Davis Mattek’s Pre-Combine 2019 NFL Draft Top Five RB Rankings
In our last feature, we went over my Top Five pre-combine Wide Receivers for the 2019 NFL Draft. Those players will be massively important for our future Fantasy teams and for their real NFL teams. Now we are going to shift focus to my Top Five pre-combine Running Back rankings. These players will not (hopefully) be selected as high in the real NFL Draft but will actually likely be more immediately important for our Fantasy Football teams, both Dynasty and seasonal. In fact, with Best Ball drafts already happening, some of these running backs are important now for seasonal Fantasy!
These rankings are likely to change after the NFL combine takes place but with the information at hand, here are my Top Five running backs of the 2019 NFL Draft class.
- David Montgomery, Iowa State
Montgomery is likely to be the third running back selected in the NFL draft behind the two Alabama backs, but I prefer Montgomery as a player. Montgomery was a true workhorse in college, which diminishes his shelf life as an NFL player a little bit but shows that he is capable of being a multi-dimensional and useful pro player. In three seasons at Iowa State, Montgomery racked up 624 carries (with two seasons of more than 250 carries) and caught 71 passes. It is always a plus when a college runner is also seeing multiple targets per game and Montgomery falls into that category. There is an off-chance that Montgomery runs a slower-than-average 40 time at the NFL combine and that would cause him to fall for me, but his impressive open field ability at Iowa State leaves me hopeful.
- Damien Harris, Alabama
These two Alabama running backs are just hard to get a clear picture on. Harris played for four seasons at Bama but never topped 150 carries and caught only 52 passes in those four years. His yards per carry of 6.4 while playing in the toughest defensive conference in the nation is what has scouts buzzing; he actually had seven games at Alabama with over 10 yards per carry! Alabama running backs generally carry extreme cache when heading to the NFL. Mark Ingram, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, and Eddie Lacy are all recent names to be drafted and used by NFL teams as lead backs. Harris is a smaller back, weighing under 200 pounds, and if his agility scores come out positive at the combine, he could fit what NFL teams are really valuing in running backs in 2019 in terms of catching passes out of the backfield and being used in jet motion.
- Josh Jacobs, Alabama
The amount of love that Jacobs is getting from scouts is a little perplexing to me. If I was running an NFL front office, the next two players on this list would be getting more love as Day Two picks in the NFL draft. However, opportunity is the most important thing for future NFL running backs and it seems NFL player personnel people believe that Jacobs is the real deal. He received only 251 carries in his time at Alabama but did catch 48 passes; that is basically the same as former Alabama product Kenyan Drake, who had 233 carries and 46 receptions in college. If NFL scouts view Jacobs like they did Drake, a college backup who was fast and had real NFL upside, then that does make sense. The fact that Jacobs has very little wear and tear is very appealing to NFL teams and weighs considerably in my rankings here.
- Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Henderson had an absolutely stellar final season at Memphis. He carried the ball 214 times but gained over 1,900 yards and averaged 8.9 yards per carry! In fact in his whole college career, Henderson averaged 8.2 yards per carry and 12 yards per reception. When I see players who are so clearly dominant over their competition, even at a smaller school and athletic conference like Henderson at Memphis, it is a hugely positive signal. Henderson is projected to run a 40 time of right around 4.5, and if he runs that with above-average agility numbers, I would have no problem making him my top-ranked running back of this class. That is how impressive his production profile is.
- Benny Snell, Kentucky
Much like Henderson, Benny Snell is a smaller school player who racked up pretty incredible production over his time in college. Snell played three seasons at Kentucky, where players are generally at a disadvantage over the course of their conference play due to competing in the SEC. The most wins Snell ever had in college was 10 in his final year in 2018. He led the team in carries all three of his college seasons, averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored 48 touchdowns in 39 games. Unfortunately, he was not really used as a pass-catcher at Kentucky, with only 29 receptions over those 39 games. Snell is another player who is getting a lot of buzz from NFL scouts and the analytics community; he really fits the bill as a player who an analytics-based profiler would like. He broke out at a young age, never suffered a long-term injury or a lack of performance over three seasons.
Damien Harris Featured Image via Thomson200