2019 Draft Snapshot: Running Backs

The 2019 NFL Draft is just two weeks from today.

The first round of the annual event will begin at 7 p.m. (CT) on April 25 in Nashville.

The Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party will coincide with the opening night. It is scheduled from 6 to 11 p.m. on April 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium and will feature live coverage of the draft by “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen and KFAN. Tickets are available for purchase here.

The second and third rounds will be held on April 26, with festivities beginning at 6 p.m. (CT).

The fourth round will start at 11 a.m. (CT) on April 27 and be followed by Rounds 5-7.

The Vikings currently have eight selections in the draft, beginning with the 18th overall pick. Minnesota went 8-7-1 in 2018 and missed out on the postseason.

Vikings.com is taking a glance at the top prospects at each position leading up to the draft.

Schedule

April 11: Running backs

April 12: Tight ends

April 15: Quarterbacks

April 16: Wide receivers

April 17: Offensive tackles

April 18: Centers and guards

April 19: Defensive tackles

April 22: Defensive ends/edge rushers

April 23: Linebackers

April 24: Cornerbacks

April 25: Safeties

Where the Vikings Stand

The Vikings have four running backs — Dalvin Cook, Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone and Roc Thomas — on the roster, as well as fullback C.J. Ham, who transitioned from running back in 2017.

Cook has totaled 969 yards and four touchdowns on 207 carries in 15 games over the course of his first two pro seasons. His rookie campaign was halted by a torn ACL in Week 4, and his second season was adversely affected by a hamstring injury suffered in Week 2. Despite the injuries, Cook has 51 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns. Abdullah was added during the 2018 season, and Boone and Thomas joined the team as undrafted rookie free agents last year. All three played sparingly but could be in line for a larger role after the departure of Latavius Murray to New Orleans. In addition to blocking, Ham has 18 receptions for 153 yards and 13 rushes for 21 yards and a score in two seasons.

Recent NFL Draft History (past five years)

Total number of running backs taken: 114 (includes 11 fullbacks)

Round 1: 8 (3 in 2018, 2 in 2017, 1 in 2016, 2 in 2015, 0 in 2014)

Round 2: 12 (4 in 2018, 2 in 2017, 1 in 2016, 2 in 2015, 3 in 2014)

Round 3: 15 (1 in 2018, 4 in 2017, 2 in 2016, 4 in 2015, 4 in 2014)

Round 4: 25 (5 in 2018, 7 in 2017, 3 in 2016, 3 in 2015, 6 in 2014; 1 fullback in 2015)

Round 5: 16 (1 in 2018, 4 in 2017, 6 in 2016, 4 in 2015, 0 in 2014; 1 fullback in 2015)

Round 6: 18 (3 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 1 in 2016, 1 in 2015, 4 in 2014; 1 fullback in 2017, 3 fullbacks in 2016, 1 fullback in 2015, 1 fullback in 2014)

Round 7: 20 (4 in 2018, 5 in 2017, 4 in 2016, 2 in 2015, 2 in 2014; 1 fullback in 2017, 1 fullback in 2015, 1 fullback in 2014)

The Prospects (based on rankings by Dane Brugler of The Athletic)

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1. Josh Jacobs

Alabama, Junior, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds

2018 stats: 640 yards and 11 touchdowns on 120 rushes (5.3 yards per carry); 247 yards and three scores on 20 receptions (12.4 yards per catch)

Quotable: “I didn’t have any injuries this year. After games, I didn’t even have bruises or stuff like that. I felt crazy good, so that helps the longevity of RBs all around the league, so I think that’s the wave.” — Jacobs when asked at the combine about his limited use at Alabama

Hard to bring down: According to analytics company Pro Football Focus, Jacobs ranked third nationally in percentage of carries during which he was not tackled on first contact (42.1).

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2. Damien Harris

Alabama, Senior, 5-10, 216

2018 stats: 876 yards and nine touchdowns on 150 rushes (5.8 yards per carry); 204 yards on 22 receptions (9.3 yards per catch)

Quotable: “First of all, there’s no competition. We’re all there for the same reason, and that was to help our team be as successful as possible. However we had to do that, whether that was splitting carries or a certain guy getting a certain number of touches week-in and week-out, was the challenge we were facing.” — Harris when asked about competing for playing time with other Alabama running backs

Expert take: “Although he benefited from a strong offensive line and deep backfield, which allowed him to stay fresh late in games, Harris consistently gained more yards than what was blocked for him due to his vision, competitive edge and ability to shift his weight to elude defenders.” — Brugler

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3. Devin Singletary

Florida Atlantic, Junior, 5-7, 203

2018 stats: 1,348 yards and 22 touchdowns on 261 rushes (5.2 yards per carry); 36 receiving yards on six receptions (6.0 yards per catch); ranked third in FBS with 11.0 points per game and second with 22 rushing touchdowns; ranked 11th in FBS with 112.3 rushing yards per game and overall rushing total

Quotable: “My pass pro. Just getting ready, going into the league, there’s going to be guys twice my size. Just continuing to work on my technique and getting better at that.” — Despite his grade from PFF (mentioned below), Singletary said at the combine that he most wanted to improve his pass protection

Trending up: PFF doled out a run grade of 91.1 and pass block grade of 90.0 for Singletary in 2018. The run grade was three-tenths higher than his 2017 mark, but the pass block grade was up a whopping 12.2 points.

