As a former WR, he has an understanding of the route tree, and was often used separated from the formation to run vertical routes, both in the slot and out wide. He also exhibited good balance, an area where his box-like stature helps him. On the downside, McNichols was not particularly good in pass protection, looked to bounce way too many runs outside, and had some serious ball-security problems these last two seasons as a starter. He also exhibited very little lateral agility, which is something you’d prefer a back of his size to possess. We don’t think McNichols fought through contact well enough to be a true three-down player at the next level, and he really needs to improve on some of the finer details of his position if he’s going to play on third downs early and often. But there is something to work with here, for sure.

13. Marlon Mack

School: South Florida Ht: 5’11” Wt: 213 | 40: 4.50 | Year: 3Jr

Mack was undoubtedly one of the most maddening backs we can remember watching on college film. His lower-body explosiveness was absolutely apparent on film, and he confirmed that at the Combine with strong scores in the 40 (4.50 seconds), vertical jump (35.5”), and broad jump (125”). But we came away viewing Mack as a pure athlete who had absolutely no feel for his position whatsoever. Mack played three healthy seasons at USF, tallying over 1200 yards from scrimmage in each, and he scored 33 collegiate TDs. But keep in mind that USF coaches forced him into a timeshare with D’Ernest Flowers in his final season with the Bulls, suggesting they didn’t necessarily view him as a workhorse. You can see why on film. Mack has no feel whatsoever for running inside, and he would bounce almost everything – there were a stunning number of negative plays for Mack on film. When he gets into the open field, he can run away from defenders, but he has to be schemed there. Mack showed ability as a receiver separated from the formation, but he also lacked quality pass-protection skills, which could limit his ability to get on the field early in his NFL career. He’s a completely landing-spot dependent player, and he really has to clean up as a blocker to have a significant role in a fantasy-relevant spot. Given Mack’s total lack of vision and patience running inside, we’d be shocked if he tops out as more than a rotational piece.

14. T.J. Logan

School: North Carolina | Ht: 5’9” Wt: 196 | 40: 4.37 | Year: 4Sr

Logan is a specific type of player, but he’s certainly going to be appealing for a team looking for that type. A rotational back at UNC who split time with the more ballyhooed Elijah Hood, when all is said and done Logan may well be the better NFL prospect given his rare explosion and versatility. In four years with the Tar Heels, Logan never gained more than 894 yards from scrimmage, which he did as a senior (also scoring a career-high 10 offensive TDs). But he was a solid receiver, catching 76 passes in four seasons, and he very rarely dropped the ball. Additionally, Logan was an accomplished return man in Chapel Hill, tallying 5 kickoff return TDs in four seasons (he has no punt-return experience). All in all, Logan has the versatility and explosive speed to get himself drafted as a rotational back, but he has to clean up his ball security, as he fumbled too often at UNC.

15. Jamaal Williams

School: BYU | Ht: 6’0” Wt: 212 | 40: 4.59 | Year: 4Sr

Williams was one of those players we really wanted to like more given his production at BYU (4468 yards from scrimmage and 36 TDs in 43 career games), but we really did not enjoy his tape as much as the numbers would suggest. A straight-line banger who didn’t break as many tackles as you’d like to see, Williams also didn’t exhibit the vision we’d want to see from a zone scheme back. He’s tall and runs high, so he presents a big frame for defenders to take on, though we would certainly say Williams played with adequate toughness. What we saw was a pure short-yardage gap-scheme grinder, which really limits his potential landing spots in the NFL. Additionally, he missed action in each of the last two years with knee and ankle injuries, and he served a suspension as a junior as well. However, Williams exhibited solid ball security, good blocking form, and the ability to catch the ball, which means he could land a backup role with a team that fits his skillset. In ways, he’s a Latavius Murray type, but without Murray’s insane open-field burst. Williams’ Combine showed just about zero lateral agility, and the tape backs that up. He just never exhibited the athleticism a feature back ideally will have.

16. Elijah McGuire

School: Louisiana-Lafayette | Ht: 5’10” Wt: 214 | 40: 4.53 | Year: 4Sr

Productive and overall durable during his four years at Louisiana-Lafayette, McGuire had over 1200 yards from scrimmage in each of his seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, and scored 52 career TDs. However, McGuire’s efficiency really took a hit in 2016, reportedly because he was playing through a foot injury. Looking at his earlier film, we see a player who can fit a rotational role in the NFL. McGuire had quality timed speed, and on film, he got to that timed speed very quickly, so he has a burst to him. He’s solidly built, but didn’t often run through contact, which gives us some major pause about his ability to be more than a rotational player. On the positive, McGuire took care of the ball well, and shows a phenomenal feel for running routes when separated from the formation. One of the big issues for McGuire as he transitions to the NFL will be his measured agility – he posted poor scores across the board in the shuttles and three-cone drill. That will have to be taken into consideration in a big way, considering how McGuire projects to be used in the NFL. But on film, we saw a pretty good player, and he has experience on special teams as well.

