Top 5 Running Backs in 2021 NFL Draft Class

The NFL Draft will be here sooner than we know what. The only 2 picks that are locked down are the first two which will be quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach wilson respectively barring any crazy last-minute trade. After that, it will be a mystery of where other players will be drafted, specifically running backs. Similar to last year’s class, this class isn’t as deep as previous classes, but we still value some of the top running backs of NFL caliber to make an impact for a team. In this article, we’ll break down the top 5 running backs available in this draft class. 

#1: Najee Harris – Alabama

The winner of the Doan Walker Award for best running back in College Football is arguably the best running back in this entire draft class, with Travis Etienne being a close second. Harris reminds us of another Alabama product a few years back who is now one of the best running backs in the entire NFL in Derrick Henry. Henry and Harris have very similar power traits that make them so unique. Harris has the potential to be a true 3 down back in the league with his strength and athleticism. He’s not afraid to take a hit and this led to him having the 3rd most rushing yards of any running back in college football and an astounding 26 rushing touchdowns. 

#2: Travis Etienne – Clemson

In a down year, Etienne certainly regressed in 2020 with less than 1,000 yards rushing after back to back 1600 yard plus seasons. Etienne had his worst season since his freshman year in rushing yards, but his year in receiving proved that he is a dual-threat running back which makes him an intriguing choice for many teams. Being able to be a threat in the ground and through the air has been more necessary as play styles have drastically changed over the years. 

#3: Javonte Williams – North Carolina

Williams is one ½ of the terrific running back duo for the Tar Heels. Both Williams and Carter are two of the top running back prospects in this class. Williams is more NFL ready between the two with his ability to be a power runner and get the ball in the end zone when it matters most. This allowed Williams to find the end zone on the ground on 19 occasions. With working on his agility, Wiliams can turn into a reliable starting running back in the league under the right guidance and coaching.

#4: Khalil Herbert – Virginia Tech

The senior running back only had 2 games this season where he was held under 5 yards per carry with one of those games being a blowout loss to ACC powerhouse Clemson. Every other game this season, Herbert was one of the most consistent running backs in football which helped him finish 5th in rushing yards of all running backs. Herbert is a sleeper contender for being the steal of the draft for a team. 

#5: Michael Carter – North Carolina

Carter was the 2nd half of the dynamic duo of running backs at North Carolina. Both running backs had great seasons and sat atop of all running backs in rushing yards. Carter  has a unique skillset where he is more versatile and can adapt to situations which gives him an edge over many other running backs who could appear on this list. Carter can break out for monster games with 2 games over 200 yards and one of them being over 300. However, Carter gets put at the 5th spot despite beating out a couple candidates ahead of him for his inconsistency from game to game which is not necessarily a fault of his own. But, with Williams also on UNC, they didn’t always need productivity out of Carter, but in the NFL, this is a different story where they want productivity out of both guys or you need to prove why you are the go to back. Carter had several games where he didn’t get much going for him and let Williams take over. Carter still is a quality draft pick and a team would be lucky to snag Carter in the 3rd or 4th round of this draft.

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