The Watch List 2021: Early RB Tiers

Updated: January 14th 2021

Throughout the offseason I will be compiling early positional tiers for the 2021 NFL Draft. In past years I’ve done early rankings but in hindsight those feel counterproductive to my ultimate goal of creating RSO’s rookie rankings that are used in the draft room. Frankly, it’s hard to change a ranking because it feels “locked in” once I put it out into the world. When I would create my early rankings I would always start by grouping the players into themed tiers first, so that’s what I will be sharing in this series. Each tier includes players whose potential and plot line feel similar to me; the sequence of tiers is indicative of a general order of expected draft value. I’ll repeat though: these are not rankings. Within each tier players are sorted alphabetically.

(Note: This article was written between January 7-13. By the time you read this it’s likely that many players will have made official announcements about whether they will enter the NFL Draft, transfer or return to school. Rumors abound about each player’s decision but we’ll know for sure by the time you read this.)

1.01 Contenders

  • Travis Etienne

  • Najee Harris

  • Javonte Williams

Two of the names in this cohort should not surprise you. Both Travis Etienne and Najee Harris would have been 1.01 contenders in the 2020 class if they came out after their junior years; and they did nothing to dispel that potential for 2021. Etienne has been my favorite running back in this class since I first saw him as a true freshman. He has speed to spare and has grown as a player to become a better pass catcher and blocker. Etienne had a good but not great season — his yards per carry was down to 5.4 while his first three seasons were all over 7.2 — but he really showed up as a receiver with 48-588-2. Harris had a fantastic season and likely edges out Etienne in most 1.01 conversations but their final order will come down to their landing spot. Harris is a beast at 6020/230 and yet is nimble on his feet and is a plus pass catcher. He had nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage and scored 30 TDs this season. Get ready for a vociferous debate all winter long about which is the better back. If one player has a chance at upsetting the proverbial 1.01 applecart, I would say it’s Javonte Williams. He had solid production his first two years as a Tar Heel but exploded onto the national radar with a crazy six-week midseason run in 2020. In those six games, all against ACC opponents, Williams rushed for 754 yards and 11 scores. He has average or better size, speed and pass catching ability. Every season there seems to be one player who catapults themselves into the conversation for the top rookie pick and Williams might have done enough this season that a successful offseason will jump him up fantasy draft boards.  (All of this 1.01 talk is assuming you’re not playing superflex. If you are, please take Trevor Lawrence. If you’re playing in a 1 QB league the value changes so you should go RB or WR, but if I’m being honest, I’d still find it hard to pass on Lawrence and the value he could bring in the RSO format.)

Day Two Targets

  • Kenny Gainwell

  • Kylin Hill

  • Chuba Hubbard

  • Zamir White

If recent history is any indication, Day Two is typically when the running back run happens in the NFL Draft. The guys taken in that range are destined to become the late 1st and early 2nd rounders in your rookie drafts. Like a few other players featured in this article, Kenny Gainwell decided to opt out of the 2020 season and get ready for the NFL Draft. He does so with the confidence that his stellar 2019 season at Memphis will be enough to land among the top handful of prospects at the position. Memphis has had a tremendous run of producing NFL running back talent and it seems that Gainwell may be the best of the bunch. His 2019 highlights and totals are eye popping: 231 carries for 1,459 yards and 13 TDs combined with 51 receptions for 601 receiving yards and 3 receiving TDs. Gainwell is an excellent receiver and can accelerate into the secondary in a blink. He should test well which may quiet concerns about him being a one-year wonder. Kylin Hill has been on the cusp of breaking out for awhile now. His production crescendoed in 2019 as a junior when he put up a 1,350-10 season. Hill opted out after an injury in 2020 so we didn’t get to see much of him and will be relying on that 2019 tape to evaluate him. For whatever reason I never studied Kylin Hill closely so I need to fix that ASAP. Chuba Hubbard did play in 2020 and it’s likely that his average performance will cost him in terms of draft capital. Before the season I had predicted that Hubbard, a solid all-round back who can run with nuance, would be in the 1.01 conversation. He’s probably still a first round rookie pick but in terms of NFL value he may be better off returning for another season. Zamir White just can’t catch a break. The kid earned a near-perfect score as a recruit from 247Sports but endured back-to-back ACL tears which delayed the beginning of his college career. He contributed late in the 2019 season and was expected to star in 2020. He led the Bulldogs with 779-11 rushing but the season was off-kilter from the start between covid and a revolving door in the quarterback room. White will be a coveted early down runner at the next level whenever he decides to leave Athens.

