NFL

B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Running Backs in 2020

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 6, 2016

B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Running Backs in 2020

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    We don't like to think about what the NFL will look like without Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady, or even Drew Brees. But it will happen—and it'll happen soon. 

    My generation didn't want to think about an NFL without Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, but along came Adrian Peterson. We didn't want the game without Curtis Martin, but along came Le'Veon Bell. No more Marcus Allen? Here's Jamaal Charles. The game moves on, and legends walk away. Looking ahead to the next generation, who will be the best running back in the year 2020?

    That's what this signature series aims to answer. Our "20 for '20" covers who the top 20 running backs will be five seasons from now. And if you're looking for guys like Peterson or LeSean McCoy—who will be well over 30 years old in 2020—we have to project a few retirements and a few declines.

Honorable Mention

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Others Receiving Strong Consideration

    • Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
    • Corey Clement, Wisconsin
    • Tre Madden, USC
    • Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Gio Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
    • Derrick Henry, Alabama
    • Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
    • Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
    • David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

    Excluded Because of Age and Expected Regression

20. Melvin Gordon (27 Years Old)

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    27/30

    Melvin Gordon has good speed and quickness, plus the body to withstand hits and not lose his athleticism over the next five years. Gordon doesn't have elite burst or acceleration, but he's fast enough in his first gear to run away from defenders in the open field.

     

    2020 Power

    13/15

    Gordon is built like an outside linebacker, and it shows when he has to run through tackles or power up between the hashes. Gordon won’t easily go down on first contact, but he has to be more decisive in hitting the hole so that power can build with momentum.

     

    2020 Vision

    28/35

    Being able to see the hole on the run is a strength for Gordon, but there are questions about how well he transitioned to the speed of NFL defenses and if he has the vision of an NFL back. If I’m concerned about anything with his five-year projection, this is it.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Gordon is a big, strong, fast, elusive and aggressive running back with the skills to be a top-five back when we’re looking at this list in 2020. He did see a heavy workload at Wisconsin, though, which could have done damage to his frame.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    88/100

    At Wisconsin, Gordon showed the skills to be very productive, but if he succeeds in the pros, he’ll be the first Wisconsin back to do so since Ron Dayne and Montee Ball put the Badgers on the map as a running back factory.

19. Devontae Booker (28 Years Old)

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    25/30

    Devontae Booker is a true three-down back for the Utah Utes, and he has a bright NFL future, thanks to his toolbox of skills. In terms of open-field speed, Booker can outrun linebackers to the edge and get past defenders in space, but he doesn’t have the speed to burst past defensive backs and win the angle to score long touchdown runs.

     

    2020 Power

    13/15

    Booker is a big, stout runner, but his power can be inconsistent. He can definitely push the pile between the tackles, but he’s not Jamal Lewis or Eddie George with the ball in his hands. Running harder—showing more burst off the snap—would boost his score.

     

    2020 Vision

    31/35

    The ability to see cutback lanes on the move is so underrated in running backs, and Booker has that right now with room to improve once he’s in an NFL scheme with better offensive linemen. He sees the field well, and things slow down for him with the ball in his hands as a runner and receiver.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Booker doesn’t lack any physical trait needed to be a successful NFL running back. As with any college back, where he’s drafted and the talent around him will be a huge factor in the outcome of his next five years.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    89/100

    Booker is a top-five-ranked running back eligible for the 2016 NFL draft class, and he looks like a plug-and-play starter in the mold of Thomas Jones.

18. Alex Collins (26 Years Old)

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    Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 26

    2020 Speed

    27/30

    Arkansas running back Alex Collins has the size (5’11”, 215 lbs) and speed (team sources placed him in the 4.4 range) to make defenses pay. Collins doesn’t project as a nimble, agile back, but he has more than enough straight-line speed to run past defenders and pull away for long runs.

     

    2020 Power

    12/15

    At 215 pounds, Collins can be a load to bring down in the open field. He’s aided by a low center of gravity, too, which helps him get a shoulder pad on defenders and maintain his body lean for positive yards. He’s not a power back, but he’s an all-around back with good power.

