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The best college running back duos in NFL Draft history, now featuring Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel

This twosome has a case for the best college career of the bunch. Now how about the NFL?

Southern v Georgia
Nick Chubb (left) and Sony Michel (right)
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are not the highest-drafted college running back duo in NFL Draft history. But they’re more accomplished than everyone of the 55 duos that have been historically drafted ahead of them.

Chubb and Michel ran for more yards together in college than any other running back duo in FBS history — a combined 8,382 yards. They scored 87 touchdowns and helped transform Georgia from an SEC East disappointment to a national title contender. Now they’re heading pro together.

Michel went 31st overall to the Patriots on Thursday, right near the end of the first round. Chubb then went 35th overall to the Browns in the second round.

These are the 11 highest-picked RB tandems out of the 55 duos before Georgia’s 2018 class:

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, 55 college teams have had two (or more) running backs drafted in the first five rounds in a given year. These are the earliest-picked tandems:

  • 2004 Auburn: Ronnie Brown (No. 2 overall) and Cadillac Williams (5). The only time in the post-merger history that two running backs from the same team have gone in the top five. The two played together for four seasons and totaled more than 6,000 combined rushing yards and 76 total touchdowns while at Auburn.
  • 2007 Arkansas: Darren McFadden (4) and Felix Jones (22). Neither had much of an NFL career, though McFadden hung around for a while after busting in Oakland.
  • 1970 Ohio State: John Brockington (9) and Leo Hayden (24). Brockington had a strong career, making three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team (as a rookie). Hayden didn’t make much of a mark during a three-year career before exiting the league.
  • 1986 Texas A&M: Roger Vick (21) and Rod Bernstine (24). Vick only lasted four years, and Bernstine never had a 1,000-yard rushing season, either, but he did play nine seasons.

Those are the only times a college team has had two first-round backs, though a few other tandems went in the top 32 and thus would’ve been first-rounders if the league were its current size. The next highest-picked, by average draft position:

  • 2005 USC: Reggie Bush (2) and LenDale White (45). White was the thunder to Bush’s lightning. But he didn’t last long in the NFL, and Bush — maybe the most electric college running back ever — was only good in the league.
  • 1981 Arizona State: Gerald Riggs (9) and Robert Weathers (40). Riggs went on to a three-Pro Bowl career. Weathers didn’t put together much of an NFL career.
  • 1973 Colorado: Bo Matthews (2) and Charlie Davis (48). A third CU running back, Jon Keyworth, went in the sixth round, 144th overall, and had more career rushing yards (699) than Matthews and Davis combined.
  • 1992 Notre Dame: Jerome Bettis (10) became a Hall of Famer, and Reggie Brooks (45) was a starter for one year.
  • 1986 Clemson: Terrence Flagler (25) and Kenny Flowers (31) combined for fewer than 400 career rushing yards.
  • 1985 LSU: Garry James (29) and Dalton Hilliard (31). James washed out quickly, but Hilliard made a Pro Bowl and got more than 4,000 career yards.
  • 1971 Penn State. Franco Harris (13) caught the Immaculate Reception and did some other stuff, while Lydell Mitchell (48) made three Pro Bowls in a nine-year career.

Michel and Chubb will likely rank toward the bottom of the 55-duo list, even though they had the most productive college careers.

Many of these duos were amazing in college.

For example:

  • Brown and Williams were a devastating power-and-speed punch for an undefeated Auburn.
  • Bush and White were key pieces in one of the most exciting two-year runs by any college program ever (2004-05 at USC).
  • McFadden and Jones were central to the introduction of the wildcat offense.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson is 12th on the NCAA’s all-time rushing list with 5,387 yards. He was the No. 5 pick in 2001, and his fullback, George Layne, was a fourth-rounder. (Layne had eight TDs his senior year).

In the NFL, the best of these tandems is probably ‘72 Penn State’s.

Harris is a Hall of Famer and the author of one of the most famous plays in football history, and Mitchell had nearly 10,000 scrimmage yards and scored 47 touchdowns with the Colts, Chargers, and Rams.

In 1975, Jackson State’s Walter Payton went No. 4 overall, and backfield-mate Rickey Young went in the seventh round at No. 164. Young had more than 6,000 all-purpose yards and started in the league for seven seasons, while Payton turned out to be Payton.

Out of SMU in 1983, Eric Dickerson (No. 2 overall) was a star, while Craig James (No. 187) managed one Pro Bowl appearance.

Another duo — fellow Florida first-round picks John Williams and Neal Anderson in 1986 — combined for pretty evenly distributed 17 seasons’ worth of starts, six Pro Bowls, and 11,000 rushing yards.

Chubb and Michel won’t be the only college RB duo drafted in 2018.

The other schools that had multiple backs at the league’s scouting combine in March: Arizona State (Kallen Ballage, DeMario Richard), Auburn (Kerryon Johnson, Kamryn Pettway), LSU (Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams), San Diego State (Nick Bawden, Rashaad Penny), and Western Michigan (Jarvion Franklin, Donnie Ernsberger).

Any of these tandems could make waves. But none will enter the league with the body of work Michel and Chubb put together in Athens.