Regular Season Risers

  • Michael Carter

  • Khalil Herbert

  • Jaret Patterson

The three backs I slotted here helped their NFL Draft stock immensely with their production in 2020 (ironically they are all also almost the exact same size at 5090/200). They may have started the season as being on the fringe of being draftable but now it’s possible they may have elevated themselves over some of the better-known names below. Let’s not fall too hard for recency bias though, these players will need to prove it throughout the pre-draft process as well. Michael Carter was the second head in the two-headed monster that was UNC’s rushing attack this season. In addition to 1,245-9 on the ground, Carter added 25-267-2 as a receiver (keep in mind that is in just eleven games). At 5080/199 he has a low center of gravity, and thick tree trunk-like legs, that make him a tough tackle. Carter has experience as a kick returner so I can easily see him earning a roster spot on special teams in training camp and then working his way into the offense. Admittedly, I have a blind spot for Khalil Herbert and am including him here based on his 2020 stats (1,183-8) and highlights (a very direct runner with 4.40 top end speed). Until I have a chance to study him further take Herbert’s placement with a grain of salt. The MAC played a six game season in 2020 so you’d think that Jaret Patterson didn’t have much time to wow amateur scouts like myself. You’d be wrong because he made the most of those opportunities. In mid-November he had back-to-back games with 301-4 and 409-8. That’s incredible, regardless of what level you’re playing at. Patterson led the MAC’s second-best running back, his teammate Kevin Marks, by a whopping 331 yards. His success was no fluke either: Patterson has fifteen career games with 100+ rushing yards. Patterson is small-ish, probably smaller than he’s listed, but he finds a way to get it done. A high draft pick and instant fantasy relevance may elude Patterson but I’m not going to bet against a guy who showed he can be a wildly productive high-volume running back.

Riddle-Wrapped Enigmas

  • Journey Brown

  • Jermar Jefferson

  • Trey Sermon

  • Stephen Carr

Journey Brown opted out of the 2020 season, a decision surely motivated by the 2021 NFL Draft. As a sophomore in 2019, Brown excelled down the stretch when he was the lead runner. In those last five games he averaged 118 yards per game and scored 9 TDs. Brown ticks a lot of boxes — ideal measurables at 5110/217, 4.40 speed, sublime contact balance — but he has just one game in his career where he handled 20+ carries and only three with 15+ carries. Brown has talent but I’m wary to project him too high in my rankings. After his 1,380 yard freshman season I assumed we would be talking highly of Jermar Jefferson in 2021 but an injury plagued sophomore season slowed his progress. His 6.5 yards per carry in 2020 was his best yet so maybe I should be feeling more bullish on his future fantasy value. Jefferson is a balanced back who has above average speed, elusiveness, power and balance. I wrote about Trey Sermon heading into the championship game and was looking forward to a big game to cement his rising draft stock. Sadly he got hurt on his first carry of the game and didn’t return. I still think Sermon’s slashing running style will find a home in the NFL. Oh, Stephen Carr. I gushed about this guy way back in 2017 when he was a highly touted true freshman but injuries and ineffectiveness limited his touches in the intervening years. He popped up with two scores in the Trojans’ first two games in 2020 and then had just 24 carries in the last four games. I refuse to give up on him, even if USC has.

