2020 Pre-Draft Top 5 Rookie RB Rankings
by Alan Seslowsky
One of RosterWatch’s expert rookie analysts, Byron Lambert, unveiled his pre-draft rookie top five RB rankings this week. He gave a detailed breakdown during the RosterWatch podcast #236. In addition to Byron’s extensive film study and meticulous note taking, Byron is on the frontlines for RosterWatch nation. His scouting journey takes him to the Senior Bowl in Alabama, the NFL combine in Indianapolis, and the key Pro Days around the country.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt (Byron Lambert’s RB5)
Vaughn may not have prototypical workhorse RB size at 5’10” and 218 pounds, but it is good enough to be an NFL starter. He began his collegiate career as a complementary style runner with about 15 touches per game. Last season he showed he can shoulder the load with nearly 19 touches per contest. In the last two seasons, he topped 1300 yards. He is a pure and natural running back who was born to play the position. Vaughn is a capable pass-catcher as evident by his 28 receptions this past season. This should allow NFL teams to keep him on the field in most game scripts. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a bit older than most breakout rookie RBs. He will be 23 years old when the season starts. He should be viewed as a one-contract RB for your dynasty team.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: LSU (Byron Lambert’s RB4)
It’s fortunate for CEH that LSU passing game coordinator, Joe Brady, arrived in time for his Junior season. Under Brady’s passing scheme CEH caught 55 footballs, whereas he had less than 15 total in his previous two seasons. He’s a tough, gritty player who averaged over 6.5 YPC in 2019. He is a player that teammates consider the heart and soul of a locker room. CEH was named a permanent team captain by his team and coaches. Byron pointed out that CEH had many “traditional” running back reps at LSU, which is unusual at the highest college level. Many of the top backs are taking shotgun reps. This should make for an easier transition to the professional game. Some are down on his 4.6 forty yard dash time, but don’t overlook the fact that he’s a 69th percentile SPARQ athlete based on all combine testing. LSU star QB, Joe Burrow, said that CEH is the “best player I have ever been around.”
D’Andre Swift, Georgia (Byron Lambert’s RB3)
Swift is an elusive runner with three-down capability, great instincts and the ability to make big plays. Swift has great feet and is more physical than you might expect at his stature. Over 1300 yards per season the last two years with an outstanding 6.6 YPC. Over his career, D’Andre Swift averaged only 12 touches per game, but it was closer to 16 touches per game in 2019. RosterWatch thinks Kansas City would be a perfect fit for his skill set. Swift can run through the tackles, take the toss plays to the outside, and can run crisp routes out of the backfield. Swift has a good enough athletic profile coming out of that big time program at Georgia. D’Andre Swift has bonified NFL viability.
JK Dobbins, Ohio State (Byron Lambert’s RB2)
An elusive player with explosive on-field burst. Dobbins did not test at the combine, but there is plenty of film evidence that he is a very good athlete as well as his historic testing performance at Nike’s The Opening as a high school recruit. Dobbins has a natural three-down skillset with the ability to shed tacklers. His touches per game increased each season. He went from 15 to 18, to an eye-popping 23 in 2019, demonstrating workhorse capabilities. For his career, he was able to maintain a very respectable 6.2 YPC. With 25 receptions per year, it is good enough to prove he can be part of the passing game at the NFL level. He comes to the NFL with “just the right amount” of tread on the tires. JK Dobbins vs D’Andre Swift will be a highly debated subject, and landing spot could ultimately determine RosterWatch’s final ranking of these two players.
Jonathan Taylor: Wisconsin (Byron Lambert’s RB1)
Jonathan Taylor solidified his place atop the RosterWatch pre-draft RB ranks with his combine performance. We were already high on the elite prospect before he ran a blazing 4.39 forty. A prototypical workhorse RB in the mold of the leagues very best at his position, he stands out above the rest in this class. With an explosive athletic profile and a size-speed combo, Taylor has tremendous ability to shed tacklers and has natural RB instincts. He is capable of being a big volume player that is reserved for a few RBs at the NFL level. His production highlights include 6.7 YPC and 55 total TDs; over 18 TD per season. Some argue that his monster workload at Wisconsin represents “too much tread on the tires.” RosterWatch believes those workloads prove he can hold up under the punishment at the next level. The bottom line is that Taylor is one of those rare prospects, and not many exist like him in the NFL.