The 2020 NFL Draft running back class is one that is very straightforward. There are about five top guys and then there is a bit of a drop off to more solid, non-feature backs. That means this class is pretty solid, not great, but really solid when you look at it from the entire view of just how deep it is. There are no shortages of quality committee backs, that is for sure.
So the value will be there on all three days of the draft. That is reassuring to Steelers fans, as they are not forced to (and can’t) take one in the first round.
Here are SteelersNow’s Top Ten running backs in the 2020 NFL Draft.
10. Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Kelley can play and it is odd as to why he is not getting more love. The character part of his resume is well-documented, as Kelley’s Senior Bowl interviews were some of the best out of anyone there. However, this is a guy with enough juice to win short areas with burst and still hit a big play with above-average long speed.
The thing with him is that he is physical and intelligent as a runner. Kelley is not a guy who is going to be some crazy elusive back that makes highlight plays that end up on Sportscenter. He will, however, grind out extra yards with physicality and be a great locker room addition. His soft hands allow him to have more value than just a nice runner who has some wiggle and tenacity to his name. Kelly will be fun to watch as part of a committee.
9. La’Mical Perine, Florida
Give Perine the ball and good things happen. That is sometimes as simple as it gets when evaluating prospects, and Perine is just so solid. He has plenty of juice to hit a big play and destroy angles that defenders take on him, but he also will break tackles with good contact balance or try to run right through the defender.
There are a few issues with his game. Perine is more of a compliment because he lacks that power that teams love with running backs and he is capped laterally. There is somewhat of that ability to make key cuts and be sudden and Perine lacking in that quickness. However, with a good base for pass protection skills and soft hands, he has shown a three-down skillset.
While he may not be preferred as a feature back, if injuries arise, he is capable.
8. Zack Moss, Utah
Moss is the most frustrating evaluation of the entire running back class. The elite contact balance, patient running style, bowling ball-like build, soft hands, and leg drive are pretty awesome things to watch when Moss’s film is turned on. He is a real ‘throwback’ running back that is upgraded into a modern build with that type of skillset.
However, Moss has so many limitations that cap his upside. His lack of burst and long speed are debilitating to watch. There are just so many yards left on the field with that lack of short-area burst that is required to be more dynamic at the NFL level. It is all so strange because Moss is pretty quick. His footwork and cuts are smooth and sharp.
However, a thing that is worrying is his injuries. Moss has suffered a torn meniscus while getting into bed. Yep, that is no typo. He’s also had shoulder injury, a hand injury, and then suffered a hamstring injury at the combine, as well. That is a red flag to note. For someone that should be more durable, Moss has to get healthy to maximize his career outlook.
7. Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
Evans is wicked fast. This dude is an absolute home run hitter that has good vision to manipulate defenders at the second level and the ability to just destroy angles with his explosiveness and pure speed. There is a reason Daniel Jeremiah is saying he could be a third-round draft pick.
The biggest concern with Evans at the next level is that pass protection ability. He tries, it is clear that he wants it, but even with that motor, Evans falls short due to insufficient hand placement and anchoring ability. Outside of that, he is a guy who will have questions about his vision inside the tackles. There is no doubt he kills it when he is outside the tackles, but there were not a ton of reps where he ran gap concepts inside the tackles.
Still, Evans is a fun prospect who has return ability and receiving ability as well as he was split out often. A good player who is going to have an early impact.
6. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Benjamin is one of the most underrated players in this class. Some analysts have him way lower than this and it just does not make sense. Benjamin has all the intangibles and skills necessary to be a three-down running back in the NFL. His contact balance is good and his style of running is that of a tough-nosed, no-nonsense runner.
The most impressive thing with Benjamin is how he has improved his skills throughout his years at Arizona State. His pass protection has gotten way better over the years and is now NFL ready. In the passing game, he has a clear upside as a pass-catcher that has strong hands. The biggest knock on him is that he tries to get too cute. His vision is good, but it is more so a decision-making thing for him. Also, he is a bit stiff laterally and is not dynamic when trying to make people miss, which lowers his elusiveness. However, Benjamin is still a fun prospect and a good running back.
