The Running Back position in the 2017 NFL Draft is deep. So deep that I had to come back and do a part 2. Part 1 featured big names such as Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette, the two backs favorited to be off the board first, as well Christian McCaffrey and some others. In part 2 we’ll dive a little deeper into this year’s crop of Running Backs and who could be a fit for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jeremy McNichols. Boise State: Buy.
At first glance I was really turned off by McNichols, mostly due to his size (5’9” 212 lbs.) and the fact that he didn’t play in a Power 5 Conference. However, after digging deeper I found that there’s a lot to like about the kid from Boise State. When drawing a comparison to current NFL players fellow Boise State Broncos Doug Martin and Jay Ajayai come to mind, not bad company. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,337 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he also caught 51 balls for 460 yards and 6 touchdowns. He improved on his numbers in 2016, rushing for 1,709 yards and 23 touchdowns while also catching 37 passes for 474 yards and 4 touchdowns. The production is there for McNichols, and due to his lack of draft buzz it’s possible he could fall to rounds 3-5. If he’s still there that late it makes sense for the Jaguars to pull the trigger if they haven’t pulled it on a Running Back already.
Joe Williams. Utah: Sell.
Sell. Sell. Sell. Williams is gaining a bit of attention after his appearance in the East-West Shrine Game but there are simply way too many issues surrounding Williams to take a chance on him. First let’s look at his 2016 stats: 210 carries for 1,407 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he didn’t find the end zone until Utah’s seventh game of the season at Oregon State. However, that’s probably because Williams “retired” for a month after the first two games of the season where he rushed the ball a combined 22 times for 75 yards and 0 touchdowns. His commitment to the game is highly questionable, his ball security is shaky, he’s a non-factor on third down, and he very rarely catches the ball out of the backfield. I see Williams being an undrafted free agent at best.
De’Veon Smith. Michigan: Sell.
Smith is making some noise and putting together some solid practices at the Senior Bowl, but at the end of the day just simply doesn’t do it for me. In 2016 he failed to hit the 1,000-yard mark rushing, reaching just 846 yards on 181 attempts and 10 touchdowns while only breaking 100 yards in three games. Additionally, his receiving game is also sub-par, Smith reeled in 16 passes for 66 yards and 0 touchdowns. However, to Smith’s credit he does have fantastic vision is a no-nonsense north-south runner, but he simply doesn’t possess the speed or play making ability to escape NFL linebackers. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone took a chance on him in the 6th or 7th round to add depth to their roster, but that team almost certainly won’t be Jacksonville.
Corey Clement. Wisconsin: Sell.
The running back from Wisconsin did have a productive 2016 season, rushing 314 times for 1,375 yards and finding the end zone 15 times. He missed just one game, broke 100 yards in eight games, and played on a team that finished 11-3 in the Big 10. With that being said, you may be asking why sell then? I’m selling on Clement because although he’s an absolute bull of a runner, weighing in at 5’11” and 227 lbs. that’s all he has going for him, and in the NFL that isn’t enough. Clement relies on his strength and size to run the ball, and often times can’t get into the second level of the defense. I think that the Running Back position being so deep at the 2017 draft hurts Clement and he gets drafted between rounds 4-7, but the Jaguars can do better.
Kareem Hunt. Toledo: Buy.
Hunt is listed as a bigger back, 6’1” 225 lbs. but what makes him so deadly is that he’s built like a power runner, but possesses the speed of a smaller Running Back. He’s one of those high-motor guys who never stops churning his feet, and he has the stats to prove it. In 2016 Hunt rushed the ball 262 times for 1,475 yards and 10 touchdowns, and unlike some of the other backs on this list, Hunt can catch out of the backfield. In addition to his impressive running stats Hunt caught 41 passes last year for 403 yards and a touchdown. His big frame allows him to use the stiff arm effectively and often times it requires multiple defenders to bring him down once he breaks into the second and third levels of the defense. I think the Hunt could be an excellent addition to the Jaguars’ depth chart if they can pull the trigger on him at the right time.
Alvin Kamara. Tennessee: Buy.
Kamara is a guy whose stats don’t blow you away at first glance, rushing 103 times for 596 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2016. However, he also caught 40 balls for 392 yards and another 4 touchdowns, averaging a touchdown a game between running and receiving. What’s even more impressive is that he only started 8 of his 24 games played at Tennessee and still managed to put up more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his two years as a Vol. To me the most impressive thing about Kamara isn’t his stats, or his explosive ability with the ball in his his hands, it’s his commitment to the game and his leadership. Kamara conducts himself with professionalism off the field and on the field embraced his role as captain and led his team to a win in the Music City Bowl against Nebraska. The kid isn’t even in the NFL yet and he’s already showing signs of veteran leadership.
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