2021 NFL Draft running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter

2021 NFL Draft: Late-Round, High-Value Running Backs

  • 2021 NFL Draft
  • 2021 NFL Draft Prospects
  • Chuba Hubbard
  • Draft
  • draft prospects
  • Javonte Williams
  • Kenneth Gainwell
  • Kylin Hill
  • Larry Rountree III
  • Michael Carter
  • NFl Draft
  • North Carolina
  • North Carolina Tar Heels
  • RB
  • Rhamondre Stevenson
  • Running Backs
  • Trey Sermon
By Michael Williams March 5, 2021 0 Comment
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With Etienne and Harris expected to go off the board early, what other running backs will bring great value in the later rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft?

We all know about the explosiveness and playmaking ability of both Clemson Tigers’ running back Travis Etienne and Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris. Both prospects are at the top of the running backs class by a wide margin. But there are many other running backs in the 2021 NFL Draft that will provide great value to teams in the later rounds.

Etienne broke multiple records as a Clemson Tiger while also setting many ACC conference records during his college career. On the other hand, Harris had a slow start at Alabama that ended on a high note. Harris wouldn’t get significant playing time until the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He rushed for over 1,200 yards in each season and improved as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Etienne and Harris will almost certainly be the first two running backs off the draft board when the draft starts, so what running backs will that leave for teams to ponder over?

  1. Javonte Williams, North Carolina

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Height: 5-10. Weight: 220.
Projected Round (2021): 2-3.
Player Comp: Michael Turner

Javonte Williams exploded onto the scene this past season with having a career year for the Tarheels. His impressive season came along with being one-half of the nation’s most exciting backfields. He and his teammate, Michael Carter, combined for more than 3,000 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. Even though Williams shared the spotlight, he was still able to show off his skills to NFL teams.

Before switching to running back in his senior year of high school, Williams played middle linebacker. That physical ability shines through on tape, as he does not shy away from contact. He was one of the nation’s leaders in broken tackles. Williams also displays his breakaway speed on film. He led the nation in 10+ yard runs. His receiving skills out the backfield are solid. This shows he is more than just a power back. Williams is a one cut and get-up-the-field running back. Any team that runs a Zone scheme will benefit from drafting Williams.

  1. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

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Height: 5-11. Weight: 191.
Projected Round (2021): 2-3.
Player Comp: Joe Mixon

Due to losing some family members to COVID-19, Kenneth Gainwell decided to opt-out of the 2020 season. This comes after he had a phenomenal 2019 season, where he became the most electrifying player in school history. In just two seasons as a Tiger, Gainwell broke multiple school records.

On the field, Gainwell is a threat to go the distance anytime he touches the ball. Memphis would line him up in different positions on the field. At times he lined up in the backfield and as a slot and outside wide receiver. As a runner, he is very elusive. He can easily make a defender miss in a small space. For his size, Gainwell does not go down at first contact. His awareness and vision are also unique qualities that make him a special player to watch. As a receiver, he may run a limited route tree but will be effective on the routes he runs.

Gainwell is suited to play in a system where a team can line him up in different positions on the field and create ways to get him the ball. If used properly, he could become one of the dynamic playmakers in the NFL today.

  1. Michael Carter, North Carolina

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Height: 5-8 Weight: 202
Projected Round (2021): 3-4
Player Comp: Tarik Cohen

Michael Carter is your prototypical change of pace back in the NFL. As one half of the Tar Heels dynamic duo, he was more consistent. Carter alone rushed for over 2200 yards on over 300 attempts and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. Carter continued to impress teams while attending the Resse Senior Bowl. He had a great week of practice showing that his size was not going to enable him. Cater displayed this during pass protection drills, where he was able to stun most of the pass rushers he went up against. He transferred his impressive week in practice to the game by gaining the most rushing yards and scoring a touchdown.

On tape, Carters’ quickness and acceleration catch the eye. Once he touches the ball, it’s like a flash of lightning then he is gone in the open field. Carter’s vision and catching ability adds more value to his draft stock. His vision allows him to spot open running lanes quickly while he uses his acceleration to burst through the line of scrimmage at top speed. He also can be effective as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Carter will greatly benefit from being drafted by a team that already has an established running back with who he can split carries.

  1. Trey Sermon, Ohio State

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Height: 6-0. Weight: 213
Projected Round (2021): 3-4
Player Comp: Josh Jacobs

Other than the top two running backs in the class, Trey Sermon is a true playmaker with the ball in his hands. Whether it was at Oklahoma or Ohio State, he made plays while he was on the field. During his time as Sooner, Sermon displayed his explosiveness as a runner and pass-catcher. After 3 years at Oklahoma, he transferred to Ohio State for his senior season. As a Buckeye, he continued to make plays, but he split most of the time with Master Teague.

