Although you’re reading this after the national championship game, I wrote it before and will not change a thing based on what happens on Monday night. The reason for that is because I don’t want to be swayed by one game, even if it’s the biggest one of the year.
It’s easy to fall in love with a player who has a big game on the championship stage. Don’t do that when considering your draft picks. Every player is talented enough to have a big game if there are defensive breakdowns or favorable game flow. That’s why I look at a player’s whole body of work. That’s also why coming off of a 6 TD performance in the semifinal, Justin Fields is still not my number one QB. (If you missed last weeks column, click HERE for the QB rankings) Now, let’s get to ranking this years RB’s!
- Travis Etienne, Clemson: You know the saying that speed kills, right? That’s the kind of speed Travis Etienne has. He doesn’t have Chris Johnson/John Ross speed, but he’s not far behind, having been clocked at a speedy 4.38. In addition to that, he breaks tackles as well as anyone in college football, which allows him to get to the defense’s second level and into the open field. Etienne also can catch passes out of the backfield, having averaged four grabs per game in 2020. He’s performed exceptionally well at the highest level of college football. My only concern is his size, 5’10”, 205lb. That may be fine for 12 games against college players, but will he hold up through a full 17 games against grown-ass men in the NFL?
- Javonte Williams, North Carolina: Playing in the ACC, Javonte Williams was unjustifiably overshadowed by the Clemson/Travis Etienne hype-train over the last two seasons. During 2020 Williams, put together a monster season. JW was responsible for 1445 yards of offense and 22 touchdowns. Against the same ACC slate that Etienne faced, Javonte Williams averaged 7.3 yards per carry versus Etienne’s 5.4.
- Kenny Gainwell, Memphis: There’s a couple of other players who could easily be ranked here, and I wouldn’t argue with you too much. But I like hitting home runs, don’t you? Memphis junior Kenny Gainwell played only one full college season, 2019, and opted out of the 2020 season after losing six family members to Covid. During that one full, spectacular 2019 season, Kenny hit a home run with over 1400 yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, and 51 catches for 610 yards and three more TD’s. In 2018 as a true freshman playing behind Tony Pollard, Darrell Henderson, and Antonio Gibson, he had just four carries. Of those four carries, Kenny popped one for a 72-yard touchdown. That’s the kind of home run he can hit for your fantasy team.
- Najee Harris, Alabama: Here’s what I’m talking about; 6’2” and 230 lbs. Najee Harris is that back cornerbacks and safety’s hate to see coming at them. He’s got prototypical big back size but can still run nifty enough to catch passes out of the backfield and turn them upfield, having ten receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons.
- Michael Carter, UNC: Yes, another UNC running back. Carter is as good as Javonte Williams. Unfortunately they had to share the ball. Playing second fiddle, Michael Carter totaled over 1500 yards of offense and found the endzone 11 times.
- Jaret Patterson, University at Buffalo: I know what you’re saying. Who is Jaret Patterson? Jaret Patterson is the player that tied an FBS single-game record with eight rushing touchdowns and had the second-biggest rushing total in FBS history with 409 yards in that same game. Yes, I know he’s in the MAC, but it wasn’t just that one game. Patterson averaged 7.6 yds per tote for all of 2020. And it’s not just me that thinks he’s good. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 9th best RB in college football in 2019 and 10th in 2020. He’s this year’s biggest sleeper; this year’s James Robinson.