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Top College Running Backs 1-5 to watch in 2019, for Devy and Dynasty leagues.

For starters, many of you may be thinking about what a Devy league is. It stands for Developmental players. In a Devy league, you are drafting college players before they are eligible to enter the NFL draft. This kind of league benefits you more than you may originally realize. For starters, you now pay more attention to College Football. You learn about the prospects and in return learn more about the incoming rookie class and its depth. Most Devy league drafts are usually two to three rounds, which you may think, won’t that affect the rookie draft? No, it doesn’t. See not all players drafted in a Devy draft are going to be coming out this year. For instance, a couple of players in this article will be players coming out in the 2021 class. 

Now that I’ve given you a small breakdown of Devy leagues I would encourage you to check out Garret Prices article to learn more about the benefits of playing in a Devy league. In this article, I will break down my top running backs 1-5 and give you a few guys to watch out for. If you missed it, you can read my article on the 6-10 ranked Devy RBs. I would draft them in this order in a Devy league draft, and these ranks can also be applied to anyone playing in a College Football fantasy league. During each break down I’ll discuss their college production while also give you my opinion on how they might translate to the NFL, so let’s start breaking down some future NFL studs. 

5. Eno Benjamin – Arizona State 2020

5’10 201LBS

Eno Benjamin joined the Arizona State Sun Devils as a four-star prospect https://n.rivals.com/content/prospects/2017/eno-benjamin-635

Eno Benjamin became a household name for Sun Devils fans in the 2018 season. In 2017 however, he sat mostly behind Kalen Ballage but did play in nine games. With just 23 attempts Benjamin was able to gain an impressive 142 rushing yards and one touchdown. Moving into 2018 much like the others on this list he became the leader. Blowing away his freshman totals getting 300 attempts for 1,642 yards and an incredible 16 touchdowns. Benjamin looks poised to have continued success in 2019.

Benjamin is a curious case for me and a player I wasn’t as high on until I watched his tape. For starters, Benjamin has quick burst through the line when a hole is opened, one of the things I have noticed on multiple runs though was his feet. When those holes were plugged by defenders his quick feet allowed him to maneuver out of the hole and either bounce outside or to another spot open against the defense. While many will talk about Benjamin’s size, at times he runs like a man possessed. Easily breaking through arm tackles and is extremely elusive in evading tackles. He also showed off great receiving ability in 2018 with 35 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns. His ability to create in the open field and make defenders miss speaks to his elite elusiveness and ability to process decisions quickly, which in return makes him one of the more decisive runners in the game. 

His size will be the biggest question for most. However many analysts said the same thing about Christian McCaffrey as well coming out of college who is a mere inch and one pound heavier than Benjamin currently. Now I’m not saying Benjamin is the next McCaffrey, but I love Benjamin and his ability to create. If he can continue to show more in the passing game again in 2019, I think he is a great fit for the NFL. 

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I love this clip of Benjamin. Nice little start/stop move, then just runs over his defender for the score. 

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Benjamin dominates in this clip, he starts with good speed into the open hole. He shows off great contact balance after multiple defenders try to bring him down. I also love his spin move, add in the then breakaway speed to get into the endzone.

4. J.K. Dobbins – Ohio State 2020

5’10 214LBS

JK Dobbins joined The Ohio State Buckeyes as a four-star prospect https://n.rivals.com/content/prospects/2017/j-k-dobbins-2027

JK Dobbins is quite possibly my favorite prospect in this class (Buckeyes bias aside), yet many don’t have him in their top five. Dobbins is a back that excels in all facets of the game and will likely surprise many of his doubters in 2019. 

Dobbins surprised everyone in 2017 when he replaced an injured Mike Weber and didn’t relinquish the lead role once Weber regained his health. Dobbins had 194 attempts for 1,403 yards and seven touchdowns and added 22 catches for 135 yards and touchdown. In 2018 Dobbins still shared the backfield with Weber, while he increased his rushing attempts to 230 gaining 1,053 yards and increasing his touchdowns to 10. 