Pass Catching Playmakers

  • Max Borghi

  • Deon Jackson

  • Isaih Pacheco

Heading into the 2020 season I was very excited about Max Borghi. I thought he could be the NFL’s next great pass catching back because he has the ability to stretch the defense horizontally before punishing would-be tacklers when he turns upfield. Unfortunately a back injury sidelined him for all but one game so it seems unlikely he makes the jump for 2021. Deon Jackson is my current pick for the out-of-nowhere fantasy relevant rookie running back in 2021. He was an unheralded 3-star recruit back in 2016 and averaged just 4.3 yards per carry in his career on some middling Duke teams. When I watched him for my Week 7 preview, I noted that he is patient but decisive. I saw fantastic skills as a receiver and saw him trusted in pass protection. I’ll be following Jackson closely in the pre-draft process to see if he starts to earn any plaudits from draft pundits. I root hard for my hometown Rutgers Scarlet Knights (although the Michigan Wolverines were my first love) so it’s exciting to finally highlight one of my favorite “choppers.” Isaih [sic] Pacheco has super lateral quickness and deploys a deadly horizontal cut at the line of scrimmage that sets him up for big runs off the edge. He’s a plus receiver and I think he’ll test well athletically. Unfortunately there’s literally zero cut-ups out there for Pacheco so I’m going off memory here and can’t wait for him to receive some well deserved exposure.

Spacey Satellites

  • Javian Hawkins

  • Pooka Williams

Hawkins and Williams are both smaller prospects who are likely to be seen as “space” players at the pro level. Both players feature blazing speed and quickness. Hawkins, listed at 5090/196, runs with a ferociousness that belies his frame. I doubt he himself is convinced he can’t be between-the-tackles runner in the NFL. I watched Hawkins against Miami back in September and was impressed with how he ran against the 17th ranked ‘Canes. Hawkins, whose nickname is Playstation because of his video game-like moves, had a career-high 16 receptions in 2020 and will need to continue to develop as a receiver as that’s likely to be a part of his role in the NFL. Pooka Williams, 5100/170, isn’t afraid of a little contact either but his game is predicated on his impressive ability to stop and change direction on a dime. He’s also an angle buster when he breaks through the second level which makes it even harder for safeties and corners to catch him. Williams played in just four games this season before opting out for family reasons; those four performances were lackluster and didn’t help his draft stock if I’m being honest. He also has a domestic violence arrest in his past so Williams comes with baggage that teams will need to unpack. I think Williams may be best served by returning to Kansas and reminding us once again why we loved watching him.

Undervalued, Underdrafted

  • Keaontay Ingram

  • Brian Robinson

  • Larry Rountree

  • CJ Verdell

The four players in this tier are Power 5 guys who I feel may be undervalued right now, and as such, will be underdrafted when it comes to your 2021 rookie drafts. Keaontay Ingram was a big cog in the Longhorns’ offense in his first two seasons on campus, coming in as a heralded 4-star recruit. Unfortunately, an ankle injury cut his 2020 season short. Ingram runs with a suddenness and forward pad lean that I think will translate to the pros. He also has excellent hands out of the backfield. If Brian Robinson were on any other team than Alabama he’d probably be an All-Conference player and find himself high atop these rankings. I’ve highlighted him a few times on The Watch List, always waiting for his breakout that never quite came. Robinson has great size at 6000/226 and I have previously noted that he runs with vision. I’ll take an educated guess that more than one team will see him as ready-made for the NFL. Perhaps most undervalued on this list is Larry Rountree. He was the main reason that recent iterations of the Mizzou Tigers weren’t even more irrelevant in the SEC. Rountree is trending upward at just the right time: in 2020 he increased his per-touch numbers, and set a career-high for both rushing touchdowns (14) and receptions (15). Rountree may not be a sexy name but to me he looks like the type of back who can stick around. I watched CJ Verdell’s opening match against Stanford this year and was impressed with his brute force running style. His signature play from the game, and the one sure to feature on his NFL Draft coverage, is a bone crunching hit he delivers to two Cardinals at the goal line to force his way in for the points. He caught two balls in that game and I thought he should have been featured more as a receiver (he did have 27 receptions as a frosh). I’m not sure that Verdell has reached his potential yet and that’s saying something for somebody who has two 1,000 yard campaigns under his belt.

