The NFL mock draft 2017 rumors continue with speculation about some of the best running backs available for this year’s draft class. Among the RBs that many of the teams with first round picks will be looking at are LSU phenom Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s star RB Christian McCaffrey, and Florida Sate’s Dalvin Cook. There’s also a player that could be sliding in the draft, who once seemed like he might rank amongst those other star backs as a potential top 30 pick. Here’s the latest buzz on the NFL draft’s top running backs that may be taken in a bit over a week from now.
The NFL.com website showed as of Monday that of the 150 top-ranked prospects heading into the NFL Draft, 13 of those players are running backs. The highest-ranked of those choices are Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook. Fournette is listed as the second-best prospect overall, coming in only behind Myles Garrett who seems set to be the No. 1 pick. McCaffrey is listed as No. 12, with Cook at No. 25 overall. Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel is listed down at the No. 35 spot.
Of the top-rated running back prospects, Cook brings possibly the best stats to the mix. He was fifth in total rushing yards last season, racking up 1,765 total yards on 288 attempts. Cook, a junior from Miami, also had 19 touchdowns for his season and played a bit of receiver. He ended up with 33 passes caught for 488 total yards and one touchdown.
McCaffrey finished ninth on that total yards list with 1,603 and just 13 touchdowns, while Fournette was slowed down in his junior season by repeated ankle injuries causing him to miss games. Derrius Guice became the top back in terms of stats last season for the team. However, Fournette, considered a Heisman candidate entering last season, showed his capabilities during his sophomore season with 1,953 yards on 271 attempts with 22 touchdowns. Fournette has been pegged by many NFL mock draft experts as a “near lock” to be selected by the Carolina Panthers so he can team up with Cam Newton in the backfield.
Earlier today, a report was published by CBS Sports with the best fits for each of the 32 teams shown. It’s noted that Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey could be beneficial for either the Philadelphia Eagles or Washington Redskins to draft. With Darren Sproles ready to retire after next season and Ryan Matthews an unsure commitment to stay with the team, they may opt to add McCaffrey to go with their talented young QB Carson Wentz. The Redskins are another team that is certainly in need of more of a running game, but their division rivals may snag the pick they want.
So where’s that leave Cook? The NFL draft rumors currently going around are that the Oakland Raiders may draft a young running back for their team should Marshawn Lynch decide not to sign with them. As the NFL website reported earlier from NFL Network Insider Ian Rappaport, the draft may be the deadline for a deal to be made involving Lynch.
“Right now, there’s no agreement between Marshawn Lynch and the Oakland Raiders, and the real deadline here — they hoped to have it done by yesterday when offseason conditioning started, didn’t happen — the real deadline here is the draft. Because it is possible that the Raiders get on the clock Thursday night or Friday, and say ‘Alright, we’re going to take this running back. He has a value here for us. We’re just going to take the leap.’ And once they take a running back, it probably will close the door on Marshawn Lynch.”
Dalvin Cook could be the name that the Raiders call, should they find themselves unable to make a deal involving “Beast Mode.” Cook is a strong player with toughness and “great vision as a runner,” but has had some past off-the-field problems as well as three shoulder surgeries since he was in high school. However, he still seems to be touted among first round picks at many mock draft websites or columns.
A player who isn’t being discussed much with those top running back prospects is University of Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon. Last season, he led the Sooners with 1,274 yards on 187 carries while also picking up 10 touchdowns. Nixon shared duties with Samaje Perine for their successful dual-back system and at one point may have been a low first round pick. However, due to his 2014 off-field incident caught on camera where he punched a female in the face, many NFL franchises could pass on Mixon.
As Mike Florio cited from his sources on the NBC Sports Pro Football Talk site, Mixon could potentially fall somewhere in the middle of round two at the latest. However, Florio also indicated that “multiple league sources” who looked into the situation with Mixon feel he could be passed by until after round three at the most. Still, it may not be surprising if this once promising future star goes undrafted completely.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]