NFL: Draft Top Five Running Back Rankings

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, over the next few days I plan on breaking down the best and brightest talents in this years class. The RB position has a few big names, mostly, the draft has some very unique late round guys. Of all those guys who are the top ones?

1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Pro Comparison: Melvin Gordon Jr.

Jonathan Taylor is the top back in this class. He was the best running back in college football last year. Taylor is THE do it all back in the class. He’s got everything you want in a running back and then some. He’s got high IQ, good elusiveness, good leadership. He’s an excellent back and could really be one of the safest playmakers in the draft overall. Taylor would have an expected value of being at a level similar to Gordon. If he lives up to his potential and then some, he can outplay this comp. Taylor is a can’t miss pick at running back.

2. JK Dobbins, Ohio State

Pro Comparison: Le’Veon Bell

Dobbins is far and away my favorite back in this class. He’s a fierce runner, patient, elusive and has phenomenal vision. Dobbins is a do it all back. He’s got potential to be a lead back very shortly. Dobbins has such a patient and violent running tactic that Bell is a great comparison for him. Dobbins would be very high on my board if I was a GM based on tape, which leads me to wonder why he’s not as highly rated by the general media.

3. D’Andre Swift, Georgia

Pro Comparison: Alvin Kamara

Swift is well, swift. He’s a really elusive back who excels in open space. He’s got a game breaking ability with the ball in his hands. He’s good catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s also very good in open space. Swift would be a great back in a lot of offenses immediately. There’s not a lot of questions with him. How his game will translate to the next level shouldn’t be a question because Georgia is a running back factory. Swift reminds me of Kamara because of his success in open space.

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

Pro Comparison: Ray Rice

Helaire is maybe my 2nd favorite back in this class. Helaire flashed signs of his full potential last year in an offense where Joe Burrow stole the headlines. Helaire is a really good back and he can be a lead back in an offense at some point soon. Every LSU staffer and teammate has given him rave reviews, they’ve even said he’s still capable of much more. Helaire and his running style reminds me heavily of vintage Ray Rice. Helaire has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see him at the next level. The only question marks revolve around whether or not he can truly fulfill that potential or if he just succeeded because of the talent of his quarterback.

5. LaMical Perine, Florida

Pro Comparison: Tj Yeldon

Perine is a very strong running back. He dominated the bench press and flashed strength. He does lack that incredible burst. Perine is more of a do it all back capable of grinding out yardage. Perine is very similar to Tj Yeldon in the sense of being able to pick up 1st downs as a grind out yardage back. Perine can be a very productive back out of a committee. Perine has a lot of questions, the biggest being if he can develop into a more elusive back. If not than he’ll be an above around ground and pound back at best. 

New York Jets Mock Draft 1.0 Rounds 1-3

The Jets officially locked down their position for the 2020 draft. They could have a compensatory pick added if the Giants bring back Leonard Williams but for the time being, this is where they’ll pick. Using The Draft Network Mock Draft Simulator and taking the best players at each position based on needs, potential, and more here is an early projection of what the Jets draft could look like.

Round 1 Pick 11: CeeDee Lamb WR Oklahoma

Robby Anderson seems inclined to look for the best possible destination to play both competitive football and get paid around $10 million a year. It remains to be seen whether or not the Jets will bring him back next year. With or without him on the roster, CeeDee Lamb would be an excellent addition. In this scenario, all three premier offensive line prospects were off the board. Lamb was the most talented player available and he projects to be a Deandre Hopkins Esque wideout at the next level. His route running could be improved but he’s a dynamic number one receiver type who can stretch the field and provide significant YAC potential with every catch. Adding Lamb would be an excellent weapon in Darnold’s arsenal for the future.

Round 2 Pick 48: Mekhi Becton OT Louisville

Adding Becton, especially in the second round would be a STEAL. Becton is a 6’7 369-pound beast who could immediately provide an upgrade at left tackle. Becton has the potential to be a Star left tackle who can produce in a big way at the next level. His size makes him an excellent pass protector and his mauling style of blocking makes him a beast in the run game. Adding Becton would be the type of move that would immediately gain Joe Douglas a lot of fans.

