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2021 NFL Draft Prospects for Vikings: Running Backs

In the leadup to the 2021 NFL Draft, Vikings.com is taking a position-by-position look at prospects who have garnered a range of attention from national outlets. The series will include rankings, stats and background information for multiple prospects. We'll also include comments that experts shared during interviews.

Vikings status at running back

As far as consistency goes, the Vikings running backs corps is high on the list.

View photos of potential running backs the Vikings can select in the 2021 NFL Draft. Read the full story HERE.

Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison were already set to return, and Ameer Abdullah re-signed with the team last month. Mike Boone, who had been with the Vikings since 2018, joined the Broncos in free agency.

Cook, a two-time Pro Bowler, is the clear-cut starter, and Mattison has proven in his first two seasons to be a valuable reserve. While Abdullah has primarily contributed on special teams during his time in Purple, the 27-year-old has maximized his offensive opportunities, scoring two receiving touchdowns on just 71 offensive snaps last season.

Fullback C.J. Ham also remains on Minnesota's roster and has been an asset as a blocker, ball carrier and pass catcher. He is backed up by Jake Bargas, who appeared in one game as a rookie.

Ask the analyst

CBS Sports NFL Draft writer Chris Trapasso, who has covered the Buffalo Bills for various platforms over the years and also has worked as an NFL beat writer for Bleacher Report, is offering takes on this year's class of running backs. Trapasso has been with CBS since September 2017. He is a graduate of Valparaiso University, where he earned a degree in sports management and communication. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso for his analysis.

"With Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, the Vikings have an ideal one-two punch that complements each other well," Trapasso said. "Both are exquisite fits in Minnesota's zone-based run game because of their vision and slashing style."

Trapasso added that he wouldn't "pigeonhole" the Vikings into a specific style of back in this year's draft, illustrated by his suggestion for Minnesota at this position. (More on that below.)

Expert rankings

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah currently has three running backs in his overall Top 50: 20. Travis Etienne, 21. Najee Harris and 26. Javonte Williams.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has just one running back in his overall Top 25: 25. Harris.

Rankings for running backs by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler are listed below.

Prospects

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on NFL.com (linked for each player's name).

Najee-Harris-2560

School: Alabama | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 232 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
RB2 RB1 RB1 RB3 RB1

2020 stats: 13 games; 251 carries for 1,466 yards (5.8 average) and 26 touchdowns; added 43 catches for 425 yards (9.9 average) and 4 touchdowns

Finding the way: When Harris' flight from Dallas, Texas, to Birmingham, Alabama, was canceled due to weather concerns, the running back didn't hesitate to make the nine-hour drive to Alabama's Pro Day.

Travis-Etienne-2560

School: Clemson | Year: Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt: 215 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
RB1 RB2 RB2 RB1 RB2

2020 stats: 12 games; 168 carries for 914 yards (5.4 average) and 14 touchdowns; added 48 catches for 588 yards (12.6 average) and 2 touchdowns

Early comparisons: During Clemson's Pro Day, Etienne drew early comparisons to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk.

"What you're seeing here with Travis Etienne is, look at what they're doing with him, you know that's what the game has become at the running back position. When you can take the running back and you can line him out in the slot, you can line him up out wide and you can run an entire route tree. These are Marshall Faulk type of skill sets that everybody covets, and I think it's something that separates, now, the good from the great at that position," ESPN's Tom Luginbill said.

Javonte-Williams-2560

School: North Carolina | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt: 220 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
RB3 RB3 RB3 RB2 RB3

2020 stats: 11 games; 157 carries for 1,140 yards (7.3 average) and 19 touchdowns; added 25 catches for 305 yards (12.2 average) and 3 touchdowns

Belated birthday present? Williams will celebrate his 21st birthday on April 25, just four days before the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off. Getting that phone call from an NFL team would be a pretty great delayed birthday gift for the player who led the ACC and ranked fourth in the NCAA with 22 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2020.

Michael-Carter-2560

School: North Carolina | Year: Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-8 | Wt: 202 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked RB4 RB5 RB4 RB5

2020 stats: 11 games; 156 carries for 1,245 yards (8.0 average) and 9 touchdowns; added 25 catches for 267 yards (10.7 average) and 2 touchdowns

Trapasso's Take: "Carter is a smaller, lightning-bug type of back who excels due to his short-area quickness and burst through the second level. He's a reliable receiver out of the backfield and is often a nightmare for defenders in space because of how small of a target he is and his juking juice."

