Patriots

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 running backs available

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 running backs available

We'll be blunt: This isn't exactly the Golden Age of running backs.

Only one running back (Josh Jacobs) was a top-50 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and it's very likely that trend will continue in 2020.

Teams are more wary than ever of spending premium draft capital at a position with such injury risk, especially with a host of talented wide receivers and tight ends on the 2020 NFL Draft board.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

And yet: The running back position still is a great place to find value.

Just ask the Buffalo Bills, whose 2019 third-round selection, Devin Singletary, is now a high-upside starter. Or the New Orleans Saints, who snagged superstar Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 draft.

The New England Patriots have taken a running back in back-to-back drafts -- Sony Michel in 2018 and Damien Harris in 2019 -- to complement James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden, so they don't necessarily have a backfield need.

But have you known Bill Belichick to pass up value? Let's check out the top 10 running back prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. D'Andre Swift

College: Georgia
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 196 carries, 1,218 yards, seven touchdowns (24 receptions, 216 yards, one touchdown)

The latest workhorse back to come out of Georgia, Swift is the most well-rounded runner of the 2020 class. He boasts top-end speed (4.48-second 40-yard dash) and a strong frame (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) but more importantly possesses patience and vision that should help make him a successful three-down back for whatever running back-needy team scoops him up.

Projected Round: First

2. Jonathan Taylor

College: Wisconsin
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 320 carries, 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns (26 receptions, 252 yards, five touchdowns)

Taylor put up monster numbers at Wisconsin, leading the Big Ten in rushing in three straight years and winning two Doak Walker Awards as the best running back in college football. His heavy workload (926 carries over three seasons) might make some teams wary, but Taylor has the tools to be a starting NFL running back out of the gate.

Projected Round: First or Second

3. J.K. Dobbins

College: Ohio State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 301 carries, 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns (23 receptions, 247 yards, two touchdowns)

Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2019 and broke Ohio State's single-season rushing record held by Eddie George with 2,003 yards. He's no George or Ezekiel Elliott, though, and will have to prove those numbers weren't just the byproduct of an explosive Buckeye offense as he tries to compete for a starting NFL job in 2020.

Projected Round: Second

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire

College: LSU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 215 carries, 1,414 yards, 16 touchdowns (55 receptions, 453 yards, one touchdown)

What Edwards-Helaire lacks in height (5-foot-8), he makes up for with exceptional balance and explosiveness, as evidenced by his 6.9 yards per touch for the national champion Tigers. His receiving ability (3.7 receptions per game in 2019) also should appeal to a club looking for a boost on offense, although there's a good chance he slips to the third round with so many elite wideouts on the board.

Projected Round: Second or Third

5. Cam Akers

College: Florida State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 231 carries, 1,144 yards, 14 touchdowns (30 receptions, 225 yards, four touchdowns)

A highly-touted recruit out of high school, Akers broke Dalvin Cook's freshman rushing record in 2017 and put up three seasons of solid production for an otherwise disappointing Seminoles team. Ball security is an issue (10 fumbles in three seasons), but Akers represents solid value in this second tier of backs.

Projected Round: Second or Third

6. Zack Moss

College: Utah
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 235 carries, 1,416 yards, 15 touchdowns (28 receptions, 388 yards, two touchdowns)

The cousin of former NFL wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss, Zack Moss is a bruiser whose physical running style could translate well to the NFL. Moss turns 23 in December and his 2018 knee injury is a potential red flag, but he has the potential to be a solid sleeper pick.

Projected Round: Third

7. Eno Benjamin

College: Arizona State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 253 carries, 1,083 yards, 10 touchdowns (42 receptions, 347 yards, two touchdowns)

Benjamin's production actually dipped last season after a 300-rush, 1,642-yard campaign for the Sun Devils in 2018. The Texas native has top-end elusiveness, though, and could be a serviceable change-of-pace back for an NFL team after averaging 8.3 yards per reception in 2019.

Projected Round: Fourth

8. Anthony McFarland

College: Maryland
Class: Sophomore
2019 stats: 114 carries, 614 yards, eight touchdowns (17 receptions, 126 yards, one touchdown)

McFarland is one of the fastest running backs in the 2020 draft (4.44-second 40-yard dash) but has been dogged by injuries, including a high ankle sprain that limited his production in 2019. If an NFL team is convinced he can get healthy, he's an enticing mid-round flyer.

