Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Draft: Running Backs to Watch

A few running backs to keep an eye on when the NFL Draft kicks off.

Running backs participate in drills during the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. - presented by Florida Hospital.

Early on: If the current projections hold, there could be three running backs selected in the first round: LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey. Leading up to the draft, all three have been linked to the Buccaneers at No. 19, but none more frequently than Cook. A former teammate of Jameis Winston, Cook was an accomplished receiver in addition to being Florida State's all-time leading rusher. Fournette's name has been mentioned in association with the Bucs, but not very frequently. Fournette will likely be gone by the time the Bucs make their first-round pick anyway. McCaffrey ran the fastest 40 time of the three at the NFL Scouting Combine and is a skilled third-down back. At his Pro Day, he worked exclusively as a wide receiver to display his pass-catching abilities.

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Mid-round picks:** Toledo's Kareem Hunt was one of the most impressive players at the Senior Bowl, rushing for 119 yards and averaging 7.9 yards per carry. He was one of the most productive running backs to ever play in the MAC, rushing for 4,945 yards during his college career, which were the third-most in conference history. He averaged 6.3 yards per attempt at Toledo and fumbled just once. Pittsburgh's James Conner missed the majority of the 2015 season battling Hodgkin's lymphoma and returned to the field in 2016 after beating the disease. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards this past season and is a big-bodied power runner that could be utilized in a H-Back or fullback role if needed.

Late-round steals: Sure, his name carries some weight. But it would still be interesting to see "Sanders" on the back of a Buccaneer uniform. Barry J. Sanders, son of the Lions' Hall of Fame running back, is projected to go undrafted after an under-achieving season at Oklahoma State. Sanders began his career at Stanford and averaged 6.2 yards per carry during the 2015 season, but transferred to Oklahoma State for 2016 and saw a decline in production. He's proven to be a capable receiver, catching seven touchdowns during his career. North Carolina A&T's Tarik Cohen is just 5-foot-6 and 179 pounds, but nicknamed "The Human Joystick." He's drawn comparisons to Darren Sproles and is expected to be a late-round pick if he's drafted at all.

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