CFB Future 100: Top 11 Running Backs in Class of 2017

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2016

CFB Future 100: Top 11 Running Backs in Class of 2017

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    Bleacher Report

    After a thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report national recruiting analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the 2017 class. Here, we present the Top Running Backs. 

    Other Positions: 

    The 2015 season was somewhat of a renaissance in college football for the running back position.

    Alabama star Derrick Henry became just the second running back to win the Heisman Trophy in the last decade. Additionally, backs such as Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook all had banner sophomore campaigns that should keep them in the conversation for that award this fall.

    College football coaches are searching for the next wave of game-breaking rushers on the recruiting trail, and the 2017 class looks to be stacked with talented backs.

    Crimson Tide pledge and 5-star California running back Najee Harris is at the top of that list, but he’s far from alone. Harris is one of 11 rushers among the nation’s top 100 overall prospects in the 2017 cycle.

    The latest installment in the CFB Future 100 series takes a look those backs.

    Bleacher Report scored the position on traits such as ball security (10 points), power (20 points), vision (20 points), hands (15 points), speed (20 points) and agility (15 points). The cumulative figures from those traits resulted in our overall grade for each prospect.  

    How do the nation’s top running backs measure up to one another? 

11. 4-Star Cordarrian Richardson

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    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 220 lbs

    High School: Trezevant High School; Memphis, Tennessee

    247Sports Ranking: No. 7 RB, No. 91 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 91/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and LSU

    Penn State is the latest school to offer 4-star running back Cordarrian Richardson

    Last month, Richardson narrowed his list to eight schools: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

    Richardson is the No. 6 overall prospect from the state of Tennessee in the 2017 cycle.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Richardson is built like a tank and he’s a bigger back that often requires multiple defenders to get him on the ground. He’s got great vision (18/20 points) and can move laterally better than most backs with his size. He’s not a speed merchant, but he’s blessed with great short area burst in tight spaces. With his size and physicality, Richardson is a prospect that has a ton of potential at the next level.

10. 4-Star Colin Wilson

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    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205 lbs

    High School: Clay High School; Green Cove Springs, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 6 RB, No. 90 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 90/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Georgia

    Auburn and Clemson were among the schools that were able to get 4-star running back Colin Wilson on campus in 2015.

    Over the past three years, Wilson has rushed for 2,465 yards and 46 touchdowns. He also played defense last season and recorded five interceptions.

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Wilson holds the ball high and tight, and he does a good job of securing it in the outside hand when he breaks to the outside (ball security: 13 of 15 points). He has great size and good short-area burst. He’s not a burner speed-wise (17 of 20 points), but he’s elusive in open space. As a receiver, Wilson is serviceable with good hands and the ability to work well in the flats.

9. 4-Star Ty Chandler

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    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 190 lbs

    High School: Montgomery Bell Academy; Nashville, Tennessee

    247Sports Ranking: No. 5 RB, No. 79 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 90/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Tennessee

    Auburn and Nebraska are the latest two programs to offer 4-star running back Ty Chandler.

    According to MaxPreps, Chandler rushed for 2,558 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior. He rates as the No. 5 overall prospect from the Volunteer State in the 2017 cycle.

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Chandler is a well-rounded back who is tough to bring down on first contact. He has great ability to spot cutback lanes and boasts decent speed (17 of 20 points) for a back of his size. He also shows solid hands out of the backfield as a receiver. With his versatility and toughness as an inside runner, Chandler has a chance to be a big-time college back.

8. 4-Star Toneil Carter

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    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 205 lbs

    High School: Langham Creek High School; Houston

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 RB, No. 68 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 92/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M 

    Over the last two years, 4-star running back Toneil Carter has rushed for 2,588 yards and 36 touchdowns. 

    Carter, who is the No. 6 overall prospect from Texas, has piled up 18 offers heading into the spring. In-state power Texas A&M was the last school to host him on campus, as he attended the Aggies' junior day last month. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Carter's burst is impressive when he finds a seam. He has breakaway speed at 205 pounds, which illustrates what makes him a special back. He has good agility (13 of 15 points) in the open field. His vision is also present in setting up his cuts and blocks. One adjustment he could face in college is doing more running inside the tackles.

7. 4-Star J.K. Dobbins

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    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 184 lbs

    High School: La Grange High School; La Grange, Texas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 All-purpose back, No. 63 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 92/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Arkansas, Oklahoma, Stanford, TCU and Texas A&M

    Notre Dame and Wisconsin are the two latest programs to offer 4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins.

    Dobbins, who is the No. 8 player from Texas in the 2017 class, has already accumulated 16 offers. Over the last two seasons, he has rushed for 4,971 yards and 72 touchdowns.

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Dobbins is a versatile weapon who can do damage from a number of different spots on the field. He's at his best when he can get to the edge and break big runs. As a receiver, he has good hands and can be a threat on speed sweeps.

