2019 NFL DRAFT RANKINGS – RUNNING BACKS
By Greg DePalma, OFN Host/Football Analyst
Scouting Combine workouts start today and running backs will take center stage.
In this series of 2019 NFL Draft reports, I list the top five pre-Combine sleepers at the running back position who I believe will out-perform their current draft status c/o Ourlads’ official ranking boards and become anywhere from average to above-average professionals.
All five of these players should be nice pick-ups later in the draft, where many of hidden gems at this position are found.
Make sure to tune in to the Ourlads’ Guide to the 2019 NFL Draft podcast, as Dan Shonka and I go in-depth on all the latest draft coverage.
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TOP 5 PLAYERS: RUNNING BACKS
1 Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
Ourlads’ 15th-ranked RB – Not invited to Scouting Combine
Ozigbo is a physical runner with tree trunks for legs which makes him hard to bring down on initial contact. But he’s not just a one-trick pony. Ozigbo has good cutback ability for his size and proved he can catch the ball out of the backfield after hauling in 22 passes as a senior.
As an added plus, Ozigbo should be extra motivated for not being invited to the Combine. It took him over three years and a new coach to finally earn the shot he deserved last season as he gained 1,082-yards while averaging an excellent 7.0 yards-per-carry and 12 TDs.
Ozigbo is also a hard worker who will put in the effort and practice like a pro. Just another key reason to like his chances as a dark-horse candidate in the later rounds or free agency.
2 Nick Brossette, LSU
Ourlads’ 20th-ranked RB
After sitting behind future NFL backs like Leonard Fournette, Darrius Guice and Darrel Williams, Brossette finally got the chance to shine during his senior season. He took full advantage by becoming just the 13th Tiger to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 1,039 yards while adding 14 TDs.
The team that takes a chance on Brossette will get a mature individual who was forced to grow up fast following the sudden death of his older brother. On top of that, Brossette tore his ACL as a freshman and had to wait three seasons to finally get his shot.
Brossette was the state’s record-holder for rushing TDs in Louisiana with 141, so the talent has always been there.
3 Wes Hills, Slippery Rock
Ourlads’ 16th-ranked RB
Looks like the top Division II player in the draft.
Hills has excellent size and proved himself at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he was named MVP after rushing for 78 yards and a score on just 10 carries.
He followed that performance up with a late Senior Bowl invite and took advantage with the longest gain of any runner (21 yards) on his first attempt.
4 Darrin Hall, Pittsburgh
Ourlads’ 17th-ranked RB - Not invited to Scouting Combine
A good size and speed back who never fully blossomed until his senior season.
Hall formed an impressive one-two punch with Combine invitee Qadree Ollison as the Panthers earned a spot in the ACC Championship game against eventual national champion Clemson. He would end his career at Pitt with 86 rushing yards against the Tigers followed by 123 against Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Hall then paced all running backs at the East/West game with 77 rushing yards.
Additionally, Hall has proven he can be an adequate receiver in the passing game as he added 31 receptions over his final two seasons.
In total, Hall gained 1,144 yards as a senior, scored 10 TDs and averaged a very solid 7.5 yards-per-rush.
5 Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Ourlads’ 29th-ranked RB
Armstead epitomized the physicality of the Temple Owls football program.
He’s a well-built hard-nosed runner who played some of his best football against top competition including a 171-yard/4 TD game against Boston College and an even better 210-yard/6 TD game against Houston.
In order to improve his stock at the next level, Armstead must be useful as a receiver and a pass blocker. Two things he didn’t have to worry a whole lot about during his time with the run-first Owls. But as a potential priority free agent acquisition, Armstead is well worth the dime and time to any club looking for depth at this position.