     

    2020 Vision

    30/35

    Collins wasn't the man at Arkansas with the presence of Jonathan Williams until 2015, and in a featured role he showed the vision to find rushing lanes and make plays outside the designated hole. He has also been very good at finding north-south lanes on stretch plays. Collins' vision would be best utilized in a zone-blocking scheme.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Coming into the 2015 season, Collins had just 394 carries in two seasons as the No. 2 back in the Razorback system. That’s just 51 more than Melvin Gordon had in one year at Wisconsin. He’s coming into his prime with limited wear and tear and a big skill set.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    89/100

    Projecting Collins to go from one-year college starter to NFL star would be a gamble for a pro team, but the tape shows an instinctive runner with the speed and power to make it.

17. Samaje Perine (25 Years Old)

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    25/30

    Samaje Perine isn’t a speedster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take it to the house on a long run or make a defender miss in space. In 2014, he broke off a 64-yard run against Texas Tech and a 66-yarder against Kansas. In 2015, he had a run of at least 55 yards in each of his last three regular-season contests. Perine’s game is about momentum, and if he gets rolling downhill, it’s game over for the defense.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    The 5’11”, 237-pounder from Pflugerville, Texas, is a bowling ball on the field. Perine has the power to run over defenders, and he’s almost impossible to bring down with arm tackles thanks to his hard-charging legs and the way he runs with his shoulders down and forward.

     

    2020 Vision

    30/35

    The stretch offense is best for Perine, and that’s good news for his five-year projection as most teams in the NFL are running zone-blocking schemes these days. He has the ability to string out the defense and cut back against the fold, and he does a good job seeing openings on the move.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Perine has all the talent in the world, but he has to work on a few things. Five years from now, don’t be surprised if he’s playing at around 220-225 pounds and working to improve his short-area quickness.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    89/100

    Perine burst onto the scene in 2014 with a record-setting 427-yard rushing day against Kansas, and there is some concern that he’s an all-or-nothing back given that he can run for huge yards (242 against West Virginia in 2014) or barely make the stat sheet (36 yards against Texas in 2015).

16. James Conner (25 Years Old)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    25/30

    James Conner missed all but one game of the 2015 season with an MCL injury, but five years from now, he’ll be torching NFL defenses with his blend of power and open-field speed. At 6’2” and 240 pounds, he’s not a scatback or a sprinter, but Conner has immediate speed and the punch to back it up.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    Conner is all about power. He packs a big punch with his leg drive but also with the timing and placement of his stiff arms when he gets loose. The great thing about Conner is that he’ll run between the tackles with authority or bounce to the edge with the same power.

     

    2020 Vision

    30/35

    The Pitt system is a lot like what Conner is going to see in the NFL, and his ability to find extra running lanes will help him make the transition to the pros. Five years from now, Conner’s vision won’t be holding him back from being a starter at running back.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    When Le’Veon Bell left Michigan State, he was about 10 pounds too heavy, and it affected his agility. I see Conner the same way. An NFL-level conditioning plan will work wonders for him and bring out the beast that’s waiting to beat up defenses.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    90/100

    Conner is one of my favorite players to watch in college football, thanks to his punishing running style. He might be a little heavy for the pros right now, but he has the goods to be a top-tier running back in five years. 

15. Eddie Lacy (30 Years Old)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    25/30

    Eddie Lacy doesn’t win with speed, but he’s agile and has that downhill momentum that allows him to run away from defenders at the second level. And while Lacy may not beat many linebackers to the corner, he’s able to cut back against the grain and has a top-tier second gear.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    Lacy has made a living in the NFL by being a true power back, and that’s not going to change in the next five years. If anything, expect Lacy to become more powerful and more explosive over time as he hits his prime.

     

    2020 Vision

    34/35

    An underrated aspect of the Green Bay run game is Lacy’s ability to pick through the trash and find a suitable rushing lane. He’s a big man, for sure, but he has nimble feet and is able to cut back across the line and find a hole to push through.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    Lacy is who he is, and that’s a pretty dang good running back. But physically, he’s not going to change or add new traits, which makes his upside limited.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    90/100

    Lacy has the tools to be great, but even in 2015 he's seen his role reduced because of injury and conditioning issues. He's good, and could be for a long time, but those question marks drive down his potential.

14. T.J. Yeldon (27 Years Old)

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    26/30

    T.J. Yeldon is 6’1”, 225 pounds and has the downhill speed to make long runs look easy. The NFL combine timed him at 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but put pads and a helmet on and let a linebacker chase him and Yeldon is much faster. He’ll never outrun Jamaal Charles down the sideline, but he’ll rip off long runs.

