Elite running backs have burst onto the NFL scene in the past decade or so. There’s Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. In 2017, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey were selected fourth and eighth overall, respectively. Both enjoyed solid rookie seasons.
All of these players are among ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s highest-graded running back prospects since 2007, a list that recently grew by one ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft.
That would be former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. He’s not only the top running back in this draft class but one of the best NFL running back prospects in the past decade, according to McShay.
Barkley’s grade of 97 is tied for the second-highest in McShay’s rankings. Only Peterson, who came out of Oklahoma in 2007, is ranked higher.
Here’s McShay’s top 8 running back prospects and his description of what makes Barkley so appealing to NFL teams.
1. Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma, 2007): 98.
2. Saquon Barkley (Penn State, 2018): 97
2. Trent Richardson (Alabama, 2012): 97
4.. Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State, 2016): 93
4. Marshawn Lynch (California, 2007): 93
4. Leonard Fournette (LSU, 2017): 93
7. Todd Gurley (Georgia, 2015): 92
7. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford, 2017): 92
“Barkley is an explosive runner with a rare combination of size, speed, body control and competitiveness. He displays burst to turn the corner and run away from pursuit when he catches daylight. The top prospect on our board, Barkley projects as a Day 1 every-down back with the elite talent and elite intangibles to become a franchise-changing player. He’s gifted enough to emerge as an All-Pro caliber player early in his career. Barkley carries the highest running back grade we’ve given since Peterson. As far as NFL comparisons go, Todd Gurley (Rams), Ezekiel Elliott(Cowboys) and Barry Sanders (former Lion) are all fair in their own right.”
A week ahead of the 2018 NFL draft, Barkley’s draft position remains unclear. Some have him going No. 1 overall. Others have him slipping outside of the top 5. Most have him falling somewhere in between.
Nevertheless, whichever team picks the former Nittany Lions standout will get an elite prospect determined to cash in on his All-Pro potential.