With the majority of the college football bowl games completed, and most NFL teams already planning toward next year, let's take an early look at some running backs that might be available in this year's draft.
With the Minnesota Vikings likely (or at least possibly) to move on from Adrian Peterson, the local team could be in dire need of a starting running back. Without a first round pick, however, the team will need to find value somewhere in the draft. Luckily, teams seem to find mid-round gems at running back more often than other positions, so it can be done.
Keep in mind these rankings will change as the combine and pro day workouts take place.
Curtis Samuel from Ohio State will be ranked as a wide receiver.
1. Leonard Fournette, LSU
While the big, bruising back didn't quite live up to expectations this past season, he's still a physical freak of nature with a body that is capable of taking hit after hit. Fournette's injury issues this year will cause some teams some concern, but they seem more like fluke injuries than a sign of things to come.
Fournette has the potential to be the best player in the entire draft class, and could possibly carry an offense from day one if he can stay healthy. It will be interesting to see exactly where he goes in the draft, as most teams picking near the top of the draft need offensive playmakers badly. Expect him to be a fan favorite wherever he goes.
2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Cook is expected to be among the fastest running backs in the draft, and if he runs an eye-popping 40 time it's certainly possible Cook could leapfrog Fournette by draft day. His speed is the real deal, as he consistently ran away from speedy defensive backs and made them look like defensive lineman.
Had the Vikings not made the trade they did for Sam Bradford, I think Cook would have been an ideal target for them. Unfortunately, they'd need to get very creative to find a way to land the FSU standout at this point. He should have a very successful NFL career.
3. Christian McCaffery, Stanford
The Stanford superstar wasn't quite as electric this season as he was last year, and he didn't seem to get quite the same kind of hype from the media. McCaffery is arguably the most complete running back, although some teams undoubtedly will have concerns about McCaffery holding up as a 3-down back.
He's a dynamic playmaker with the ability to line up outside, and that's led to a lot of people projecting him to New England. I think he's likely to be drafted before the Patriots even get a chance at him, and to be honest they just don't seem to target offensive skill players this high in the draft.
He's going to make some team very happy, but I'd be surprised if it's New England. He'd be a great fit in New Orleans.
4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
Based strictly on talent and future NFL ability, Mixon ranks 4th in my opinion. Due to the horrible video that surfaced last week of Mixon punching a female OU student during his freshman year, teams are going to be doing a lot of behind the scenes work on him. He's likely going to fall to the fourth round, at least, I would guess.
However, he's a great player. That doesn't forgive what he did, but someone is going to let him play in the NFL. If he can prove that incident was a one-time mistake instead of a sign of things to come, Mixon has a chance to be the steal of the draft and a potential difference maker as soon as his rookie year.
5. Wayne Gallman, Clemson
The Clemson junior doesn't seem to be getting enough love. He's obviously overshadowed by the spectacular DeShaun Watson, but Gallman is a great player in his own right. He's got the size and speed to be a great downhill runner at the next level, and he should be a solid option in the passing game as well.
His 40-yard-dash time could move him up or down several rounds, and there's no guarantee that he'll leave Clemson early to enter the draft anyway. If he returns to Clemson, I think he could be the best running back in college football next year. I'd prefer he leave, though, as running backs earning power is very limited.
6. D'onta Foreman, Texas
7. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
8. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
9. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
10. James Connor, Pittsburgh