2021 NFL Draft Position Rankings
Travis Etienne - Clemson
Najee Harris - Alabama
Kenneth Gainwell - Kentucky
Michael Carter - North Carolina
Javonte Williams - North Carolina
Like many years, this draft does not have too many first round caliber backs besides Etienne or Harris. However, unlike many years there is a huge drop off from say the top 5 or 6 backs to the rest of the class. How we often see a back emerge late in the draft, I do not think that will be a common occurrence in this weak running back class. My top two are easy and you can flip flop them to your preference. I love Etienne a bit more with his ability to be a versatile back as a pure runner to a consistent out wide slot receiver if need be. He is a big play back too with his electric speed and ability to get away from defenders. His size is a bit of an issue, but he showed great balance and power despite his size. To me the biggest issue is his mileage after a big workload in college. Which is the opposite for Harris who had less mileage than most Alabama running backs after being in a heavy rotation throughout most of his career. Last year was his first full year as a starter and really had a breakout season. He possesses a unique blend of Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry with the best qualities of both backs. I would not be shocked if both backs are first rounders when it’s all said and done.
The next three are significantly in the 2nd tier behind the top two backs in the draft. I really like Gainwell from the standpoint where he can be a great pass catching back and should at the very least be a great secondary back on passing downs. He has very little bust ability thanks to his unique skill set outside of his injury. I think he could play a similar role to James White in the NFL. While the duo of backs from UNC both play at a very high level. I like Carter a little more than Williams since he is the shiftier back with more pass catching ability. While Williams is the bigger bruising back who is a better pass blocker with solid hands. Both should be very nice starters in the NFL. If I had to drop comparisons I see Carter a little bit like David Montgomery and Williams as Chris Carson.
Chuba Hubbard - Oklahoma State
Kylin Hill - Texas A&M
Jaret Patterson - Buffalo
Trey Sermon - Ohio State
Rhamondre Stevenson - Oklahoma
The drop off is even further after that trio of second tier backs in this very weak running back draft. My favorite late round back is Hubbard who had a very decorated career at Oklahoma State who reminds me a lot of Jonathan Taylor. Normally being in the public eye too long is a detriment for quarterbacks, but it seems to me the same has happened to running backs in recent years. Hubbard could do it all and be a terrific leader as well with his passion for the game. I would love to have him on my offense in any capacity let alone the possibility of him being a top back from this draft. Hill is a solid all around back who should at the very least be a quality backup much like Latavius Murray. I can see him being a solid back who bounces around throughout his career. While Patterson is a solid back, but the size and lack of elite speed is an issue. I see him as a similar back to Phillip Lindsey as a possible starter with a better fit as a backup. Sermon has a boat load of talent, but health is a huge issue for him. Stevenson has a ton of talent, but maturity is an issue for him. After them there are a few other intriguing backs like Rakeem Boyd, Jermar Jefferson, Khalil Herbert, and Pooka Williams can all play. None of them strikes me as game changers at the next level.