No Heavy Favorite For NFL First Running Back Drafted

Ball Carriers Aren’t the Focus of this Year’s NFL Draft

The NFL has become a passing league, so unless a player really stands out as a top running back in college, he likely isn’t going to be taken early in the NFL draft.

That’s the case this season, with most mock drafts of the first round forecasting no running backs taken on the first day of the NFL Draft, which happens on April 25.

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Last year had two running backs – Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson and Detroit’s Jahmyr Gibbs – taken in the first 12 picks of the draft.

The top candidates to be the first running back drafted this NFL season are not among the top NFL picks, and there is no clear-cut favorite with the draft coming up in just a couple of weeks.

Florida State’s Trey Benson has the top odds on DraftKings Sportsbook currently, sitting at +160, but there are a number of other candidates.

Texas’ Jonathon Brooks (+175), Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright (+360), USC’s MarShawn Lloyd (+650) and Michigan’s Blake Corum (+750) are all bunched up among the top players with odds to be the first running back selected in this draft.

Seminoles logo Trey Benson, Florida State (+160)

The most likely running back to be selected on the first day of the draft according to NFL rumors is Trey Benson, who was a key cog for Florida State in 2023. Benson, who started his collegiate career at Oregon before transferring to join the Seminoles, rushed for 906 yards and 14 touchdowns while also catching 20 passes for 227 yards and a score.

At 6-0, 216 pounds, Benson could be a weapon out of the backfield as a receiver, but he’s best when carrying the ball on the ground. He did suffer a torn ACL in his first season at Oregon in 2020 but has bounced back and provides a back with size for a team looking for an inside runner.

Longhorns logo Jonathon Brooks, Texas (+175)

After playing behind Robinson in his first two seasons at Texas, Brooks emerged as a top runner in 2023. He became the feature back for the Longhorns as they made their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

The 6-0, 207-pound Brooks rushed for 1,139 yards, ranking sixth in the nation, and scored 10 touchdowns before suffering an ACL injury during the 10th game of the season, cutting short his final collegiate campaign. Brooks seems to be fully recovered from the NCAAF injury, as shown by his place among the top prospects at the position.

Volunteers logo Jaylen Wright, Tennessee (+360)

Wright had a big junior season with the Volunteers, though it could have been even better. The 5-11, 210-pounder struggled in his last three college football games at Tennessee, failing to break the 100-yard barrier in any of them and finishing with just 187 yards over the span. Still, Wright finished 2023 with 1,013 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry and scoring four times.

Wright also was a threat out of the backfield in the passing game, making 22 receptions for 141 yards. Those numbers might not translate into hefty NFL player stats for Wright in his rookie campaign, but he’d be a valuable addition to teams needing a runner.

Trojans logo MarShawn Lloyd, USC (+650)

Coming out after his junior season, Lloyd doesn’t have some of the gaudy numbers as the other players in contention to be the NFL first running back drafted, but he has the potential to be a solid player at the next level. Lloyd finished with 820 yards in 2023, averaging 7.1 yards per carry and scoring nine times on the ground.

Lloyd is 5-9, 210 pounds and can use his size and speed to dart into holes and get to the outside. He can also catch the ball and make things happen, finishing with 13 catches for 232 yards in his final season with the Trojans.

Wolverines logo Blake Corum, Michigan (+750)

Corum had the most yards of the running backs being considered for the first selected in this draft, taking advantage of a ferocious line with the national champion Wolverines.

Corum rushed for 1,245 yards and 27 touchdowns, saving one of his biggest games for the national title game. Against Washington, Corum had 21 carries for 134 yards and two NCAAF scores to help power Michigan to the championship.

The senior isn’t big – listed at 5-8, 213 pounds – and the question of how much of his production was due to the huge Michigan front line is certainly brought up. Still, he had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons (1,463 yards, 18 touchdowns as a junior), which will certainly get him a look by many NFL teams.

For NFL betting news, NFL odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.


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