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Mock Draft Roundup: Deep RB class could bear fruit in 2nd, 3rd round

Posted Feb 6, 2018

Consensus emerges on top RB, but opinions vary on next best

Just a few years ago, the first running back drafted had to wait until the 54th pick to hear his name called. It was 2014, and it marked the second straight year no running back was selected in the first round.

Times have changed in a big way at the position, and the 2018 NFL Draft promises to be no different.

It started in 2015, when Todd Gurley (10th) and Melvin Gordon (15th) were first-round selections. The next year, Ezekiel Elliott went fourth overall to the Cowboys. And in 2017, two running backs -- Leonard Fournette (fourth) and Christian McCaffrey (eighth) -- were top-10 picks.

This year’s draft promises to continue the trend, as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is presumed to be a top-five or top-10 pick. Some, such as NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, rank Barkley as the top overall prospect. Many others project the versatile playmaker to land with the Browns, who hold the first and fourth overall picks.

If the Browns don’t pick a running back with their first-round selections, there promises to be plenty more available when they make one of their four Day 2 selections. With three second-round picks and the first pick of the third round, Cleveland has plenty of opportunities to upgrade the position in a draft many believe is deepest at running back.

A sampling:

Barkley - Rushed for 1,271 yards, caught 54 passes for 632 yards and scored a combined 23 touchdowns, including two on kickoffs in 2017.

Derrius Guice (LSU) - 2,638 yards and 26 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

Ronald Jones II (USC) - Nine games of more than 100 yards rushing in 2017.

Royce Freeman (Oregon) - Scored 60 touchdowns in four seasons with the Ducks

Sony Michel (Georgia) - Rushed for 279 yards and scored four times in two College Football Playoff games.

Nick Chubb (Georgia) - Before a knee injury in 2016, he appeared to be the heir apparent to Gurley … and was still really good when he returned.

Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) - Ran 285 times for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017.

Kalen Ballage (Arizona State) - Stood out in a big way at the Senior Bowl and once caught 44 passes in a single season.

Rashaad Penny (San Diego State) - Led the nation with 2,248 yards this past season.

And the list goes on and on...

This week, we’re scanning the mock drafts to see how many of these running backs are projected to be available when the Browns kick off Day 2 with the first pick of the second round. Beyond Barkley, first-round projections are all over the place.

Mel Kiper Jr. - ESPN.com

4. Barkley (Browns)

Todd McShay - ESPN.com

4. Barkley (Browns)

Bucky Brooks - NFL.com

2. Barkley (Giants)

28. Guice (Steelers)

Lance Zierlein - NFL.com

4. Barkley (Browns)

Daniel Jeremiah - NFL.com

2. Barkley (Giants)

Walter Cherepinsky - WalterFootball.com

1. Barkley (Browns)

20. Michel (Lions)

Charlie Campbell - WalterFootball.com

1. Barkley

RJ White - CBSSports.com

2. Barkley (Giants)

Joe Marino - NDTScouting.com

4. Barkley (Browns)

Bryan Fischer - AthlonSports.com

2. Barkley (Giants)

11. Jones II (Dolphins)

28. Michel (Steelers)

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