 

NFL Backups

17. Donnel Pumphrey

School: San Diego State | Ht: 5’8” Wt: 176 | 40: 4.48 | Year: 4Sr

With 6290 rushing yards in his four years at San Diego State, Pumphrey is the all-time leader in Division I FBS history. Pumphrey was remarkably durable with the Aztecs, playing 54 games in four seasons. He also timed well at the Combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds. This all sounds awesome, right? There’s just one small problem – Pumphrey himself. At just 5’8” and 176 pounds, Pumphrey is beyond tiny for NFL standards. Make no mistake, Pumphrey is tough as nails, as anyone would have to be to handle 1158 touches in college. He just doesn’t have the lower-body thickness to bust through tackles on a consistent basis. Fortunately, Pumphrey is quick in and out of cuts, so he has enough lateral elusiveness to make it work in a rotational role. Pumphrey was productive as a receiver at SDSU, catching 99 passes, and he shows a good feel for route running, though he doesn’t have natural hands. That, unfortunately, has to be contrasted with his size, and how realistically he can handle pass protection in the NFL. Moreover, Pumphrey has minimal experience as a return man, with just 5 kickoff returns to his name in college. Pumphrey needs to convince teams he can be a productive special-teamer in the NFL, but overall, he’s a damn good football player who just wasn’t gifted with NFL size.

18. Brian Hill

School: Wyoming | Ht: 6’1” Wt: 219 | 40: 4.54 | Year: 3Jr

Hill is what he is, and if you’re looking for what he is, then you’ll probably get your money’s worth. Hill was durable and productive at Wyoming, rushing for 4287 yards and 35 TD in just three seasons in Laramie. A downhill pounder who breaks tackles in the short area, Hill never played to his admittedly impressive timed speed on tape, and we saw very little to suggest he has great wiggle in the open field, either. But his very good 125” broad jump suggests he has good lower-body power, and that did show up on film – we can see Hill being the kind of guy teams bring in during goal-line situations to push the pile. What Hill needs to do, however, is become more than subpar as a receiver, and to exhibit far better blocking technique than he did in college. The skill set Hill has now suggests he’ll be an adequate TD vulture or “closer” type of runner, but he needs to clean up his third-down skills if he wants to become more.

19. Corey Clement

School: Wisconsin | Ht: 5’10” Wt: 220 | 40: 4.68 | Year: 4Sr

Clement was the anointed successor to Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin, but that planned transfer of power didn’t go very smoothly. Despite running for 949 yards and 9 TD in 2014 behind Gordon, in 2015, Clement played just four games as he battled a sports hernia. Additionally, there were reports Clement had a lack of dedication to the game of football, which frustrated coaches. Clement assuaged concerns with a massive 2016 season in which he posted 314/1375/15 rushing, and he also had a major performance at the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, Clement tested terribly at the NFL Combine in April, posting horrendous scores in the 40, vertical jump, and broad jump (he didn’t run the agility drills). Clement’s tape shows more athletic ability than his scores, however. He showed good one-cut ability on zone runs, but the problem is he was inconsistent on those types of runs because of decision-making. We’ve seen players of his athletic profile succeed in the NFL, but it typically comes with good vision and patience (think Alfred Morris). We are concerned Clement doesn’t have those traits. Clement can make defenders miss in a hole, which means he plays quicker than he tested, but he will have to answer a number of questions as he transitions to the next level.

20. Joe Williams

School: Utah | Ht: 5’11” Wt: 210 | 40: 4.41 | Year: 4Sr

Williams is an enigma in more ways than one. The first question he certainly had to answer in interviews with NFL teams will surround his bizarre “retirement” early in the 2016 season. All the information suggests that Williams was unhappy with his role on the Utah football team, and chose to quit rather than compete for touches, though Williams attributes it to bumps and bruises he had accumulated through the years in junior college (notably back and knee pain). But the team asked Williams back when several other RBs got hurt, and Williams proceeded to run for 1407 yards and 10 TD in just nine games for the Utes. On film, Williams showed a good body for running inside, as a player who can make defenders miss and run them over. The problem was Williams knows he’s a better athlete than most defenders, and he would occasionally look to bounce runs and not process what he was seeing clearly. He fumbled way too often, and he was a complete zero as both a receiver and blocker, which really limits him at the next level. The positives? Wheew, it’s that athletic profile. Williams has legitimate NFL speed, and at the very least you would think he could make it as a rotational player and return man. But teams have to deduce how committed he is to the game, considering he’s admitted he lost his love for it under a year ago, before returning to Utah’s program. His lack of third-down skills and questionable vision don’t help matters, either.