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Way Too Early 2024 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings

2023 NFL Draft
The way too early 2024 NFL Draft running back rankings are here! Which back is ranked too low and too high? Read for the full list! (David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com)

Way Too Early 2024 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings

It’s never too early to talk NFL Draft! The way too early 2024 NFL Draft player rankings continue. After hitting the quarterbacks, we move to the running backs next. On the surface, it appears to be a really strong class at the RB spot again. No more messing around. Let’s get to the rankings.

*Just missed Roman Hemby, Chez Mellusi, Corey Kiner

25: Chip Trayanum (Ohio State)

What an odd journey it’s been for Chip Trayanum. Originally recruited as a linebacker and still plays linebacker. Is an Ohio kid and attends Arizona State eating the Herm Edwards cheese. Thrives as a running back but gets lost once Herm gets axed.

Transfers to Ohio State and shines as a complimentary running back. Even had him included in the stock report notes. There is an exciting combination of size and movement skills here. You can see the linebacker in him running the ball but it’s a solid 230 coming at you. I actually think he’s talented. Not sure how fast he is and had just 15 carries a year ago.

Trayanum is basically a depth piece for Ohio State and probably won’t leave until he gets a bigger bite of the apple. That will probably come next year when Dallan Hayden is the lead back. Don’t worry, I have two other Ohio State guys to get to.

24: Bucky Irving (Oregon)

Another Oregon back that will fall in line with Kejon Barner, LaMichael James, CJ Verdell, whoever you want to use. This is the next iteration of that. 5-foot-10, 194, and definitely undersized. The Oregon product did average 6.8 yards per carry in a really impressive sophomore campaign. Caught the ball really well too. Started out at Minnesota as a former four star guy but made his way to Oregon. 2023 should be a big year for Bucky.

23: LJ Johnson (SMU)

22 & 23 in the rankings are more similar than you think. They are both former SEC transfers trying to make a mark at SMU. Don’t ask me how SMU got both but they did. We’ll try to go quick with these two because there is basically zero sample size.

LJ Johnson was part of that Texas A&M 2021 recruiting class. Never really made his way on the field so he transferred out. Former four star recruit that’s a big body at 5-foot-10, 215. Just hasn’t done anything and wasn’t effective in limited opportunities thus far. We’ll see if things change at SMU.

22: Camar Wheaton (SMU)

Camar Wheaton actually got on the field for SMU last year. Not sure it was much to write home about unless you really follow recruiting. In 2022, Wheaton rushed for 322 yards and two scores on 62 carries. He’s a smaller back compared to Johnson (5-foot-10, 185). Wheaton is a former Alabama five star guy that never got on the field for them.

Too many questions to be answered with both guys. Let’s see who wins the job and looks better doing it in 2023. Both, however, are talented and should be monitored throughout the year.

21: Alton McCaskill (Colorado?)

You know it’s way too early to rank these guys when Alton McCaskill doesn’t have an official school yet. The crystal ball leans Colorado for whatever that’s worth. For the sake of the post, we’ll just talk about the player.

McCaskill missed the 2022 season via a torn ACL. In 2021 as a true freshman, McCaskill rushed for 961 yards (5.1 average) and 16 touchdowns in 14 games. We haven’t seen him in a while now but there is some track speed here. Good size too at 6-foot-1, 210.

If he’s over the injury and took another step forward after the strong freshman season, there just might be something here.

20: Phil Mafah (Clemson)

I think the upside here is Jonathan Stewart. I think that is certainly possible but we need to see more. Former four star recruit that has been good when called upon. Right now he’s basically just short yardage while Will Shipley does everything else.

6-foot-1, 230 and hails from Georgia. Last year it was just 98 carries for 515 yards and four scores. Can catch too when asked to do it. Can he work his way into a bigger role? That’s basically what’s missing.

19: MarShawn Lloyd (USC)

I didn’t always love MarShawn Lloyd at South Carolina which is why he’s this far on the list. Former four star guy from DeMatha that really underachieved with the Gamecocks. Also tore his ACL in 2020 as a freshman and never really got going.

Last year it was 111 carries for 573 yards and nine scores. Serviceable but now he gets the chance to be the dude in this USC offense. Let’s see what he’s made of. I’m not sure he’s better than Releek Brown who is an underclassman. If Lloyd wants to prove he’s NFL worthy, he needs to cease control of this backfield and put up numbers.