     

    2020 Power

    13/15

    Running with power is what Yeldon does best. He’s able to get downhill in a hurry but has a surprisingly good body lean and leverage for a 6’1” runner.

     

    2020 Vision

    31/35

    Vision is a concern for any running back coming out of Alabama given the scheme and elite offensive line play there, but Yeldon has the instincts to buck that trend. He's able to find alternate rushing lanes and has the aggressive running style to attack the line of scrimmage and make the most of the lanes that are there.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Yeldon is just 22 years old and has both the skills and the frame to turn into a top-10 NFL running back. If the Jaguars offense develops as expected, Yeldon will have opportunities to become a star.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    90/100

    There’s a perception that Alabama backs can’t be great in the NFL—but here’s Yeldon alongside Eddie Lacy in the top 20. With his skill set and youth, Yeldon has "special" written all over him.

13. Jalen Hurd (24 Years Old)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 24

    2020 Speed

    30/30

    You want speed? Jalen Hurd was touted as a 4.37 guy in the 40-yard dash as a 222-pound junior in high school, per StudentSports.com. He's still speedy but also weighs 240 pounds. With a 6'4" frame, he is built like a sprinter with impressive legs and the stride to tear up the open field. Let Hurd get loose, and he’s putting six points on the board.

     

    2020 Power

    13/15

    Don’t let the speed fool you into thinking Hurd is a scatback. He loves to run over tacklers. And as he matures as a runner, look for him to become a better inside runner.

     

    2020 Vision

    28/35

    Hurd came into 2015 with some experience as a freshman but was still untested as of the early season. His skills have now been on display in a major way. How well will his athleticism translate to an NFL offense, and can he find running lanes? Projecting him down the road, Hurd looks to be a fine inside-outside runner with big NFL talent.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Hurd was the No. 1 player in state of Tennessee for the class of 2014 (according to 247Sports), and boy is he special. With NFL-ready athleticism and the power and instincts to make plays all over the field, Hurd looks like he’ll make an easy transition from college to the pros.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    A true sophomore at Tennessee, Hurd is a special athlete, given his rare combination of speed and size. He’ll likely make the jump to the NFL sooner than later, which means he could be drafted in 2017 and well into his pro career by 2020.

12. Carlos Hyde (29 Years Old)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Speed

    26/30

    Carlos Hyde isn’t a sprinter, but he is fast. And he’s quick, too. If a defender makes it into the backfield with Hyde, he’s likely to be run over first, but don’t be surprised to see the big man use his nimble footwork to sidestep and then explode into space for long runs.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    The best asset to Hyde’s game is his power, and looking ahead five years, that’s not going to change. If anything, once Hyde becomes more comfortable with his blockers and his offense, we’ll see him rely more on his power runs to move the chains. 49ers fans will recall that Frank Gore was this way, and Hyde is made in his image.

     

    2020 Vision

    32/35

    Picking through the trash to find the right rushing lane between the tackles is something Hyde has shown a talent for, and it’ll only get better with experience. By 2020, Hyde may surpass these expectations.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    18/20

    At 29 years old, how will Carlos Hyde look in 2020? He has the body type to hold up well in the NFL, but he missed a good chunk of the 2015 season to injury. That all combines to affect his upside.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    Hyde, entering year three with the 49ers, doesn’t have the raw upside of a college junior, but there is less risk involved here. He’s proved himself in limited reps and looks to have the skills and athleticism to be the next great 49ers running back.

11. Royce Freeman (24 Years Old)

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 24

    2020 Speed

    26/30

    When you think of Oregon’s offense, you think about speed. Royce Freeman has speed, and for a player who isn’t a top-tier burner, it’s his combination of speed and agility to make cuts and find openings that makes him so dangerous with the ball as a receiver and runner.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    If you can catch Freeman, good luck tackling him. He’s a beast at 230 pounds and packs a serious punch with his piston-like legs. If you don’t catch a knee in the chin, you’re likely to get stiff-armed in the face when you meet No. 21 in the open field.

