The superlatives continue (check out quarterbacks and wide receivers) as we turn our attention to the running back position. I’m surprised PFF even lets me write about these guys anymore because, as you know, they are all the same (just kidding … kinda). Running back is still a skillset-driven position, and finding the right type for your respective offense is meaningful. Without further ado, the superlatives:
Best Home-Run Threat: Raymond Calais, Louisiana
Honorable Mentions: Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State & LeVante Bellamy, Western Michigan
Speed is the name of the game for Calais, who clocked a cool 4.42-second 40-yard dash time at the Combine. Of his 113 carries last season, 12 went for 15-plus yards — including two 80-plus yarders. Calais, Evans and Bellamy aren't going to be every-down backs in your offense, but give them open field to work with, and watch them scoot.
Best Between the Tackles: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Honorable Mentions: Zack Moss, Utah & J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
This is undoubtedly where Taylor wins. He made the most out of almost every run he had over the course of his Wisconsin career, and it's easy to feel great about that translating to the NFL from the pro-style rushing attack Wisconsin deploys. Taylor averaged over 1,300 yards per season for the Badgers … after contact.
Here are all of Jonathan Taylor's 26 touchdowns from his final year at Wisconsin (21 rushing, 5 receiving).
So smooth. pic.twitter.com/g23riL56fq
— James Simpson (@JS_Football) April 4, 2020
Best Receiver: D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Honorable Mentions: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU & J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Swift is the modern do-it-all running back. His ability to torch linebackers one-on-one as a route-runner is what we here at PFF covet more than any other skill at the position. Over the course of his Georgia career, he hauled in 73 passes for 666 yards and five scores while breaking 19 tackles and dropping three targets.
D'Andre Swift has one speed: FAST ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/PnZDcJKdKt
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 7, 2018
Most Elusive: Zack Moss, Utah
Honorable Mentions: Cam Akers, Florida State & Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Elusive for us might not mean elusive for everyone else. A tackler might be able to get their hands on Moss, but chances are, they won't be bringing him down. He’s been one of the best tackle-shedders that we’ve ever seen in college football. In fact, his 0.38 forced missed tackles per carry this past season was the highest of any back with at least 150 carries since we started grading in 2014.
Zack Moss' lateral cuts are absurd. He's such an agile back with great COD and balance. pic.twitter.com/BoWrgBPTUC
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) January 11, 2020
Grading Doesn’t Match Hype: Anthony McFarland, Maryland
Honorable Mentions: Lamical Perine, Florida & Joshua Kelley, UCLA
This one is interesting because, even when McFarland was lighting it up in 2018 with 7.9 yards per carry and 1,033 yards, the grading was still unimpressive. He earned a 78.4 rushing grade that season and backslid along with his rushing numbers to a 75.0 rushing grade this past season.
Sleeper: Antonio Gibson, Memphis
Honorable Mentions: Raymond Calais, Louisiana & James Robinson, Illinois State
I’m not sure how many are still sleeping on Gibson after he posted a 4.39-second 40-yard dash time while weighing 228 pounds at the Combine. With only 78 touches in his Memphis career, though, Gibson still qualifies. It’s not only that he can run fast, but also that he’s a nightmare to bring down. On those 78 touches, he broke 33 tackles and averaged 11.2 yards per carry and 19.0 yards per reception. I have no clue why he didn’t play more, but Gibson is a certified freak.
I like Antonio Gibson more as a RB at the next level – burst, power, breakaway speed.
Think a full transition there from WR makes the most sense (while also being a factor on ST too) pic.twitter.com/IVPQ6xUt19
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) February 20, 2020
Most Fun to Watch: J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Honorable Mentions: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU & Antonio Gibson, Memphis
This one came with some debate, but … just watch:
Y’all ever seen a 5-5, 185 pound RB with a truck stick like this? pic.twitter.com/zw6azqllxj
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 10, 2020
Watching the smallest player on the field lower his shoulder into defenders game after game is incredible. Taylor also does his fair share of clowning in the open field with his bouncy agility. The truck stick obviously won’t be his game in the NFL, but the way he runs makes me want to believe.