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Projecting the 2019 NFL draft's top running backs

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Josh Jacobs can simply run people over (1:49)

Former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs runs with a full head of steam, can catch the ball and isn't afraid to get out there and block. (1:49)

Advanced statistics and internet draftniks often agree more than they disagree about the best prospects in a given draft. For example, take Football Outsiders' metric for projecting the likelihood of success for running backs, BackCAST. Last year, BackCAST agreed with virtually everyone who followed the NFL draft that Saquon Barkley was the best running back prospect by a country mile.

Every once in a while, however, advanced statistics will break strongly from conventional wisdom. For BackCAST, this is one of those drafts. This year, up is down and down is up, as a prospect with a third-round grade rockets to the top of BackCAST's projection.

BackCAST projects NFL running back success based on statistics that have correlated with success in the past. Historically, a college running back with a good size-speed combination and a high average in yards per carry, and who 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 in the NFL.

For example, a running back with a +50% BackCAST is projected to gain 50 percent 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 this month's NFL draft.

Click here for more detail on how BackCAST works.


Darrell Henderson, Memphis Tigers

BackCAST score: +116.1%
Type of back: Receiving
Similar historical prospects: Melvin Gordon, Felix Jones