Browns, NFL Draft

An early glance at the running back class in the 2018 NFL Draft

The Browns are 0-8 and have little to look forward to for the rest of the season. So, what are Browns fans to do in the last eight weeks of the season? Well have no fear, we have an answer! The 2018 NFL Draft.

The Browns future revolves around the 2018 NFL Draft, making it one of the most important drafts the organization has faced in its history. So, its time to start turning our attention to what the 2018 NFL Draft will look like.

Over the next many weeks, Jake Burns and Joe Gilbert will take a look at the draft and give their insights on each of the class’ positions. Jake and Joe will give their early top five for each position and answer some questions about the position’s class. We begin our position previews with the running back class. Let’s take a look!

Joe Gilbert’s Top 5 RBsJake Burns’ Top 5 RBs
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. Bryce Love, Stanford2. Bryce Love, Stanford
3. Ronald Jones II, USC3. Derrius Guice, LSU
4. Derrius Guice, LSU4. Ronald Jones II, USC
5. John Kelly, Tennessee5. Sony Michel, Georgia


Best of the Rest: Rashaad Penny (San Diego State), LJ Scott (Michigan State), Phillip Lindsay (Colorado), Damien Harris (Alabama), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Akrum Wadley (Iowa), Josh Adams (Notre Dame), Bo Scarbough (Alabama) and Kalen Ballage (Arizona State).

Why do you have Saquon Barkley the No. 1 running back in the class?

Joe: I have Saquon Barkley of Penn State as my No. 1 running back in the class because I think he is one of the more complete and best backs to come out over the past decade. His balance and elusiveness are elite. He is built like a tank, giving him the ability to be a power back, along with an elusive one. He can beat you with his power or elusiveness. I also like his ability to make plays in the pass game as a receiver and on special teams as a returner. He can be a backbone of an offense.

Jake: I think Saquon Barkley is about as dynamic as they come. It’s probably best to draw a comparison to an elite running back who Barkley keeps being closely compared: Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot is just a bit faster, and perhaps a more natural downhill runner, but Barkley is close on both and has more elusiveness in the open field. Barkley is also more dynamic in the passing game. Mix in his abilities in the kick return game (ask Ohio State) and you could have one of the more complete backs to come out in years.

What are your thoughts on the overall running back class? How would you rate the class?

Joe: This class is one of the best I have ever seen, as well as the deepest class. Last year was really good, but the 2018 class is better and deeper. I had a hard time narrowing my list to a top five. I had an argument for at least nine backs to be in my top five. The class has good variety of backs, but throughout the class, power is the single skill set that I see throughout the prospects that make up this class. This is a fun group to watch.

Jake: Agree with Joe here. This class has everything you are looking for in terms of quality. It has elite names at the top and the depth to go with it. After Barkley placing any name at two within that 2-8 range is fair. I’m just enamored with the plethora of different types of runners, and all who can do their single skill well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some late picks or even undrafted names creep on to rosters from this group.

Which running back do you feel stronger about than most people?

Joe: I am a lot higher on John Kelly of Tennessee than many draft evaluators seem to be on the Volunteer running back. I believe he is the fifth best back in the draft. His agility and ability to elude defenders is very good, but he also adds an underrated ability to run through tackles below the waist. He is tough to get a hand on, but when a defender does get a hand on him, Kelly can run through the tackle attempt, showing good balance and strength to stay upright.

Jake: Sony Michel is this class’s hidden gem in my opinion. Georgia has about the deepest group of elite runners at the running back position that I can recall in college, often using four backs in a game for regular snaps. Nick Chubb gets the most hype, and carries, but Michel is the most complete and dynamic on the field. He is a three down back with plus tools in speed, vision, power, and elusiveness. He is going to make some NFL team very happy.

Who has the best single skill set and what is that skill set?

Joe: I think Ronald Jones II of USC has the best single skill set. That skill set is his explosive speed. Jones explodes out of the backfield and into holes, making it incredibly hard to tackle him for a loss. The speed that he hits an alley with gives him so much momentum to add extra yards even when he is getting taken to the ground. The speed also makes it hard for defenders to square him up for a tackle. His explosiveness is high popping on film and makes him a big play threat on every single play.

Jake: Bryce Love’s vision stands out to me. The Cardinal use him in simplistic I-Formation power schemes, but also use him in zone schemes from the gun. He has a knack for finding even the smallest amounts of space for positive yards. He is usually seen falling forward, and when you allow him a lane, his speed takes over.

Who is a sleeper running back who you are keeping an eye on?

Joe: My sleeper is probably not a huge sleeper, but Kalen Ballage of Arizona State is not getting enough attention. Ballage is listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, but he possesses unique speed for a man that size. His size makes him a strong back, but his speed gives him another dimension to deal with. He also gives some third down back versatility, showing the ability to block in pass protection and catch passes out of the backfield.

Jake: Phillip Lindsay from Colorado is putting up some monster numbers, yet many who scout the position heavily don’t mention him. He is a smaller back (5’9, 180lb) but he has elite quickness and breakaway speed. He will never be a downhill back from the I, but he has the ability to fit perfectly into teams using zone, RPO, and any scheme allowing him to creatively get into open space. He compares well to another name in the Pac 12 I enjoy, Myles Gaskin.

What is the impact of this running back class to the Browns?

Joe: The Browns will definitely be looking to add a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft, especially with the under-performing Isaiah Crowell likely hitting free agency this coming offseason. Many fans will be calling for the Browns to pick Saquon Barkley in the top five, but I think the depth of the running back class allows the Browns to address the position a little later. I would use one of the three second round picks to nab one the backs mentioned above.

Jake: This is a tough one to answer. Much of it depends on if the Browns think Isaiah Crowell’s future here is over. If they’re in the market, it will depend again on who they have calling plays and in what scheme, who the quarterback is, and who the head coach is. I doubt the Browns invest a top five pick into the running back position. I think settling for someone in Round 2 like Sony Michel or Ronald Jones, that would be a home run.

Saquon Barkley Highlights

Bryce Love Highlights

Derrius Guice Highlights

Ronald Jones Highlights

Sony Michel Highlights