We continue our Post-Senior Bowl Pre-NFL Combine breakdown of the top 5 prospects at each position. Last week we highlighted quarterbacks, inside linebackers, and outside linebackers. Today we take a look at the running back position.
Carlos Hyde leads the unit as the premier running back on the team, and with Kyle Shanahan in the mix, Hyde's talent has the opportunity to be fully unearthed. The question with Hyde is durability, and with the bruising style of running he embraces, a full season of Hyde pounding the rock has been a goal he has yet accomplished. Finding a complimentary running back to Hyde's power is expected, and with only Mike Davis and Raheem Mostert the only other running backs under contract heading into the 2017 season (provided they don't get cut by a roster purge), adding another running back into the mix is greatly needed.
Free agency is definitely a possibility to fill this need with our own Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris (RFA) likely hoping to make a return to the organization. Other names being thrown around such as Isaiah Crowell (RFA), Chris Thompson (RFA), Mike Gillislee (RFA), Rex Burkhead, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Andre Ellington among others are some of the potential free agent running backs that may want to join Shanahan's dynamic offense. However, it's the new crop of a deep and talented rookie running backs class poised to make their marks in the NFL, where the 49ers will likely do their due diligence in combing through the prospects determining if one of these ball carriers will be the complimentary 1-2 punch to Carlos Hyde. I highlight the top 5 running backs in play.
RB Leonard Fournette, No. 7, 6'1" - 235 lbs., 4.42 40 - (1st) - LSU
Fournette's 2016 season stats: In 7 games 129 rushing attempts for 843 yards averaging 6.5 yards per rush and 8 touchdowns. Completed 15 receptions for 146 receiving yards averaging 9.7 yards per reception.
RB Leonard Fournette is a dynamic runner with a perfect combination of size, strength, and speed. The junior bestows amazing vision, sound instincts, and a bruising downhill running style rumbling between-the-tackles like a runaway freight train with impressive long-speed and agility. A freak of an athlete, the junior squats 528 pounds and cleans 352, with a blazing 4.42 40 speed. Already the fourth-leading rusher in school history, Fournette is a workhorse out of the backfield with an excellent worth ethic and versatility to be a dominant running back at the next level. Lacks ideal lateral movement and has fair change of direction skills in tight areas (making consecutive moves in a short area is not his strong suit); however, Fournette wins with a full steam of ground ahead of him punishing defenders with his physicality (nasty stiff arm) and separating with great speed. Shows good effort in pass protection with the physicality to excel in the area, but needs consistency; moreover, he shows good hands catching the ball out of the backfield. Medical is an area of concern with Fournette suffering from a chronic ankle injury that may need surgery in the future.
Round Projection: 1st
RB Dalvin Cook, No. 4, 5'11" - 206 lbs., 4.46 40 - (1st) - Florida State
Cook's 2016 season stats: In 13 games 288 rushing attempts for 1,765 yards averaging 6.1 yards per rush and 19 touchdowns. Completed 33 receptions for 488 receiving yards averaging 14.8 yards per reception and 1 touchdown.
RB Dalvin Cook is a dominant threat for the Seminoles and is arguably one of the best running backs in the nation. Cook displays a smoothness to his game with excellent instincts, versatility, and big-play waiting to happen at any time threat. His vision, patience, and feel for the game are tremendously impressive, showcasing a nice suddenness in traffic with elite tackle-breaking slippery skills similar to a snake sliding through the grass, and the capacity to hit the home run whenever he touches the ball. Cook showcases an excellent ability to run inside and outside (excellent lateral agility) making consecutive moves in a short area and does not break down when making cuts. Displays great skills as a pass catcher extending arms to make the catch, and does a fair job in pass protection (area in need of improvement). Cook's amazing talent, determined work ethic, and desire for continued improvement will bode well for him at the next level. Shows the versatility to succeed in both zone and gap schemes. My favorite running back in this years’ draft class.
Round Projection: 1st
RB Christian McCaffrey, No. 5, 6'0" - 202 lbs., 4.48 40 - (1st) - Stanford
McCaffrey's 2016 season stats: In 11 games 253 rushing attempts for 1,603 yards averaging 6.3 yards per rush and 13 touchdowns. Completed 37 receptions for 310 receiving yards averaging 8.4 yards per reception and 3 touchdowns. Completed 14 kick returns for 318 yards averaging 22.7 yards per kick return. Completed 10 punt returns for 96 yards averaging 9.6 yards per punt return.
