Top RBs at the Shrine Bowl: Jonathon Brooks, Blake Watson Primed To Turn Heads

Which of the Shrine Bowl running backs should you be watching as the 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl takes center stage in the pre-draft process?

The 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl is here, and the running backs boast a deep group this season. Star Kansas City Chief Isiah Pacheco first broke onto the stage at the Shrine Bowl and hasn’t looked back since.

Are any of this year’s Shrine Bowl running backs destined to for top NFL Draft picks and stardom?

Shrine Bowl RB Rankings

The Shrine Bowl begins on Saturday, Jan. 27, and will be a spectacle for all NFL Draft enthusiasts. This year’s running back class is chock-full of talents from the FBS and FCS level who are all primed to be difference-makers in the NFL.

Here’s how those RBs stack up against one another at this stage of their prospective NFL Draft journey.

1) Jonathon Brooks, Texas

There is a pretty good chance that Jonathon Brooks will be the first running back drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft. However, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll participate in the practices or games during the Shrine Bowl after a late-season ACL tear.

Brooks isn’t the most powerful runner but is elusive and a good decision-maker. He’s a natural pass catcher and boasts some impressive burst in the open field. He’ll appeal as a lead back for teams who run a lot of outside zone.

2) Blake Watson, Memphis

Much like Brooks, Blake Watson isn’t a powerful back but makes up for it by being a slippery playmaker. The Memphis back displayed good vision and elusiveness on his way to finishing second in the AAC in rushing yards this season. Watson is a tremendous receiving option out of the backfield as well.

MORE: Top RBs in the 2024 NFL Draft

He is on the smaller side at 5’9″ and 195 pounds, but Watson can be a fun playmaker in the NFL.

3) Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

A former Wisconsin Badger, Guerendo is a superb blend of size and speed. The Cardinals’ standout stands at 6’1″ and 225 pounds and is a former three-time state champion in track. Guerendo’s speed pops on film, and he brings the toughness his size dictates. He’s also a reliable pass catcher with extensive special teams experience, making him even more appealing.

Guerendo can be an effective change-of-pace back right away with the traits to carve out a more significant role in the NFL.

4) Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss

Frank Gore Jr. is coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and was one of the best Group of Five running backs over the last three years. He runs with a toughness that belies his 5’10”, 200-pound frame and shows off good speed in the open field.

Gore sees the field well as a rusher and is patient, letting blocks develop before gashing defenses. He’s also an effective receiving option, even if he doesn’t get targeted often. There’s potential for him to be a dependable part of a committee in the NFL.

5) Jaden Shirden, Monmouth

Jaden Shirden is a similar style of player to Watson, in that he is a smaller, explosive back. The Monmouth rusher gets the ball in his hand, and big plays naturally follow. He eats up ground in a hurry with great burst and makes defenders look foolish with his elusiveness due to a lower center of gravity.

I’ll be curious to see how he translates against better competition in Frisco, Texas, but the speed and playmaking ability is undeniable.

6) Tyrone Tracy Jr., Purdue

A former wide receiver turned running back, the receiving ability of Tyrone Tracy Jr. is undeniable. The explosiveness pops on film, and he forces plenty of missed tackles in the open field.

Although I like his fit in an outside zone offense as part of a committee, Tracy likely makes his mark as a special teamer in the NFL, much like DeeJay Dallas.

7) Carson Steele, UCLA

It speaks to the talent of this crop that a player like Carson Steele is this low. Steele has tremendous contact balance and can also be a solid receiving option out of the backfield. The UCLA RB won’t blow anyone away with his athleticism, but he’s a smart rusher who maximizes every run he gets. Steele is also a steady pass protector, giving him additional value in this class.

8) Deshaun Fenwick, Oregon State

The first thing that stands out about Deshaun Fenwick is his enormous size. Standing at 6’2″ and close to 235 pounds, Fenwick will dwarf many of the Shrine Bowl backs.

The former Beaver boasts good athleticism for his size and had some encouraging reps in pass protection. I’d like to see how he does away from Oregon State’s offensive line and breaking tackles against better competition.

9) Jabari Small, Tennessee

Small got buried behind two other extremely talented backs at Tennessee, Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson, this year, but he has plenty to offer NFL teams. His 2022 film shows a running back who simply avoids making mistakes. Small just consistently creates positive plays and keeps the chains moving.

Small doesn’t play with the same amazing contact balance or explosiveness as other running backs on this list, but there is something to be said for a reliable player.

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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