    His speed (18 of 20 points) makes him a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, as evidenced by his average of more than 10 yards per carry. That kind of explosiveness is what makes him a special prospect.

6. 4-Star Anthony McFarland

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    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 189 lbs

    High School: DeMatha Catholic High School; Hyattsville, Maryland

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 APB, No. 54 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 93/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Maryland and Michigan

    Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Penn State were among the schools to host 4-star all-purpose back Anthony McFarland last year.

    McFarland has landed 26 offers heading into the spring. He is the top overall prospect from Maryland in the 2017 cycle. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    McFarland has the type of speed (19 of 20 points) that makes angles disappear when defenders are trying to corral him in the open field. He has the unique ability to make cuts without losing acceleration. He's skilled enough as a receiver to line up in the slot and be effective. As an inside runner, he's tougher than most scatback types. Overall, McFarland is a playmaker who can do damage in a variety of ways.

5. 4-Star Khalan Laborn

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    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 193 lbs

    High School: Ocean Lakes High School; Virginia Beach, Virginia

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 APB, No. 44 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 90/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Alabama, Auburn, Arizona State, Florida State and Virginia Tech

    The top prospect from the state of Virginia in 2017 is 4-star all-purpose back Khalan Laborn.

    According to MaxPreps, he rushed for 2,228 yards and 32 touchdowns while averaging nearly 11 yards per carry last season.

    Laborn has 16 offers to his credit. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Speed is the name of the game with Laborn. He's a true home run threat whether he's in the backfield or lined up at receiver. He's not the most powerful back (15 of 20 points), but he does a good job of eluding tacklers and finding open space. His versatility makes him a trusted weapon in the passing game.

4. 4-Star Cam Akers

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    Height/Weight: 5’11 ½”, 210 lbs

    High School: Clinton High School; Clinton, Mississippi

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 RB, No. 39 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 91/100

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Alabama on Aug. 4, 2015

    The fourth of Alabama's eight 2017 pledges came from 4-star running back Cam Akers.

    Akers, who is the top overall prospect from Mississippi, played quarterback for his high school team and accounted for 2,696 yards of total offense and 37 total touchdowns as a sophomore.

    Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan and Ole Miss are among the programs that have offered Akers. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Akers is a big back who has the physicality to run between the tackles. He also has the wiggle of a considerably lighter runner. He's able to cut and get north and south in a hurry, and he exhibits great short-area burst. He's athletic enough to be an asset in the passing game as well. Overall, Akers has the potential to develop into a star at the next level.

3. 4-Star Stephen Carr

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    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 195 lbs

    High School: Summit High School; Fontana, California

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 RB, No. 35 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 91/100

    Recruitment Status: Committed to USC on March 23, 2015

    Miami and Louisville are the latest programs to offer 4-star running back Stephen Carr, who is committed to USC. 

    Carr is the No. 5 overall prospect from California in the 2017 cycle. 

    Arizona, Georgia, UCLA and Washington are among the other programs that have offered him.

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Carr is a home run waiting to happen in the run and pass game. As a receiver, he looks comfortable running routes and creating big plays in space. He's also a solid all-around back who can get tough yards up the middle but does most of his damage while running wide.

    That's one area he may have to address once he enters a college weight program. Overall, Carr is a well-rounded athlete who has the traits necessary to be a starting back.

2. 4-Star D'Andre Swift

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    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 204 lbs

    High School: St. Joseph's High School; Philadelphia

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 APB, No. 32 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 93/100

    Recruitment Status: Considering Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan and Penn State 

    The top overall recruit from Pennsylvania in the 2017 cycle is 5-star all-purpose back D'Andre Swift.

    As a sophomore, Swift racked up 1,264 yards of total offense and 15 total touchdowns. 

    He has already landed 24 offers heading into the spring before his senior season. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Swift comes equipped with size, speed and juke-button moves in the open field. I saw him at The Opening last summer, and he looked comfortable as one of the few juniors who were invited to the premier camp showcase.

    Swift has the size and toughness to pick up tough yards inside. He is also a threat to make plays when he lines up as a receiver. He's an elite prospect who could also make an impact on special teams as a return man.

1. 5-Star Najee Harris

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    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 220 lbs

    High School: Antioch High School; Antioch, California

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 RB, No. 1 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Alabama on April 18, 2015

    One player who figures to compete for the title of top overall prospect in the 2017 cycle is 5-star running back Najee Harris.

    The Golden State standout rushed for 5,007 yards and 59 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

    Harris committed to Alabama last spring over offers from Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC, among others. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Simply put, Harris is the best pure running back prospect since Leonard Fournette, who was of the 2014 class. At 220 pounds, Harris has the power to run inside. Yet he still has the speed and agility (14 of 15 points) to be a threat to break long runs when he gets to the second level.

    He has great hands and could play receiver in college if he were to put his focus on that position. Overall, Harris is a freakish athlete who has the makings of a superstar.

    All analysis provided by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani