2025 NFL Draft: Top running backs in key PFF categories

2T9E03M Boise State running back Ashton Jeanty drops the ball in the end zone after scoring a touchdown against Air Force during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Boise, Idaho. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)

• Boise State RB Ashton Jeanty was historically good in 2023: Jeanty excelled on the ground and through the air on his way to a historically high 0.55 wins above average score.

• Jordan James will take over for Bucky Irving in Oregon's backfield: James finished the 2023 campaign with a 92.8 rushing grade behind man/gap blocking schemes, which was the best mark of the 2025 running back group.

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Like we did for quarterbacks, we are introducing the 2025 draft class by providing context for what they are good at and just how good they are.

Here are our top running backs for 2025 and how they fared against one another in key PFF metrics.


FORCED MISSED TACKLE PER ATTEMPT: ASHTON JEANTY, BOISE STATE

RUNNERS UP: JONAH COLEMAN, JORDAN JAMES

If you haven’t heard of or looked into Boise State running back Ashton Jeanty yet, allow this article to be an introduction to one of the best backs in the country and a potential first-round pick in 2025.

Jeanty’s name will be on this list numerous times, either at the top or in the top three of the most stable (projectable) categories for running backs. Here, he takes the cake for the most forced missed tackles per attempt in 2023, a metric we like to use to try to individually evaluate running back production separate from the offensive line in front of them (as much as one can).

Jeanty's 0.38 missed tackles forced per attempt average in 2023 ranked in the 98th percentile among college football running backs and recently drafted running backs in the NFL.


YARDS AFTER CONTACT PER ATTEMPT: JONAH COLEMAN, ARIZONA

RUNNERS UP: ASHTON JEANTY, OMARION HAMPTON

Jonah Coleman is a 5-foot-9, 225-pound wrecking ball coming straight at defenders. His build is thick and powerful, with a ton of that power coming from his legs. That yielded 5.09 yards after contact per attempt in 2023 — you read that correctly: five yards after contact, not total yards per carry.

Coleman transferred from Arizona to Washington this summer, so we’ll see him in a different uniform this year. But his elite production in 2023 showed he’s worthy of a full workload as the Huskies' RB1.


RUSHING GRADE BEHIND MAN/GAP BLOCKING: JORDAN JAMES, OREGON

RUNNERS UP: ASHTON JEANTY, JONAH COLEMAN

Though he split time with Bucky Irving, Jordan James finished the 2023 campaign with a 92.8 rushing grade behind man/gap blocking schemes, which was the best of the group. His quick footwork and determination to get north in a hurry lends itself to production behind that kind of run scheme.

Jeanty and Coleman also recorded elite rushing grades behind man/gap blocking plays. Jeanty’s score comes from similar traits of footwork and vision, while Coleman's can be attributed more to his tackle-breaking abilities.


RUSHING GRADE BEHIND ZONE BLOCKING: ASHTON JEANTY, BOISE STATE

RUNNERS UP: KYLE MONANGAI, JORDAN JAMES

Jeanty’s production in 2023 was diverse and plentiful. He recorded elite rushing grades behind both man/gap and zone blocking concepts, with a 92.6 rush grade on zone plays.

As one would expect, this resulted in one of the highest rushing grades in the country overall. Jeanty is the total package of elite body control, contact balance, footwork and vision to succeed, regardless of where his aiming point is.

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FORCED MISSED TACKLES PER RECEPTION: KYLE MONANGAI, RUTGERS

RUNNERS UP: ASHTON JEANTY, RAHEIM SANDERS

Monangai in 2023 became the first Rutgers back to rush for more than 1,000 yards since 2012. And that wasn’t just due to the sheer number of carries, either. He was efficient, coming in at the 89th and 70th percentiles in missed tackles forced per attempt and yards after contact, respectively.

Those missed tackles come from fast footwork, but they also come from defenders feeling like they just hit a brick wall when Monangai makes contact with them — he’s smaller, but dense and powerful. His ability to break tackles in space has yielded a very high missed tackles average as a receiver and a rusher. Monangai's 0.63 average in that category placed him in the 99th percentile.


YARDS PER ROUTE RUN: ASHTON JEANTY, BOISE STATE

RUNNERS UP: NICK SINGLETON, DONOVAN EDWARDS

Jeanty was a receiver recruit in high school before switching to running back in his senior season and earning scholarship offers at the position. That work as a receiver translates very well to what he can do in the passing game.

In 2023, he recorded 578 receiving yards on 48 targets with zero drops. There’s a reason why the Broncos chose to emphasize Jeanty out of the backfield as much as they did on his way to a 99th-percentile yards per route run average. It’s because he delivers.


WINS ABOVE AVERAGE: ASHTON JEANTY, BOISE STATE

RUNNERS UP: JORDAN JAMES, JONAH COLEMAN

How a player affects the passing game weighs heavily into their value because, well, passing is more explosive and more potent than rushing. So, whoever brings more in the receiving game will score higher in the Wins Above Average metric.

Not only was Jeanty (the former wide receiver) the top player at his position in 2023, but he also recorded the fifth-highest single-season WAA score in PFF College history (0.55). The only backs with higher WAA scores were Christian McCaffrey in 2015 (0.87), Ezekiel Elliott in 2014 (0.72), Kareem Hunt in 2016 (0.71), Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2019 (0.63) and Najee Harris in 2020 (0.58).

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