Projecting the 2020 NFL draft’s top running backs: Are there any first-rounders?

Two years ago, Saquon Barkley was universally considered the best running back prospect to enter the NFL draft in years. Football Outsiders’ metric for projecting the likelihood of success fur running backs, “BackCAST” agreed: It gave Barkley the second-highest projection of all time.

This year, no prospect has come close to matching the hype of Barkley. BackCAST, however, thinks there is one prospect who should be similarly hyped. In fact, BackCAST rates this prospect more highly than Barkley, or anyone else for that matter, as he has the highest BackCAST projection ever.

BackCAST projects NFL running back success based on statistics that have correlated with success in the past. Historically, a college running back who has a good size-speed combination, gained a high average yards per carry, and represented a large percentage of his college team’s running attack is more likely to succeed at the NFL level.

BackCAST considers these factors and projects the degree to which the running back will exceed the NFL production of an “average” drafted running back during his first five years. For example, a running back with a +50% BackCAST is projected to gain 50% more yards than the “average” drafted running back. BackCAST also projects whether each running back is likely to be heavily involved in the receiving game or is more of a “ground-and-pound” back.

What follows are some of the most notable BackCAST projections for the running back prospects available in the 2020 NFL draft.

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