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4. David Montgomery

Iowa State, Junior, 5-10, 222

2018 stats: 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns on 257 rushes (4.7 yards per carry); 157 yards on 22 receptions (7.1 yards per catch); ranked 22nd in FBS in rushing yards and 27th in rushing touchdowns

Quotable: “It will mean a lot, just being able to give kids back home hope to understand that it’s possible. You’ve just got to have the right mindset, and you can’t live to the standards that everybody creates for you. You’ve got to create your own. I was able to create my own and still creating my own, trying to live out my dream and give kids back home hope.” — Montgomery on making it to the NFL

Made you miss: According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery forced more missed tackles per rush attempt than any draft-eligible prospect in 2018. He was credited with forcing 100 missed tackles on 256 rush attempts (39.1 percent). Singletary was next-best, by the way, at 36.4 percent.

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5. Miles Sanders

Penn State, Junior, 5-11, 211

2018 stats: 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns on 220 rushes (5.8 yards per carry); 139 yards on 24 receptions (5.8 yards per catch); ranked 15th in FBS in rushing yards

Quotable: “It was definitely difficult. I would say that’s the most adversity I faced. Coming out of high school, I was a five-star recruit, highly recruited. I was expecting it to be a 1-2 punch type of situation when I got there. It obviously wasn’t that. But just learning from Saquon [Barkley], picking his brain, how he thinks, how he learns, how he prepares for games helped me become a better player on and off the field.” — Sanders on being behind Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, on the depth chart

Increased workload: Sanders went from totaling 275 yards on 56 rush attempts and 207 total snaps from 2016-17 to a whopping 276 attempts and 693 snaps in 2018.

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6. Darrell Henderson

Memphis, Junior, 5-8, 208

2018 stats: 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns on 214 rushes (8.9 yards per carry); 295 yards and three scores on 19 receptions (15.5 yards per catch); led FBS with 179.1 all-purpose yards per game and yards per carry; finished second in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and scoring (11.5 points per game)

Quotable: “It’s just trusting the process. I go through my reads, and once I see one hole I try my best to hit it before the defense gets there. I did a pretty good job of beating them to the crease.” — Henderson on the key to making big plays

Nearly two-thirds after contact: PFF calculated that 2,315 of Henderson’s 3,532 rushing yards were gained after contact and ranked him first nationally with a breakaway percentage of 70.8.

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7. Justice Hill

Oklahoma State, Junior, 5-10, 198

2018 stats: 930 yards and nine touchdowns on 158 rushes (5.9 yards per carry); 68 yards on 13 receptions (5.2 yards per catch); 32nd in FBS with 93.0 yards per game

Quotable: “Yeah for sure. It helps you learn easier. You just look at a play, and you learn it. I just do that because I'm a competitor and I like to compete, no matter what the field is. If it’s football, school work, I'm just trying to compete and taking that and moving on to the next level.” — Hill, a finance major on the carryover from being on the honor roll in the classroom to learning in his playbook

Expert take: “Hill is a fun ball carrier to study because he is a chunk play waiting to happen with his lateral agility and quick-thinking rush attack (41 plays of 20-plus yards in college).” — Brugler

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8. Trayveon Williams

Texas A&M, Junior, 5-foot-8, 206

2018 stats: 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns on 271 rushes (6.5 yards per carry); 278 yards and one touchdown on 27 receptions (10.3 yards per catch); ranked third in FBS in rushing yards per game, fifth in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and all-purpose yards per game (156.8)

Quotable: “I’d say explosiveness is my greatest asset because, especially at the running back position and especially with my game, that’s important, to be explosive in and out of cuts, be explosive when you hit a hole and then be able to change that gear and accelerate going from zero to 100 real quick.”

Strong start and finish: Williams opened 2018 with 240 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern State and closed the campaign with 236 yards and three scores against N.C. State for a Gator Bowl record.

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9. Dexter Williams

Notre Dame, Senior, 5-11, 212

2018 stats: 995 yards and 12 touchdowns on 158 rushes (6.3 yards per carry); 133 yards and one touchdown on 16 receptions (8.3 yards per catch); ranked 34th in FBS in rushing touchdowns

Quotable: “I became ‘Juice’ just by being the energy that guys feed off, and also my favorite drink is orange juice, so I drink a lot of orange juice and the guys would always see me with it and say, ‘Why do you drink a lot of orange juice?’ And I was just like, ‘It’s a Florida thing.’ Ever since then, they just call me ‘Juiceman,’ and they feed off my energy. They’d be like, ‘Dex, we need that juice every game,’ and so I try to bring the juice each and every game.” — Williams on his nickname

Gradual progression: Williams improved his overall grade from PFF in each of his four seasons, going from a 60.7 as a freshman to 63.8, to 76.5 to 77.4.

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10. Jalin Moore

Appalachian State, Redshirt Senior, 5-10, 212

2018 stats: 400 yards and six touchdowns on 63 rushes in five games (6.3 yards per carry); 40 yards on six receptions (6.7 yards per catch); ranked 36th in FBS with 94.3 rushing yards per game

Quotable: “I’ve got so many bright things ahead of me. I don’t care if it was the worst injury ever, I’ve got faith that I’m going to be better than what I used to be.” — Moore in November after having his cast removed from his ankle that was fractured in an October game

Expert take: “Moore is an agile-footed ball carrier with terrific run balance and the lower body that continues to grind yards. Although he would benefit from improved patience and pace, he is a tough-minded finisher and the type of competitor who doesn’t accept limitations.” — Brugler

An image from September 9, 2018 regular season home game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings won 24-16.

Vikings Draft Party

April 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium

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