RB Christian McCaffrey is a true versatile player bestowing a perfect blend of athleticism, explosion, balance, foot quickness, and agility, combined with tremendous patience and vision that would make Frank Gore proud. A dynamic threat in all offensive facets of the game, the junior showcases a home run threat whenever he touches the ball displaying great speed (gets to full speed in a hurry), impressive hands (natural pass catcher), and the elusiveness to step-out-of and break tackles consistently. Moreover, he's adept at running downhill with excellent pad-level and suddenness, and the superb vision and patience to find the cutbacks on zone runs. Displays great skills in the passing game with good route running (runs crisp routes) and suddenness with the ability to break in and out of his cuts separating from defenders. A versatile and dynamic chess piece that can be utilized to take advantage of the defense's weaknesses. A high production complimentary running back bringing value in the return game.
Round Projection: 1st
RB Joe Mixon, No. 25, 6'1" - 226 lbs., 4.52 40 - (2nd-6th) - Oklahoma
Mixon's 2016 season stats: In 12 games 187 rushing attempts for 1,274 yards averaging 6.8 yards per rush and 10 touchdowns. Completed 37 receptions for 538 receiving yards averaging 14.5 yards per reception and 5 touchdowns. Completed 21 kick returns for 494 yards averaging 23.5 yards per kick return and 1 touchdown. Completed 4 punt returns for 25 yards averaging 6.3 yards per punt return.
RB Joe Mixon is arguably one of the premier running backs in college football on talent alone. He displays a perfect combination of power, fluidity, explosion, athleticism, and speed. Mixon excels with vision, patience, and instincts, displaying an innate ability to feel pressure quickly reacting with quick-twitch athleticism making consecutive moves in a short area (excellent foot quickness), jump cuts with impressive balance and agility, superb lateral movement with top-notch change of direction skills being elusive in traffic. Displays excellent inside running ability with great burst maintaining good pad level (inconsistent) hitting the hole with explosion and physicality. Runs outside with great speed and vision bursting to daylight with another gear to separate. Breaks tackles with quickness, balance, power, and a violent stiff arm. Showcasing excellent skills as a natural pass catcher with strong reliable hands and the ability to run crisp routes displaying terrific suddenness with the ability to break in and out of cuts separating from defenders. Shows great effort as a willing blocker with good power. Mixon is a complete running back with the versatility to be in the slot as an effective receiver allowing him to be a continual threat to hit the home run whenever he touches the ball. Brings value in the return game.
Off-field issues are serious. Suspended during the 2014 season after violently punching a female student, fracturing four bones in her face. Mixon was also suspended one game during the 2016 season for allegedly tearing up a parking ticket in view of a parking attendant. Mixon has first-round talent on the field, but off-field issues will sink his draft stock.
Round Projection: 2nd - 6th
RB Alvin Kamara, No. 6, 5'10" - 215 lbs., 4.55 40 - (2nd) - Tennessee
Kamara's 2016 season stats: In 11 games 103 rushing attempts for 596 yards averaging 5.8 yards per rush and 9 touchdowns. Completed 40 receptions for 392 receiving yards averaging 9.8 yards per reception and 4 touchdowns. Completed 18 punt returns for 184 yards averaging 10.2 yards per punt return.
RB Alvin Kamara is an explosive slashing running back knifing his way through holes with excellent vision, awareness, quickness, smoothness, physicality, speed, and burst. A slippery running back that carves his way through defenders easily changing direction with light quick feet, amazing balance and agility with impressive elusiveness (quality movement making consecutive moves in a short area). Displays great inside running ability cutting his way through defenders getting low and through the cracks with terrific pad level hitting the hole with power behind his pads, quick-twitch foot speed, and the explosion to break to daylight. Displays superb lateral movement excelling at reaching the edge with impressive burst and shows patience and quickness to stab through gaps exploding to top speed in a hiccup. Outstanding in the passing game as a natural receiver with great clean route running skills, soft reliable hands extending arms to make the catch, and superb suddenness with the ability to break in and out of of his cuts separating from defenders quickly erupting upfield with impressive acceleration. As a receiver, Kamara displays the ability to take a short pass and run after the catch with a big gain. Shows solid effort in pass protection. Brings value in the return game.
Round Projection: 2nd
Stats courtesy of College Football at Sports Reference.