Round 3 Pick 68: Zack Baun EDGE Wisconsin

Zack Baun can be the type of piece that Gregg Williams would have a lot of fun with. He plays with a lot of heart and has a very high football IQ. He’s a smart pass rusher and a damn good one. He had 12.5 sacks last year for Wisconsin and deserves significant Draft attention. Baun is not a perfect player but he’s the kind of player with the potential to be a captain of the defense in the future and play a TJ Watt style role in the defense. Baun would be a great pick for the Jets at 68 and would immediately slot in as a rotational pass rusher.

Round 3 Pick 78: Najee Harris RB Alabama

If Lev Bell is still in the picture come April the Jets may be reluctant to take a half back. However, I don’t foresee Bell being a Jet come April. Najee Harris is the next good running back churned out of a school that’s produced so many talented backs over the past few years. He’s never been a lead back and if Bell is still around he would be a good complementary back. If he is the lead back then he will need to grow into the role over time and develop as a pass-catcher. Overall though he’s a talented running back with good size. He reminds me of Matt Forte and if he can be any bit as good as him then the Jets will have found themselves a nice weapon for Sam Darnold.

Summary of Rounds 1-3

The key point of the first three rounds was getting protection and weaponry for Darnold that will grow with him as well as adding an edge rusher with a lot of potential at the next level.

Heisman Watch: Make Or Break Game For Jonathan Taylor

This will be a big weekend for some of the best players in the Big Ten. Penn State’s quarterback Trace McSorley stayed alive in the Heisman running by putting in a good performance in the loss against Ohio State, and will return to action this week. OSU’s Dwayne Haskins Jr. will have a chance to continue racking up touchdowns, against a Minnesota team that has already lost both conference games.

But Jonathan Taylor, the prolific running back from Wisconsin? He might have the most to gain or lose this Saturday, when his Badgers play Michigan in a Saturday night clash. Wisconsin’s loss to BYU hit them hard and sent them out of the top ten, and since then, they’ve been recovering their old rank slowly. If they want to get back to where they were, they’ll have to win tonight.

Their opponent is a fellow top fifteen team that’s a couple of spots above them in the rankings, and this is their chance to continue their climb. Michigan is also one of only two ranked teams on the remaining part of the schedule. Lose here, and their only other ranked game will be the one against Penn State.

It’s important for the team as a whole but especially for Taylor, who needs big performances against big names to win the Heisman. He’s coming off of his second straight game of 200 or more yards, but when talking about the top players in the country, that number is devalued a bit because of the level of competition. After all, Nebraska’s defense is awful this year, and the team as a whole is 0-5 at the moment.

Michigan, though, has enough names on their defense to make a big rushing performance against them notable. Defensive end Rashan Gary is expected to be a high pick in the NFL Draft, and defensive lineman Chase Winovich already has 29 tackles at this point in the season. That includes 9.5 tackles for a loss, and three sacks. Michigan has considerably more quality than Nebraska, and this game will also be watched by many more people.

It’s the kind of game that can give someone momentum in the race for the Heisman. If Taylor falls flat, the narrative could be that he can’t play against ranked teams. None of Wisconsin’s opponents until this point have been ranked, after all. Another strong game, though? That would bring national attention back to Wisconsin and back to Taylor, and it would look great to the Heisman voters.

It’s a make or break game for both teams. But let’s not forget that, while this is a team sport, there’s some implications for the top individual trophy in the nation too. It’s time to see if Jonathan Taylor can keep doing it against not just another top fifteen team, but one of the top defenses in the conference and the country.

Highlights: Two Big Ten Teams Go Down In Big Upsets

Three weeks into the college football season, and we’ve already seen plenty of great close games and upsets that few would have predicted before they happened. Week three didn’t disappoint in that area, with teams around the country going down to unexpected foes. The Big Ten in specific had a couple of the most notable upsets, as both Wisconsin and Nebraska fell.

