This is quite a year for RBs. Plenty of NFL experts will doubtless be examining the relative merits of Barclay and Derrius Guice over the next few months and they are indubitably both 1st round prospects. Personally, however, I prefer Guice because, at the moment, I think that he’s a more complete RB. Barclay is a really powerful, dynamic runner, with elite speed, power and vision. I love how he finishes his runs; there will be DBs all over the country who will be offering up little prayers that Barclay simply trots out of bounds at the end of a run and, beyond question, he shows the sort of explosion that you want in a starting RB. I do, however, have some minor quibbles about Barclay. He may well have had a father or grandfather who was a big Marcus Allen fan but, for me, he leaves his feet and goes airborne far too often. He has a wonderful jump-cut but, more often than not, it is to his right; if I were an NFL defensive co-ordinator, I would ensure that he has to run to his left. Finally, I have slight reservations regarding his pass protection. In the second quarter of the Wisconsin game, he was a bit of a liability against NFL calibre defenders coming off the edge. It is fair to say, in mitigation, that he was dealing with an injury throughout that game but, nevertheless, it set a few alarm bells ringing. Overall, though, I have no doubt that Barclay is a 1st round talent and I look forward to charting his progress with interest in the 2017 season.
When it comes to FCS prospects, you want to see them dominating their competition and there is no doubt that Edmonds does that. Watching him run against Patriot League competition is video game stuff; he runs over, around and away from them with ridiculous ease. I was keen, therefore, to watch Edmonds play against a higher level of competition, so I paid careful attention to the 2016 Navy game. I came away very impressed. For a 5-9, 205lb back, he runs with power and determination. Even though his O-Line was overmatched in that game, you saw a lot of Edmonds’ strengths; he has great vision and fights through first contact. In space, he has very quick feet – I love watching his jump-cut – and will often make the first defender miss. He makes the most out of each play and has a sound understanding of the context of a play; on 3rd and 1 he is powerful and direct, whereas on earlier downs, he is a bit more patient in setting up blocks. He is willing to block in pass protection but there is work to do in that area – he is too upright and would benefit from sinking lower and exploding into the blitzer, in order to prevent himself from being bullied. He has good hands as a receiver and can certainly help in the passing game. NFL teams may well be wary of Edmonds’ size and small-school background and he is slightly unlucky, in that there are some bona fide superstars in the 2018 draft class. Nevertheless, he should definitely get a shot in the NFL and I could certainly see him being drafted on Day 3 – I think he’s a real sleeper in this year’s draft.
Michel shows some flashes in the passing game – he sets up a screen well and has decent hands. He is also brave and dependable in pass protection, where he shows the ability to anchor with power and leverage. As a runner, Michel is at his best when he makes an early decision and explodes through the hole; he is not a patient runner and when he has to wait for a hole to open, he appears very hesitant. This leads to a lot of runs for losses or minimal gains. Although he is 5’10, 220, he doesn’t really display the same power as a runner that he does in pass protection. He does, though, have quick and nimble feet and, when he gets in the open field, he can use this elusiveness to make tacklers miss. Ultimately, though, I don’t think Michel isn’t going to frighten an NFL defence and I’m probably not as high on him as a lot of people. His abilities in the passing game, however, make him worthy of draft consideration and I can see him going somewhere on Day 3 and competing to fulfil a third down back role.
Harris is a serviceable runner, whose quick feet enable him to flash some elusiveness at the line of scrimmage and who does a decent job of extracting as much from each run as he can. He was extremely productive in 2016, running for 1037 yards, at the eye-opening average of 7.1 yards per pop but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that most other decent backs in the country could have produced the same sort of numbers behind the Alabama line. He is a very limited blocker, who got rag-dolled at times in this part of the game – the Texas A&M game was a good example – and he appears, at this point, to lack the functional strength to be able to hold up against blitzing NFL defenders. His speed is decent but unexceptional and, whilst he has decent hands in the passing game, he doesn’t have the quickness or suddenness to be much of a factor as a pass catcher at the next level. He’ll get looks because of his high level of production in the SEC but I don’t see him as anything more than a back-up in the NFL, if even that.
Scarbrough is not as balanced a runner as Guice. His balance is decent but he doesn’t have the same agility or range of evasive moves. He is, though, an absolute monster in open space. Quincy Wilson, for one, will be hoping that Scarbrough doesn’t end up in the AFC South – the fend he put on Wilson in 2016 is the sort of thing that leaves CBs sweating and forlorn in the small hours of the night. He flashes the ability to be patient, both in pass protection and with the ball, but it looks on tape as if his instincts are, all too often, to take off at the first opportunity. He is more of a freak athlete than a nuanced or intelligent RB at this point in his development but the raw tools are tantalising, to say the least. He looks like a competitive, determined runner on tape – the aggression with which he ran in the 2016 Washington game was striking – and he can certainly break tackles. He’s not naturally patient – he will make one cut at most and then go – and he looks far more comfortable attacking the edge than the middle. Scarbrough is still a work in progress but after another year of school, he could be right in the midst of the Round 1 chatter.
Guice is a simply outstanding prospect, who runs with an exceptionally impressive combination of balance and power. He is scheme versatile, as well; at some times, he explodes into the hole and at others, he just waits for his blocks and makes a quick and usually intelligent decision. For a runner of his physicality, he has impressive speed and he has no interest in going down on first contact, using both the fend and the spin move to evade tacklers. He hasn’t done a huge amount as a receiver but that looks to be as much a matter of scheme as of ability. He does, however, impress as a pass blocker – he showed willingness and ability as both a cut-blocker and a chip-blocker. His short area quickness gets him into the open field with intriguing regularity – when he gets there, DBs have no great interest in tackling him. He falls forward after contact, he makes the most of his opportunities and, personally, I thought he was a much more impressive prospect than his teammate, Leonard Fournette, in 2016. In terms of sheer talent, he is probably one of the top three or four players available in 2018. Given the movement we have seen recently towards taking RBs in the top 10, there is every reason to think that, if Guice continues on his current trajectory, he will be a very wealthy man by the end of the 2018 draft.
Williams runs hard and with some power, particularly close to the goal line. There is, however, nothing else that particularly sets him apart – he has very little burst in the open field and, when he tries to make a move, he is a one-jump runner. He goes down too easily on first contact – an odd business, really, given how willing and able he is as a blocker in pass protection. He follows his blocks well but, in open spaces, for he most part, he shows little imagination, flexibility or ambition. At the same time, in the Texas game, he showed a bit more nuance in setting up his runs and commitment when it came to running into contact. Given his physical tools, therefore, he will be a player whom I will be eager to chart in the 2017 season – if he is involved more in the passing game and plays with the same energy and drive as he did in the Texas game, he could end up surpassing his initial grade by a distance.