18: Carson Steele (UCLA)

If you don’t know who Carson Steele is, don’t worry, most fans didn’t until about three months ago. Steele put up monster numbers at Ball State and is expected to be UCLA’s starter this year after being plucked out of the portal.

There is no real recruiting background here but it’s hard to ignore a 1,500 yard plus season. We’re going to find out more about Steele as he steps into that Zach Charbonnet role. If he sucked, I don’t think Chip Kelly would be interested.

17: John Emery (LSU)

LSU’s running back room is a total mystery heading into 2023. It feels like that’s the case for a lot of positions on their roster. A lot of quality names. Still waiting for the DUDE to step forward. Maybe 2023 is the year of John Emery?

Former five star and second overall running back recruit in the country back in 2019. He’s done basically nothing so far. Just 375 yards last year but there is talent here. He might just end up being the lesser talented Zach Evans of this draft class. He did score three touchdowns on nine carries against Texas A&M. Could also be a Derius Guice where he figures it out and then tanks himself.

2023 is really his last chance.

16: Noah Cain (LSU)

I’m slightly more hopeful Noah Cain finally figures it out and becomes the guy. Former four star guy that looked totally electric at Penn State. Check this cheese out. As a freshman, Cain rushed for 443 yards on 84 attempts. He scored eight rushing touchdowns that year and looked like a future star back. Comes with good size too at 5-foot-11, 226.

Then the wheels fell off. Three total carries in 2020. A Lisfranc foot fracture struck disaster and the guy was never the same. Cain averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2021 before transferring to LSU last year.

We saw flashes of the old Cain in 2022 but it was in limited opportunities. The word on the street is he’s healthy heading into this year. I’m cautiously optimistic the homecoming for the former IMG Academy back turns into a good story.

15: Trey Sanders (TCU)

Talk about another talent that got the short end of the stick. Sanders got into that car accident and was just never the same. We’re hopeful that guy comes back with TCU this year but there is no guarantee. Sanders was the former number one running back recruit and five star talent during the 2019 cycle. It’s probably my fault Sanders got hurt after I picked him in the rookie draft because all of my picks feel cursed.

Even in an unfortunate season, Sanders still performed well when called upon. Averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 14 attempts during cleanup duty. Let’s hope the talent prevails because this could be a premier back. The guy Alabama thought they were getting. Could have a big year for TCU.

14: Jase McClellan (Alabama)

If the CFB season was four games longer, he was on the verge of stealing Jahmyr Gibbs’ job. McClellan ended the season on a heater and has a knack for hitting the home run. The positive is that he’s 5-foot-11, 212 and comes with plus speed. Can catch too and if he gets the ball in his hands, it’s zoom.

It’s a big season for McClellan to prove he can be the lead back. We haven’t seen that from him yet. Bama has two big running back recruits joining the roster this year (third and seventh respectively on the 247 list). Justice Hayes has a great Spring game too. Can McClellan hold those guys off and have a Brian Robinson type season? That’s the question.

13: Blake Corum (Michigan)

I just think Donovan Edwards is better. I’m not sorry about it. We also have Corum coming off an injury so we’ll have to see how he responds to that. Had a really good year at Michigan rushing for nearly 1,500 yards. I’m just not sure how dynamic he is. What’s the pure speed here? I’m not sure it will be good. Feels a lot like AJ Dillon without the size. Not sure it’s enough. Maybe the next Doug Martin? I’d just hamper the expectations. I think he can play but not to the degree his college numbers would indicate. That’s a great offensive line he’s got to work with.

12: Trey Benson (Florida State)

Trey Benson really flashed in 2022 and 2023 needs to be that next step. We talked about Jordan Travis in the QB list. Benson needs to use that to his advantage and be the unstoppable force in the backfield. Former Oregon guy that transferred to FSU and put up 990 yards while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Want to see more but there is clearly talent here.

11: Daijun Edwards (Georgia)

Daijun Edwards is someone I went over frequently in the stock report notes. Such a spaz and all over the place sometimes. All I know is when dialed in, he’s a bowling ball of hell. Comes downhill and wants to punch you in the mouth. Runs hard. It’s just one speed and zero nuance. Should get a bigger timeshare heading into this year. Edwards rushed for 769 yards, 5.5 per carry, and seven scores in 2022. A step forward should get him drafted in the middle to late round range next year.

