Combine Stock Watch: Which running backs impressed?

After back-to-back seasons struggling to run the football effectively, the Seattle Seahawks hope to find running back help in a deep 2018 draft class.

After back-to-back seasons struggling to run the football effectively, the Seattle Seahawks hope to find running back help in a deep 2018 draft class.

Though the drills conducted at the NFL Scouting Combine only tell so much about a player’s football ability, teams like the Seahawks can glean plenty of valuable insight about prospects based on their performance in Indianapolis. For running backs, the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle prove to be most relevant.

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While elite talents such as Saquan Barkley of Penn State and Derrius Guice of LSU dominated as expected on Friday, several unheralded players enjoyed their coming out party at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Which running backs boosted their stock the most during Friday’s workouts? And which ones saw their draft status tumble or remain stagnant?

Stock Up

Kalen Ballage, Arizona State

Ballage, who didn’t even rush for 2,000 total yards in four seasons with the Sun Devils, put teams on notice with a strong overall combine performance. The stocky 6-foot-1, 228-pound running back finished tied for third overall with a 4.46 second 40-yard dash while also finishing in the top five in the three-cone drill (6.91 seconds) and broad jump. Though he’s still likely a mid-to-late round draft pick due to his lack of production as a runner at the college level, his overall size could intrigue a team like Seattle as early as the fourth round.

Justin Jackson, Northwestern

One of the most overlooked backs in this class, Jackson served as a model of consistency for the Wildcats, rushing for an average of 1,360 yards per year in four seasons. Many scouting outlets viewed him as a seventh-round pick or priority free agent heading into the combine, but he may have solidified his status as a draft lock after running a 4.52 second 40 yard dash and finishing in the top three among his peers in the three-cone drill (6.81 seconds) and 20 yard shuttle (4.07 seconds). His 199-pound frame normally wouldn’t interest the Seahawks, but he’s tough as nails and can make plays as a receiver so he could be worth a sixth or seventh round flier.

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Royce Freeman, Oregon

Given his size (5-foot-11, 229 pounds) and experience running inside and outside zone, Freeman has already been linked to Seattle as a potential pick on day two. He further improved his value by running the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and tearing it up in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Being a bigger back with a ton of athletic ability and excellent production as a four-year starter for the Ducks, his combine display may have solidified his standing as a second-round pick. Seattle will need to recoup a pick or two to have a chance at drafting him.

Stock Down

Ronald Jones, USC

Seen as a trendy pick to sneak into the late first round by some scouts, Jones ran a slow 4.65 40-yard dash and didn’t participate in most of the drills. Aside from running the 40, he also posted a solid 36.5-inch vertical jump but did not take part in any other drills. Generously listed at 205 pounds, Jones already faces some questions about whether or not he can handle the workload of being a starting running back in the NFL. Disappointing results in Indianapolis shouldn’t hurt his stock too much, but it’s hard to see him going an earlier than the mid-to-late second round.

John Kelly, Tennessee

With a 5-foot-11, 216-pound frame, Kelly looks like a prototypical Seahawks running back and he runs angry on film. However, concerns about his overall athleticism won’t go away after he posted pedestrian numbers in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. He also didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine, though that may prove to be an advantage if he waits to run it at Tennessee’s pro day. For now, he’s penciled in as a fourth or fifth round pick at best.

Josh Adams, Notre Dame

Adams showed up at the combine weighing a svelte 213 pounds, down significantly from his 2017 playing weight of 225 pounds. However, he chose not to participate in the 40-yard dash or any of the agility drills at the combine. Teams such as Seattle would have loved to see if the weight loss impacted his overall speed and athleticism, but they’ll have to likely wait to see him run until Notre Dame’s pro day. Since he only participated in the bench press, he probably still stands as a late-round pick.

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