When Todd Gurley was coming out of Georgia in 2015, he was 20 years old and he ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash at 6’1, 222 lbs. Also 6’1, also running a 4.52 was Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin, and they were the top two running backs in the draft that year. No other back went in the first round, while Ameer Abdullah and T.J. Yeldon were the only backs to go in round two.
Now five years later, the top two backs could be coming out of Georgia and Wisconsin.
Comparisons may end there, but little seems to be agreed upon at the moment as to the strength and order of the 2020 class of backs. Will a running back go in the first round? We don’t know. Will the best value be in round three, as appeared to be the case in 2015? We don’t know. Will the LA Rams use their first pick on a running back? Undecided.
D’Andre Swift, the aforementioned Georgia back, is only 5’8, but WalterFootball ranked him as the top running back of this class.
4/4/20: In 2019, Swift averaged 6.2 yards per carry for 1,216 yards with seven touchdowns. He had 24 receptions for 216 yards and a touchdown as well. Swift ran well for Georgia showing his speed, vision, cutting ability, and versatility. He looks like a future three-down starter with Pro Bowl potential. At the combine, Swift had an excellent workout that showed off his speed and great skill set. Some team sources think Swift could be used like Alvin Kamara in the NFL.
He was also the top back over at SI:
With a compact frame, low center of gravity and powerful lower body, Swift rushed for 1,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons and departs Athens with a career 6.56 yards per carry average. A patient runner with exceptional lateral agility and balance, Swift has elite burst and short-area quickness and has drawn comparisons to LeSean McCoy due to his shiftiness and elusiveness. With 73 catches for 666 yards and five touchdowns in his collegiate career, Swift is a reliable receiver with soft hands (only three drops over his career) and is willing to compete in pass protection.
And by Maurice Jones-Drew for NFL.com:
1) D’Andre Swift, Georgia: The best back in this draft class, Swift has great acceleration, short-area quickness and can make multiple cuts without slowing down. Swift, a fitting name for a running back, understands block timing and is great in space. The 21-year-old wasn’t overused at Georgia — he averaged 171 touches per season over his three years in college — so he’ll be fresh from the get-go as a reliable three-down back.
MJD is probably also lower on the back out of Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor, than any other analyst. Who could argue against him, I mean he compared Taylor to that bust known as ... Christian McCaffrey?
6) Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor reminds me of Christian McCaffrey when he came out of college in the sense that the 5-10, 226-pound Badger has so many miles on his tires after recording 926 carries for 6,174 yards in three years at Wisconsin. This was my concern with McCaffrey, but the Carolina Panthers have used him in a way where he doesn’t take as many hits. Unfortunately, Taylor’s size and downhill running style will make him more susceptible to hits at the next level. He was durable in college, so hopefully that continues because he’s talented enough to be a starter immediately.
Most places have Swift and Taylor ranked as 1-2 among the running backs after Taylor ran a position-best 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. And as I said earlier, some people have running backs going in the first round, but not all. Many don’t see a running back going in the first round unless they sneak into the back end. Given the quality of receivers in this draft, some of the offensive linemen, and the dearth of good players at other positions as compared to running back, where value couldn’t be lower in many cases, it wouldn’t be that wild for Swift or Taylor to be available as round two trudges forward.
Would the Rams begin to take interest with their first pick at 52?
The obvious answer is “Yes” because we know that Sean McVay values a quality running back and we know that LA has a need after releasing Gurley this offseason. Darrell Henderson was a recent third round pick but didn’t seem to have that immediate “wow” factor to get on the field to spell Gurley. Regardless, injuries are so common at the position that having two or three quality players there isn’t a bad idea for certain teams.
Should McVay and Les Snead wait, players like J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Zack Moss, and Cam Akers may be available in round three. Those round three picks in 2015? David Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson, and Matt Jones.
In all cases, the Rams should wait until the value is too good rather than just trying to replace Gurley.