One of my favorite things to do as an NFL Draft evaluator is to find the players who are “under the radar”. If you read my work regularly, you’ll know this. If it’s your first time here, welcome to the party. I could sit here and write about how good Bryce Love is or how dynamic Myles Gaskin is, and I’ve already done that. But why continue to bang the same drum?
My job as an evaluator is to try and create something different but also find new talent. Today, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Doing my research on the running back position for the 2019 NFL Draft, I’ve found myself very much intrigued with three more running backs.
All three of these players are juniors and could stay for another season of college football. All three of them have more rushing yards than Bryce Love and David Montgomery. In fact, one of these running backs leads the country in rushing yards, so let’s start with the top back in the country, at least statistically.
Darrell Henderson, RB from Memphis
Currently, Henderson leads the country with 934 rushing yards. When you watch him, you get that Kareem Hunt type of feel. Not so much his running style, but the fact that’s he so productive and if he declares, he could slip under the radar and fall to the third round of the NFL Draft.
Contact balance has been a big part of his success this year. He has no issues bouncing off tacklers and keeping plays alive. Furthermore, he’s got great burst and ideal short-area quickness to make defenders miss in the open field or when approaching the line of scrimmage. When he’s not bouncing off of defenders and taking handoffs from a quarterback, he’s catching passes out of the backfield. In his two previous seasons with Memphis, he recorded 44 receptions and has already caught 9 passes through the halfway point of the 2018 season.
The running back position is deep, but with the big play ability from Henderson, he should have plenty of positives on his resume entering the 2019 NFL Draft. After all, he’s got 33 career touchdowns in 31 careers games. Beyond all of that, he’s becoming a more complete runner with each game. With six games left on the schedule, there’s no reason to believe that Henderson can’t double his production, but more importantly, continue to improve his 2019 NFL Draft stock.
Love this decisiveness from Ke'Shawn Vaughn (RB - Vanderbilt) and his ability to keep his feet after contact at the second level. He's a talented dude. pic.twitter.com/6VLW8aKUDU— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) October 8, 2018
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB from Vanderbilt
There’s one running back that hasn’t been talked about enough, and this is the player. Ke’Shawn Vaughn has had an interesting college career. He started off at Illinois as a freshman and was impressive. During his sophomore season, he got put on the back-burner and started sharing reps. The Fighting Illini should have realized the talent they were about to let walk out the door.
After his sophomore season, Vaughn transferred to Vanderbilt, and in his first season playing for the Commodores, he’s been impressive. On the season, Vaughn has 65 carries for 439 yards and five touchdowns. With his 6.8 yards per carry, it’s obvious that there’s little hesitation from Vaughn. He’s a decisive runner who takes what’s given to him. When he gets to the second level, there are no guarantees that he can be stopped. He keeps his feet moving and has the ability to make one cut and scamper to the end-zone.
If he continues to impress despite the limited touches, then he will definitely be featured in 2019 NFL Draft discussions. The next four games will be an interesting test, with two of them being played against ranked opponents, Florida (14th) and Kentucky (18th). Three of those four games are on the road (Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri). Through the midway point of the season, Vaughn has been impressive, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
Alex Barnes, RB from Kansas State
The first player people usually notice when they watch Kansas State is offensive tackle Dalton Risner. He’s pretty impressive, especially with his versatility along the offensive line. However, I couldn’t help but notice the skillset of running back, Alex Barnes.
At 6’1 and 227 pounds, the junior tailback already looks built for the NFL. One of the first traits that stands out with Barnes is that he doesn’t hesitate. He has no issues barreling over defenders by lowering his center of gravity, but he’s also got quality burst. There will be questions about his long speed, but there doesn’t seem to be anything concerning about his athletic ability.
Through six games, Barnes has been one of the only bright spots for a bad K-State offense. He’s got 104 carries for 607 yards and five touchdowns. Despite three straight losses, Barnes has still been successful running the football. Against Mississippi State, he had 75 yards on 17 carries, and in week six, he ran all over Baylor to the tune of 250 rushing yards. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Barnes pull an L.J. Scott or Damien Harris and return for his senior season at Kansas State. Time will tell, but regardless, get to know the name Alex Barnes for the 2019 NFL Draft.