It is yet again that time of the year. Prospects are funneling into Mobile, Alabama, for a great week of football practice. The Senior Bowl is an event where many NFL Draft stocks have been made in the past few years. For Senior Bowl running backs, that is no different than any other position.
This is an opportunity for these running backs to showcase an all-around skill set. It is where they can show where they provide value. Comparing this group in 2021 to the one in 2020, this year’s group is far more impressive. It will be a fight to rise to the top, but any running back that can do it can raise their stock significantly.
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Ranking the top running backs at the Senior Bowl — National Team
Najee Harris, Alabama
I don’t think any other running back will top Senior Bowl interest levels quite like Najee Harris. The young man is currently pegged as a consensus first-round prospect. The only thing that Harris is fighting for is the top running back spot in the draft. Now, I think he has that wrapped up, but he can separate himself from Travis Etienne this week with a strong showing.
Harris is an all-around freak of a running back. His promising floor/ceiling combination is fascinating for teams. For a team in win-now mode, Harris brings themselves a three-down, highly impactful running back on day one. Seriously, when watching Harris, there are not many limitations he has.
Is he a Saquon Barkley level athlete? No. Yet, he is plenty quick and explosive. He lacks the extra second gear, but Harris does not need it. Harris possesses excellent vision and contact balance to create yards. I love the physicality that Harris has in his game. He falls forward every time.
To make himself a three-down back, Harris showcases excellent hands and receiving ability out of the backfield. This is a young man who is a weapon and mismatch through the air. Then he complements it with savory pass protection skills, too. Harris is the top Senior Bowl running back and, to me, the top running back in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
If you want a guy who is 240 pounds but moves like he is sub-200, Rhamondre Stevenson is your guy. He has sweet feet. Stevenson can make cuts and move laterally as few men can make at his size, making him dangerous. Not only can he manipulate linebackers thanks to that quickness, but in a phone booth, Stevenson can make them miss, too.
Stevenson is a good pass protector and showcases soft hands. There are some limitations with him. For example, his head seems to be in another place at times. He does not see the field as well as he should. Also, in space, Stevenson is not overly dynamic. He can break a tackle or two, but he becomes a big plodder. That makes Stevenson a possible third-down back, but someone better suited in a rotational, two-down role instead.
Michael Carter, North Carolina
That North Carolina backfield was dynamite this season. A duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams made one of the top running back tandems in the nation. Williams has his hype, but Carter is right on that same level as Williams, to be quite honest. They could not be more polar opposites, however. Carter, in particular, is a blast to watch.
He is on the smaller side, but Carter possesses elite footwork, processing, and a second home run gear. Carter is an outstanding blend of explosiveness, quickness, speed, toughness, and patience to create every yard he possibly can on any given play. Add that Carter projects as a top-flight receiving back, and we have an excellent player here. Carter can fill a Nyheim Hines role at worst, and at his best, he can be Austin Ekeler.
With a strong week with the running backs at the Senior Bowl, Carter is a Day 2 pick.
Demetric Felton, UCLA
I am all in on Demetric Felton for his NFL role. Frankly, I am excited to see what he can do in Mobile. Felton is another hybrid wide receiver and running back weapon coming out of college programs more nowadays. That makes him versatile and far more valuable than he otherwise would have been. Felton runs a healthy NFL route tree and has superb separation quickness.
As a runner, Felton is electric in space. He can turn a loss into an explosive gain. That is the type of player we are talking about with Felton here. I think he lacks the true ability to work between the tackles at a high rate, which will limit his ceiling, but Felton has a bright NFL future ahead of him as a versatile, big-play weapon.
Ranking the top running backs at the Senior Bowl — American Team
Trey Sermon, Ohio State
Trey Sermon is one of the most complete running backs in this draft class. It was not just his explosion in the final three games that put me onto him. There are obvious traits that Sermon exhibits throughout the entire season that will translate nicely to the NFL. The first is an incredible change of direction. Sermon can move laterally and cut as well as anyone in this class. On top of that, Sermon has marvelous vision and processing ability.
Those movement skills and ability to create yards and elite contact balance give Sermon significant upside as an NFL running back. I don’t think he is the fastest guy ever, but he sure is elusive. If he can build upon his season’s end, Sermon can push the envelope into Day Two.
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