10: Kendall Milton (Georgia)

Kendall Milton is a bit more dynamic and taller. Has more wiggle and can will fill more of the Kenny McIntosh duties this year. A knee injury probably hindered his progress there more than anyone wants to admit. There were times last year he just looked stuck in the mud. Averaged 7.0 yards per carry and found the end zone eight times on 85 attempts. Can do the short yardage stuff. It’s time to prove he’s the guy this year.

9: Frank Gore Jr. (Southern Miss)

Yes, the name bumped him up the list. Also, I don’t feel bad about it cause he earned it. Yes, it’s at Southern Miss but check these numbers. 228 carries for 1,382 yards, and nine touchdowns. That’s a 6.1 per carry clip too. That’s not including the receiving production either and there was a healthy amount of it. Not as big as the dad but is already showing three down ability.

I would expect more of the same this year. Another monster year gets him drafted.

8: Will Shipley (Clemson)

Poor man’s Christian McCaffrey. He kinda looks like him too with darker hair. Former five star guy just not as ridiculous as McCaffrey. Can catch and do all those sorts of things. Rushed for 1,182 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Was a starter the day he stepped on the campus. He legit looks like McCaffrey at times. I just don’t think he’s nearly as good. Does that cover it?

7: EJ Smith (Stanford)

Yes, the name value helps here too. This is Emmitt Smith’s son. I actually watched the USC game that he got hurt in. Looked damn good behind a terrible offensive line. Former four star guy too out of Texas. 6-foot, 210, and comes with receiving ability. Averaged 6.9 yards per carry on 30 attempts last year. Really patient runner. You can see the Emmitt in him. Want to see more obviously. I just think there is real talent here. Don’t be surprised if he explodes. Kinda wish he played for a team that wasn’t Stanford.

6: Jarquez Hunter (Auburn)

I don’t think Jarquez Hunter is better than Tank Bigsby but some have made that argument. I don’t blame you for making that call and he’s definitely faster straight line. Stepped on campus day one and has been a lightning rod since. Averaged 6.7 yards per carry as a freshman and 6.4 as a sophomore. Can he do that as the dude this year? My fear is that he’s a change of pace back and not built for that. We’re going to find out this year.

5: Miyan Williams (Ohio State)

I love this guy. He won’t get overdrafted like Beanie Wells but looks a lot like him. Former three star guy but he’s proved to be more than that. Punched him 14 touchdowns a year ago and thrives between the tackles. To be determined on the receiving stuff but really hasn’t been asked to do it. 5-foot-8, 227 and should be a successful bruising back at the NFL level for a long time.

4: Raheim Sanders (Arkansas)

Rocket Sanders is a dude. Was recruited as a pure athlete but has settled in at the running back spot for Arkansas and looks like a gem. As a sophomore he averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the SEC. That was during an eventual 1,443 yard season where KJ Jefferson was hurt for half of it and was the focal point of the offense. He’s a complete back who is bigger than you think at 6-foot-2, 227. Has gotten bigger since his time there. He’s going to run a good time too when that day comes. Zero fumbles, can catch, can hit the home run. I expect another banger season and for his name to be called in the second round.

3: Donovan Edwards (Michigan)

Just has a different gear. That twitch you look for, he has. Former four star guy and number four RB recruit in the country. Had a monster year for Michigan and played second fiddle for most of it. 6-foot, 202, and can really run. Averaged a ridiculous 7.1 yards per carry on 140 attempts a year ago. Going to be a serious factor in the passing game too. Comes in that sort of James Cook mold. Not super thick but a total playmaker.

2: Braelon Allen (Wisconsin)

Have talked about Braelon Allen in the past. Wisconsin might be boring, but he isn’t. Very young and only 19 right now. 2022 wasn’t as impressive but a coaching change might have had something to do with it. Numbers aside, this is your next Derrick Henry. Not guaranteeing he’s as good but it’s impossible to find dudes who are this big and this fast. 6-foot-2, 235, and he’s going to run a good time like Henry did. Don’t care what anybody says, he’s better than Jonathan Taylor. That should tell you my thoughts.

1: Treveyon Henderson (Ohio State)

This guy is the game wrecker. We didn’t see a lot of him a year ago because of injury. The freshman tape will tell you everything you need to know. Former five star and number one recruit during the 2021 cycle. Averaged 6.8 yards per carry as a true freshman in a season that included 1,248 rushing yards. He’s been ready to play at the NFL level since that year. There is a big gap from him and everybody else. I think he’s a rare exception that should go in round one but no more injuries and it would be nice to see another banger season.

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