NFL Draft Analysis: Running Backs, Part 1
Every week up until the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, The Barber’s Chair will post weekly scouting reports of the top prospects to watch in this year’s draft class. The players are listed in no particular order. The heights and weights of each athlete were gathered from NFL.com’s official Combine results page.
Alabama | 5’10 | 220 lbs.
Strengths: Excellent north/south runner with a knack for converting short yardage situations. Incredible blocker whether in pass protection or blocking for another RB. His jump cut makes everybody miss. Effective at taking direct snaps from the wildcat position. Shown the ability to catch passes deep in the defense rather than just out of the flat. Capable of returning kicks. Enters the NFL with limited wear on his body.
Weaknesses: Only surpassed 15 carries once in 2018. His NFL team will want him to top that in every game. Hasn’t shown the ability to be the bellcow for an extended stretch. Not as good running laterally - stretch plays are rarely successful with him. Has trouble bouncing it to the outside for that reason. Alabama didn’t ask him to run a very diverse route tree.
Pro comparison: David Johnson, but needs to prove it
Memphis | 5’8” | 208 lbs.
Strengths: Extremely elusive with oily hips that create effortless change of direction. He bounces off defenders and defenders bounce of him. Can score from anywhere on the field if you give him a running lane. Doesn’t shy away from contact even though he’s a burner. Takes a second to wait for a hole to develop. Exciting style and big play potential will get him on the field at the end of games.
Weaknesses: Slim lower body doesn’t match his stocky upper half. Great for speed but will leave him susceptible to getting wrapped up. A lot of big plays come from lightly stacked boxes.
Pro comparison: Devonta Freeman with a narrower base
Alabama | 5’10” | 216 lbs.
Strengths: Disciplined and polished runner that takes what the defense gives him. Doesn’t try to steal the show. Experienced - led the running attack for the nation’s top team for three seasons. Better at receiving out of the backfield than some people may realize. Physical runner with blends of speed. All the traits to be a reliable starter.
Weaknesses: Hard to find something about him that jumps off the screen. Lacks that x-factor that separates him from the pack. Did less with more carries in 2018 than 2017. Concerned he’s already losing a step. Needs improvement in pass protection.
Pro comparison: Mark Ingram
Florida Atlantic | 5’7” | 203 lbs.
Strengths: Ran behind a poor offensive line but still managed to produce in a big way. Can be an elusive or violent type of runner. Refuses to go down. Possesses an unreal ability to create something special in a hopeless situation. Plays bigger than his size.
Weaknesses: Not a receiver but needs to be. Can break long plays but needs that final gear to get past the last line of defense.
Pro comparison: A more compact Dalvin Cook
Iowa State | 5’10” | 222 lbs.
Strengths: Really good hop-step. Nice short-area quickness. Churns out solid chunks of yards all the way down the field. His wide base and strong legs allow him to balance between hits. Possesses the vision to find multiple lanes and can be electric with an open field. Flashed the talent to be a receiver out of the backfield and should get even better. Solid awareness in pass protection and squares up with his defender.
Weaknesses: Runs with a tightness in his hips. Lacks the major burst to break a long score. Painfully average tape at times.
I had a difficult time with Montgomery. I originally saw him as just a guy and quickly grew bored. He would attempt to juke guys and end up nowhere. Then he quickly began to look like a new person as I continued to watch. A really good running back, actually. The conclusion I arrived at was that his O-line and offense as a whole didn’t do him any favors. He’s going to be as great as his NFL opportunity allows him to be.
Pro comparison: Malcolm Brown
Penn State | 5’11” | 211 lbs.
Strengths: Has the look and feel of a prototypical running back. Runs with a loose and free style. Utilizes a variety of moves in his arsenal featuring a nasty juke. Muscular legs that bust through defenders. Possesses great control over his stop/start movements. Gets open out of the backfield a ton but never in Trace McSorley’s progressions. Should be tremendous as a featured part in a more polished offense.
Weaknesses: Decent at times in pass protection but should square up more rather than just leaning in with a shoulder. Tries to hurdle defenders a little too often. Like Montgomery, can piece his way down the field in increments but don’t expect him to outrun everyone.
Pro comparison: Joe Mixon