Reevaluating the 2017 NFL Running Back Draft Class
Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Marlon Mack are just five members of the studly 2017 NFL running back draft class.
Simply put, this draft class is taking over the league at the tailback position.
With Fournette being taken as high as No. 4 overall in the draft and guys like Austin Ekler going undrafted, this selection makes up 12 starting tailback jobs across the league. The majority of players in this class are going into the final year of their rookie deal.
While McCaffrey became the highest-paid running back in the NFL this offseason, guys like Cook are holding out for an extension. Jones, coming off a league-high 16 rushing touchdown, wants to be a "lifelong Packer," but a player like Fournette continues to be in trade conversations. This group of tailbacks each has its own story entering year four of their respective careers.
Let's evaluate each career thus far and try to figure out who is worthy of an extension moving forward.
|Player||Career Rush||Career TDs||Draft selection||Salary||2019 Season|
|Leonard Fournette (JAX)||2,631||17||Rd 1, 4th||4-year, $27.15M||1,152 rush, 3 TDs|
|Christian McCaffrey (CAR)||2,920||24||Rd 1, 8th||4-year, $64M||1,387 rush, 15 TDs|
|Dalvin Cook (MINN)||2,104||17||Rd 2, 41||4-year, $6.35M||1,135 rush, 13 TDs|
|Joe Mixon (CIN)||2,931||17||Rd 2, 48||4-year, $5.45M||1,137 rush, 5 TDs|
|Alvin Kamara (NO)||2,408||27||Rd 3, 67||4-year, $3.85M||797 rush, 5 TDs|
|Kareem Hunt (CLE)||2,390||17||Rd 3, 86||1-year, $3.25M||179 rush2 TDs|
|James Conner (PIT)||1,581||16||Rd 3, 105||4-year, $3.16M||464 rush,4 TDs|
|Player||Career Rush||Career TDs||Draft||Salary||2019 Season|
|Tarik Cohen (CHI)||1,027||5||Rd 4th, 119||4-year, $3.03M||213 rush, 3 TDs|
|Wayne Gallman (NYG)||762||3||Rd 4th, 140||4-year, $2.82M||110 rush,2 TDs|
|Marlon Mack (IND)||2,357||20||Rd 4th, 143||4-year, $2.82M||1,091 rush, 8 TDs|
|Aaron Jones (GB)||2,260||28||Rd 5th, 182||4-year, $2.6M||1084 rush, 16 TDs|
|Chris Carson (SEA)||2,589||16||Rd 7th, 249||4-year, 3.26M||1,230 rush, 7 TDs|
|Matt Breida (SF)||1,902||6||UDFA||1-year, $3.26M||623 rush, 1 TDs|
|Austin Ekler (LAC)||1,371||8||UDFA||4-year, 24.5M||557 rush, 3 TDs|
|Corey Clement (PHI)||580||6||UDFA||1 year, $825K||No Stats|
Unbeknown to most, Joe Mixon (2,931 career yards) is the most productive back out of this draft class. He is overshadowed at times for how bad his team is and the excitement over the Bengals' new quarterback Joe Burrow. Mixon would be a fine pass-catching back to compliment Burrow.
Jones leads the way in total career rushing touchdowns (28) after being taken in the fifth round. It's pretty eye-opening to see the dropoff in salary compensation based off the round in which tailbacks were selected too. The difference between Mixon and Alvin Kamara, who were drafted in the second and third round respectively, is nearly $2 million in salary.
Guys like Kareem Hunt, Corey Clement and Matt Breida are all on one-year prove-it deals. They will need to produce in order to get some sort of extension. Had Hunt not been involved in a horrible domestic violence incident, he may have retained his spot with the Chiefs and not had a poor rushing season like last year (179 yards, two touchdowns).
On the flip-side, Cook (1,135 yards, 13 touchdowns) is coming off a strong campaign and feels the need to hold out. Marlon Mack, Chris Carson, Fournette, Mixon and Jones each put together 1,000+ yard rushing seasons last year and will all look to get paid next year.
The only other back to get extended out of this class was Ekler (4-years, $24.5 million).
The top five (in order) that were drafted in this class include (1) Fournette; (2) McCaffrey; (3) Cook; (4) Mixon; (5) Kamara. I don't think the teams got it necessarily wrong either.
My personal top five if you were to redraft this class would be (1) McCaffrey; (2) Cook; (3) Jones; (4) Kamara; and (5) Fournette. Mack or James Conner could easily crack that list with strong seasons this year.
The 2017 running back class is really fascinating to monitor moving forward, especially comparing El Paso's own Showtyme, coming off his best season yet. And even though he's a fifth-round selection, he stands strong with the best backs out of this class.