Dobbins is one of the most complete backs in this class. He is strong, athletic and a good pass blocker which keeps him on the field at all times. He has consistently shown good patience in trusting his blockers and quick processing to hit the hole as soon as it opens. Dobbins shows great lateral quickness and cuts, added that to his receiving ability and he continues to push to be an elite and complete back in this class. 

The only negative to Dobbins game is the lack of long speed. While Dobbins will likely clock in as one of the fastest in the class,  multiple times I witnessed him being caught from behind by a defender. Some may question his workload at such a young age but having another incoming stud such as Master Teague should help ease Dobbins workload. He also has yet to miss a game so he has shown so far he can handle the workload. Long speed being his real only question mark, Dobbins could easily be in the conversation with Taylor as the third-best back in this class, but falls just a bit behind Swift and Etienne for me. 

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Dobbins shows off great patience in this clip as he gets the ball. His slight hesitation allows the hole to open and he bursts through the line, breaks an arm tackle and is off to the races. While he doesn’t have elite breakaway speed he may be only a gear below that. 

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Dobbins shows off his receiving skills in this clip. He runs a nice route and easily beats the linebacker covering him. Haskins does a good job throwing the ball ahead of him where only he can get it. He does a great job adjusting on the fly and concentrating on bringing the ball in. 

3. Jonathan Taylor- Wisconsin 2020

5’11 221LBS

Jonathan Taylor joined Wisconsin as a four-star prospect https://n.rivals.com/content/prospects/2017/jonathan-taylor-3906

Taylor is one of the more polarizing prospects in this class. I have him just a step down from the top two players. Some have him as the best back in this class, while others have him closer to 10. He undoubtedly has a ton of talent. However, questions about his receiving ability and his dominant offensive line have led some to doubt his skill set. 

Taylor burst onto the scene in 2017 as a freshman getting 299 attempts for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns, this all while being listed as a co-starter with two other running backs. Entering the 2018 season, and while he didn’t increase his attempts by much jumping up to 307 his rushing production shot through the roof amassing 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns. 

Taylor is a strong runner who runs with a good pad level at the point of contact. He consistently does a good job finding the daylight in the line and exploding with speed and aggression. He has shown the ability to score on any play with game breaking-speed. Taylor’s hard running style is shown even more when he breaks easily through arm tackles by getting low at the point of contact and keeping his legs moving. 

The negatives on Taylor seem to lead many to doubt his future success. He has been viewed by many as overworked in two years amassing 606 rushing attempts, and will likely get close to 300 again in 2019. He lacks receiving production so far at the college and high school level. In fact in many games for Wisconsin, he is not in on third downs where most teams employ a good receiving back. However, many said the same about Melvin Gordon coming out of college and he has dispelled that myth. Gordon had just 22 catches in college and 19 of those came his senior year. The last knock against Taylor is how good his offensive line has been. Wisconsin’s offensive line has been considered one of the best the past two years. Entering the 2019 season though the Badgers have lost two of their better guards, so in theory, Taylor’s ability will be put to the test more than it has in the past. 

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Taylor really shows off some nice vision and speed in this clip. Yes, the offensive line opens a massive hole for Taylor to get through, but I love his quick reaction to get to the outside, While he gets a great block from his receiver he uses his speed to get to the endzone. 

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Taylor shows off his breakaway speed again in this clip. He breaks through the line and shakes off a tackle, then does a good job fighting away the next defender with his hand as he proceeds to leave everyone in his dust.

2. Travis Etienne- Clemson 2020

5’10 200LBS

Travis Etienne joined Clemson as a three-star prospect. https://n.rivals.com/content/prospects/2017/travis-etienne-11589

Etienne is considered the 1B to D’Andre Swift’s 1A. Many have him as their number one prospect. For me, Etienne has the same skill and elite traits as Swift but lacks at least just a bit in one category. Which is what has dropped him to firmly behind Swift for me.

