Rank­ing the tal­ented RBs in the NFL draft

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Nate Davis

Der­rius Guice of LSU, shown at the NFL com­bine in March, is one of sev­eral run­ning backs NFL teams could build around.

USA TO­DAY Sports Weekly takes a po­si­tion-by-po­si­tion look for the April 26-28 NFL draft in Ar­ling­ton, Texas. This week: Run­ning backs. 1. Saquon Barkley, Penn

State (6-0, 233 pounds): If there’s a bet­ter player in this draft, good luck find­ing him. Barkley’s com­bi­na­tion of break­away speed, strength and sweet feet en­able him to run over, through, around and away from de­fend­ers (though he might be wise not to go air­borne quite so of­ten in the NFL). An ev­ery­down player, he racked up more than 3,800 yards over the past two sea­sons, av­er­ag­ing 5.7 yards per carry, and catch­ing 82 passes. A beloved team­mate who seems ca­pa­ble of as­sum­ing a “face of the fran­chise” man­tle, Barkley should have at least as much in­stant im­pact as re­cent first-rounders Todd Gur­ley, Ezekiel El­liott and Leonard Four­nette. He made a mock­ery of the scout­ing com­bine (4.4 40, 29 reps bench-press­ing 225 pounds, 41-inch ver­ti­cal leap and won­der­ful when an­swer­ing ques­tions from the podium). 2. Sony Michel, Ge­or­gia (511, 214): As ubiq­ui­tous as the Alvin Ka­mara com­par­i­son is, it truly is quite apt. Michel isn’t a burner, ei­ther (4.54 40 speed), yet he seems to glide ef­fort­lessly past de­fend­ers. When he is caught from be­hind, it’s usu­ally af­ter im­mense dam­age has al­ready been done. Like Ka­mara, Michel shared his South­east­ern Con­fer­ence work­load, so he’ll en­ter the pros with plenty of tread on the tires. He av­er­aged a gaudy 7.9 yards per carry last year in col­lege foot­ball’s best con­fer­ence and saved his best per­for­mance (222 yards from scrim­mage, four touch­downs) in the Bull­dogs’ Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off semi­fi­nal de­feat of Ok­la­homa. Should be a big­ger re­ceiv­ing threat in NFL. 3. Der­rius Guice, LSU (5-11,

224): How good is he? The Tigers hardly missed Four­nette when Guice re­placed him, par­tially in 2016 and per­ma­nently last year. Ex­pect to see some NFL de­fen­sive backs mak­ing “busi­ness de­ci­sions” when they see him run­ning down­hill in their di­rec­tion. A vi­o­lent but pa­tient run­ner, Guice will re­mind some of Mar­shawn Lynch in his prime. Like Four­nette, he’ll prob­a­bly prove to be a bet­ter re­ceiver with more ca­pa­ble quar­ter­back play. 4. Nick Chubb, Ge­or­gia (511, 227): It’s lazy to pi­geon­hole Chubb, the other half of the record-set­ting duo he formed with Michel, as the be­tween-thetack­les banger. It’s a job he did with a great de­gree of ef­fec­tive­ness, but it’s worth not­ing his timed speed at the com­bine (4.52 in the 40) was ac­tu­ally bet­ter than that of his Bull­dogs wing­man. Chubb also trumps Michel when it comes to ball se­cu­rity. He’ll have to prove he’s more than a two-down player in the NFL, but Chubb could be fan­tas­tic if dropped into a zoneblock­ing sys­tem. In­jury his­tory could ding his stock.

5. Rashaad Penny, San Die

go State (5-11, 220): A man among boys in the Moun­tain West. He led the coun­try by run­ning for 2,248 yards in 2017 and scored 23 TDs on the ground. He also took seven kick­offs to the house over the past three sea­sons. He’s a load when com­bin­ing his size with 4.46 40 speed yet also nim­bly changes di­rec­tion. 6. Ron­ald Jones, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (5-11, 205): He per­son­ally in­vites the in­evitable Ja­maal Charles com­par­isons, which are fu­eled by Jones’ slen- der frame, No. 25 jer­sey and, most im­por­tant, his ex­plo­sive speed and home-run abil­ity (20 TDs in 2017). Can cut on a dime when he needs to. Makes most of down­field block­ing. Will need to show he can as­sume big­ger role as a re­ceiver. Nag­ging ham­string in­jury has curbed pre­draft work­outs. 7. Ker­ryon John­son, Auburn (6-0, 213): Dis­count any player who runs for 18 TDs and nearly 1,400 yards against mostly SEC com­pe­ti­tion at your peril. That said, he doesn’t seem to have an eye-pop­ping at­tribute, and his bas­ket­ball player’s frame might not hold up well in the NFL. 8. Kalen Bal­lage, Ari­zona State (6-2, 228): Very im­pres­sive speed (4.46 at 40) for a man his size, but he wasn’t an es­pe­cially pro­duc­tive player for the Sun Devils. Did catch 44 passes in 2016 and can re­turn kicks. 9. Bo Scar­brough, Alabama (6-1, 228): The Tide’s ver­sion of Der­rick Henry-lite, though Scar­brough isn’t much smaller than his 6-3, 247-pound pre­de­ces­sor. A pun­ish­ing run­ner, too, Scar­brough has also ab­sorbed more than his fair share of in­juries. 10. Royce Free­man, Ore­gon (6-0, 229): Add 4.5 speed to a sturdy build. His 6,435 ca­reer yards from scrim­mage for the Ducks is im­pres­sive, but he’ll en­ter the NFL with more than 1,000 touches on his odome­ter over the past four years. 11. Mark Wal­ton, Mi­ami (Fla.) (5-10, 202): Could im­me­di­ately carve out a spot as a third-down back. Great hands. A bum an­kle lim­ited him to five games last year. 12. Ny­heim Hines, North Carolina State (5-8, 198): Given his likely role as a spe­cialty player, it’s hard to peg his worth. Size is an ob­vi­ous draw­back, but his 4.38 speed will be an en­tice­ment. He might be bet­ter served to play in the slot.

BRIAN SPURLOCK/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Sony Michel is draw­ing com­par­isons to Alvin Ka­mara, the reign­ing NFL rookie of the year.

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