2024 NFL Draft: Former GM ranks RBs by tiers, provides pro comps, draft ranges and best fits for varied class

Written by on April 7, 2024

The process of identifying which NFL Draft prospects are worth what picks and in what order is a grind. However, don’t worry about it. 

Our task of doing just that here at CBS Sports is easier than it is for most, thanks to the guidance of CBS Sports HQ NFL analyst Rick Spielman, the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings for 16 seasons (2006-2021). The second position group in our series that will evaluate all of the various positions is running back. If you missed our wide receivers write-up, here it is

Spielman selected multiple Pro Bowl running backs early in the draft during his time with the Vikings, choosing 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson seventh overall in the 2007 NFL Draft and picking four-time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook 41st overall (second round) in the 2017 NFL Draft

Here we will go through the top five running backs in the 2024 NFL Draft as well as where they could be selected and their top team landing spot. Spielman’s thoughts come from his commentary on the “With the First Pick” podcast episode from March 13. All of the prospects below have a section of additional analysis courtesy of yours truly. Enjoy. 

5. Blake Corum (Michigan)

  • Height: 5-8 | Weight: 205 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Led FBS in rush TD (27), total TD (28) in 2023

 Pro comp: Buccaneers RB Sean Tucker

“This guy is a short, compact [runner], may be the best vision in-between the tackles of all these dudes,” Spielman said. “He can start and stop on a dime. He can squeeze through a tight crease. He is elusive at the second level, at the linebacker level. His issue is he levels off his speed once he gets to the secondary. I’ve seen him get gunned down. … I don’t know about his hands. I don’t know about his pass protection, but I do think this guy is going to be a very efficient runner at the next level because he has, to me, the unique vision and that stop-start. These bigger backs have a longer stride, but this kid can stop, plant and go. Initially when I saw him, I thought his in-line vision was a little Kenneth Walker without the speed, and then I looked at some of these short striders who were very productive in college. Sean Tucker when he came out of Syracuse. Don’t be surprised if this kid ends up with the Chargers. I know they signed Gus Edwards, but I could see a lot of Michigan players ending up with bolts on the side of their helmets next year.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: Fourth round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Sixth round
  • Best team fit: Los Angeles Chargers

Final Thoughts: Corum’s low center of gravity and tight build make him a tough tackle. His ability to jump-cut and juke in tight spaces might be the best of any running back in the draft. Corum’s willingness to allow plays to develop before picking a blocker to bounce off to get downfield is a significant plus. His sharp cuts to the outside devastated Big Ten linebackers for years after shrinking himself through the point of attack, essentially evaporating into thin air in between linemen. Corum’s ability to pile-drive forward and lunge for extra yardage near the goal line is solid. No player scored more touchdowns last season or in Michigan history than Corum. The knock on him is the size and not having the high-level, breakaway speed to manufacture long runs at a high frequency rate. Plus, the 700 touches since 2021 do provoke questions about his long-term, NFL durability. 

4. Braelon Allen (Wisconsin)

  • Height: 6-1 | Weight: 235 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Second in Big Ten last season in rush TD (12), third in rush yards (984)

 Pro comp: Green Bay Packers RB AJ Dillon

“I think this guy is a very good athlete for his size,” Spielman said. “I think that he is more of a weaver than a stop-start guy, just like a lot of these running backs are. I thought he had just OK hands out of the backfield. He’s not as explosive after he catches the ball. I didn’t really see any explosive plays. The reason is I think these big backs aren’t the quick zero-to-60 miles-an-hour type of guys. They take a while to build up their speed. I didn’t see him as a huge factor in the passing game although Wisconsin’s passing game, you wouldn’t write home to your mother I would say. I just didn’t see that he was real elusive. I think he is going to try to power through you and try to avoid you at the second level. I just think for a bigger back. He is good, I just didn’t see anything unique other than his size. I think he is a third-rounder. If he runs slow he’ll go on Saturday.” 

  • Highest he could get drafted: Third round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Fifth round
  • Best team fit: Green Bay Packers

Final Thoughts: Allen can be the hammer in any NFL backfield with his stature. His anticipation and vision at the line of scrimmage is strong, but Allen needs to be right because he finds success when already revved up going one way. However, his cutback work isn’t too shabby. Allen is known as a battering ram, but his agility is an underrated element of his game. He and fellow Badgers alum Jonathan Taylor stand alone as the sole Big Ten running backs since 2014 with three seasons of at least a 5.25 yards-per-carry rate and double-digit touchdowns with at least 150 carries each season. The treads on his tires isn’t something to worry about since he will be just 20 years old as a rookie in 2024. 