Overcame adversity: Carter suffered a season-ending injury during the third game of his junior season at Navarre High School (Florida). He rehabbed and bounced back, however. As a senior, he racked up 2,536 rushing yards and totaled 3,345 all-purpose yards and an incredible 45 touchdowns. USA TODAY named Carter Florida's Offensive Player of the Year.

Kenneth-Gainwell-2560

School: Memphis | Year: Redshirt-Soph. | Ht: 5-foot-8 | Wt: 201 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked RB8 RB6 RB4

2020 stats: opted out of season due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 2019 stats: 14 games; 231 carries for 1,459 yards (6.3 average) and 13 touchdowns; added 51 catches for 610 yards (11.9 average) and 3 touchdowns

'Toughest decision': Gainwell announced via Twitter that he would opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. In the letter he posted, Gainwell said he'd arrived at "the toughest decision" of his life after losing two uncles and an aunt to the illness.

Trey-Sermon-2560

School: Ohio State (after Oklahoma) | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 215 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked RB5 RB4 RB10 RB6

2020 stats: 8 games; 116 carries for 870 yards (7.5 average) and 4 touchdowns; added 12 catches for 95 yards (7.9 average)

Jumping for a cause: Sermon established a Pledge It campaign where fans could pledge a certain dollar amount per vertical leap inch (37) he recorded at Ohio State's Pro Day on March 30; proceeds raised will benefit Arise By Faith Incorporated, a nonprofit that supports victims of domestic violence. On the campaign's home page, Sermon explained why his mother's story has motivated his passion to fight against domestic violence.

Jermar-Jefferson-2560

School: Oregon State | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-9 | Wt: 210 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked RB7 Unranked RB9

2020 stats: 6 games; 133 carries for 858 yards (6.5 average) and 7 touchdowns; added 9 catches for 67 yards (7.4 average)

Trapasso's Take: "Jefferson doesn't have high-caliber athletic traits for the running back spot – he's not going to make linebackers miss at the second level with great regularity. He wins with awesome vision on zone plays. Not always trying to hit the flashy cutback lane, Jefferson discovers lanes before they materialize even on the front side of plays. He's pretty fast down the field, too.

"While probably the least athletically gifted of those I highlighted, [Jefferson] would be the best schematic fit [for Minnesota], and he'll likely be available late on Day 3."

Khalil-Herbert-2560

School: Virginia Tech (after Kansas) | Year: Redshirt-Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-9 | Wt: 204 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked Unranked RB6 RB7

2020 stats: 11 games; 155 carries for 1,183 yards (7.6 average) and 8 touchdowns; added 10 catches for 179 yards (17.9 average) and 1 touchdown

Trapasso's Take: "Herbert is a bouncy, rotational-type runner capable of highlight-reel caliber runs in which he makes multiple defenders miss on a 10-yard gain. While not ultra-fast, he has enough acceleration after getting the handoff to threaten second-level defenders. Because of his springy style, Herbert is dynamic in the screen game, too."

Demetric-Felton-2560

School: UCLA | Year: Redshirt-Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-9 | Wt: 189 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked RB6 RB7 Unranked

2020 stats: 6 games; 132 carries for 668 yards (5.1 average) and 5 touchdowns; added 22 catches for 159 yards (7.2 average) and 3 touchdowns

Trapasso's Take: "Felton is part of a new wave of running backs highly effective as slot receivers. He has a slot receiver body type and has good twitch by slot receiver standards. There's some legitimate running back ability to his game, too, because he's slippery through weaker tackle attempts, but the most appealing part about Felton is the fact he can be used in the backfield and run intricate routes split out as a receiver."

Oklahoma-State-2560

School: Oklahoma State | Year: Redshirt-Jr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 208 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel Jeremiah Bucky Brooks Mel Kiper, Jr. Pro Football Focus Dane Brugler
Unranked Unranked RB9 RB9 Unranked

2020 stats: 7 games; 133 carries for 625 yards (4.7 average) and 5 touchdowns; added 8 catches for 52 yards (6.5 average) and 1 touchdown

International sensation: A native of Alberta, Canada, Hubbard first garnered attention playing Canadian football at Bev Facey Community High School in Alberta. During three seasons with the Falcons, he recorded 458 carries for 6,880 yards and 82 touchdowns.

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