Today, I want to go a little deeper into the draft. What happens if the Dolphins don’t take a running back early? Well the second tier of running backs is worth a look too. The NFL is filled with productive running backs that aren’t early picks. There’s no reason to think 2020 will not have a productive day 3 pick. That may be the direction the Dolphins go after the Jordan Howard signing. Or they make take more than one back in the draft. All these picks are expected to go anywhere from late second round to the later rounds of Day 3.
AJ Dillon is one of my favorite backs to watch. A throwback running back who looks for contact. And why should’t he? At 6’0, 250 lbs, he is one of the biggest bruisers of this class. He’s a load to bring down and he knows it. Dillon is a classic downhill runner.
This of course comes with all the expected weaknesses of this type of runner. He’s not a great receiver and doesn’t have exceptional acceleration. But Dillon will move the pile if you need him to. And he does have the kind of balance and vision to break tackles and get some big runs. I expect Dillon to be drafted in Day 3.
The polar opposite of Dillon is Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin. Almost 50 pounds lighter than Dillon he is a more balanced running back. Benjamin had 42 catches in 2019 and 82 in his career at Arizona State. But don’t let that mislead you, Benjamin does not project as a 3rd down back. He’s just a solid athletic low center of gravity runner who is always productive. Why is he a day 3 pick? Well not only is he a bit undersized, but he also doesn’t have break away speed. He ran a 4.57 40 at the combine.
Eno Benjamin reminds me a lot of a running back we already have on our roster, Miles Gaskin, but with a lot less wear and tear. And the one thing about him that is a real plus for this piggy, is that his name really lends itself to the conch….Enooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
That brings me to the most difficult running back this year to evaluate – Cam Akers. You have to respect a running back who was still productive on
a really bad team with a really bad offensive line. It kills this piggy to point out how bad FSU’s offensive line was – but it was, and what it lead to was a lot of hits behind the line of scrimmage on Akers runs. Akers still managed to gain over 1,100 yards and averaged 5 yards a carry. There’s been plenty of productive NFL running backs who played on bad college teams. That may be what Akers becomes. He’s has the physical ability, at 5’10, 217 pounds and he finished 5th among running backs in the 40 yard dash at the combine (4.47).
Cam Akers has all the skills. In fact, if FSU was a little better this year, we might be talking about Akers as the best back in the draft now. But he is such a tough evaluation because he suffered from a really bad offensive line at FSU. His weaknesses are also notable fumbles and some poor pass protection – but take that with a grain of salt given how bad the FSU’s offensive line played in 2019. I think Akers goes in the late second round or early third, He’s probably the first guy taken off this list.
Back to the little guys – Maryland’s Anthony McFarland, Jr. (no relation to Booger as far as I know) is your prototypical running back that needs space to operate. If you are looking for a running back that runs between the tackles…scroll up. But don’t forget this running back who is more Reggie Bush than Earl Campbell. He’s small at 5’8 and under 200 pounds but one of the faster prospects, running a 4.44 at the combine.
McFarland was much more productive in 2018 than 2019. In 2018 he had a very impressive game against Ohio State that opened a lot of eyes having multiple big runs. And that’s where McFarland makes his money – on big runs. He was actually underutilized at Maryland, so he doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear. McFarland may give an NFL team a good change of pace runner and also a special teams contributor.
The bottom line is that there is so much depth in this draft at running back I may even be apple to do a Part 3!