Projected Round: Fourth

9. A.J. Dillon

College: Boston College
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 318 carries, 1,685 yards, 14 touchdowns (13 receptions, 195 yards, one touchdown)

Boston College's bell-cow back amassed 845 carries over three seasons, boasting impressive athleticism for someone with his 6-foot, 250-pound frame. Dillon doesn't have any standout traits, though, and likely will begin his NFL career as a backup.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

10. Ke'Shawn Vaughn

College: Vanderbilt (via Illinois)
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 198 carries, 1,028 yards, nine touchdowns (28 receptions, 270 yards, one touchdown)

Vaughn's best college season came in 2018, when he averaged 7.9 yards per carry (1,244 yards on 157 attempts) after transferring from Illinois to Vanderbilt. A regression in 2019 impacted his draft stock, but he still should go in the middle rounds after a decent showing at the Senior Bowl.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

McCourty twins address Drew Brees' flag comments, whether they forgive Saints QB

devin_mccourty.jpg
File photo

McCourty twins address Drew Brees' flag comments, whether they forgive Saints QB

Drew Brees has taken plenty of heat lately due to the comments he made about players "disrespecting the American flag" by kneeling during the national anthem.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback was asked during an interview with Yahoo! Finance about players kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America. Brees answered, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country."

It didn't take long for the veteran QB to get backlash for those insensitive remarks. A number of Brees' NFL peers, including both Devin and Jason McCourty of the New England Patriots, scolded him for his comments.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

On Thursday, the McCourty twins delved deeper into the subject on a special edition of their Double Coverage podcast titled "Bridge To Action." Following an enlightening interview with former FBI special agent M. Quentin Williams, which you can watch below, the McCourtys addressed the Brees situation. 

"Everybody's been in an uproar over Drew Brees' comments, and obviously we've responded on Twitter," said Jason McCourty. "Somebody had asked earlier, 'do we forgive him?' and I don't think any of this thing is about forgiveness. It's not about Drew Brees, it's not about Jason or Devin McCourty, it's about realizing, 'Alright, here's an issue and we need to find a solution for that issue.' Like, you don't have an issue with Drew Brees when he makes those statements. You have an issue with that train of thought, and that thought is what we're trying to move away from.

"So as soon as anyone who has that thought is willing to dive in and learn, and open up dialogue to talk about -- because I think sometimes we subconsciously have thoughts that we don't know we have, and then we say some things that we may have to take some time to go back and self-reflect ... Maybe I need to look inwardly and see like, 'Hey, maybe I'm not looking at this thing the right way. And I think when we're able to do that, there's no animosity or hostility toward anyone because that's not what we're trying to do. It's about there's an issue, and we want to fix this issue."

Devin McCourty doubled down on what his brother had to say and mentioned that he doesn't have anything against Brees. Rather, he hopes this will help the 41-year-old and others like him look at the situation from a different perspective.

"It's not about forgiving or hating," said Devin. "Like, I've never hated Drew Brees. I don't even know Drew Brees. So it was never about that. It was just, how can we get people to now not look through those lenses. And he's a guy who if he doesn't look through those lenses, he can get a lot of other people to feel the same way. So hopefully some good turns out from that."

Brees has since issued an apology for his comments, saying they "lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy."

Beyond the McCourty twins' comments on Brees, their interview with Williams is well worth the watch. Williams is the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Dedication to Community, whose mission is to "empower individuals and communities to achieve their business and societal goals through the spirit of entrepreneurial enterprise and community advocacy. The McCourtys and Williams had a mindful conversation about the recent killings of unarmed black men, the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, and the next steps to implementing positive change in the United States.

Did Jarrett Stidham confirm he's been working out with Julian Edelman?

Did Jarrett Stidham confirm he's been working out with Julian Edelman?

What do you do after your quarterback and best friend leaves you after 11 seasons together to join another team?

You start training with his replacement.

That's apparently what New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is doing with Jarrett Stidham following Tom Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this spring.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Stidham, the Patriots' expected starter at QB in 2020, posted an Instagram story Wednesday reacting to Milwaukee Brewers utility man (and former Boston Red Sox fan favorite) Brock Holt, who tagged Edelman and Stidham in his own Instagram story while catching passes from a friend on a baseball field.

Holt wrote, "I'm here if you need me @jarrett_stidham8" in his initial post while jokingly comparing his hands to Edelman's.

Stidham's reply: "We've been at it.. Where you at bro?!"

Is Stidham referring to himself and Edelman as "we" and suggesting they've been working out together (aka "been at it") this offseason, then jokingly inviting Holt to join them?

That appears to be the case, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss, who noted that Stidham and Edelman are both in Massachusetts and have been meeting up regularly.

That's not ground-breaking news -- Brady has been running drills with his Bucs teammates for weeks -- but it's still notable considering Massachusetts has stricter social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic than some other states, which has limited Patriots' players ability to meet in person.

It's also a good sign to see New England's No. 1 receiver getting on-field work with Stidham, who appears locked in as the team's starting QB for 2020.

Brady's departure arguably impacted Edelman more than any other Patriot: The 34-year-old caught 100 passes from Brady in 2019 for a career-high 1,117 receiving yards and was the QB's clear favorite target.

But Edelman apparently isn't sulking over Brady's absence as he puts in work with New England's new QB1.