(This is the first installment of a position-by-position preview of the 2018 NFL Draft.)
Overview: The best player in the draft might be very well be a running back, Penn State's Saquon Barkley. But he's hardly the only quality player at the position in this year's class. There are a few other potential first-rounders and excellent depth throughout this crop. All in all, it shapes up as a good year if running back is a need. Grade: A.
The Best: Saquon Barkley, Penn State. There's legitimate discussion that he could be the top overall choice, although it seems more likely the Cleveland Browns will use that pick on a quarterback and then possibly grab Barkley at No. 4 ... if he's still available. He offers an impressive combination of speed, athleticism, power, vision and instincts. His added skills as a receiver and returner round out a transformative talent.
"I’m a versatile player," Barkley told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I think I’ve shown on film that I can run the ball. I can run it between the tackles or outside. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can pass-block. And I can play special teams. I want to continue to grow my game and continue to be a complete player. ... I’m very confident in myself. Whether the ball’s on the one-yard line or the 99 yard line, I like to think I can find a way to get into the end zone."
Bills View: With LeSean McCoy turning 30 in July and journeyman depth from Chris Ivory, the Bills could use an infusion of youth at running back but it's not as high a priority as several other positions.
This might be a spot to address at some point in the middle or even late rounds, where solid talent should be available. The Bills and every other team will be searching for their versions of last year's gems at the position found in the third round (Kansas City's Kareem Hunt and New Orleans' Alvin Kamara) and the one who fell all the way to the fifth round in 2016 (Chicago's Jordan Howard).
Royce rolls: Royce Freeman has produced 1,000 rushing yards in three of his four seasons at Oregon. He finished his college career with 6,435 all-purpose yards, 5,621 yards on the ground, and 64 touchdowns.
A Jaylen of all trades: North Carolina State's Jaylen Samuels represents the very essence of versatility. He played every non-lineman position on offense during his collegiate career. Although he is a solid runner, his greatest selling point is his ability to catch passes.
Sleeper: If it weren't for his smallish frame and associated concerns about his durability, Miami's Mark Walton would likely be viewed as a first-round prospect. Instead, he probably will fall to the fourth round and possibly lower. However, the guy is remarkably elusive.
"Listen, I just want to get an opportunity," Walton said at the Combine. "I don't care what round I go in. My mindset is, once I get an opportunity with a team, the team that gets me, they're going to get a hard worker, a competitor and a guy who loves the game."
Next: Wide Receiver
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TOP 10 RUNNING BACKS
1. Saquon Barkley*, Penn State. 6-0, 233. As with elite runners, he can generate significant yards even without his line opening big holes.
2. Derrius Guice*, LSU. 5-10, 224. He doesn't have the extra-large body type of Hall-of-Famer Earl Campbell, but shows the same punishing style as a runner.
3. Ronald Jones II*, USC. 5-11, 205. Averaged 6.1 yards per carry in his college career and scored at least one touchdown in 19 of his final 20 games for the Trojans.
4. Sony Michel, Georgia. 5-10, 215. His quickness and the way he excels in space remind some scouts of Alvin Kamara.
5. Nick Chubb, Georgia. 5-10, 227. Cousin of North Carolina State standout defensive end Bradley Chubb, he has tremendous vision and balance to go along with considerable lower-body strength.
6. Kerryon Johnson*, Auburn. 5-11, 212. He doesn't have great speed, but helps to make up for it with outstanding patience that lets blocks develop.
7. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State. 5-11, 220. In 2017, he led the nation with 2,248 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.
8. Josh Adams*, Notre Dame. 6-1, 213. He became the first FBS player since at least 1996 with a touchdown run of 70-plus yards in four consecutive games.
9. Nyheim Hines*, North Carolina State. 5-8. 197. He was only a one-year starter who put himself on the NFL map with a breakout season in 2017.
10. Royce Freeman, Oregon. 5-11, 229. Although he needs to improve his pass-protection skills, he has many other strong qualities that should allow him to be an effective every-down back right away.