Short Yardage Specialists

  • Rakeem Boyd

  • Stevie Scott

  • Master Teague

These three backs were difficult for me to place in my running back hierarchy. It’s not that these guys didn’t catch any passes in college — Boyd and Scott each have a 20+ reception season in their past — it’s that I feel their future role will be limited to a situational runner. They may get drafted above some of the aforementioned players but in terms of fantasy value they will be lacking. Vulturing some touchdowns is nice but touchdowns are difficult to predict and as such I would often lean towards a player with a better chance at reliable touches. Stevie Scott is the biggest of the bunch here (6020/231) but is likely the most limited of the trio. I liked what I saw of Boyd when I did a quick study of him early in the season, however he struggled for much of 2020. I coined a phrase to describe him: a wallop-gallop runner. I didn’t watch the season on which he was featured but he was a star on Last Chance U if you’re interested in seeing some of his back story.  I think Teague has the most natural talent of these later round options and has a chance to transcend a situational role. He has a small-ish sample size and has dealt with a number of serious injuries throughout his career (concussion, Achilles, foot) so I would actually expect him to return to Ohio State for his senior season and hopefully put together a full season.

Small School Sleepers

  • Spencer Brown

  • Brenden Knox

  • Elijah Mitchell

  • Trey Ragas

My “Small School Sleepers” would usually include some solid FCS players to watch, however we largely missed out on an FCS season. Side note: doesn’t it feel like those early season games featuring teams like Central Arkansas and Campbell were played three years ago? 24 of the 26 players featured above are all Power 5 prospects so I figured this was the spot to share some Group of Five love. Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell were mainstays for the Ragin’ Cajuns for the last four years. Ragas accumulated 4,001 career yards from scrimmage and 43 touchdowns; meanwhile Mitchell totaled 3,864 and 46. That’s a hell of a duo. Ragas and Mitchell popped up on The Watch List back in 2018 and 2019 but I have not recently watched them so they deserve some closer attention this offseason. Spencer Brown dazzled as a true freshman but fell out of favor with #DraftTwitter after a lackluster junior season. In a shortened 2020 senior season he put up good totals — 10 TDs, six games with 100+ yards — but I recall that he looked pedestrian for the most part in his showcase game against Miami. I’m not sure that Brown has NFL-level ability when it comes to power, speed or receiving but there’s something to be said for dur-ability and avail-ability. Way back in 2018 and 2019 I had said that Brown could be “a star in the making” and surmised that he could “find a role in the NFL as an early down runner.” I may have missed the mark there but I have a soft spot for Brown and hope he gets a shot in the NFL. Brenden Knox always makes me question my spell checker — that’s two Es and no As please. Knox capitalized on the increased attention at the beginning of the season when most of the Power 5 was still idle, averaging 112 yards per game and scoring nine times in his first six games. I see a back with the jump and the juice to get the edge and the power to move the pile. As a junior with two more years of eligibility we may not see him hit the draft in 2021 but he’s somebody we should study closely when he does.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com, nflmockdraftdatabase.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 4 Preview

Updated: September 25th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

The SEC is back! College football has certainly felt different so far this season but I think this week will be the first that feels “normal” because we can get lost in some matchups from the Southeastern Conference. We only get one Top 25 matchup this week from the SEC (Kentucky at Auburn) but no matter, the games will be fun to watch. To help you plan your schedule on Saturday, I am going to present you the best SEC game to watch in each broadcast window to maximize your prospect viewing pleasure.

12:00pm | Kentucky at Auburn

The SEC season kicks off with the league’s only Top 25 matchup of the day: Kentucky at Auburn. If I’m being honest, Auburn is the reason to watch this one. Kentucky may end up having a solid season but they are ranked 23rd simply because 40% of the Power 5 are not playing (yet). Before we get into Auburn, I will share one future NFL name from the Wildcats: Punter Max Duffy. Duffy won the Ray Guy award in 2019 after leading the NCAA in average yards per punt (48.1). If you’re recording the game to watch later, hit play when you see Duffy trot onto the field. You might get to see the NFL’s next best field-flipper in action, but it also means that Bo Nix and the Auburn offense are coming back onto the field.

