As I continue my scouting reports for the 2021 draft class, I now move to my top five 2021 running back prospects– as voted by the fans on Twitter. Running backs are normally not taken until round two these days — even according to many sports betting sites — but that does not mean they don’t still have a huge impact on the game. So without further ado, here are my top five college running backs for the 2021 NFL draft.
1. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Height: 6’1 Weight: 207
- Great at getting through the line of scrimmage.
- Underrated return game, had over 500 kick return yards in 2018.
- Is very good in the open field at making defenders miss.
- Needs to work on his pass blocking. There is a theme to college backs not being able to pass block very well, but it is a vital skill for an NFL running back.
- Is not a very good pass catcher, and in today’s NFL that is pretty close to a must.
- Lacks great vision, and sometimes outruns his blockers on sweep and trap plays, making his pulling Guard useless.
2. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Height: 5’10 Weight: 210
- Can get to his top speed (which is fast) in three to four steps.
- Very agile and can make the first defender miss.
- Great hands out of the backfield, teams will try to get this kid the ball in any way.
- He is a below average pass blocker.
- Has had some issues with not being physical enough, sometimes he can be brought down by arm tackles.
- Poor vision between the tackles, does not tend to find the second option on a play inside if the designed hole was not opened.
3. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Height: 6’2 Weight: 230
- Hard to bring down one on one, not often at all that the first defender brings him down.
- Solid pass blocker, not only does he do this well, he makes it look easy.
- His footwork is special for a guy his size; someone with his height and weight should not be able to move like he does.
- Struggles while changing directions.
- Catches a fair amount of passes with his body, he needs to get better at using his hands in the passing game.
- Lacks top end speed, after he breaks past the line he can be caught from behind by defenders.
4. Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Height: 5’11 Weight: 183
- Natural hands, Gainwell is most likely the best pass catcher in this draft class.
- Can line up in the slot and won’t miss a beat.
- Runs strong and with low pad level, can turn a loss into a gain.
- Lack of break away speed. He is very quick and has burst, but his long distance speed could be better.
- Like many others on this list, his pass protection needs to improve. This may be his weakest area overall.
- Small sample size. I would like to have seen more of him, however he only has 18 total college games under his belt.
5. Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville
Height: 5’7 Weight: 196
- Game changing speed and electrifying quickness to hit a hole and be gone to the end zone.
- Can make defenders miss in space and will not be caught from behind.
- Is rarely used in the passing game, but does need to be accounted for when he runs a route.
- Vision, he sometimes cuts into the defenders… or his own offensive lineman.
- Strength, if you can catch him he is pretty easy to be brought down.
- Small sample size like Gainwell, with only 16 college games played.
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