2024 RB Prospects Part 2
By: Cody Folden
The first half of the NFL Draft running back class came out earlier this week.
I will be ranking the top 10 of each position. It is broken down from 10 to 1, into two articles from 10 to 6, and 5 to 1. Film breakdowns and testing will factor in. But, as of this moment, this specific article is for BEFORE the scouting combine. New and updated articles will be released after the combine and after the NFL draft.
These are the other two major events that will tell us a lot of information. Some will say this is a weak running back class. While I agree there are no top-tier guys for draft positions this year. I expect these 10, maybe even 5 more, running backs to get drafted and they will play a role on the team that drafts them next year. There are a lot of complementary backs in this 2024 draft.
Player comparisons, draft projections, and measurables will all be taken into effect and added in once they are more available. Starting off with number 5 we have:
Running Back #5 - Bucky Irving (Oregon)
He began his career as a Minnesota Gopher. Then he transferred to Oregon for a chance to start and did very well. In college, he ran for 2937 yards with an average of 6.2 yards per carry. He also scored 20 rushing touchdowns. What sets him apart from the others in his class are his receiving stats: 95 catches, 785 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
The 5'10" 190 lbs. running back has elite speed and is confident when he is in open space. However, to be effective in the NFL he will need to learn to be more disciplined in staying in his run lanes. He also has trouble changing direction. His hips don't move fast enough, so he either trips or slips.
Bucky Irving has soft hands and it's a weapon in the passing game. Lining up in every position a wide receiver can and being efficient on swing passes and screens will help him at the next level. The measurables at the combine will be key. The Oregon prospect while fast and confident, needs to put on some muscle. Few make it in the NFL, as running backs, that are less than 200 lbs.
The team that drafts Bucky and his draft position will also play a major role. If he gets into an outside zone and gap scheme type of offense, he will be phenomenal. If he doesn’t he could very well be wasted.
I think there is a significant tier break after this point. The next four running backs have performed exceptionally well on film compared to the rest of the list. From Bucky Irving to Rasheen Ali, these backs all have the skills and potential to be top-tier running backs in the right system.
I believe the next three don't require a specific system to succeed based on their abilities. The best running back (who we'll discuss soon) has the highest potential. We will cover all that and more.
Running Back #4 - MarShawn Lloyd (USC)
Lloyd may be the oldest running back in the top 5 at 23 years old, I believe this is why he shows out on film. His career started at South Carolina and then transferred to Southern California. He is 5'9" and weighs 210 lbs.
In his 4 year career, he gained 1621 yards with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He also scored 19 rushing touchdowns. He caught 34 passes for 452 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. He needs to improve his pass-protection technique. However, he is the first running back who can defend against a blitz and give his quarterback more time in the pocket. This is very important in the NFL, and I believe it will make teams draft him earlier than expected.
While his elusiveness in the open field is questionable, he has enough flash to flat-foot a linebacker. I also question his lateral question but he does get away with it because of his feet and balance. Like Jase McClellan, Lloyd knows how to play the running back effectively.
He is patient, has good vision at the line of scrimmage (LOS), and excels between the hashes. The USC product can bounce it outside and be effective out there too if that is what he is asked to do. When the blocking isn't there and the play is blown up he then tries to do too much and can make a negative play even worse.
With that being said, the Senior Bowl is here. Expect him to be on the stock-up or surprise lists when those articles come out next week. He will be impressive. People will like how effortlessly he plays and he will show why he will be moving up NFL draft boards.
The top 3 is here. We will start with:
Running Back #3 Trey Benson (Florida State)
I understand. Some of you stopped reading. There are big fans of Benson out there, and my ranking him at 3 doesn't take away from your love for him. I enjoyed watching his tape, and he was one of the best on film. He is ranked highly for that reason. He started at Oregon and then went to Florida State, where he started to shine and become the lead back.
In his career, he has 1918 yards with an average of 6.1 yards per carry and 24 rushing touchdowns. He also had 33 receptions for 371 yards and 1 receiving touchdown.
