The recent controversy over contracts for elite running backs has highlighted the importance of finding valuable RB talent in the 2024 NFL Draft. Maximizing the value of a rookie contract is especially crucial for this position. Fortunately, the 2024 NFL Draft class could provide teams with the opportunity to do just that.
Ranking the Top RBs in the 2024 NFL Draft
10) MarShawn Lloyd, USC
If medicals check out, MarShawn Lloyd could be one of the more underrated backs in the 2024 NFL Draft class. The 5’9″, 215-pound runner crossed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2023, averaging over seven yards per carry with the Trojans.
Despite having the size and density of a volume back, Lloyd is actually incredibly spry and agile on the lateral plane, and his change of direction complements his contact balance perfectly. He’s also a competent receiver, which will only help his stock with a Senior Bowl showing on deck.
9) Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
Some RB evaluations are complicated. But Braelon Allen‘s is fairly simple. He’s an explosive 6’2″, 245-pound back who amassed 3,494 yards and 35 touchdowns on 597 carries in three years at Wisconsin, and he doesn’t turn 20 years old until late January.
Allen isn’t as natural or as dynamic as one would prefer as a receiver, and he can still improve his lateral creativity and pass-blocking consistency. But with his size, athleticism, and physicality, he’s built to shoulder the load at the NFL level.
8) Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State
Our updated RB list for the 2024 NFL Draft includes one of the top overall FCS prospects in the class: South Dakota State’s Isaiah Davis. Over the past two seasons, Davis has accumulated 3,029 yards and 33 touchdowns while averaging over six yards per carry.
Davis looks like your classic physical, downhill runner at 6’1″, 220 pounds. He’s a forward-churning runner with great finishing ability, and that’ll win over NFL scouts. But peel back the surface layers, and you’ll also see an impressively creative runner with energetic feet, adaptability, and sharp vision.
7) Blake Corum, Michigan
Few running backs were more productive than Blake Corum in 2022, and he somehow upped the ante in 2023 with 27 touchdowns on the ground. Corum may only be 5’8″, but he’s rocked up with an extremely dense 210-pound frame.
At that size, he’s an urgent runner with good vision who can press upfield behind blocks before using his explosiveness and energy to divert into space. His passing-down utility is unclear, but even if he’s not a three-down back, his ability to take volume is impressive.
Corum’s ranking falls a bit because of his unproven passing-down utility, as well as his advanced age at the RB spot. But he’s still a potential top-100 talent who should get a chance to start at the NFL level.
6) Audric Estime, Notre Dame
Few RB prospects can say they improved their 2024 NFL Draft stock this year more than Notre Dame’s Audric Estime. After taking the full-time starting role, Estime ran for 210 carries, 1,341 yards, and 18 touchdowns and also caught 17 passes for 142 yards.
At 5’11”, 227 pounds, Estime is an absolute bowling ball in open space whose hyper-elite contact balance allows him to churn through crowds with ease. But he quietly has good vision, patience, and tempo control, and in a limited sample, he’s flashed receiving upside.
5) Jaylen Wright, Tennessee
If you want speed and running efficiency, Jaylen Wright might be your man in the polarizing 2024 NFL Draft class. Wright rushed for 1,013 yards at an absurd 7.4 yards-per-carry average in 2023, using his lightning-quick feet and vertical range to consistently produce.
Wright still experiences lapses in vision at times, and at 5’11”, 210 pounds, he doesn’t quite have elite mass or contact balance. But he’s a true change-of-pace back with volume upside, and his elite long speed is unique to him and him alone.
4) Will Shipley, Clemson
There’s not a back who has benefitted more from the NFL’s further adoption of spread concepts than Will Shipley. Shipley is a crafty, nuanced runner who would be a solid player even with worse athleticism, but he brings high-level quickness and fluidity anyway.
Shipley showed off some of that ability in amassing 210 carries for 1,182 yards and 15 scores in 2022. Injuries prevented Shipley from maintaining his high-level production in 2023, but the talent and versatility is still apparent.
Shipley is a snappy runner with rare short-area instincts who can dart back and forth between minuscule lanes on his way to the second level. His hip flexibility is absurd, but Shipley doubles as a stellar athlete with burst and speed in the open field.
3) Jonathon Brooks, Texas
It wasn’t a guarantee that Jonathon Brooks would declare for the 2024 NFL Draft after tearing his ACL late in the 2023 season, but Brooks’ 212 total touches, 1,425 total yards, and 11 total touchdowns were good enough to parlay into an early departure for the pros.
At 6’0″, 207 pounds, the 20-year-old Brooks is an explosive second-level glider who doubles as a high-level creator in tight spaces and an exceptional receiving threat. If he can get back to 100% or isn’t flagged at the Combine, he’ll be in high demand when April rolls around.
2) Bucky Irving, Oregon
The Oregon Ducks have a loaded backfield for the 2024 NFL Draft. Bo Nix is a potential early-round pick at quarterback. And alongside him, Oregon has Bucky Irving — an insanely talented runner who eclipsed 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons from 2022 to 2023.
Irving logged 1,180 yards and 11 touchdowns at 6.3 yards per carry in 2023, and he also caught an impressive 56 passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns. Whenever you watch Irving, it’s clear: He plays at a different speed than everyone else.
At 5’10”, 194 pounds, Irving isn’t the most imposing back upon initial viewing, but he catches defenders off guard repeatedly with his spry short-area burst and dangerous elusiveness in space, and he’s surprisingly physical for his size, with the contact balance to bounce off solo tackles.
Who Is the Best RB in the NFL Draft?
1) Trey Benson, Florida State
Volume backs will never go extinct in totality, even as the NFL trends more toward a modern, more dynamic era.
Teams pass to get the lead, and they run to stay ahead. Having a back who can jointly shoulder the load and generate big plays like Trey Benson is extremely valuable. Benson rumbled for 905 yards and 14 scores in 2023 and also caught 20 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown.
Benson is a 6’1″, 220-pound runner who has a tendency to run upright at times. However, he is very skilled at quickly navigating through seams as a north/south runner, and he can explode downfield with his vertical speed.
Benson’s foot speed and micro-mobility impress within his long-strider mold, and in a limited sample, he’s shown off exciting receiving upside. Of the backs in the 2024 NFL Draft, Benson has the best chance to be a true three-down workhorse.
- Dillon Johnson, Washington
- Blake Watson, Memphis
- Emani Bailey, TCU
- Jawhar Jordan, Louisville
- Rasheen Ali, Marshall
- Carson Steele, UCLA
- Ray Davis, Kentucky
- Kimani Vidal, Troy
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