On tape, you notice how patient Sermon is when running the ball. He uses his vision and instincts to allow his blocks to develop before bursting through to gain more yards. Once he makes it through the first level of the defense, he has the speed to make an explosive play. He loves to take on oncoming tacklers and run through them when he has a chance. He has some shiftiness to his, but he is more of a one-cut type of running back. Sermon also offers the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He runs good routes to create separation against defenders. Sermon would fit in a zone scheme offense with opportunities to catch the ball. He can become a starter right away in the league.

  1. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State University

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Height: 6-1 Weight: 207
Projected Round (2021): 3-4
Player Comp: Raheem Mostert

Chuba Hubbard has a nice skill set in his game. He has good vision, good instincts when it comes to taking on contact, and he has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. This past season was challenging for Hubbard. He battled injuries that eventually led him to opt out the rest of the season. Chuba’s numbers this season obviously don’t match his 2019 stats, where he rushed for over 2,000 yards, scored 21 rushing touchdowns, and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

On tape Hubbard’s vision jumps off the screen as he is good at making cuts and finding his way up the field. Even with his slim build, he takes on contact with ease squaring his shoulders to tacklers. Hubbard does not have breakaway speed, but he can break a long run periodically. He can also be counted on to catch passes out of the backfield as a receiver. With some work on his pass blocking, Hubbard can become a starter or contribute right away as a rotational back. He will benefit from being drafted by a team that runs zone and uses their backs as receivers most of the time.

  1. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

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Height: 5-11 Weight: 205
Projected Round (2021): 3-5
Pro Comp: Tevin Coleman

Kylin Hill burst into the national spotlight after having a great 2019 season. During that season, he gained over 1,300 yards in rushing while scoring 10 touchdowns. This past season Hill only appeared in 3 games before opting out the rest of the season. His breakout game against LSU was phenomenal to watch. He torched the tigers with his receiving ability catching 8 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. As running back, those numbers are jaw-dropping. This shows he can catch the ball out of the backfield or line up on the outside as a receiver and run good routes.

Hill is a running back that is very athletic and versatile. As a runner, he is balanced. He can break tackles and use his shiftiness to make defenders miss. He also has good speed to break through the first and second level of the defense, but he will not always outrun them. Hill’s receiving skills will make him more valuable since teams are using running backs more as receivers. He has good separation skills for a running back. If drafted by a team that likes to use their running backs in multiple ways, Hill has the potential to become a starter in the league with time to develop.

  1. Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

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Height: 5-11 Weight: 227
Projected Round (2021): 3-5
Player Comp: TJ Yeldon

After starting the season on suspension, Rhamondre Stevenson returned to the Oklahoma Sooners as a man on a mission during the 2020 season. He appeared in six games in which he averaged 110 rushing yards per game. The former Sooner displayed his downhill running skills while being able to gain yards after contact.  Stevenson has average straight-line speed that allows him to break into the second level but does not always hit the home run.

Since Stevenson did not have a full season, his Senior Bowl performance was very important for raising his draft stock. His performance was not a disappointment. During the week, he showed scouts and teams that what they saw on tape was not fake. Stevenson showed his ability as a pass blocker, short-yardage runner, and receiving skills out of the backfield. Stevenson will be another running back that will benefit from being drafted by a team using a committee approach at the running back position. Teams that run the ball predominantly between the tackles would be the perfect fit for Stevenson.

  1. Larry Rountree III, Missouri

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Height: 5-10 Weight: 210
Projected Round (2021): 4-5
Player Comp: AJ Dillion

Larry Rountree is one of the sleepers in the class of running backs. He possesses an intriguing skill set that features a ferocious running style. He will never go down after first contact. Another quality of his game is his patience and vision on the field. Rountree is good at waiting for his blocks to develop and finding the hole to burst through. With the absence of Drew Lock, Rountree didn’t have much of a supporting cast and faced many stacked boxes during the 2020 season. Even with facing those stacked defenses, he still had an impressive senior season averaging around five yards a carry and improving his receiving numbers to show he is versatile.

To help improve his draft stock, Rountree was invited to the Reese Senior Bowl, where he put on a show for teams during practice. He displayed his versatility more by showing teams that he could run routes and catch the ball out the backfield. During one on one drills against linebackers, Rountree ran some great routes to create separation and caught the ball with ease. Even though he does not possess the home-run speed, he has enough acceleration to get to the second level. He could become a starter as he gains experience in the league.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Trey Ragas, Louisiana
  • Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
  • Javian Hawkins, Louisville
  • Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas

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Seeking employment opportunity in the Sports Management Arena as a NFL Scout or General Manager for a professional NFL team where I can utilize my theoretical and practical knowledgeable skills and work experience; hence having, attained such skills while working various versatile internships while also obtaining my undergraduate degree, having specialized in statistical analysis, reviewing and critiquing football film footage and writing articles for various social media. Along with my internship experiences, I also have 6 years of coaching experience. I have coached both youth and high school sports. I am currently the Defensive Coordinator for Slaughter Community Charter School. I am seeking an opportunity to work in the NFL.

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