Etienne’s freshman year had him splitting the time in the backfield with Tavien Feaster and yet still put up 700 rushing yards on 107 attempts and scored 13 touchdowns. Much like Swift, Etienne came back his sophomore year and dominated as the lead back, getting 204 attempts for an outstanding 1,658 yards and a staggering 24 touchdowns while helping lead Clemson to a National Championship. 

Etienne possesses all the elite traits a running back needs. His contact balance is off the charts and has shown great agility in avoiding defenders. His ability to change direction and cut back and bounce the ball outside is truly fun to watch. He shows great burst to get through holes and runs with an authoritative demeanor. He does a great job recognizing holes and attacking them, causing defenders to collapse on him before quickly spinning out and breaking to the outside. Again his contact balance is off the charts, getting hit by defenders and moving off them at times getting to full speed in as little as three steps. His breakaway speed for me separates him from Taylor and Dobbins. Once he gets going, he’s gone and I have yet to see him get caught from behind. 

Etienne’s main question mark comes from his receiving ability. He has caught just 17 passes in his first two years. Once he gets the ball he shows how dynamic he can be. However, he came out earlier this offseason and talked about how he is still uncomfortable catching the ball. Again I know I’m nitpicking here, but to separate the top two just a bit this is the only thing that drops Etienne a bit for me. I will also mention some have questioned his pass protection ability being quite raw. He doesn’t excel at it but he isn’t the worst I’ve seen in this class. He will continue to improve on this in my opinion.  

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For starters, I love Etienne’s quick speed to get to the hole and through it. His contact balance is just ridiculous as most running backs would go down with that first tackle. 

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Etienne shows some serious burst through the hole. Shows off the lower leg strength breaking through some arm tackles for what he makes look like an easy score.

1. D’Andre Swift- Georgia 2020 

5’9, 215 LBS

Swift was a four-star high school prospect per Rivasl.com 

https://n.rivals.com/content/prospects/2017/d-andre-swift-769

Swift was able to get some playing time during his freshman year. However, he had to sit behind a talented pair of backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Swift ran for 618 yards and three touchdowns on just 81 attempts, he added 17 catches for 153 yards and one touchdown. 

2018 came around and Swift earned the lead back role, turning that into 163 attempts for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns. He continued to dominate in the receiving game as well snagging 32 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns. While Swift looks poised to be the lead back again in 2019, he will be sharing the rock with the talented Zamir White and James Cook (Dalvin Cook younger brother.)

What makes Swift my top running back is his limited question marks in his game combined with his upside and skill. Swift is patient behind the offensive line and uses he great lateral agility and elite cuts to get away from defenders and break upfield. He possesses true breakaway speed and is a true threat to score any time he touches the ball, he also isn’t afraid to drop his shoulder and level a defender. 

Swift receiving ability is elite in this class. Due to being stuck behind Chubb and Michel in 2017 he was forced at times to play slot receiver. He proved he could run good and tight routes, and expanded on that out of the backfield in 2018. 

I mentioned earlier that Swift doesn’t have many question marks for me, and he doesn’t. He is a well-rounded prospect. He has had some injury questions dating back to high school. However, for me, if he splits time again this year it will continue to allow him to keep some fresh legs while still dominating at the college level.  

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Swift’s quick change of direction here is honestly just ridiculous. I love his subtle stutter-step which he calls his “dead leg move” and the ability to carry defenders into the endzone. 

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Again in this clip, his ability to gracefully change direction with the “dead leg move’ is absolutely beautiful. Making three defenders miss, while then again showing off the power to carry defenders into the endzone for a touchdown.

I truly hope you enjoyed the breakdowns of my top five College/Devy running backs. If you would like to see how the rest of the running backs are ranked by our great rankers including myself check out the Devy rankings available with your #NerdHerd membership. Check back soon as my next series will feature my top 10 quarterbacks. Feel free to hit me up with any dynasty or Devy questions on twitter anytime and follow me @SportsfanaticMB 

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