     

    2020 Vision

    30/35

    Freeman looks to have good vision, but that’s the big question about Oregon (and spread-offense backs)—can they translate? He sees cutback lanes and has fall-forward ability with the ball in his hands. Five years from now, Freeman’s vision could help make him a top-10 back. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    We’re looking way ahead here, as Freeman isn’t NFL draft-eligible until 2017, but he has opened eyes and already has area scouts talking about his game. Freeman is a do-it-all back with nearly unlimited athletic upside.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    Freeman, a sophomore, may be the first back to transcend the Oregon scheme and become a stud in the NFL. He has the size, speed and power to become a top-10 back early in his pro career.

10. Christian McCaffrey (24 Years Old)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 24

    2020 Speed

    28/30

    From an athletic standpoint, there’s not much Christian McCaffrey can’t do on the football field. Coming out of Stanford, the 6'0”, 201-pound McCaffrey is projected to run in the 4.45 range, but it's his acceleration and agility that really stand out. Not only can he run past defenders in space, but he'll also make them miss with ankle-breaking moves. 

     

    2020 Power

    10/15

    The one area that McCaffrey lacks that can't be developed is running power. He's a thin, lean back with speed and agility. There are times he'll run between the tackles and lower his pads, but even then he's more jitterbug than bulldozer.

     

    2020 Vision

    33/35

    Watching McCaffrey glide through holes in the open field is a special thing. He's effortless in his ability to identify rushing lanes and cut back against the grain on the fly. There are questions about how well this will translate from college to the NFL, but Stanford's offense asks McCaffrey to do all the things an NFL scheme will.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    As a runner, receiver and return man, McCaffrey has big upside. He's a more polished Ameer Abdullah and puts the ball on the ground a lot less often. In today's NFL, where the ability to win in space is at a premium, there's a place for McCaffrey.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    McCaffrey may never be a No. 1 running back in the way Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell are, but he has too many positive characteristics to leave off the field. Whether he's rushing the ball, catching it or making plays in the return game, he'll be an impact player in 2020.

9. Saquon Barkley (23 Years Old)

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 23

    2020 Speed

    27/30

    Saquon Barkley isn’t the fastest running back on this list, but he has NFL-level speed and agility. Add to it that he’s a hard downhill runner with the second gear to pull away from defenders once he gets a lead on them, and you start to see what makes him so good. Barkley has the body and skills to still be running away from defenders five years from now.

     

    2020 Power

    12/15

    At 222 pounds, Barkley is able to lower his shoulders and get extra yards between the tackles. He has a nice, naturally low center of gravity that makes it almost impossible to get him down on the first attempt. He'll be running over NFL defensive backs on his way to 1,000-yard seasons in five years.

     

    2020 Vision

    34/35

    Pro-ready. That’s how you best describe Barkley's vision as an 18-year-old. He does an excellent job of anticipating moves and reading his blocks, and when the original hole closes up, he’s shown the vision to make a secondary rushing lane work.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Looking at Barkley's first year at Penn State, you can't ignore the upside. Playing behind an average line without much of an outside threat in the passing game, he put the offense on his back and carried it. As long as Barkley stays healthy, it's tough to see him not becoming a big-time NFL back. 

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    A true freshman running back isn't supposed to look this good. Barkley made the job of carrying the Penn State offense seem easy. With his combination of speed, power, vision and acceleration, Barkley looks like a future stud in the NFL. 

8. Matt Jones (27 Years Old)

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    27/30

    Matt Jones is a 231-pound wrecking ball, and while that doesn’t allow for much speed, he’s still elusive behind the line of scrimmage and has the runaway speed to get past linebackers once he clears the offensive line. And looking ahead five years, don’t be surprised if Jones improves his agility and speed through conditioning and weight management.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    Jones is all about power. He’s a short-yardage chain-mover and a leg-churning power back who is almost impossible to stop for negative yards.

     

    2020 Vision

    31/35

    The issue for Jones at Florida was a lack of vision and instincts to find rushing lanes. The Florida system wasn’t running back friendly during his time there, but Jones’ scouting report shows a need to improve here. Throughout the 2015 preseason and early part of the year, he looked much improved in terms of vision.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Right now, Jones is more upside than production, but he has all the tools to become a stud in the NFL.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Jones’ combination of athleticism, power and aggressive running style makes him one of the most promising young backs in the game. Five years from now, he could be Washington’s Beast Mode.

7. Jeremy Hill (28 Years Old)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    26/30

    At 6’1” and 235 pounds, Jeremy Hill was timed at 4.66 seconds at the NFL combine, but get him going downhill, and he’s much faster. Hill has build-up speed to an impressive second gear, and his short-area quickness and burst are outstanding. 

