2024 NFL Draft: Ranking 11 running backs I like before the draft

When we’re assessing fantasy football rookies, so much of our analysis depends on a player’s landing spot. Thus, grading rookies before the NFL Draft can often be an exercise in futility.

Nevertheless, it is still helpful to watch video of the incoming class of rookies and assign preliminary rankings to these players based on production, talent, and how you think they will transition to the NFL.

Here are 11 incoming running backs I like, in order, before the 2024 NFL Draft plays out and shakes things up.

1. Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

In a draft that is not particularly strong for running backs, Wright is probably my favorite one before landing spot is factored in. He’s an explosive player who can bust out big runs, which is obviously one of the most important factors you want in a fantasy running back. The awareness and vision have been called into question, but if he lands on a team with a good run scheme, he can produce.

2. Trey Benson, Florida State

I obviously love Benson’s size and I feel like he can handle an NFL workload. He needs to run more decisively; just pick a lane and go. He doesn’t have a lot of tread on the tires, so he’s a back you can take and exploit early in his career.

3. Jonathan Brooks, Texas

Brooks had to wait in line behind Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, but when he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it. I like players who don’t have a lot of wear and tear coming out of college, and he fits the mold. Give him a seam and get him to the outside and he can break games open.

4. Marshawn Lloyd, USC

There’s a lot to like about Lloyd, playing alongside Caleb Williams in college. I’m not sure he could shoulder a load all by himself at the NFL level, which is why he might not go higher in the draft. But the ideal situation here is that his burst and twitchiness will give him the first crack at a two-headed backfield, thus yielding FLEX-worthy output.

5. Blake Corum, Michigan

If it weren’t for his size, I’d probably rank him higher. He was an outstanding player for Michigan and it wouldn’t be surprising if former coach Jim Harbaugh found a way to get him on the Chargers. His ability to hit the second level is what you want out of a back. He should be a decent pass-catcher at the next level as well.

6. Tyrone Tracy, Purdue

I might be a little high on Tracy, but there’s a lot to like here. A converted wide receiver, Tracy has one year of running back duties under his belt. I doubt he’ll ever be a full-time back, but in this particular draft class, I’d be surprised if there are more than a few full-time backs with longevity. At the very least, I can see Tracy carving out a passing down role that could garner some FLEX time.

7. Jase McClellan, Alabama

I like to invest in SEC backs and McClellan comes from the Alabama powerhouse. He’s not the most explosive runner, but he runs hard, hits the holes, absorbs hits and keeps on churning. He’s valuable as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, too.

8. Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

If you like bowling ball types, Allen is your dude. At 6-1 and 235 pounds, he’s a beast. He’ll rack up yards after contact and will certainly garner short-yardage and goal line looks with his short-area success. He’s not going to bust out the long runs or win many foot races, but he could be a nice handcuff.

9. Ray Davis, Kentucky

He’s not a very tall back, but has a good frame. He has decent stop-and-go movement to freeze bigger defenders, but he lacks the explosiveness to be a home-run hitter in the NFL. Has adequate hands to be pass catcher at the next level.

10. Will Shipley, Clemson

Shipley has a good athletic background and will fight for every inch he gets. He has a knack for setting up defenders on skates with his footwork. Won’t ever be a full-time back but has some value late in dynasty drafts.

11. Bucky Irving, Oregon

I was tempted to leave Irving off this list entirely as I think his size and quickness set him up better as a career special teamer. But his speed and clean hands at least warrant taking a flyer on him as a pass catching specialist as long as he lands in an offense that utilizes that type of complementary player.