3. Trey Benson (Florida State)

  • Height: 6-0 | Weight: 216 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Set Pro Football Focus’ single-season missed tackle rate record, minimum 100 carries (51% in 2022, began tracking stat in 2014)

 Pro comp: Jacksonville Jaguars RB Tank Bigsby

“I didn’t think he was going to run [a 40-yard dash] in the 4.3s, but he did [4.39]. There’s no question he’s over the [2020] knee injury when you watch how violent this kid plays on tape,” Spielman said. You watch the LSU game, I said ‘Who the hell is this kid?’ in the opener. He just has explosive plays. He has a nose for the end zone. Any time he is near the goal line, he is scoring. He just has that knack for squeezing through and getting into the end zone no matter what he had to do. The things that stuck out for me that he doesn’t get enough credit for was his receiving skills out of the backfield. Go back and watch the Clemson game. He caught a wheel route out of the backfield that receivers can’t catch. If he didn’t have the knee injury and the age [turns 22 in July], he would probably would be up there close to being my No. 1 running back. With those two nicks against him, I put him down a little bit. I think this kid is a really good football player.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: Low second round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Third round
  • Best team fit: Baltimore Ravens

Final Thoughts: Benson could serve as a strong complement to any established running back. He is an end zone magnet: His 23 rushing touchdowns since 2022 lead the ACC and rank as the ninth most in the nation over the span of the last two seasons. He also has enough wiggle to make defenders miss routinely as evidenced by his standout efforts in the 2022 season noted above. Should his medical evaluations with teams go well, Benson could provide nice value as a Day 2 selection. 

2. Jaylen Wright (Tennessee)

  • Height: 5-10 1/2″ | Weight: 210 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Averaged 7.4 yards/rush in 2023 (2nd in FBS)

 Pro comp: Houston Texans RB Dameon Pierce/two-time Pro Bowl RB Melvin Gordon

“I really like Jaylen Wright,” Spielman said. “I think this guy may have the biggest upside of them all. He was in a rotation at Tennessee. I thought this guy was an explosive playmaker. I think he has vision in line. He has the speed to take it the distance. He led the FBS I think with 25% of his touches that I saw for plus-10-yard runs, which led all FBS running backs. I saw him live play against Alabama. Didn’t have a big impact, but caught a lot of balls late on checkdowns. I think he can be an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield. Once he gets in space, he has the juice to take it the distance. I think the biggest thing is in pass-pro when I watch him, he is more than willing to set up there and put his face in a linebacker. It’s just a little delayed in identifying where the heck the linebacker is coming from. Sometimes he’ll get tied up that way. 

“With this kid, he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him. His explosiveness as an athlete, all of the big runs that I’ve seen, I think this guy is going to be a really good running back at the next level, and I think he has the most upside of anyone we have talked about. That’s the thing teams are going to be trying to figure out in the meetings [his pass protection]. It’s not the willingness or the ability to do it. It’s if he’s able to identify who he has to pick up in pass pro. If they feel comfortable with that, I think he is too good of a back to pass up as a combination back with whoever you have in the backfield. This guy is going to put points on the board for your team because of his explosiveness.” 

  • Highest he could get drafted: Second round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Third round
  • Best team fit: Carolina Panthers

Final Thoughts: Wright is a chiseled runner with field position-altering speed. His 4.38 40-yard dash and 11’2″ broad jump as well as a 38-inch vertical jump paint the picture of a real-deal, explosive athlete. Wright does a great job of continually keeping his feet moving to power through tackles and remain upright through the initial level of a play before turning on the afterburners after breaking away from the mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage. He isn’t just a sprinter in the open field. Wright will hit defenders in the secondary with stepbacks and shoulder shimmies like a basketball player to create the space and then accelerate. He was part of a committee at Tennessee, so there isn’t a ton of tape on him as a route-runner, but he can do it. Wright can separate from linebackers in coverage over the middle. His best role is as the change-of-pace guy for a bigger, more bruising rusher. If utilized correctly, he could have a long career. 

1. Jonathon Brooks (Texas)

  • Height: 6-0 | Weight: 216 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 129.5 scrimmage YPG in 2023 (2nd in Big 12)

 Pro comp: Denver Broncos RB Javonte Williams/Four-time Pro Bowl RB Jamaal Charles

“This kid, I really liked his style,” Spielman said. “I think he is a very fluid runner. Excellent vision. Burst. Always under control. Then, has that second gear once he gets to the open field. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. I don’t think he is as dynamic as Bijan Robinson. He is not as powerful as Roschon Johnson, but he is a smoother mover to me than Roschon Johnson. He is kind of a combination between the two. Not as elite as Bijan and smoother than Roschon. … I think he is a second-round talent all the way [even if he hadn’t torn his ACL]. I saw a little Jamaal Charles in him.”

  • Highest he could get drafted: Second round (Pre-ACL injury in November)
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Fourth round
  • Best team fit: Dallas Cowboys

Final Thoughts: Jonathon Brooks’ elite traits are his speed, agility and acceleration. The agility is what shines most brightly on tape. As you can see below, he makes just one cut, bounces outside and then glides into the end zone for a touchdown against TCU. That was his last game played in which he suffered the ACL injury. 

Dallas is a strong fit for Brooks as Spielman mentioned. The Cowboys’ team doctor is Dan Cooper of the renowned Cooper Clinic in Dallas. He was the surgeon for Brooks’ ACL repair procedure, and he also serves as the Cowboys’ team doctor. They have the inside scoop on his rehabilitation process. 

The post 2024 NFL Draft: Former GM ranks RBs by tiers, provides pro comps, draft ranges and best fits for varied class first appeared on CBS Sports.


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