Bo Nix isn’t yet draft eligible but he’s a name you should know because he’s likely to build on a solid true freshman season and make a case as a 2022 first rounder. He had 23 total TDs but was inefficient at times, especially in big games against Oregon, Florida and Alabama. The Tigers did pull out the victory over Alabama, but it was more in spite of Nix than thanks to him. Nix has plenty of room to grow and I suspect he will.

His top target from 2019, Seth Williams, is back for his junior season. A lanky outside receiver, Williams, put up a 59-830-8 line last year. He played a smaller role in 2018 as a freshman but managed a 20.5 yards per catch average and 5 TDs on just 26 receptions. I watched Williams tape from the 2019 LSU matchup. I was nonplussed for the first 57 minutes of the game before he finally flashed his potential. On those late snaps, I finally saw Williams use his 6030/211 size to his advantage. He isn’t the strongest receiver prospect but on those key plays he used his length and leverage to make plays. The capper of the drive was a too-little-too-late score from five yards out. He jab steps outside, knocks the corner’s hands off him, and then leans into his slant route to use his body to protect the incoming ball. Youtube clips show how well Williams does in the air, especially at the boundary or the back of the end zone. Maybe it’s because he too went to Auburn and I just saw him on Monday Night Football, but my mind went to Darius Slayton while watching Williams’ highlight reels.

Tune into this one for the Nix-Williams connection and hope we get a glimpse of their ceiling together.

4:00pm | Georgia at Arkansas

Few teams were in the national college football headlines as often this offseason as Georgia. Grad transfer QB Jamie Newman coming in from Wake Forest was big news because he would give the offense a different dynamic than in recent years. Then there were murmurs about USC’s deposed signal caller, JT Daniels, coming to Athens to be the heir apparent for 2021. But wait, there’s more. Daniels was granted an immediate eligibility waiver from the NCAA giving head coach Kirby Smart a decision to make. Just a few weeks ago, Jamie Newman made the decision himself and decided to opt out of the season. So, we presume Daniels will be the starter but as of this writing, Smart had not yet made an official announcement — whether it’s just pregame posturing or the staff having doubts about Daniels’ ACL recovery, we don’t truly know. (Editor’s note: As of Thursday, Daniels still has not been cleared to play. Looks like D’Wan Mathis, who overcame emergency surgery for a brain cyst last year, will get the start.) 

Both Newman and Daniels will be draft eligible in 2021 so it will be interesting to see how they stack up in the eyes of NFL scouts. Newman is a dual-threat while Daniels is a pocket passer who was very highly touted out of high school. If Daniels does win the job and decides to declare early I think he will get plenty of attention; it’s hard to say at this point what Newman opting out will do for his draft stock.. What I’m most interested in, despite what the ten sentence lead-in may have you believe, is who will be running the rock for Georgia.

Junior running back Zamir White is likely to get the biggest piece of the RBBC pie in 2020. As a high school recruit, White earned a near-perfect score from 247Sports (0.9957) and was a top player in the 2018 class. Unfortunately, White suffered ACL injuries to both knees in back-to-back years, effectively delaying the start of his highly anticipated college career. White had 78 carries in 2019, gaining 408 yards and scoring three times. He was the lead ballcarrier in the bowl game against Baylor and rushed for 92 yards and a score on 18 carries. White is big (6000/215, and maybe even larger) and runs with power and momentum. He only has two career receptions so I have no idea if he can be a receiver at the next level. There isn’t much of a sample size for White at this point so I’m trusting the recruiting hype and will check in again after a few games.  I always root for guys like White who had so much potential squashed by injury so I’m really hoping he can stay healthy.

