The 2019 NFL Draft isn’t stocked with star tailbacks, but what this year’s crop of eligible runners may lack in top-line talent, it makes up for in depth.
This year’s list of chain-moving, yardage-churning backs includes Heisman Trophy candidates, Power 5 stars, and Group of 5 touchdown machines. Stanford’s Bryce Love had his quest to be college football’s most valuable player derailed by a shocking regression as a senior, then buried under a torn ACL late in the season. His limited workout in Indianapolis will be the first scouts get to see of him since Dec. 1.
While Love may not be at full strength, SEC standouts Josh Jacobs (Alabama), Damien Harris (Alabama), Benny Snell (Kentucky), and Elijah Holyfield (Georgia) will take the turf as college rivals one last time as they try to outwork each other in hopes of sneaking into the tail end of the first round. They could have their spots usurped by Devin Singletary, whose three years at Florida Atlantic saw him score 66 (SIXETY-SIX!) touchdowns while averaging six yards per carry.
So who will have the biggest performance as running backs kick off the NFL Combine’s underwear Olympics at Lucas Oil Stadium? Follow along with us while we break down the best and worst from Friday’s running back drills.
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Barnes got things started on Thursday, when he broke Jerick McKinnon’s bench press record for true running backs. Barnes, who rushed for 1,355 yards last season at Kansas State, put up 34 reps:
Barnes also showed off solid speed by clocking a sub-4.6-second 40 one day later and turned in the second-highest vertical leap among running backs.
Top official vertical jumps for running backs at #NFLCombine:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) March 1, 2019
1. Justice Hill, @CowboyFB, 40
2. Travis Homer, @CanesFootball, 39.5
3. Alex Barnes, @KStateFB, 38.5
4. Damien Harris, @AlabamaFTBL, 37
5. James Williams, @WSUCougFB, 36.5
His day was almost as good as:
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Hill was advertised as one of the combine’s most explosive athletes, and he’s failed to disappoint in Indianapolis. He started his Friday with a 40-inch leap — then turned around with an unofficial 4.4-second 40 time that put him atop the running back rankings early in the afternoon.
He also recorded a 130-inch broad jump, which tied with Miami’s Travis Homer and Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams for the top mark at the combine. That combination puts Hill among some elite company.
It wasn’t all good, however. Hill tweaked his hamstring on his second 40, likely ending his combine in the process. He hopes to be back in action for Oklahoma State’s pro day March 12.
Miles Sanders, Penn State
Sanders likely cemented his spot as a Day 2 pick by flashing the speed that pushed him to more than 1,200 rushing yards in his lone season as a Nittany Lions starter. The 215-pound back clocked a 4.45-second 40 to help dispel the notion he’s just Saquon Barkley’s backup.
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Weber split carries with JK Dobbins in his final two seasons as a Buckeye, but he flashed some featured back speed in Indiana Friday. The compact runner clocked in at 4.49 seconds per NFL Network’s unofficial time — and 4.40 seconds flat on the NFL’s unofficial tracker. That number dropped to 4.38 on his second attempt, making him the first player to break 4.4 at the 2019 combine.
The official times wiped that record clear — it turns out no one broke 4.4 — but it was still a great performance from the Ohio State back.
Top official 40 times for running backs at #NFLCombine:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) March 1, 2019
1. Justice Hill, @CowboyFB, 4.40
2. Ryquell Armstead, @Temple_FB, 4.45
t3. Jordan Scarlett, @GatorsFB, 4.47
t3. Mike Weber, @OhioStateFB, 4.47
5. Travis Homer, @CanesFootball, 4.48
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Wishnowsky isn’t a running back. He’s a punter. And he’s faster than a handful of tailbacks who ran at the combine Friday.
Nick Brossette, LSU
Brossette trimmed down to 209 pounds in an effort to show NFL teams he’s not just a power back. His 40 time failed to back that argument. The LSU star barely cracked the 4.7 seconds barrier at 4.68 seconds and then ran his second 40 at 4.75 seconds, raising questions about whether he’ll be able to break away from opposing linebackers in the NFL.
Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
holyfield got off to a terrible start on his 40— charles mcdonald (lakers 30-31) (@FourVerts) March 1, 2019
Evander’s son wasn’t supposed to be a burner, but the bruising back’s 4.79-second 40 time was the lowest among non-fullbacks in the first round of sprints Friday. A big performance in the agility drills would help erase the doubts raised by his less-than-stellar straight line speed. Three punters finished the day with faster 40 times than Holyfield (and Brossette, too).