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    You don’t simply tackle Jeremy Hill, you survive a car crash with him. Hill has the leg drive and lower-body power to punish tacklers, and he runs with such exceptional burst out of the gate that you can’t tackle him flat-footed. And that’s not going away.

     

    2020 Vision

    33/35

    One area where Hill is already top-tier but can improve over time is on his inside-to-outside vision. Finding the cutback lane and trusting his linemen to the point that he can bounce outside the tackle box is his next step as a runner.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Hill’s upside is tremendous, and with a very good offensive line in front of him, that shouldn’t change. As he learns the ins-and-outs of NFL blockers and offseason preparation, he should flirt with being the game’s best back within the next five seasons.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Hill has awesome potential. He has elite power, great vision and enough athleticism to be a consistent 1,000-yard back.

6. Nick Chubb (25 Years Old)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    28/30

    Georgia sophomore Nick Chubb looks like the real deal. In terms of pure speed, he looks like a 4.4-second player on film and has the burst to get through the first and second level of defenses in a hurry. Chubb also has that track speed needed to pull off long runs, and it makes him a threat to score any time he has the ball in his hands.

     

    2020 Power

    12/15

    Chubb isn’t the biggest back in the country at 5’10” and 220 pounds, but he has solid strength and uses a great leg drive to pick up tough yards. And coming out of a Georgia system that makes him run between the tackles, Chubb comes ready to play in the NFL.

     

    2020 Vision

    33/35

    Whether it’s looking for a cutback lane or bouncing a run outside, Chubb has shown good vision on the move. The only question mark is how well he’ll transition to the NFL's speed, as some of the holes he’s crushing through at Georgia are wide enough for an 18-wheeler.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Chubb has all the athletic tools needed to be great, and five years from now, we could be talking about him as one of the best runners in the NFL. That, of course, all depends on how he comes back from the knee injury that ended his 2015 season.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Chubb's injury shook the college football world, and for good reason, given his amazing play in relief of Todd Gurley in 2014 and his red-hot start in 2015. If he's healthy, Chubb could still be a first-round-pick and a top-tier running back by 2020.

5. Dalvin Cook (25 Years Old)

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    29/30

    Dalvin Cook looks like he's playing in fast forward. Get him the ball in space, and he's gone. It may sound like a cliche, but the FSU running back is truly a threat to score every time he touches the ball. And while he may not dominate in the 40-yard dash when it's draft time, Cook is among the most elusive backs in the last 10 years of college football.

     

    2020 Power

    11/15

    Cook is not, and will not be, a power back. That just isn’t him, and he shouldn’t try to become one as he progresses into the future. Taking unnecessary hits is how backs wear down their bodies, so Cook should keep dancing his way to hits against defensive backs.

     

    2020 Vision

    33/35

    The biggest area of improvement for Cook since arriving at FSU has been his vision. He’s no longer trying to outrun defenders to the edge and then get upfield. His between-the-tackles vision has improved and will continue to improve as he moves into an NFL scheme and builds chemistry with his offensive line.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Cook has the tools to be a game-changer at running back in the NFL. With hands, speed, vision and back-breaking moves in the open field, he could become a faster version of Le'Veon Bell early in his pro career.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Cook isn't draft-eligible until 2017, which means he'll still be very young in his NFL career when 2020 rolls around. That won't matter, though, as he will have an early impact in the pros with his skill set. 

4. Le'Veon Bell (28 Years Old)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    27/30

    Since dropping weight and working on his agility, Le’Veon Bell’s speed has improved drastically. He’s now making jump cuts and outrunning defenders to the edge. And with that quickness, Bell is able to beat tacklers both as a runner and as a receiver.

     

    2020 Power

    14/15

    Get in Bell’s way and you’re going to end up on your back. He’s powerful enough to run defenders over and does a great job setting up tacklers with a little shimmy to get them off-balance before lowering his shoulder. 

