NFL

June 11, 2019, 7:00 pm

2019 NFL season: Projecting the top five rookie running backs

Will the Bears' David Montgomery be the latest rookie moving back to dazzle the NFL? Is Josh Jacobs ready to be a bell cow for the Raiders? Gil Brandt projects the top five rookie moving backs.

2019 NFL season: Projecting the top five rookie running backs
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  • Top proposed rookie moving backs
  • Top proposed rookie receivers

None of the moving backs in this year's bill of exchange social class enters the NFL with as much rookie hype as, say, 2018 No. 2 general pick Saquon Barkley or 2016 No. 4 general pick Ezekiel Elliott. But that doesn't mean one of them can't appear as an of import cog in an NFL offense.

Last week, I graded my top five rookie receivers reported to proposed first-year merchandiseion. Below, I've done the same for rookie moving backs. Players are ordered reported to proposed rush-yard totals.

1) David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

Projected stats: 275 carries, 1,200 rush yards, 7 rush TDs, 30 catches.

Drafted: No. 73 general , Round 3.

Montgomery could very well be the latest third-round moving back to make a plash as a rookie, pursuing in the footsteps of Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. The Bears paved the way for Montgomery to go a characteristic back by commerce Jordan Howard to the Eagles earlier the bill of exchange. The Iowa State merchandise rush for 1,100-plus yards in each of the past two seasons, and if he slides correct in and takes up Howard's old workload (270 touches in 2018), Montgomery should produce like crazy. Montgomery can catch the ball better than I thought, and thus offers a bit more versatility than Howard; he should also be a potent goal-line threat. He has a chance to really thrive in the offense of Matt Nagy, who was the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in 2017, when Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rush yards.

2) Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

Projected stats: 200 carries, 875 rush yards, 6 rush TDs, 25 catches.

Drafted: No. 24, Round 1.

With Marshawn Lynch out of the picture (for now), the Raiders need a new bell cow to step up in 2019. Jacobs has a chance to earn that distinction as a rookie, but he'll have to prove he can be an every-down back after splitting his time at Alabama with Damien Harris. At his pro day, Jacobs put on a show that was off the charts, demonstrating much better pass-catching ability than people expected him to. He's not a straight-line speed guy, but he has the quickness to make up for that. The presence of veterans like capable pass-catching backup Jalen Richard and Doug Martin could eat into Jacobs' workload, but he has the ability to wring the most out of the carries he's given.

3) Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

Projected stats: 115 carries, 512 rush yards, 5 rush TDs, 35 catches.

Drafted: No. 128, Round 4.

From Week 10 of last season to the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, Ezekiel Elliott rush for 75-plus yards in eight straight games, putting up 111.4 rush yards per game in that span. While Elliott has not shown that he's one to suffer late-season declines, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to lessen the burden on the one person in the NFL to log more than 1,000 total touches over the last three seasons combined. This is where Pollard will come in. While he had limited opportunities playing alongside Darrell Henderson at Memphis, his style of play has drawn comparisons to Alvin Kamara. Consider Pollard's line at the Tigers' bowl game: With Henderson out, Pollard put up 109 rush yards on 17 carries (6.4 yards per carry). Pollard can also be a factor as a returner; last season, he returned 27 kicks for 667 yards and a score.

4) Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

Projected stats: 95 carries, 475 rush yards, 3 rush TDs, 42 catches.

Drafted: No. 70, Round 3.

With knee issues dogging Todd Gurley at the end of last season, the Rams could choose to limit his snaps in 2019 to ensure his effectiveness at crucial junctures later on in the year. This creates a potential opportunity for Henderson, a matchup nightmare. At Memphis, Henderson showed he has the quickness to hit the hole, the toughness to run through tacklers and the speed to reach the edge. He doesn't need much room to run and tends to finish forward. He was able to split out wide at times at Memphis, and he showed the ability to make adjustments catching passes out of the backfield. He also owns the second-most rush yards (3,545) and yards from scrimmage (4,303) in Memphis history. His height (5-foot-8) is a source of concern, and he'll have to show he's a better option than current Gurley backup Malcolm Brown, who was not allowed by the Rams to walk as a restricted free agent this offseason.

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5) Qadree Ollison, Atlanta Falcons

Projected stats: 96 carries, 391 rush yards, 7 rush TDs, 22 catches.

Drafted: No. 152, Round 5.

In a perfect world for the Falcons, Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith would handle the bulk of the rush load this season. But Freeman has struggled to stay healthy, and both he and Smith lack the ideal size for short-yardage situations, which is where the 6-1, 228-pound Ollison can find a niche. It is true that, after a strong freshman season (1,121 rush yards, 11 touchdowns), Ollison's merchandiseion dipped quite a bit in 2016 (127 yards, two scores) and '17 (398 and 5). However, in fairness to him, that period coincided with fluctuations on the offensive line. Ollison did run pretty well last season, putting up 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns (an average of 6.3 yards per carry). And the fact that he served as the primary protector on Pitt's punt team bodes well for his ability to contribute to the passing game as a blocker. Finally, he's capable of catching the ball, as well, which could make him dangerous in Dirk Koetter's offense.

ONE DARK-HORSE CANDIDATE TO CONSIDER:

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Projected stats: 255 carries, 1,050 rush yards, 6 rush TDs, 45 catches.

Drafted: No. 74, Round 3.

The Bills have one of the most crowded backfields in the NFL, with free-agent signees Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon joining Singletary as newcomers to a group already led by LeSean McCoy. If the status quo holds, and Singletary ends up splitting carries or even sitting on the bench for most of his rookie year, he will fall far short of those proposed numbers. The fact that his role is still up in the air is why I didn't want to include him among the other five backs in this piece, who have more obvious paths to relevance. The above stats reflect what I think Singletary will do IF his preseason performance convinces the Bills to clear the depth chart, maybe by commerce away McCoy or another veteran, and hand him starter-level carries. The fact that the Bills were still willing to bill of exchange Singletary in the third round after adding those players speaks to how the team must feel about his potential.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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