They say running backs don’t matter, but they’ll never be right. Sure, the positional value of an RB is somewhat diluted by the position’s reliance on quality blocking, but running backs come in all shapes, sizes, and types, and the right one can increase the dynamism of an offense tenfold. What does the 2024 NFL Draft RB class have to offer based on preliminary viewings?
Ranking the Top RBs in the 2024 NFL Draft
10) Carson Steele, UCLA
Carson Steele first made waves when he made the Feldman’s Freaks list in the summer of 2022, with a documented 405-pound bench and 615-pound squat. Then Steele rumbled for 1,556 yards and 14 touchdowns on 286 carries in 2022. Now he heads to UCLA through the transfer portal — the same offense that helped Zach Charbonnet become a top prospect.
At 6’0″, 215 pounds, Steele is a rocked-up runner with golden locks who’s incredibly hard to stop once his legs wind up. He brings relentless energy downhill and consistently rolls through first contact. Steele also has the necessary lateral twitch to make initial tacklers miss before accelerating into space. He’s already broken out, but he can rise at UCLA.
9) Blake Watson, Memphis
Odds are, you won’t hear Blake Watson’s name much in the lead-up to the 2023 campaign, so allow us to acquaint you. Watson is an early sleeper in the 2024 NFL Draft cycle, who carries over two years of prolific production from Old Dominion to Memphis. He ran for 1,112 yards in 2021 and 921 yards in 2022, catching 37 passes this past fall.
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At 5’9″, 195 pounds, Watson is one of the smaller, lighter runners on this list. But he’s undeniably dynamic. He has impressive vision at multiple levels, along with the slippery athleticism and urgent foot speed to make defenders miss and flow through contact. On top of it all, he’s a high-level receiving threat with true two-phase versatility.
8) Trey Benson, Florida State
Volume backs will never go completely out of style, even as the NFL trends more toward a modern, versatile era. Teams pass to get the lead, and they run to stay ahead. Having a back who can shoulder the load like Trey Benson is valuable. After rattling off 154 carries for 990 yards and nine scores in 2022, Benson is very much on the 2024 NFL Draft radar.
Benson, who stands at 6’1″, 215 pounds, runs a bit upright at times, but he’s especially proficient at getting downhill, making quick work of seams as a north/south runner. He’s more linear than laterally flexible, but his contact balance is superb, and he possesses a baseline level of foot speed and micro-mobility to supplement his long-strider gait.
7) Devin Neal, Kansas
The Kansas Jayhawks were one of the best storylines in the 2022 college football campaign. A lot of pieces went into the team’s success, and running back Devin Neal was a big part of it, amassing 1,090 yards and 10 total touchdowns on the year. Neal returns not only as a standout runner but also a legitimate 2024 NFL Draft prospect in waiting.
Neal brings solid frame density at 5’11”, 210 pounds, and he’s able to combine that density with eye-catching initial burst when he has holes to target. Taking his size and stylistic aura into account, Neal almost looks like a discount Tank Bigsby, who went in Round 3 to the Jaguars in 2023. Neal isn’t as fast or as flexible, but he has the foot speed to create at the line.
6) MarShawn Lloyd, USC
USC was a hot destination for incoming transfers this offseason, and one of those transfers was former South Carolina running back MarShawn Lloyd. After registering 573 rushing yards and nine scores in 2022, along with 176 yards and two touchdowns as a pass catcher, Lloyd is primed to be a breakout player in Lincoln Riley’s explosive offense.
Lloyd is a dense and compact back at 5’9″, 212 pounds, with a low center of gravity. That built-in leverage affords him a level of contact balance, but on top of that, he’s an exceedingly high-energy mover with wicked foot speed and a barrage of cuts in his arsenal. As he showed at the spring game, his combined ability to make defenders miss and nullify tackles is rare.
5) Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
If you embark on the search for the next Derrick Henry, you’ll come away disappointed time and time again. But in the 2024 NFL Draft, there is a Henry-lite candidate in Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen. At 6’2″, 235 pounds, Allen is legitimately a tank in the open field, and his profile as a straight-line, workhorse runner is extremely appealing.
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Predictably, Allen lacks some value in the lateral phase, but few runners in the 2024 NFL Draft can match his sheer physicality, drive, and balance through contact. Across his first two seasons, Allen has amassed 416 carries for 2,510 yards, and 23 touchdowns. In 2023, those numbers will only keep tracking upward.
4) Blake Corum, Michigan
Few running backs — period — were more productive than Blake Corum in 2022. The Wolverines star put up 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns on 247 carries. Granted, he had a Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line to help him out. But along the way, Corum proved his own merits as a 2024 NFL Draft prospect. He should do it again in 2023.
Corum may only be 5’8″, but he’s rocked-up with an extremely dense 210-pound frame. At that size, he’s an urgent runner with good vision who can press upfield behind blocks before using his explosiveness and energy to divert into space. There’s room for him to show more as a receiver, but Corum has exciting tools as a threat on the ground.
3) Will Shipley, Clemson
It might catch you off guard to learn that Will Shipley was a five-star recruit. He’s only 5’11”, 205 pounds — not undersized, but not a tank, either. So what makes Shipley such a compelling RB prospect?
As unoriginal as it may sound, his natural running ability is up there with the best — not just in the 2024 NFL Draft but in the 2023 class as well.
In the process of racking up 210 carries for 1,182 yards and 15 scores in 2022, Shipley showed off some of that ability. He’s a snappy runner with rare short-area instincts who can dart back and forth between minuscule lanes on his way to the second level. His hip flexibility is absurd, but Shipley doubles as an elite athlete with burst and speed in the open field.
2) Raheim Sanders, Arkansas
Raheim Sanders is like if a Rock’em Sock’em robot learned to run. There’s almost no other way to describe it. His running style appears unorthodox at times, but it served him well in 2022. Sanders put up 222 carries for 1,443 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, adding 28 catches for 271 yards and two scores to his total.
He’s versatile, and at 6’2″, 227 pounds, Sanders is a freight train in the open field. He runs with a tight but combative aura, constantly fighting off would-be tacklers with stiff-arms and bouts of physicality. And as his nickname “Rocket” conveys, Sanders has the long-strider explosiveness to wash through congestion and find his way to open space.
Who Is the Best RB in the NFL Draft?
1) TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State
There is no Bijan Robinson in the 2024 NFL Draft class, and there might not be an RB close to the Texas product when next April rolls around. But right now, TreVeyon Henderson has a case to be the preliminary RB1. His 2022 campaign was less productive, largely on account of a torn ligament in his left foot, but now healthy, he can rebound in 2023.
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2021 is when Henderson exploded onto the scene with over 1,500 total yards from scrimmage and 19 total TDs. His on-field explosiveness is just as drastic as his statistical emergence. At 5’10”, 214, Henderson’s ability to offset and send defenders lurching with his lateral twitch while maintaining vertical speed is unique and deadly.
- Audric Estimé, Notre Dame
- Treshaun Ward, Kansas State
- Trey Sanders, TCU
- Bucky Irving, Oregon
- Noah Whittington, Oregon
- Roman Hemby, Maryland
- Nathan Carter, Michigan State
- Jabari Small, Tennessee
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