     

    2020 Vision

    35/35

    Bell is one of the NFL’s best at finding rushing lanes and working both inside and outside the tackle box. He’s a jump-cut specialist and has the open-field vision to make plays on the second and third level.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    How much wear and tear can Bell’s body take? In five seasons he’ll only be 28 years old—still young enough for a back—but he’ll have five more seasons of catching and running on his body, too. And we can't forget that his 2015 season was cut short by injury. This may be a pessimistic view, but Bell should start his decline earlier than other backs listed here due to his use.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    95/100

    In 2015, Bell is one of the NFL’s best running backs. In 2020, he’ll be 28 years old with a large load on his resume that could start to wear him down. Bell looks to have the goods to withstand the test of time and remain a top-five back.

3. Ezekiel Elliott (25 Years Old)

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    28/30

    Ezekiel Elliott broke out in 2014 as Ohio State's starting back with Carlos Hyde gone to the NFL. He didn’t disappoint. Elliott, who measures in at 6’0” and 225 pounds, has run a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, according to an area scout I spoke with. That’s moving. On film, he looks to have the burst and lateral agility needed to elude defenders. And with that type of long speed, Elliott looks like an elite prospect.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    Elliott uses his size well. Those 225 pounds hit the hole with force, and he’s a leg-pumping tackle-breaking machine from there. With great body lean and a meanness to his style of play, Elliott won’t be easy to bring down in the open field no matter who he’s playing against.

     

    2020 Vision

    33/35

    The open field is a place Elliott can thrive. He’s decisive when hitting the hole and has the vision to see and reach cutback lanes. He could do a better job in the open field as an outside-the-tackle-box runner.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Elliott has the skills and physical traits to be special. If he improves his hands to be more of a threat on third downs, he may never leave the field in the NFL. He should be a double-digit touchdown threat every year he’s on the field.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    96/100

    Part Eddie George, part Jamal Lewis, Elliott has NFL scouts excited heading into draft season. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s coming out of a system that perfectly prepares him for the NFL.

2. Todd Gurley (26 Years Old)

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 26

    2020 Speed

    29/30

    Before suffering a knee injury midway through the 2014 season, Todd Gurley looked like a perfect NFL running back prospect. Now, after his rookie season, that evaluation looks to be correct. At 6’1” and 222 pounds, Gurley shows on film the type of home run speed you want in a No. 1 back. He has short-area burst and quickness to make tacklers miss but also shows the long speed to pull away from the defense on big runs.

     

    2020 Power

    14/15

    There’s no reason to worry about Gurley being able to break tackles or push the ball between the tackles. He has the build and strength that allowed him to excel between the tackles or when meeting a defender head-up in space. In fact, his power might have been underrated when looking at him predraft.

     

    2020 Vision

    34/35

    Watch Gurley run back kickoffs at Georgia and you see the open-field vision on display. You can also turn on the film and see him cutting back against the defense to find creases and hit the speed button to daylight now that he's in the NFL.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    The real question with Gurley is how his repaired ACL will hold up in the NFL long term. He looked amazing as a rookie, so this may not be a factor, but it's worth mentioning. He has world-class talent in terms of speed, power and vision, but his upside and NFL future will be determined by the durability of his knee.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    97/100

    Gurley has all the goods, as seen above, to be one of the NFL’s best backs from the minute he steps on the field. He’ll make an immediate impact as a runner, receiver and true three-down running back.

1. Leonard Fournette (25 Years Old)

22 of 22

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    30/30

    At 6’1” and 230 pounds, Leonard Fournette ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, according to one area scout I spoke with. That’s moving, folks. Fournette has enough speed that the LSU coaches used him as a kick returner. It’s rare to see a man this big move that fast, but Fournette has excellent straight-line speed.

     

    2020 Power

    15/15

    Fournette uses his 230 pounds to punish tacklers. He’s a build-up speed kind of back but has the flexibility in his hips to drop his shoulders and run over defenders. If you get in his way, he will run you over.

     

    2020 Vision

    33/35

    To project Fournette’s vision you have to look at his runs out of the backfield and as a return man. By combining the two, you see how he operates in the open field and how well he does when reading blockers. There’s room for improvement with his cutback runs, but Fournette has the vision to get loose in space and make defenses pay.

     

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    There is no limit to how good Fournette could be from an athletic standpoint. He the athleticism and raw running instincts to be mentioned in the same category as Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley as prospects.

     

    2020 Overall Projection

    98/100

    If you’re thinking Fournette may be the perfect running back prospect, it definitely looks that way. He’s still one year removed from draft eligibility, but the former prep standout has "future NFL star" written all over him. 

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