A closer look at the top five running backs (based on assorted mock drafts and our own analysis) who conceivably could be available when the Bucs pick 32nd overall in the NFL draft:
1. Najee Harris, Alabama (6-1, 232)
Measurable of note: Participated in drills but didn’t run at Alabama’s pro day
The school’s career leader in rushing yards (3,843) and rushing touchdowns (46), Harris ran for 2,690 yards over his last two seasons after biding his time in a congested Crimson Tide tailback room. Like Clemson’s Travis Etienne, he proved his reliability as a receiver (43 catches, 425 yards, four TDs in 2020) but ranks slightly higher on most draft boards because of his size.
2. Travis Etienne, Clemson (5-10, 215)
Measurable of note: Weighed 215 pounds at Clemson’s pro day (listed at 205 on Clemson’s 2020 roster)
The ACC’s all-time rushing leader (4,952 yards), Etienne remained at Clemson for the 2020 season to earn his degree (which he did) and improve his draft stock. Bent on establishing himself as a three-down back, he recorded 48 of his 102 college receptions in 2020, becoming only the fourth Power Five player since 2015 to total 900 rushing and 500 receiving yards in a season.
3. Javonte Williams, North Carolina (5-10, 220)
Measurable of note: Did 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at UNC’s pro day
After a pair of decent seasons with the Tar Heels, Williams entered the collective consciousness of NFL scouts last fall, running for 1,140 rushing yards and 19 TDs on 157 carries (7.26-yard average), and catching 25 passes. A forward-leaning runner who seems to thrive on contact, Williams forced 76 missed tackles as a runner in 2020, most in the country per Pro Football Focus.
4. Michael Carter, North Carolina (5-8, 202)
Measurable of note: Ran 4.5-second 40-yard dash at UNC’s pro day
A former Class 6A Florida Mr. Football (at Navarre High), Carter — a Paul Hornung Award finalist — was an all-purpose dynamo for the Tar Heels. As a senior in 2020, he averaged 7.98 yards a carry (most in Division I-A) en route to 1,245 rushing yards (fourth) while also catching 25 passes and averaging 19.5 yards on eight kick returns.
5. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis (5-8, 201)
Measurable of note: Reportedly ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at Memphis’ pro day
The latest shifty, slashing product from a burgeoning Tigers tailback pipeline (which also has given the NFL Antonio Gibson, Tony Pollard and Darrell Henderson in recent years). Gainwell opted out in 2020 following a monstrous redshirt freshman year (1,459 rushing yards, 51 catches). Limited tape, and concerns about his effectiveness as an inside runner, could harm his draft stock.
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