INDIANAPOLIS – With so much debate regarding the value of the running back position, it is unknown how many will be selected in the top 50 picks of this year's draft. But make no mistake, there is a ton of talent in this class, and watching these prospects on the field will be a ton of fun. Use this preview as a cheat sheet for today's action (4 PM on NFL Network) to understand which drills are most important throughout the workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. For a full explanation of each category, jump down to the bottom of the piece.
Top of the heap: D'Andre Swift, Georgia
The Philadelphia native is a dynamic playmaker who can stay on the field for all three downs and be a threat as both a runner and as a pass catcher. He stands out with his ability to make the first man miss. He's the running back most likely to be selected in the first round of this year's draft.
Workout warrior: J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
Watching Dobbins, I can't help but think of Eagles running back Miles Sanders, who was one of the top performers at last year's Combine. Dobbins is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete who should shine during the athletic tests.
Off the radar: LeVante Bellamy, Western Michigan
There's not a lot of buzz surrounding Bellamy at this point, but the explosive back from the MAC will have a lot more attention after the Combine. Don't be surprised if he makes a run at breaking the 4.40-second mark in the 40-yard dash.
Stopwatch shocker: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Most people think of the bruising Badgers back as a tough, between-the-tackles runner, but he's an explosive track athlete who was the two-time state champ in the 100-meter dash in high school. He's going to shock people with how he tests this week.
Will kill the drills: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Lateral agility? Check. Pass catching? Check. Vision? Check. Toughness? Check. Edwards-Helaire checks a LOT of boxes. He'll put his complete skill set on display in Indianapolis. Expect him to test better than people think in the athletic portion of the workout as well.
Trust the tape: Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Benjamin isn't the most explosive athlete, but he has excellent contact balance and body control. Like Kareem Hunt back in 2017, Benjamin may not test off the charts, but he's able to create yards on his own. He was productive over the last couple of seasons for Herm Edwards in the desert.
Most productive college player: AJ Dillon, Boston College
No back in this class has been more productive than Taylor, who reached 5,000 career rushing yards faster than any back in FBS history, but Dillon has put up plenty of numbers as well. The Connecticut native was the first back to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons on campus, and he added a third for good measure this past year, allowing him to be named first-team All-ACC three times.
One-year wonder: Deejay Dallas, Miami
Perhaps the best blocker in the class at the position, Dallas stepped in this season as a starter and averaged 6 yards a carry for the Hurricanes. The junior brings speed and the ability to impact along the perimeter. He is also a rock-solid option on third down as both a catcher and pass protector.
Best pro comparison: Darius Anderson, TCU
I nearly placed Anderson as my Workout Warrior because he's an excellent athlete. He reminded me a lot of former Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, with his frame and ability to catch passes out of the backfield. When healthy, Edmonds has made plays over the last two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals.
Best story: Cam Akers, Florida State
It's worth noting anytime a player is the top recruit at his position coming out of high school. Akers was that guy three years ago even though he was both a quarterback and a running back. His career with the Seminoles did not quite go as planned. Sure, he broke Dalvin Cook's record for rushing yards as a freshman in 2017, but he never quite lived up to his billing due to the supporting cast around him. Akers' story will be an interesting one to follow through this process as well as the early stages of his NFL career.
Small-school standout: Benny LeMay, Charlotte
At just over 5-8 and 220 pounds, LeMay is built for the NFL and can win in multiple ways. He can make people miss with power, wiggle, and vision. Not to mention, he can catch passes out of the backfield. LeMay figures to carve out a nice role in an NFL backfield.
Philly connection: Josh Kelley, UCLA
Swift is a Philadelphia native and Taylor grew up right across the bridge in South Jersey, so there are some local connections here, but don't forget about Kelley. Not only did he play for a former Eagles coach with the Bruins in Chip Kelly, but he also grew up idolizing Rocky Balboa. In fact, he believes he'd be a great fit to play the character on the silver screen.
Most to prove: Zack Moss, Utah
Moss is an excellent talent and a bruiser between the tackles with deceptive athleticism to make people miss in the hole. He's one of the best backs in the class on film, but knee injuries have plagued him over the last couple of years. His medical check will be huge for him this week.
Position Drill To Watch
In today's game, running backs have to be able to impact the passing game if they're to be viewed as truly dynamic playmakers worthy of high draft choices. On Friday night, we'll watch these running backs run a series of routes at all three levels of the field. Here are a couple of questions that need to be answered:
1. Is each prospect natural at the catch point? Does he have the ability to adjust to the throw, pull in the reception, gather himself, and transition to a runner immediately to generate positive yardage upfield?
2. What level of receiver is the prospect? Is he just a checkdown option? Can he work in the screen game, or can he be flexed out and run routes at a high level as if he were a receiver?
|Hand Size||928 (9 1/4")|
|Arm Length||3100 (31")|
|Wingspan||7468 (74 3/4")|
|Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch)||4.52 seconds|
|Official 40-Time (Laser)||4.55 seconds|
|10-Yard Split||1.57 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||7.06 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.28 seconds|
The rest of the pack
Salvon Ahmed (Washington), Raymond Calais (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rico Dowdle (South Carolina), Darrynton Evans (Appalachian State), JaMycal Hasty (Baylor), Brian Herrien (Georgia), Tony Jones (Notre Dame), Javon Leake (Maryland), Anthony McFarland (Maryland), Sewo Olonilua (TCU), Lamical Perine (Florida), Scottie Phillips (Ole Miss), James Robinson (Illinois State), J.J. Taylor (Arizona), Patrick Taylor (Memphis), Ke'Shawn Vaugn (Vanderbilt), Michael Warren (Cincinnati)
Breakdown of the categories
Top of the heap: This is the player who, based on media projections, is at the top of the class and will likely hear his name called first at his position in April.
Workout warrior: This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Off the radar: This is the player who will come out of nowhere to post great numbers in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Stopwatch shocker: This is the player who I expect to perform better in the athletic tests than most in the media predict.
Will kill the drills: This is the player who will look the best in the position-specific drills following the athletic portion of the workout.
Trust the tape: This is the player who I don't expect to test off the charts and is a better football player than he is an athlete. With that in mind, don't drop him down the board with a subpar workout!
Most productive college player: This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or over the course of his entire career.
One-year wonder: This is the player who performed at a high level in college, but only for a limited time on campus.
Best pro comparison: Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with the easiest picture to paint when looking at his NFL future through my eyes.
Best story: All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in his career? Here's the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
Small-school standout: This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a potentially bright future in the NFL.
Philly connection: This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on.
Most to prove: This is the player who has the most to prove away from the field, whether it's during the interview process, medical examinations, or even the weigh-ins.
Mr. Average: We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks, but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" time in the 40-yard dash? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
The rest of the pack: A list of everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order).
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.