Prospect Preview: Running Backs

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  • This is the third in a series of features on the 2017 NFL Draft, position by position. Today's position: Running Backs. The Jets' RB roster synopsis is followed by five players considered top candidates at RB.

*The Jets have two talented running backs in Matt Forte and Bilal Powell.

Forté carried the bulk of the load early in 2016, but was slowed down by knee and shoulder injuries, eventually landing on injured reserve. The 10-year vet finished with 813 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his first year with the Green & White. Meanwhile, Powell came on very strong in the final quarter of the season. He was the most effective and consistent player on the offense in that span and averaged 138 scrimmage yards per game. 

"He's going to put in a hard day's work and he's going to bust his butt no matter whether he's playing special teams or offense," said head coach Todd Bowles of Powell. "He just loves to play the game and that's rare. He kind of has an old soul as an old-school player, but he's very much a modern-day player."

While the Green & White have a talented backfield as it stands, they could add some depth and youth to the mix for 2017.

Five Top Running Backs in the Draft
LEONARD FOURNETTE, LOUISIANA STATEFournette has a rare blend of power and speed. At the Indianapolis Scouting Combine, he checked in at 6'0", 240 pounds and ran a 4.51 40-yard dash (before dropping to 228 for his pro day). In 32 games for the Tigers, Fournette set or tied 23 school records, including yards per carry (6.2), rushing yards per game (119.7), 200-yard rushing games (5) and consecutive 100-yard rushing games (9). Fournette is a dominant downhill runner with solid pass catching abilities out of the backfield.

DALVIN COOK, FLORIDA STATE
Scouts believe Cook embodies the modern-day NFL running back because he's a dual threat as a rusher and a receiver. The Miami native holds the Seminoles' career rushing record with 4,464 yards (second in ACC history), snapping Warrick Dunn's 20-year reign. Cook also tallied 79 receptions for 935 yards during his three years in Tallahassee. The 5'10", 210-pounder was named the 2016 Orange Bowl MVP and was a unanimous All-American.

CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, STANFORDMcCaffrey may be listed at running back, but he's really an OW (offensive weapon). Son of former Broncos and Giants WR Ed McCaffrey, Christian lined up at RB, WR, PR and KR and set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015. That season, he led Stanford in both rushing and receiving yards with 2,019 and 645, respectively. In fact, draft pundits believe the 5'11", 202-pound McCaffrey is possibly the best route runner of the wide receivers entering the Draft. The Colorado native is a jack-of-all-trades who could make an immediate impact on a team searching for a playmaker.

ALVIN KAMARA, TENNESSEEKamara's collegiate career originally began in Tuscaloosa as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, he was forced to redshirt his freshmen year following a preseason knee injury. After some behavioral concerns and off-field issues, Kamara transferred to Hutchinson Community College. In 2014, he ran for 1,211 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine games (134.6 yards per game) and was named the conference offensive player of the year. The Volunteers decided to offer the 5'10", 214-pounder a second chance in the SEC, and he quickly excelled. In two seasons in Knoxville, he registered 1,294 rushing yards, 683 receiving yards and 284 punt return yards. Kamara is a projected second- or third-round pick.

SAMAJE PERINE, OKLAHOMAThe Sooners have a pair of talented backs in this year's class in Perine and Joe Mixon. Pundits believe Mixon is one of the most polarizing players in this year's Draft because he's a special talent with a checkered past. In 2014, the 6'1", 226-pounder pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of acts resulting in gross injury/outraging public decency. Mixon was not invited to the Combine but participated in Oklahoma's pro day. The thunder to Mixon's lightning, Perine is a very strong downhill runner. The 5'11", 233-pounder finished his career as OU's all-time leading rusher with 4,122 yards and holds the NCAA single-game rushing record with 427 yards. At the Combine, Perine put up 30 reps on the bench and recorded an 11.71-second 60-yard shuttle, both of which were the best of the RB class.

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