Updated: Sep 6
2021 Rookie to Pro Comparisons - RB Edition
By: Keith Sheeran
Najee Harris stiff arming / s.yimg.com
Najee Harris, Alabama
In my opinion, there’s not an abundance of talent at the running back position in this year’s draft class, but my preferred running back has to be Najee Harris. Harris is a bruising hard-hitting type of running back, and that’s why I compare him to Marshawn Lynch. Harris could be beast mode 2.0 if he lands with the right team. Harris is more athletic than Lynch, standing at 6’2 and weighing 230 lbs. He can burst through holes in the defense with his strength and power, just like Lynch used to do. For a big running back, Harris is very elusive and has great footwork, which forces defenders to miss tackles. Harris also has great hands, so his receiving ability could add a different dimension to whichever team he lands with. Hopefully, somehow, he lands up with the Seahawks so we can see beast mode 2.0 really come to life.
Player Comparison: Marshawn Lynch
Travis Etienne, Clemson
Travis Etienne is the clear next best running back in this draft class, and some people will have him as their number one. Etienne has a similar skill set to Alvin Kamara. It’s a big comparison as Kamara is a top five running back but what he has shown with Clemson makes me think of Kamara. Etienne has great speed; he’s a powerful runner and is a good receiver out of the backfield. He has great patience and lets the play develop before using his speed to get away from defenders. Kamara has a great burst and quickness and is very elusive, which are all traits that Etienne has shown during his time at Clemson. Hopefully, Etienne ends up with a team that can really show his potential and gets the best out of him for years to come.
Player Comparison: Alvin Kamara
Javonte Williams, North Carolina
Javonte Williams, a hard-nosed runner that’s not as flashy as some of the other running backs in this class, but he’s just as effective. When I watch Williams, I see a lot of Chris Carson in him. He’s got great vision, can burst through a hole in the defense, and has good receiving ability. He would need to clean up his ball security as he’s had several fumbles, but this can easily be done. Carson has been known for his injuries due to his running style, but Williams has shown in college that he is durable, although it helped that he split time with Michael Carter. Williams might be best used in a committee as it should keep him fresh. It’s hard to tell where Williams will end up, but he might be a player that’s going under the radar, similar to the way Carson did in his first few years in Seattle.
Player Comparison: Chris Carson
Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
One of the most versatile running backs in this draft is Kenneth Gainwell. Gainwell is a small framed running back but has great hands and has a great vision in open space. He reminds me of a better version of JD McKissic and could play the same type of role in a good offense. Like McKissic, Gainwell does his best work as a pass-catcher. He has great vision and can make defenders miss with his elusiveness in the open field. Gainwell will need to add some weight in the offseason as his slight frame is not ideal heading into the NFL. Gainwell would be a nice compliment for a team that has a solid running back one. If the Patriots don’t re-sign James White, Gainwell could be a good fit for their offense.
Player Comparison: JD McKissic
Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
A running back a lot of people could be sleeping on is Chuba Hubbard out of Oklahoma State. Hubbard had a great 2019 season as he was the NCAA leading rusher with 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns. The 2020 season didn’t go as well for Hubbard, so this could be the reason why people are sleeping on him. Hubbard is a patient runner who has great vision, agility and is a good pass catcher. For me, he compares a lot to Arian Foster as he too had these similar attributes. Hubbard won’t be one of the first running backs off the board as I don’t think his overall skill set can carry a full workload. With that being said, he would be a nice compliment to a team that already has a workhorse running back.
Player Comparison: Arian Foster