#6 Wisconsin vs BYU

Wisconsin probably needed to run the table to get into the College Football Playoff. They missed out last season, and it was directly because of their loss in the conference title game. It was a decision that was debated for months after it happened, but in the end, the strength of schedule just wasn’t good enough for Wisconsin to reach the playoff despite losing to the winner of the east.

This season, though, getting to the Playoff might just be a distant dream for the Badgers. Entering the game as the sixth ranked team in the country, they didn’t go down to a tough conference opponent. No, they went down against an unranked BYU team in a loss that won’t look good to the voters. Will they bounce back? Was the performance at least a good one, despite the loss?

Check out the highlights above and decide for yourself.

Nebraska vs Troy

The Scott Frost era isn’t off to a good start. First, the Huskers loss starting quarterback Adrian Martinez to injury and lost to their old rivals from Colorado. Now, replacement quarterback Andrew Bunch couldn’t do enough to win the game in Martinez’s absence, as Nebraska lost at home to Conference USA opponents Troy.

Really, Nebraska just handed Troy a decent amount of money to come to Lincoln and beat them in front of a stunned set of fans. Special teams made a difference as Troy returned a punt for a touchdown, one that would eventually ensure they had enough points to survive through the end of the game. Check it out above, and decide for yourself if it’s the biggest upset of the weekend.

Wisconsin Football: How Do The Bagders Stack Up vs WKU?

College football is coming. It’s less than two weeks before the start of the season, and the Wisconsin Badgers are one of the teams that will begin play on August 31st. Wisconsin is the favorite in the Big Ten West division and is the fourth ranked team in the AP poll right now, one spot above early conference favorites Ohio State.

But how does Wisconsin match up with the first opponent on the schedule?

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are the first team on the schedule for Wisconsin. The Hilltoppers aren’t exactly a team from a glamorous conference, or one that fans of big time conferences will be familiar with. They went 4-4 in Conference USA last year, with a 6-7 overall record when everything was said and done.

The season didn’t end on a good note for them either, as they lost 27-17 to Georgia State in the Cure Bowl. Their starting quarterback, Mike White, was good enough to get drafted in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year. While that’s good for White and while it raises the profile of the program a bit, it’s not optimal for WKU.

They lost a player that threw for 4,177 yards last year along with 26 touchdowns, and the second most experienced quarterback from last season is fifth year senior Drew Eckels, who only attempted eleven passes during all of last year. According to head coach Mike Sanford, though, all of the quarterbacks on the team fit the system well.

But it’s not just the Badgers defense that could give WKU trouble. The Hilltoppers allowed an average of 2.1 rushing touchdowns per game, in stark contrast to Wisconsin’s 0.5 average. Jonathan Taylor rushed for nearly 2,000 yards last year, and is expected to improve on his performances from 2017 after picking up more experience as a college player.

Most power five teams struggle to contain Taylor, so it wouldn’t be a risky bet to guess than Wisconsin could finish with more than the two rushing touchdowns that WKU’s opponents averaged last season. Especially after their leading tackler, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, was taken 115th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Senior Masai Whyte will have to step up to replace him, but Whyte’s 63 tackles last season don’t come close to Iyiegbuniwe’s 117.

This is still a rebuilding phase for the Hilltoppers and their tepid running game, which had no gains of more than 20 yards last season, might be the nail in the coffin for their chances of making it a competitive game.

They’ll show up with their best effort, but Wisconsin is more talented in every area and it’s going to be hard for Western Kentucky to even score on a Badgers defense that has redshirt seniors Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards at inside linebacker as well as redshirt senior D’Cota Dixon at free safety.

Even if they do find a way, it will be hard to prevent Jonathan Taylor from running wild and boosting his Heisman chances during the first game of the season.

Prediction: Wisconsin Bagders 48 – 6 WKU Hilltoppers