A three-year streak of running backs getting picked in the top five of the NFL Draft was snapped in 2019. Josh Jacobs was the first from the position to get selected at 24th overall by the Oakland Raiders.
The 2020 NFL Draft class is similar to last year’s group.
There’s depth at running back and a handful of players who could sneak into the latter half of the first round. But there’s no Saquon Barkley to steal the show at the NFL Combine with a historically stellar performance.
This year, all eyes are on Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins as they battle to prove they’re worth a first-round pick. Unfortunately, Dobbins sat out Friday due to an ankle injury.
Swift performed well enough to maintain his first-round aspirations, but he was outshined a bit by other prospects in the class.
We counted four winners and two losers among the running backs at the 2020 NFL Combine.
Check out our overall combine winners and losers, as well as the quarterback, wide receiver/tight end, DL/linebacker, and defensive back position groups.
1. A.J. Dillon, Boston College
Dillon is the largest back of the class at 247 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than any other prospect at the position. That didn’t stop him from finishing with some of the best marks Friday.
His 41-inch vertical jump was best among running backs, as was his 131-inch broad jump. Even his 4.53-second 40-yard dash was in the top 10.
So, @BCFootball RB A.J. Dillon weighed in the heaviest of all running backs at 247 pounds, yet recorded the best vertical jump of them all at 41 inches. Pretty sure that's not supposed to happen. #NFLCombine— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) February 29, 2020
Maybe the coolest part of his performance was that Dillon called his shot two years ago:
30 reps of 225 lbs— AJ “The Sauce” Dillon (@ajdillon7) March 4, 2018
4.47 in the 40
At 245 lbs
•Save this tweet•
It wasn’t completely accurate, but he came damn close. Dillon was two pounds heavier, 0.06 seconds slower in the 40, and came up seven reps short on the bench press. He nailed the vertical jump exactly, though.
2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
It’s a tight race to be the first running back off the board in April. Winning the 40-yard dash race will help Taylor’s case.
His unofficial time of 4.41 seconds was the fastest of all running backs in the class. It got even better when the official time came in at 4.39 seconds.
Pure speed from Jonathan Taylor— NFL (@NFL) February 29, 2020
4.41u 40-yard dash for the @BadgerFootball RB. @JayT23
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork
: https://t.co/vDFxxNddNZ pic.twitter.com/O1NiTw7ybf
Taylor joined Nyheim Hines as the only two running backs in the last four combines to finish the 40 in less than 4.4 seconds. Taylor’s combine performance as a whole put him in great company.
Jonathan Taylor is the total package when it comes to size, athleticism and production.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 29, 2020
Pending the results of the 3-cone, Taylor is just the 4th running back since 2011 with a 95+ Athleticism and Production Score.
The others? Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey pic.twitter.com/KlKWJP4R3H
That’s a pretty solid argument to be a first-round pick.
3. Cam Akers, Florida State
Dan Kadar said no player needed to perform well at the NFL Combine more than Akers. The Swiss cheese offensive line at Florida State made life difficult for the running back, so Friday was a chance for Akers to show he has the skills to shine in a better situation.
Akers seized the opportunity. His 4.47-second 40-yard dash proved he has plenty of speed and he was even more impressive when it came time for positional drills.
Cam Akers killed the Duce Staley drill! pic.twitter.com/WLMkxG1luO— SUSPENDED AGAIN (@FTBeard1) February 29, 2020
He also showed his ability to make plays out of the backfield, something he didn’t get to do often with the Seminoles.
Cam Akers continues to kill these drills. Great catch here. pic.twitter.com/3DuR7tC7cw— SUSPENDED AGAIN (@FTBeard1) February 29, 2020
In a crowded field of running backs, Akers stood out in Indianapolis.
4. Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
Taylor was the only running back who beat Evans’ time of 4.41 seconds. It was Evans who got the upper hand over Taylor in the vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press, though.
Evans isn’t the most well-known running back prospect, but he was among the top performers in almost every category Friday. He doesn’t seem to mind flying under the radar, however.
Been under rated my whole life this ain’t nothing new to me.— Darrynton Evans (@ItzLiveee) February 26, 2020
Evans finished his final season at Appalachian State with 1,484 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
1. Javon Leake, Maryland
Leake was a big-play back for the Terrapins. On only 145 career rushing attempts, he averaged 7.9 yards per carry and had 17 rushing touchdowns. Over and over, Leake would see a seam and zip through it for a huge gain.
"Javon Leake can fly!"— Maryland On BTN (@MarylandOnBTN) October 19, 2019
And @TerpsFootball evens it up: pic.twitter.com/8oVeq0YxIi
So it’s a little baffling that he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, making him one of the slowest running backs in the draft class.
After watching these 40s by Leake, I’m trying to figure out how he ran away from people so often.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) February 29, 2020
His 34-inch vertical jump was in the bottom half at the position too. Ultimately, game speed is much more important than NFL Combine speed. But Friday raised serious questions about Leake’s capability of running away from players in the pro ranks like he did at Maryland.
2. Zack Moss, Utah
Every player has several opportunities to work out for NFL scouts and decision makers before the draft. If a player isn’t 100 percent, it really doesn’t make sense for them to try to perform.
Evidently, nobody told Moss that. Despite suffering a hamstring injury, the Utah running back kept participating in drills Friday.
Utah RB Zack Moss tweaked his hamstring during his vertical jump but decided to push through the 40 and drills anyway tonight. Moss will run again at his Pro Day on March 26th.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 29, 2020
The result was an unsurprisingly poor showing. His 4.65-second 40-yard dash (tied with Leake) was near the bottom of the class. Moss is more of a bruising back anyway, so subpar speed was never going to tank his stock. But he would’ve been better off sitting out the drills altogether if his hamstring wasn’t feeling right.