The 2020 NFL Draft is heavy with wide receivers and offensive linemen, but certainly not running backs. In fact, many draft experts believe we won’t see a running back selected until the second round.
Regardless of where they get selected, who should be the first running back to go off of the board? We’re looking at the three top backs in this year’s class, all of whom have a case to be the first one selected.
D’Andre Swift – Georgia
Following in the footsteps of fellow Bulldogs Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Todd Gurley, Swift will soon find a home in the NFL. In his two seasons as the lead back at Georgia, Swift ran for 2,267 yards and 17 touchdowns, while also grabbing over 500 yards receiving and four additional touchdowns. According to BetOnline, he is the current favorite at -138 to be the first running back taken during next week’s draft.
Swift has great vision and is excellent at getting defenders to miss him in space. He’s also well-rounded as both a pass catcher and pass blocker if need be. However, his biggest knock is durability, as the 21-year old had nagging injuries this season that limited him down the stretch, as well as groin, toe, and ankle injuries as a sophomore. Playing such a physical position, the injuries Swift has already dealt with at such a young age are a little concerning.
Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin
Taylor was the lead back at Wisconsin for the last three years, finishing third in the NCAA this past season with 2,003 rushing yards. Over three years, the junior chalked up over 6,000 yards on the ground and 50 touchdowns. He also ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.39) among running backs despite being the fourth-heaviest at the position. Currently, BetOnline has Taylor at the next highest odds at +175 to be taken first at running back.
Heading into the draft, Taylor is being lauded for his exceptional balance and vision with the ball. He is able to find openings quickly and run through tackles, earning extra yards along the way. But his biggest issue is still fumbling, where the three-year starter fumbled 18 times in college, including six times this past fall. He also had almost 1,000 touches in college, leaving some to wonder how much longer he can be an every-down back.
J.K. Dobbins – Ohio State
Although he was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, Dobbins exploded onto the draft scene this past season. The junior tied Taylor with 2,003 yards after running for just over 1,000 yards the previous season. He also has the best pass-catching stats of these three backs, with 71 catches for 645 yards and five touchdowns in his career. However, BetOnline has Dobbins as a distant third at +500 to be the first running back drafted.
Dobbins is another patient runner who has outstanding vision and makes good decisions. He is very tough to tackle, especially in the open field, and has been durable throughout his college career. However, the weaknesses associated most with Dobbins include a lack of real explosive speed, especially when there are no running lanes opening up. He also had a little bit of trouble with easy drops out of the backfield.
According to many reports, it’s likely that Swift does in fact end up as the first running back off of the board, making him the smartest bet at -138. However, I wouldn’t sleep on Dobbins. Given age, production, durability, and translation to the NFL game, Dobbins checks all of those boxes and more. While him being the first running back selected may surprise some, he’s the top running back to me, and certainly worth a bet at +500.