Who is this year's Josh Jacobs? The Raiders rookie rushed for 1,150 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, and scored seven times, turning in a terrific first season in Oakland. Teams looking to similarly boost their rushing attack will have some good options with this year's class of running backs.
Top 5 running backs to watch at Combine:
1. D'Andre Swift, Georgia, 5-9, 215
Swift has a terrific feel for the game with excellent patience and vision. He was a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher for the Bulldogs the last two seasons and averaged better than 6.0 yards per carry in each season. He's good in the pass game, which is becoming more and more of a prerequisite for NFL teams when looking at young backs. He's the complete package as a runner.
View photos of NFL.com's top running back prospects attending the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.
2. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State, 5-10, 217
It's not often a true freshman comes in and wins the starting running back job at Ohio State. It just shows how special Dobbins is. The Big Ten running back of the year, Dobbins was one of just three FBS backs to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards on the season (2,003). He's a no-nonsense north and south runner, who's scored 38 career touchdowns and proven to be extremely durable over his career.
3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin, 5-11, 219
He was the Big Ten Freshman of the year after almost netting 2,000 yards (1,977) his first season in Madison. He eclipsed 2,000 yards in 2018 (2,194), averaging 7.1 yards per attempt, and did so again this past season (2,003). He's got track speed that shows up all over the football field. He's the top home run threat in the class. He rushed for at least 200 yards 12 times over his career and scored 55 total touchdowns.
4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU, 5-8, 205
Rushed for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Tigers this past season, earning first-team All-SEC honors. He also caught 55 passes for another 453 yards and was a very good kickoff return man as well. He was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football. He's a low, compact runner with the ability to break tackles and run tough inside. He's a true three-down back with the ability to be a matchup weapon and difference maker in the passing game.
5. Cam Akers, Florida State, 5-11, 212
Led the Seminoles in rushing each of the last three seasons, finishing his career with 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season. He also caught 30 passes and scored four touchdowns in the passing game. Ball security will be a concern for some teams. He's a former high school quarterback with a versatile skill set.
Combine sleeper to watch:
AJ Dillon, Boston College, 6-0, 250
A big back with plus athleticism and instincts, Dillon shouldn't be pigeonholed as just a power back. There's more to his running style than that. Rushed for 1,685 yards in 2019 with 14 touchdowns. He finds the end zone, scoring 39 career touchdowns in three seasons. If he runs well at the Combine, his stock could climb considerably.
View photos from the Detroit Lions' 2019 halftime shows at Ford Field.
Lions need at the position: Low
Detroit seems to be pretty happy with its current trio of Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson at the position. That's not to say the Lions won't be open to adding another runner to the mix, but running backs coach Kyle Caskey was very complimentary of the trio when speaking to detroitlions.com at the Senior Bowl. He was looking forward to having Kerryon Johnson and Scarbrough healthy and together for more than just the two games we saw at the end of this past season. Both players averaged better than 4.0 yards per carry sharing Detroit's backfield the last two games of the year.
There are obvious concerns about Johnson's durability, as he's landed on IR with knee injuries in each of his first two seasons. When healthy, he's a good three-down back, and Detroit's found a nice complement in the north-south running style of Scarbrough. Johnson needs to prove he can stay healthy, otherwise running back could be a higher priority heading into 2021.
Key stat: Johnson and Barry Sanders are the only players in team history to rush for 1,000 yards and average better than 4.5 yards per carry through their first 18 career games.