Benson is the best at catching the ball out of the backfield. He has breakaway speed and is a home run hitter in open space. Like MarShawn Lloyd, his feet can sometimes be too quick for his hips. This makes him slip or miss the cuts he wants to get to the open field. He hesitates at the line of scrimmage and looks to bounce to the outside too much for my liking.
However, Benson has a nice bag of tricks. His RPO fakes are great, he has good moves in whichever lane he is in, and defenders can't catch him in open space.
Benson is the ideal size at 6'1'' and 215 lbs, but he has an injury history and has torn every ligament in his knee. It hasn't affected his speed, but he still has a history of it, and he sometimes seeks too much contact when he plays. Scouts will have mixed opinions on Benson. It all comes down to what you want. However, there is no doubt that he is a top 3 back in this draft.
At number 2:
Running Back #2 - Johnathon Brooks (Texas)
Johnathon Brooks, a 20-year-old from Texas, had a great year. In his third year at Texas, he finished his career with 1479 yards, an average of 6.2 yards per carry, and 16 touchdowns. He also had 28 receptions for 385 yards and 1 touchdown.
Like Benson in the receiving game, Brooks is in the rushing game. He moves smoothly and his first step is impressive. He controls his pace and has good control of his base and feet. However, his ability to run in open fields is questionable.
He has the potential to be a dynamic runner, but he often gets into trouble when he's not in a lane. He has shown some moves to evade tackles, but not consistently. He is willing to block but needs to work on his form. The big question for Brooks is his recent injury history. Can he come back as dynamic as before? Can he maintain his high-level production without the Texas offense?
In my opinion, Johnathon Brooks is one of the top 3 running backs based on his production in just one year. Although the injury is concerning, there is enough evidence on tape to show his skills. Even without attending the combine or pro day, his interviews and measurables in the NFL draft process should be enough for him to be one of the first three running backs chosen. However, Benson may still challenge him for this spot.
Here it is, my number 1 back for 2024 just based on the film breakdown:
Running Back #1 Braelon Allen (Wisconsin)
Braelon Allen just turned 20 years old on January 20th. He is one of the youngest prospects to come out for the NFL draft this year. He has already made a strong impact at Wisconsin. Standing at 6'2'' and weighing 240 lbs., Allen is a powerful player.
In just 3 years, he has gained an impressive 3494 rushing yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and scored 35 touchdowns. He has also shown his skills in receiving, with 49 receptions for 275 yards. Allen has proven himself to be a reliable running back.
While blocking may not be a big deal in fantasy football, it is crucial for getting drafted and succeeding in the NFL. Braelon Allen is the only running back in his class who has excelled in blitz pickup and pass blocking.
I know what other writers and people are saying about Allen and I get it. On tape, he looks slow. I can assure you he is not and I know he will prove it during the NFL draft process. He is the only running back to show sustainability throughout his time in college as well. While he has ball security issues, it's more where he is holding the ball and could be fixed.
Another reason why I think Allen looks slow on tape is his confidence in the open field. Allen is a power back, he has an unorthodox shiftiness that he is so big that his fluidness makes him look slow.
Allen can excel as a running back in the passing game. He is effective at swing passes and screens, but he lacks confidence in other areas. To improve, he should work on expanding his route options. He should also become quicker at bringing the ball into his body and advancing upfield.
Despite the challenges at Wisconsin, Allen performed well. Benson and Brooks had the advantage of playing on highly productive offenses. They had more time and space compared to Allen. Despite Wisconsin's struggles, Allen stood out as a bright spot.
There it is. My top 10 rookie options at running back for 2024. Before we head out, let’s get a few things straight. This list is ever-evolving. Trey Benson, Blake Corum, and Bucky Irving could move up, and Braelon Allen, Marshawn Lloyd, and others could move down. Players I didn't even talk about some running backs like Isaiah Davis from South Dakota State and Ray Davis from Kentucky, that can make the list. Come back after the combine to see if anyone new cracks the list, and how the list has changed.
Cody Folden joined the Dynasty Pros team in 2023. He plays in many dynasty leagues but dabbles in other leagues like devy, contract, and scouting leagues. He loves to dive deep into learning about prospects coming up through college and seeing them thrive when they get to the league.