5. Cam Akers, Florida State</h3=>
Faced with perhaps the worst offensive line situation in the country, Akers is a dynamic runner that does not need to prove that he can create for himself. The tape speaks for itself that Akers is an electric athlete who has all the pre-requisites to make something out of nothing. Akers has the explosiveness and quickness to string multiple moves together at a time and break tackles while doing it. He is incredibly slippery.
The day-one impact of Akers is lower than the guys above him simply because while he is a great pure runner, his receiving ability and pass protecting ability all need work. When he senses contact coming in the receiving game, he drops too many passes and in pass protection, he needs to learn how to identify the most dangerous defender on any given play. Akers is a really fun runner, but there will be more work than he has to do to reach his full potential.
4. JK Dobbins, Ohio State
What a ridiculous all-around athlete Dobbins is on film. There is nothing this guy is not good at athletically. He is fast, incredibly quick and his explosiveness is great, as well. All those tools are there for him to be an absolute stud home-run hitter with some of the best vision in the class as well. Dobbins has all the essential assortment items needed.
As a receiving option, there needs to be more shown. Dobbins is not poor, but he lacks a true NFL route tree and has too many drops in the open field when no one is even around him. That is something that has to be fixed if Dobbins is to become a top running back in the league. He has wonderful pass protection skills so that receiving ability is the crux of his demons. The only other thing he must improve is his aggressiveness in hitting the hole. Dobbins is too tentative at times and gets worried that it is fool’s gold.
3. D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Swift has ridiculous cutting ability. His dead leg juke is among the most potent moves in this entire draft class. As a pure runner, Swift is a ton of fun. The burst is really good and so is the quickness. Something that sticks out with him is even though he is dynamic and more finesse in the open field, the guy plays with a ton of grit and physicality. Teams love seeing that from a guy.
He is not super fast and lacks the necessary decision-making capabilities. Swift can read a defense and manipulate defenders, but he gets far too fancy with some of his runs. Instead of taking the obvious hole, Swift will bounce runs unnecessarily at times. He has to get better at being decisive and reading the flow of all levels of the defense, not just the second level. Swift makes up for with great receiving ability capabilities, however. As a route runner, he is downright elite for a running back. If he goes to a place where can be in a committee, Swift will be great. As a feature back, he can live, but his skill set is not suited as well for the lead back role.
2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Taylor is a legitimate track star that has home run explosiveness and speed at on the field. He ran a 10.19 100 meter dash in high school. That is near world-class speed and it shows. He is another guy who has great vision and baits the linebackers at the second level into traffic. Even with that great speed, he will run right on through guys. The power he shows off is a ton of fun to watch.
The questions with Taylor are how good of a receiver is he? It was delightful to see that he expanded his repertoire his last year at Wisconsin. The route tree obviously will have to improve to get to the level of an NFL route tree, but Taylor has good hands and the speed to be a mismatch. Thus far, he is not a sudden or quick route runner, but with his experience, that is something he can develop. Laterally he is a bit limited and he will not make a ton of flashy cuts, but Taylor is solid and has all the tools to be a great running back.
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Other than pure speed, there is not much Edwards-Helaire does badly. As an all-around back, he is so solid in so many areas. Still, there are multiple elite traits in his game. That lateral agility is elite, his shiftiness is elite, and his receiving ability is elite. Edwards-Helaire is going to take the floor of an offense and move up because of his entire skillset. He creates yards, gets open in the receiving game, and he shows off good power and toughness in pass protection.
Edwards-Helaire runs like a bull for a guy so small. He will grind out the yards with good leg churn and power his size. When looking at his vision, Edwards-Helaire reads the flow of the well and uses that dynamic quickness to press the line and manipulate defenders at the second level. Dude is so smooth in the field and looks like he is gliding. The all-around skill set and what he brings to an offense is why Edwards-Helaire is my top-rated running back in this class, even if he lacks the home run speed.