Arkansas has their own draft eligible back to watch and his name is Rakeem Boyd. Boyd started his career at Texas A&M but ended up transferring down to JUCO for academic reasons. He returned to the SEC in 2018 with the Razorbacks and over two seasons has rushed for 1,867 yards and 10 TDs. I don’t recall watching Boyd play before, and haven’t seen the newer seasons of Last Chance U where he was profiled, so being introduced to his 2019 highlights was a delight. Boyd is a straight-ahead runner who passes the proverbial “eye test.” I came up with a fun description for him while watching: he’s a wallop-gallop runner. He can run over a tackler with sheer power and then outrun a safety to the endzone. Boyd also contributes in the passing game, making him a solid three down back.

Let’s hope this one stays close so that both White and Boyd log plenty of snaps. Another reason to hope for a close, low scoring, run heavy game: it’ll keep the clock ticking so we don’t miss the start of our next highlighted game…

7:00pm | Alabama at Missouri

Alabama is so chock full of NFL talent that I could devote this entire piece to their squad and still not cover everybody. I have previously written about RB Najee Harris so I’ll gloss over him today but that doesn’t mean I’m any less eager to watch him. There’s also LB Dylan Moses and CB Patrick Surtain who are slam dunk 2021 first rounders. But, in truth, I’ll be watching this one for the pass catchers. The Crimson Tide have had a steady stream of All-American receivers over the last decade and that spigot is still flowing. This year’s tandem, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, are both likely to be first round talents next year.

Smith was eligible for the 2020 draft but declined even after a huge season where he accrued 1,256 yards and 14 TDs on 68 catches. Smith is perhaps most known by casual fans for his game-winning score in the championship game of his freshman year (that’s the one where Tua Tagovailoa came in at halftime) but he’s made so many more eye-catching plays since then. DeVonta Smith is just a damn fun player to watch. He doesn’t truly break tackles, instead he accelerates around or through tacklers who can barely get their hands on him. Smith has the contact balance of an elite running back but also a smoothness that looks more like a track athlete than a football player. I haven’t studied him closely enough yet to know how well he runs routes but considering how polished the recent Bama receivers were in that department I’m sure it’s a strong suit of his as well. Let’s be thankful that Smith decided to return for his senior season because it means we get to watch one of the nation’s best dominate once again.

Waddle, a junior, was the third or fourth option much of the time during his first two years on campus. In those two years combined, Waddle has a 78-1,408-13 line, averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Waddle is fantastic in space. He has 4.35 speed, sharp change of direction and great vision. Alabama found ways to get him touches in the open field: punt returns, kick returns, screens, crossing patterns. The biggest concern when it comes to Waddle’s pro potential is his size. He’s listed at just 5100/182. In the last five draft classes, only seven receivers have weighed that or less at the combine and been drafted (many others went undrafted). Two of those, Marquise Brown and KJ Hamler, were Top 50 picks but the rest of the bunch were Day Three prospects. I think Waddle’s skillset and pedigree hews closer to Marquise Brown than the others in the cohort so I still think it’s likely that he’s a first rounder. Playmakers like Waddle simply don’t come along too often.

On the Mizzou offense we have two potential late-round prospects to keep an eye on in RB Larry Rountree and WR Damon Hazelton. Rountree feels like he’s been playing college football for more than a decade, [checks notes] but apparently his freshman season was in 2017 not 2007. As a four-year starter who has logged 38 career games, Rountree has racked up the counting stats: 537 carries, 2,748 yards, 26 TDs. If he has a halfway decent season in 2020 he’ll become the Tigers all-time second-leading rusher behind former dual-threat QB Brad Smith. From what I’ve seen of Rountree over the years I don’t recall seeing any elite traits but he’s good enough to get drafted and seems like the kind of back who will stick around on an NFL roster for years.

Hazelton is a well traveled receiver who comes to Columbia as a grade transfer from Virginia Tech (who had previously transferred from Ball State). He’s a 6030/215 big bodied guy who should profile as a late round red zone specialist. Twelve of his twenty career touchdowns came in the red zone. He’s consistently produced at his two previous stops and Tigers fans will hope that continues this year — a 50-700-6 line is easily within his reach.

Week 3 saw a rash of Covid-related cancellations and I think this is the game I would miss most from the Week 4 slate. The season is young but I have already watched a lot of mediocre to bad football and I’m (Mac) Jonesing for something great.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper