Talented Running Backs Dominate the 2017 NFL Draft

Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette
Joe Robbins/Getty Images (2)

If you’re wondering what to expect from the NFL draft, think “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” On the good side, running backs are back—big time.

“It’s by far the most talented group we have seen in a long time,” NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock says. “I have five running backs with first-round grades. To put things in perspective, only six running backs have gone in the first round the past five years.”

When the draft kicks off in Philadelphia on April 27, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is likely to be the top pick. But viewers won’t have to wait long (each team has 10 minutes to pick) to see the highest-rated back, LSU’s Leonard Fournette (above right), get snapped up. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Carolina Panthers will choose Fournette at No. 8 overall. “He reminds you of Adrian Peterson,” Kiper says, referring to the likely future Hall of Famer. “He runs through guys.”

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The draft plays out over three days and lasts seven rounds. Fans might have to hang on to find out where speedy Florida State running back Dalvin Cook (above left) lands. Kiper projects Cook to go 29th to Green Bay.“He has tremendous explosiveness,” Kiper says. “Once he gets into the open field, he’s gone.”

As for the bad, there’s a dearth of franchise quarterbacks. North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson rank highest. “I am not wild about this quarterback class at all,” Mayock says. “None of them are ready to step in and play as rookies. Not one.”

The ugly? Beleaguered Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. Kiper calls Mixon one of the draft’s “best 10 players,” but he was caught on a surveillance video punching a woman in the face in 2014. Expect his name to be brought up over and over. “You’re getting a guy that would be the No. 1 running back in this draft in the late first or mid-second round,” Kiper says. “But what owner is going to sign off on him?”

Thursday, April 27, 6/5c, NFL Network NFL Draft Red Carpet, 8/7c, ESPN and NFL Network 2017 NFL Draft, Round 1

Friday, April 28, 7/6c, ESPN and NFL Network 2017 NFL Draft, Rounds 2 and 3, 8/7c, ESPN2 2017 NFL Draft, Rounds 2 and 3 (continued)

Saturday, April 29, noon/11am c, ESPN and NFL Network 2017 NFL Draft, Round 4