The position has been devalued in recent years as there was not a singled running back taken in the first round for the second straight year and when Bishop Sankey was taken with the 54th pick in this year’s draft it marked the lastest a running back had even been selected.
A running back shouldn’t figure to have to wait as long as Sankey this year or Giovani Bernard two years ago as we could see one-three backs taken in the first round.
The top senior running back on Kiper’s list is Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska who enters this season as the active FBS leader in yards from scrimmage as a valuable receiver out of the backfield in addition to being a highly productive rusher.
Karlos Williams from Florida State emerged as a force in the Seminoles loaded backfield last season with an eight yards-per-carry average at 220 pounds and could contend for the top spot by season’s end.
Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford comes in third and after beginning his career on defense for the Spartans continues to improve. The Big Ten features a few good draft prospects at running back and Langford may be the biggest secret.
Corey Grant was a big-play threat in the Auburn backfield last year and could see a breakout season in store for him with Tre Mason in the NFL. Terrence Magee also played in the shadow of an NFL draft pick as he was the understudy to Jeremy Hill at LSU last season. Each of these SEC backs will continue to fight for respect this season and throughout the pre-draft process.
As intriguing as the seniors are at the position, the best prospects are underclassmen with Georgia’s Todd Gurley the favorite to be the first back taken in next year’s draft, assuming he declares for the draft, which is an awfully safe assumption. He could be the first running back since Mark Ingram to win the Heisman if he stays healthy and leads the Bulldogs to the SEC title.
Following up Gurley is Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon who could have been the first back taken in the 2014 draft. He averaged 7.8 yards per rush last season as a redshirt sophomore and should be the latest in a long line of productive backs in Madison. He is a home run hitter in every sense of the word.
T.J. Yeldon could leave Alabama as the program’s all-time leading rusher and comes in at No. 3 on Kiper’s list with fellow SEC back Mike Davis of South Carolina coming in at No. 4. The trio of Gurley, Yeldon and Davis will be a fun race to see who leads the SEC in rushing.
Rounding out Kiper’s best underclassmen running backs is Duke Johnson of Miami who is recovering from a broken ankle, but is perhaps the best receiver on the list and Byron Marshall from Oregon and Jamaal Williams from BYU.
This year’s class features a great deal of star power and could break the mold in recent years of teams waiting to draft running backs until the middle rounds.
Who do you think will be the first running back taken in the 2015 NFL Draft? Who was the biggest snub from Kiper’s list?
Sound off in the comments section below with your thought.