As we move through the pro days and hear the noise of outlandish forty times and verticals through the roof, I have personally gone through and done more research on every position. I have finished the QB's, WR's and now we begin the RB re-evaluation.
The Football Scout 365 Big Board
Don't forget to check out the full Football Scout 365 NFL Draft Big Board.
After Further Review NFL Draft Edition On YouTube
You can check out our Football Scout 365 After Further Review NFL Draft Edition on Youtube. We have five shows so far, three covering the QB position where I break down and connect the dots between player skillset and what the player displays on film concerning such buzzwords like arm talent, arm angle, pocket presence etc.
What I look for when evaluating a RB.
These are not in any particular order, but I will point out that I always identify the RB's who show patience as a runner. When I say patience, I like backs, which allow the guard to pull to the designated blocking zone before hitting that area hard. A great example of a back with great patience or who allowed his blockers to get set up was Lev Bell when he played at his best in the Steelers offense.
I like to key in on other aspects: are they tough between the tackles, do they possess good contact balance, and can they create yards after contact? I like a back with good vision, one who sees the opening before it's there, or who can ID what is not available and can bounce the play outside or locate the cut back lane. I also look for a guy who possesses a good burst; he doesn't have to be a burner. I like a guy who can explode in a small space to get to the edge when needed or explode through a closing void.
One of the more critical aspects is, can the guy pass block, or is he a willing pass blocker? Skills as a receiver, how good of a receiver is he out of the backfield? Can he line up in the slot if we want to create that mismatch? How versatile is the player's skill set as a receiver?
2021 NFL Draft RB Rankings
Okay, so let's dive into the RB rankings;
1) Alabama RB Najee Harris Instant Impact Player
Hard to tackle, shifty, yet not a burner. At times, Harris has shown a lack of discipline as a runner, but in the 2020 SEC title game, and CFP, Harris has come on strong displaying a high level of athleticism as both a runner and a pass-catcher. He can run high at times at 6-2, but that's not a major factor. He is a more dynamic receiver than he gets credit for, and that's the differentiating factor in our rankings; he displayed high-level receiver skills in 2020, at times reminding me of a young Lev Bell.
2) Clemson RB Travis Etienne Instant Impact Player
The ACC's all-time rusher, he could have left Clemson a season ago but decided to return. Etienne plays with great burst and contact balance and is an excellent pass catcher. His skill set is that of the new age NFL RB's (Kamara, CMC, Barkley). Where he needs improvement is as a pass blocker and with fumbles. The positives for Etienne outweigh the negatives.
3) North Carolina RB Javonte Williams Potential Upside Player
Williams is a dynamic player who is capable of ripping off a big play at any moment. Williams runs behind his pads but can also make you miss in space. He uses a combination of good vision to locate the open areas and uses his blocks well. Williams is a capable three-down player with good ability as a receiver and is a competent pass protector.
4) North Carolina RB Michael Carter Potential Upside Player
Michael Carter has been a steady force in Chapel Hill since 2017. Carter is a dynamic RB who excels as a receiver for the Tarheels. He is elusive and possesses great instincts as a runner allowing him to find lanes inside or out. Carter is on the smaller side, but you would not be able to tell by his willingness to run between the tackles. He is hard to tackle, and when you do have him reeled in, you better wrap up and hold on because he has a knack for slipping through tackles. Some scouts believe Carter will fit a complementary role in the NFL. We think he is a sneaky good player with three-down ability who could potentially be the number one in the right situation.
5) Oregon State RB Jermar Jefferson Potential Upside Player
Jefferson is a creative player; when he has space, he knows how to use it by putting defenders in conflict both as a runner and as a pass-catcher. He is a hard-nosed runner with good balance and is also good at locating daylight to exploit the defense.
6) Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell Developmental Player
Dynamic and elusive, Gainwell is one of the best athletes in the 2021 NFL Draft. Memphis did a great job utilizing his skill set as both a runner and a receiver. He is a tough runner, even at 191lbs, who also possesses great instincts. His ability as a pass-catcher will add to his draft stock as coaches can be creative within their scheme lining him up all over the formation. Gainwell might need to add some weight to his frame but has the tools to be an NFL starter.
7) Oklahoma RB Rhamondre Stevenson Developmental Player
A Juco transfer before arriving in Norman, Stevenson is a physical player weighing around 235lbs; he can run through a defender just as easily as he can make them miss. He has good feet and plays with patience allowing his blockers to set up before hitting the next gear. Stevenson is a good receiver out of the backfield, and that's an asset that will bode well for him at the NFL level. He was suspended in 2019 and missed five games due to suspension in 2020. He lacks reps, but he made the most of the opportunity when given a chance in a limited window.
8) Ohio State RB Trey Sermon Developmental Player
Climbing is the word on Trey Sermon. In the last two games (Big Ten Title, CFP Semi), Sermon has been exceptional. He is a willing blocker and good pass catcher out of the backfield. He is a player to keep an eye on, and he has a shot to slip into the day two discussion.
9) Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard Developmental Player
Chuba Hubbard is a tough player who has been difficult to tackle since high school and even harder to catch. Hubbard competed in track in high school, competing in the IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia, placing fourth overall in the 100-meter sprint with a personal-best finish of 10.55 seconds in the semifinal. His game has evolved while in college as he has improved his patience and vision while in Stillwater. Where he has not thrived is as a pass-catcher. He lacks concentration as a receiver and could use more development in this department.
10) Michigan RB Chris Evans Developmental Player
Chris Evans possesses the skill set NFL and GM's covet at the RB position. Evans shows good instincts as a runner, displaying good vision, patience combined with a good burst and breakaway speed. What GM's will fall in love with is his ability as a receiver. Evans has good ball skills and can line up all over the formation as a receiver. The one knock, he had to sit out the 2019 season due to an academic issue at Michigan, and he didn't separate from a full Michigan backfield in 2020. Regardless, Evans is a player to keep an eye on.