The Hard Count with Horn: Linebacker & Running Back Top Tens

The Hard Count with Horn: Linebacker & Running Back Top Tens

This is the third edition of a weekly NFL Draft series, The Hard Count with Horn, that dives into position rankings and under the radar prospects.

Top Tens

Running Back Linebacker
  1) Leonard Fournette   1) Reuben Foster
  2) Dalvin Cook   2) Zach Cunningham
  3) Christian McCaffrey   3) Jarrad Davis
  4) Joe Mixon   4) Haason Reddick
  5) Alvin Kamara   5) Raekwon McMillan
  6) Marlon Mack   6) Anthony Walker Jr.
  7) Wayne Gallman   7) Kendell Beckwith
  8) Kareem Hunt   8) Duke Riley
  9) D’onta Foreman   9) Connor Harris
10) Matt Dayes 10) Ben Boulware

Everyone wants to know who the best players in the draft are, but here I’m going to take some time to show why I think these are my rankings. I won’t give a full run down on every player, but I will make some quick notes. I’ll try to always explain the more polarizing player positions in my top 10 positional rankings.

Running Back

  1. Leonard Fournette– It is very rare to find a running back with the size that Fournette possesses, and it is even rarer when that same player also has the speed to run away from defensive backs. Fournette has the athletic ability to be special.
  2. Dalvin Cook– Cook has gotten a few comparisons to LeSean McCoy in draft media, but I don’t see him as that top end shifty guy. However, I think Cook is faster and runs stronger than McCoy. If Cook can fix his fumble issues he has a real chance to be an All-Pro player.
  3. Christian McCaffrey– Not many running backs are as good catching the ball as McCaffrey, who can run every route in the route tree. On film McCaffrey frequently looks like a receiver when he is split out wide, running such crisp routes. However, I think comparisons to Darren Sproles or James White don’t do him justice.
  4. Joe Mixon– Mixon drew a comparison to Le’Veon Bell from Matt Miller, which is a very high honor for a college back. If Mixon can keep his head on straight, he will be a very good running back for years to come, if not he will not stay in the league for the duration of his rookie contract more than likely.
  5. Alvin Kamara– Many are extremely high on Kamara, and some have said they have a first round grade on him, that being said I have a hard time seeing more than three first-round running backs.

Linebacker

  1. Reuben Foster– Foster should be the first linebacker off the board, especially if Myles Garrett is projected as a defensive end. Foster could come in and be the center of a defense; he displays great instincts, and the athleticism to play from sideline to sideline.
  2. Zach Cunningham– If it weren’t for the occasional missed tackles I would have a much tougher time choosing between Foster and Cunningham. Cunningham has the size and speed to shut down tight ends if that’s what he is asked to do. If Cunningham can sure up his tackling he could be the top linebacker in the draft.
  3. Jarrad Davis– Last season I wasn’t too high on Davis, but this year he grew on me a little bit. Davis plays hard and covers well, but occasionally gets caught looking in the backfield and can be tricked. Playing on a very talented Florida defense Davis’s mistakes were well hidden. When Davis reads the play he does an excellent job shedding blocks and making tackles.
  4. Haason Reddick– Reddick has the wonderful “problem” of the question, is he a pass rusher or a stand-up linebacker. I don’t mean like which one is he worse at, but rather what is he better at. Reddick was a huge problem for the offense at Senior Bowl.
  5. Raekwon McMillan– McMillan isn’t the best player in coverage, mainly because he isn’t super straight line fast. However McMillan reads and reacts extremely quickly, and he normally doesn’t read wrong. McMillan trusts his keys and has the build to be a very good thumper at middle linebacker. I’ve seen a comparison to Reggie Ragland, and I can’t help but think a little about DeMeco Ryans.

Small School Preview:

Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
The first phrase used to describe Kpassagnon is “body beautiful.” Really if you ask me he looks like he was carved from marble. Kpassagnon stands at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, which means he has all the length teams could ever look for. Kpassagnon can extend his arms as he explodes into blockers, leaving them unable to even get a hand on him.

Kpassagnon is raw in the pass rush department, but he has the tools to learn. Kpassagnon has the length to play two gaps or just one. He has the size to play 4-3 DE, 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE or even 3-4 OLB. Whether teams think he has the skill set to play all of those positions is really up to each team and what they ask of the position. However, being scheme versatile is always a good thing. Also, being 6-foot-7 should help attract special teams coaches, which is always a great way to keep a roster spot.

Kpassagnon has the frame to gain plenty of weight, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think he could get up to somewhere around 300 pounds or more if a team drafts him to play 3-4 defensive end. If Kpassagnon can keep his pad level down and gain a little bit of lower body strength, he will be a very valuable commodity. Pass rush moves can be taught, and very frequently have to be, to players who are as physically gifted in college. If he has a passion for the game and is willing to learn, Kpassagnon has the tools to be a very good player.

Bargain Bin Possibility:

As I mention before I am very much a fan of Matt Dayes, I think he is underrated when it comes to running backs. I have him ranked as a third to fourth round back, and that’s in this very strong draft. If he has a good combine he could see himself rise up boards everywhere, and a 4.4 40 yard dash will put him into consideration for the second round for me.

Dayes shows excellent vision and doesn’t second guess what he sees when Dayes finds a hole he shows great burst and gets through it as quickly as he can. Dayes stands at about 5-foot-9 so he has no problem keeping his pad level low for leverage, but he also runs with good lean, which prevents him from being taken down easily. Some aren’t as high as me on Dayes, but I think if he can get onto a team that runs a zone scheme where he can find a hole and get up field quickly he will be a good player. He may never be a top-5 back, but if you don’t really want to draft a running back high, he could really be a good value.




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