The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, RBs

Updated: June 7th 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 Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Next up in my Spring Scouting series are a trio of running backs who are looking to make a bigger name for themselves in 2020: Max Borghi, Zamir White and Brian Robinson Jr. All three backs have less than 200 career rushing attempts, for one reason or another, so have not yet become household names like Clemson’s Travis Etienne or Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard. I thought it would be valuable for my readers to take a deeper dive into each player to see if there are hints of their future pro potential.

Max Borghi, RB, Washington State

  • Measurables: 5100/197
  • 2018 Stats: 13 games, 72 carries, 366 rush yards, 5.1 ypc, 8 rush TDs, 53 receptions, 374 rec yards, 7.1 ypr, 4 rec TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 127 carries, 817 rush yards, 6.4 ypc, 11 rush TDs, 86 receptions, 597 rec yards, 6.9 ypr, 5 rec TDs

In the last two seasons, running back Max Borghi has more receptions (139) than any other returning Cougar. That passing game success was under former head coach Mike Leach so Borghi will have to earn a role in the new scheme and that may be more difficult than I thought before I started research for this piece. New head coach Nick Rolovich and new offensive coordinator Brian Smith helmed Top 10 passing offenses the last two seasons at Hawaii so there are surely targets to go around. Interestingly for Borghi, however, is that the Rainbow Warriors’ pass-heavy offense rarely utilized the running back. Only about 5% of receptions went to running backs in 2018 and 2019 combined at Hawaii (rough estimate, about 35 of 700 completions). For comparison, that percentage at Wazzou in the same period would have been over 25%, a stark difference between systems. I am going to spin this positively and make the case that since Borghi has already proven his mettle as a pass catcher that a change in role will allow him to show himself as an adaptable well-rounded prospect.

I jumped into Borghi’s 2019 outing versus Washington as well as some highlight reels. As a receiver, Borghi is primarily used to stretch the defense horizontally, either by coming across the formation or by running quick routes in the flat. Borghi catches the ball away from his body well, which helps him keep his momentum rather than slowing down to let the ball come to him. As a runner, he often attacks the defense head-on before seeing his running lane and making an effective quick-footed cut to the outside. Once he has the ball in his hands, Borghi uses his squat stature, low center of gravity and strong churning legs to fight for extra yards and to punish tacklers. Unfortunately, I did not note a single play in the Washington game where Borghi was tasked with pass protection. I don’t mean it as a knock on Borghi — he can’t do what he’s not asked to — but it’s something to keep in mind because he has the other skills to be a prototypical third down back in the NFL. (I thought it might have been the case that the creator of the cut excluded those snaps so I skipped through another cut by a different creator and it was the same thing.) This sample play was a good distillation of Borghi as a receiver: he stretches the defense then uses a combination of speed and smart open-field running to get to the house.

If you need more reason to root for Borghi: his full name is Massimiliano Borghi. How great is that? In all seriousness though, you should keep an eye on Borghi this season. He may not have been as highly touted as other prospects, including the two below, but as an underclassman Borghi had great success as a pass catching back, an increasingly vital role in the NFL.


Zamir White, RB, Georgia

  • Measurables: 6000/215
  • 2019 Stats: 12 games, 78 carries, 408 rush yards, 5.2 ypc, 3 rush TDs, 2 receptions, 20 rec yards, 10.0 ypr, 0 rec TDs

Georgia has had a stable of horses in the backfield lately, from Nick Chubb to Sony Michel to the recently departed D’Andre Swift. Zamir White, believe it or not, was more highly-touted than all of them coming out of high school. White earned a near perfect 0.9957 score from 247Sports and was their RB1, and ninth overall player, of the 2018 recruiting class. Unfortunately, White suffered a torn ACL in 2017 during his final high school game and then tore the other ACL in training camp at Georgia in 2018. White returned to the field in 2019 and for much of the year he played in a reserve role to Swift. He ended on a high note with a 18-92-1 outing against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. Despite the delay to his UGA career, expectations are high for White heading into 2020.

White featured prominently in three games last year, luckily for me two of them were available as film cuts: Murray State and Baylor. White’s size stands out as soon as you hit play — he might be the rare player where his listed measurables are actually less than reality. He’s tall and runs with a powerful forward momentum that pairs well with his patience. It may be a tired phrase but he is a high effort runner, rarely going down on first contact and never being pushed backward. The two condensed games I watched included just one target and one pass protection assignment. White went one-for-one in those tests. The pass disappointingly bounced off his midsection but he walloped the free pass rusher and saved his quarterback from sure destruction. This play against Murray State was my favorite of the lot. White finds his way through the first level, spins out of a tackle and turns it into a big play. The would-be tackler needs nearly ten yards to finally bring White down.

I hate when a player with so much potential has to deal with injury adversity like White has so far in his young career. I hope that he’s able to take the reins and lead the Bulldog rushing attack in 2020, cementing his place near the top of this running back class.


Brian Robinson, RB, Alabama

  • Measurables: 6010/226
  • 2017 Stats: 11 games, 24 carries, 165 rush yards, 6.9 ypc, 2 rush TDs, 0 receptions
  • 2018 Stats: 15 games, 63 carries, 272 rush yards, 4.3 ypc, 2 rush TDs, 0 receptions
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 96 carries, 441 rush yards, 4.6 ypc, 5 rush TDs, 11 receptions, 124 rec yards, 11.3 ypr, 0 rec TDs

Brian Robinson Jr has been a contributor for the Crimson Tide for three seasons and is (hopefully) primed for a larger role in 2020. Since joining Alabama as a 4-star recruit, Robinson has been buried on the depth chart. In 2017 and 2018, he had to play second (or third) fiddle to the likes of Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. In 2019, Robinson’s path to production cleared a bit and he was only behind fellow 2021 NFL Draft hopeful Najee Harris for running back reps. Robinson did not transfer as some others have to find playing time elsewhere. Instead, heading into his senior season, he’s an experienced back (39 career games) on one of the nation’s top teams, who also has experience playing on special teams and in crucial games.

Robinson, at 6010/226, is clearly suited to a short yardage role and that is borne out in his stats and highlights. In his career he’s converted 14 of 19 attempts on 3rd and short, and 7 of his 9 rushing TDs have come from within the red zone. I could see that skillset in games against Arkansas and South Carolina last year. What Robinson lacks in burst, he makes up for in power and vision. He picks his way through the line carefully. If he’s given a chance to accelerate he can be tough to bring down as his momentum carries him downfield. He doesn’t have much experience as a pass catcher but he often made himself available to the quarterback as a checkdown option. The coaching staff trusted Robinson in pass protection as he often stayed in to block before leaking out of the backfield, unfortunately the Tide’s strong offensive line meant he didn’t get too many opportunities to deliver a block in those two games. I particularly liked this play against South Carolina. Robinson takes the hand off and deliberately slaloms from inside to out and back again. It ultimately takes three guys to bring him down.

They are different players, but let’s not forget that former teammate Josh Jacobs, who left ‘Bama with just 251 carries, ended up being the only first round running back in 2019. Like Jacobs, Brian Robinson Jr carved out a role for himself on a talented Alabama team and can show that his fresh legs and experience under Nick Saban are a boon for his draft stock.


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:,,,,,,,,
  • Recruiting:,,,
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis,
  • Draft info and mocks:,,,,,
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info:,
  • Draft history:
  • Combine info:,,,
  • 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:
  • Odds & Gambling Stats:

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.

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