Cleveland Browns: NFL Combine Review – Running Back
We’ve looked at offensive linemen and wide receivers, now we look at the next skill position group on the Browns shopping list – running backs. Yes, there is one more offensive skill position that we’ll look at, I haven’t forgotten about it, patience.
Duke Johnson is a fantastic flex back who certainly provides more value than a straight 3rd down back role, but he’s also not capable of being a feature back and he’s in the final year of his contract. While Isaiah Crowell served his purpose as a plodding grinder, he’s both a free agent and a less than inspiring solution to tote the rock for a young team trying to grow its offense. Cleveland needs a playmaker who can carve out big plays on 1st and 2nd down and take the pressure off whoever the new signal caller will be.
I’ve basically been on record everywhere humanly possible stating that not only do I think Saquan Barkley should be the #1 overall pick for the Browns but that he will be. He absolutely dominated the combine and his skills as an every-down back are well documented. Obviously, just because I think this doesn’t mean it’s a lock. If the Browns don’t land Barkley, they need to land someone. Lucky for them, there are some great options out there.
Rashaad Penny, San Diego St – Penny followed up a fantastic final campaign (2248 yards, 23 TD) by putting on a show at the Senior Bowl where he flashed great one-cut running abilities and surprisingly strong receiving skills. Penny hasn’t been seen as a breakaway runner, but he somewhat took a whack at that idea by popping a 4.46 forty at the combine (tied for 3rd amongst all RB). He has playmaker written all over him and he will likely be available in the 2nd round. He’s a solid fall back option if Barkley isn’t the pick.
Derrius Guice, LSU – Injuries make this a bit of a risky move as Guice missed most of 2017, but he’s a rare combination of physical running style and speed. He’s well-liked for his ability to create yards after contact and he posted a 4.49 forty at the combine showcasing some top level speed. He’s a nice complimentary back to pair with Johnson and he has the ability to be an early down chain mover.
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama – At 6’1″, 230 lbs, Bo comes in as a big, strong back who is well suited for early down duties only. He has strong one-cut ability, and he more often than not finishes runs by falling forward. He’s tough to take down at the point of contact and has good top end speed. The knock on Bo is that his acceleration is below average with little to offer in the passing game and this has kept him lower on scouts draft rankings. He could be a very strong addition in the 3rd or 4th round.
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State – This was a big-time sleeper but after showing off a 4.46 forty at 6’1″, 228 lbs, and a stellar three-cone drill, Ballage is moving up draft boards a sleeper no more. He’s an odd case because he played all four years at ASU with fellow NFL prospect Demario Richard and they virtually split the RB job each of those four years. That’s actually a point in favor of Kalen because he enters the NFL relatively fresh. He caught 64 passes over his final two seasons and returned kicks in 2017 as well. He’s almost an identical match to David Johnson on paper. This appears to be a mid-round steal waiting to happen.
Ronald Jones, USC – Jones is another all-purpose back who should be above average in the NFL across the board. On film, he looks quick and flashes good top end speed with some phenomenal wiggle, but he fell flat in the combine posting only a 4.65 forty, which could drop his stock slightly. Perhaps the best part of Jones game is his pass catching and play as a receiver. There are some concerns about his ability to carry the ball 25 times a game, but he has the skill set to become a star in the NFL in the right situation.