Few positions are as devalued on draft night in the modern NFL than running back.
But as Saquon Barkley (second pick in 2018), Leonard Fournette (fourth in 2017), Christian McCaffrey (eighth in 2017) and Ezekiel Elliott (fourth in 2016) have shown, teams will still spend a premium pick on an elite prospect.
Experts agree, however, that type of prospect doesn't exist in this draft. So, where and when will the position make its presence felt on draft night? We'll examine the latest mock drafts from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL.com's Bucky Brooks to find out.
Consensus At The Top
Save for perhaps the first couple of picks, it's almost impossible to find consensus opinions during mock draft season.
So, it's a little jarring to see Miller, Kiper and Brooks all in agreement on not only which running back goes first, but where the player will land. All three have Georgia's D'Andre Swift joining the Miami Dolphins at pick 26.
"Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Miami Dolphins in rushing in 2019," Miller noted. "A 37-year-old quarterback led an NFL team in rushing. That's all you need to know when you look at the selection of D'Andre Swift."
Swift is a three-down back, and Kiper gave him a higher grade than Josh Jacobs (last draft's top running back at pick 24) had last season. Swift, who totaled 1,434 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns this past season, actually occupies the 14th spot on Miller's big board, but team needs and NFL opinions on the position could push Swift to the back end of the opening round.
Any Other First-Round RBs?
If these expert opinions are correct, then no, there won't be a second running back hearing his name called on April 23.
Both Kiper and Brooks only mocked their opening round, so it's impossible to know where they'd put RB2. But Miller mocked all seven rounds, so we can get a better feel for the class as a whole.
The way Miller sees it, five running backs will go on Day 2, starting with Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins as the 47th pick to the Atlanta Falcons. To spotlight the discount on talent at the position, Dobbins is actually as many spots lower than his big board placement (35th) as Swift (12 spots each), so clubs might see a buying opportunity with either player.
Miller pegs two other rushers for the late second round with LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire (60th to the Baltimore Ravens) and Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor (61st to the Tennessee Titans) going in back-to-back picks. Taylor just won the Doak Walker Award—given to the nation's top running back—each of the last two seasons; it's wild to think 60 players could be selected before him.
Finally, Miller has two more backs off the board in Round 3: Florida State's Cam Akers (79th to the New York Jets) and Vanderbilt's Ke'Shawn Vaughn (96th to the Kansas City Chiefs).
Considering the mock-draft universe has a near-infinite population, does the running back outlook change when examining other expert opinions?
Not much, actually. And when it does, it's rarely for the better.
SI.com's Kevin Hanson doesn't even have a running back in his first round. Same goes for CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso and AtlantaFalcons.com's Matthew Tabeek. Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer sneaks two backs into his first round, but Swift is still the opener at No. 26 and Taylor just makes the cut at No. 32.
These running backs have the talent to make executives look foolish in hindsight—Akers, a former top-five recruit, has loads of sleeper potential—but unless one blows up at the combine, this position probably won't make a peep near the top of the draft board.