NFL Draft: Rookie Running Back Sleepers
The NFL Draft is still a couple of weeks away, and because of that, the individual value of pretty much every player in the 2016 NFL rookie class is yet to be determined. Be that as it may, there are a handful of running backs who you’ll want to keep a close eye on during the late rounds as well as the subsequent period where undrafted players are signed as free agents.
These players will likely be overlooked and forgotten about by many in both traditional and dynasty league drafts, regardless of where they end up. You, on the other hand, should start getting to know these players now, as any one of them could end up being this season’s Jeremy Langford – a solid handcuff option who ends up winning a long-term starting role.
Aaron Green, Texas Christian
Green transferred away from Nebraska a couple of years back because he was losing touches to some guy named Ameer Abdullah. All he did was become the starting back on one of the nation’s better college football teams, rushing for a combined 2,194 yards on 373 carries (5.88 yards per carry) in his junior and senior seasons.
Green also found the end zone 20 times during that stretch. He’s not the strongest runner in the world between the tackles, but is shifty enough to navigate traffic and explode through holes with decent acceleration. I have a hard time not seeing him as a starter in the NFL relatively soon, especially in an offense with a mobile quarterback like he had at TCU.
- NFL Comparison: Ronnie Hillman
- Could be a good fit for: Broncos, Ravens
Keith Marshall, Georgia[the_ad id=”58837″]If Marshall is healthy and makes a roster, look out. Injuries plagued his collegiate career, and he ended up in the shadows of Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb as a result. He turned in a respectable freshmen campaign in Athens a few seasons back when healthy, rushing for 759 yards on 117 carries (6.5 yards per carry) and 8 scores. He showed no signs of any lingering effects of his past injuries at the NFL Combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds.
All he needs is a chance and Marshall could end up being something special.
- NFL Comparison: Isaiah Crowell
- Could be a good fit for: Colts, Redskins
Tre Madden, Southern Cal[the_ad id=”58882″]Madden is another back whose college career didn’t go as well as some thought it might, largely due to injury. You could argue that when he’s healthy, he’s the best pure runner of any back in the 2016 class. He runs surprisingly low to the ground for a tall back, has great vision and is a capable pass-blocker. He is a shifty runner, and NFL coaches and fantasy owners alike will also enjoy the fact that he rarely puts the ball on the turf.
- NFL Comparison: T.J. Yeldon
- Could be a good fit for: Giants, Lions
Marshaun Coprich, Illinois State[the_ad id=”61432″]Coprich is a bowling-ball of a running that can maneuver in a phone booth to avoid defenders and find creases with his great vision. I’m not saying he’s anywhere near as good, but he possesses many of the same traits that Emmitt Smith did as a runner. His compact frame and quickness help him get out of a lot of jams. He’s not the most effective pass-blocker, but he does make the effort to be in position to slow down defenders. His lack of top-end speed is offset by an explosive burst out of cuts.
- NFL Comparison: C.J. Anderson
- Could be a good fit for: Packers, Eagles
Paul James, Rutgers
James is probably the deepest of these sleepers, yet somehow the safest choice. When given the chance, James is the kind of back who will carry the ball 30 times and not get tired. There is nothing flashy about anything he does as a runner, but he’ll run downhill through the hole all day and rarely lose yards.
James effort, especially near the goal line, is what separates him from other backs. If he ends up on a team with little drama and a no-nonsense approach, he could have a very nice career.
- NFL Comparison: Arian Foster
- Could be a good fit for: Patriots, Steelers
Who’s your favorite prospect? – Leave a comment below!
J.P. is an award-winning college football writer specializing in finding hidden gems at the college level who could become household names in fantasy leagues one day. He is the founder of KnowItAllFootball.com, host of Raising The Bar on RadiOmaha.com and writes a series of “Outrageous Prediction” articles for Athlon Sports. He lives with his wife and their two children in Omaha, Nebraska.