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Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top 10 running backs in the 2017 NFL draft

FLOWERY BRANCH — Here are the top 10 running back prospects (with projected draft round) for the 2017 NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia:

  1. Leonard Fournette, 6-foot, 240 pounds, LSU (first round): In 2014, he rushed for a freshman school-record 1,034 rushing yards to earn a place on the All-SEC freshman team. He followed up his freshman season with a 1,953 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns, leading the nation with 162.8 rushing yards per game. Last season, Fournette battled injuries and finished second on the team with 843 rushing yards. He’s not expected to last past Jacksonville, which has the fourth pick in the draft. “If you can get a running back that can control the clock a little bit, shorten the game, keep that defense fresh, I think the Jags could find themselves in a lot of close football games,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
  2. Joe Mixon, 6-1, 228, Oklahoma (third round): He’s one of the most talented runners in the draft, but there’s a domestic violence video of him hitting a women on the internet. “Taking away his off-the-field stuff, on the field, he may be the most talented running back in the class,” NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks said. “He has all the traits you look for in a bigtime number one running back. He's big, he's fast, he's physical and he can catch the ball out the backfield.”
  3. Dalvin Cook, 5-11, 210, Florida State (first round): He’s electric in the opening field and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Some teams favorably compare him to Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. He rushed for more than 1,600 yards in each of the past two seasons and 38 touchdowns.
  4. Christian McCaffrey, 5-11, 202, Stanford (first round): The fleet son of former NFL standout Ed McCaffrey. He was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year after his sophomore season.  He was one of college football’s top running backs the past two seasons, displaying his versatility rushing, receiving and returning. He led the FBS in all-purpose yards per game in both 2015 (276.0) and 2016 (211.5). Turned some heads by skipping the team’s appearance in the Sun Bowl and by not electing not to undergo any private workouts for NFL teams.
  5. Alvin Kamara, 5-10, 214, Tennessee (first/second round): The Norcross High product started his career at Alabama, but after a knee injury and getting suspended twice, he transferred to Tennessee. He finished last season with 1,188 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns in just seven starts. Here's what he had to say at the scouting combine.
  6. Kareem Hunt, 5-11, 216, Toledo (second/third): The Ohio product turned down offers from Pittsburgh and Minnesota to stay in-state and play at Toledo. He was runner-up to Mitchell Trubisky in the Mr. Ohio voting. He dominated in the Mid-American Conference.
  7. Samaje Perine, 5-11, 233, Oklahoma (third/fourth): He rushed for 1,060 yards while splitting time with Mixon. He battled through an injury-riddled season before declaring early for the draft.
  8. Curtis Samuel, 5-10, 196, Ohio State (third/fourth): He has pass-catching ability out of the back field and runs hard.
  9. Wayne Gallman, 6-0, 215, Clemson (third/fourth): Left Clemson after three seasons as one of the school’s most decorated and productive running backs in history. He rushed for 3,429 rushing yards on 676 carries, with 34 touchdowns over 42 games (37 starts). He added 65 career receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for  100 yards or more in 17 games and the Tigers were 17-0 in those games. He finished his career third in Clemson history in rushing touchdowns and fifth in rushing yards. has Gallman rated as the ninth best running back.
  10. Marlon Mack, 5-11, 213, South Florida (third/fourth):  He earned All-AAC first-team honors for three straight seasons. He rushed for 1,187 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.