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2020 NFL Draft: Houtz’s Top-5 Running Backs

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College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There’s only two weeks between now and the 2020 NFL Draft, so a lot could change before the Bengals are officially on the clock. With that said, I spent the last several months watching film and compiling my top players at each position. Sure, there may be some minor changes, but things shouldn’t change much between now and April.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at my top-5 running backs in the 2020 NFL Draft.


J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

This year’s running back class is oozing with top-tier talent. And to sit here and say there’s a massive gap between any of these guys would be untrue. However, one player has remained at the top of my RB rankings for several months, and his name is J.K Dobbins. Or, J.K Dolphins as I like to call him.

In 2019, Dobbins touted the rock 301 times for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns—breaking the Buckeyes single-season record. A record that was once held by Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. At 5’10 and 216 lbs, Dobbins plays with confidence and determination. Like some of the other backs in this class, you won’t catch him hesitating to hit a hole. Unfortunately, playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the country, there wasn’t much opportunity for failure. Very rarely could defenders bring Dobbins down on the first contact, and his rare mix of speed and power should translate well to the NFL game.

For as good as Dobbins was in the run game, he was equally as impressive as a pass-catcher. He probably won’t be asked to be a three-down running back in today’s NFL. But alongside Jordan Howard, J.K Dobbins would be the perfect back in Chan Gailey’s offense.

Pro Comparison— Baby Zeke Elliott

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

No running back solidified his draft stock at the combine like Jonathan Taylor (Thomas). For most of the year, fantasy football enthusiasts and even some of the NFL’s top draft prospects believed Taylor was RB1. However, as the season began to come to an end, something changed. Admittedly, I have a man-crush on Dobbins, and I’m a bit upset he wasn’t able to workout at the combine. But one man was able to seize the moment and solidify himself at the top of many team’s draft boards.

The most concerning thing with Taylor’s game besides the fumbling issues is the 926 times he carried the ball at Wisconsin. However, very few in the history of college football have been as productive as Taylor, who could be the first running back selected in April’s draft. Yes, the NFL is an ever-evolving game, but if there were one back in this class that could be an every-down back, my money would be on Taylor.

At the combine, Taylor ran a 4.39 forty, which was impressive. Sure, we all knew Taylor was a rare breed of power and speed, but anyone that has ever watched his tape NEVER would’ve imagined he’d be that fast. I’m excited to see where Taylor lands, and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he’s a day one draft pick.

Pro ComparisonNick Chubb

D’Andre Swift, Georgia

Before the NFL combine, D’Andre Swift was the top RB on many analysts’ draft boards. I’m not sure if it was Taylor’s impressive performance, or if they went back and saw something on film, but he doesn’t appear to be getting the same amount of love he once was.

I think Swift is going to be a very good RB at the next level. But never did I think he was the most talented back in the class, and I was struggling to put him at #3 with so much top-tier talent in this class. Swift reminds me a lot like former Dolphins’ RB Lamar Miller. I loved Miller during his time with Miami, and if it weren’t for some injury issues in Houston, he might have had a much better career.

Last season, Swift carried the ball 196 times for 1,218 yards and 7 touchdowns. My favorite part of Swift’s game is his patience and ability to break away from the first contact. 50% of his yards came after contact. In the right offense, Swift could be the best back in this class.

Pro Comparison— Supped up Lamar Miller

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

I had to flip a coin between CEH and Cam Akers because I like both players and believe they will be more than capable starters in the NFL. However, what separates CEH from Akers is his versatility. This is no knock against Akers, but I believe CEH is a more well-rounded prospect who can be one of the top RBs in football.

In 2019, CEH carried the ball 215 times for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns. He added 55 receptions for 453 yards and a score. These numbers can’t compare to some of the other backs in this class, but it was still a very productive season nonetheless.

CEH has shown the ability to pass protect and be an asset in the receiving game. He can do it all. And if the Dolphins decide to wait until day two to find the rookie RB they hope to pair alongside Jordan Howard, CEH could be that guy.

Pro ComparisonRay Rice

Cam Akers, Florida State

The best value in this class could come on day two when several capable NFL running backs to land in perfect situations. One of those backs will be Florida State’s Cam Akers, who has the potential to be one of, if not the best, RB in this class.

Akers had a productive career at FSU, despite playing in one of the worst offenses in the country. During his three years at FSU, Akers carried the ball 586 times for 2,875 yards and 69 touchdowns. He also proved to be a dynamic playmaker in the passing game. The truth is, Akers would probably be a first-round pick if he found himself in an offense like Alabama or LSU.

No matter where Akers ends up, I do not doubt he will be one of the better RBs in football sooner rather than later. His physicality, coupled with his speed, makes him a problem in all phases of the game. Whatever team takes a chance on Akers on day 2 will be happy they did.

Pro Comparison— Dollar General Dalvin Cook

Oh, and don’t sleep on Zach Moss, Utah.

Like? Dislike? Let me know in the Comments section below!

Josh Houtz wrote this article. Follow him on Twitter (@houtz)