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Who are 5 Running Back the Colts Should Go After In the 2017 NFL Draft?

By Kody Miller
Published on March 30, 2017
Colts Joe Mixon Feature Image

The Indianapolis Colts finally admitted something everyone in the NFL has known for the past two years: they’re a bit long in the tooth at running back.

It seems that head coach Chuck Pagano is finally on board with the idea of adding some fresh legs at a key offensive position, with Indy’s leader on the sidelines recently calling the addition of a young back “paramount”:

It’s hard to refute that logic, as the Colts have gotten nowhere with an aging Frank Gore and all they have behind him is the young Josh Ferguson, who did not impress in his rookie season (1.3 yards per carry on 15 attempts).

Gore is set to turn 34 in May and is surely on his last legs, which finally prompted the Colts to go public about there forever public need. Does that mean the Colts will actually spend an early draft pick on the position? Maybe, maybe not. But there are several talented running backs in a deep draft Indy should be considering. Here’s our look at the five they should be looking at the hardest:

Round One

FootballDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Indy’s first pick in round one is at the #15 spot, so we can forget about Leonard Fournette. We might even have to forget about Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, too, but this is right around where his draft range starts opening up. Cook could somehow creep into the top-10 or he could be plucked off the board somewhere before 15. Then again, maybe the Colts don’t take a runner in round one and Cook and the other top running backs fall a bit.

If he’s there, of course, Indy needs to take notice and this would be where the speculation truly starts. Cook’s stock is curbed a bit due to fumbles and some off the field issues, but he’s otherwise an amazing talent on tape and projects very well to the pros.

Outside of Fournette, Cook looks like the next best running back on the draft board this year, as he has very good size, balance, long speed and short area quickness. Cook’s ability to get both blocked and unblocked yardage makes him a threat on every run, while his second gear once he finds open space could give the Colts a home run option at the position that they haven’t had in years.

FootballChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey is probably third in line among the best running back prospects, but he’s not a distant third. McCaffrey has been every bit as impressive as Cook and even Fournette, but just doesn’t give quite the explosiveness those guys do, nor the size and brute strength Fournette can.

He’s still a heck of a prospect, however, and in a lot of ways could be argue as the top running back in the draft due to his sheer versatility. This is a guy that right now can handle a full workload, can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield and can even provide an impact in the return game.

For the Colts, he’s the ideal addition. His presence can spell Gore on passing downs and even some early down work, but he doesn’t have to supplant him just yet. McCaffrey could make a huge impact in the return game as he adapts to the pros and carves out a role where he’s just being used in space or not being asked to do too much when it comes to pass protections.

Blocking and strength are McCaffrey’s key weaknesses, so it could take a year before he’s completely where his next level team will want/need him to be. For Indy, that works out just fine. He’s being drafted as their future franchise running back, but for 2017 he’s just part of a committee led by an aging running back that’s on his last legs.

Round Two

FootballJoe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

Mixon is all by himself for us in round two, as he’s an elite runner with loads of upside, but nobody really knows what his draft range is. The big reason why to this point is he’s been made toxic due to a violent incident from his past. Teams have openly held it against him and .

More teams are sure to boycott Mixon, and understandably so. While he seems to be a different person since punching a girl when he was 19, he still did it and it may raise serious concerns about his character and off the field decision-making.

All we can really go on is his production at Oklahoma and talent as it translates to the NFL, however. Based on that, Mixon might be a day one prospect and remains a steal if Indy decides to call his name here in round two. Most mock drafts aren’t projecting Mixon earlier than round three, though, so even this could be a bit of a reach when it comes to predicting where Joe Mixon will be drafted.

Mixon is a potentially special player at the next level, though, as he displays a nice burst out of the gates, exceptional vision, the ability to stop and change direction on a dime and also hit the deep run with ease. Mixon’s combination of size, speed, natural athleticism and overall versatility make him a dynamic three-down option for the next level. Unfortunately, his inside running can be a little shaky, he can dance a bit too much at times the beyond obvious character concerns certainly exist.

Round two might ultimately prove to be too soon for any team to take a crack at Mixon, as a lot of pro scouts fear his off the field antics even beyond his past run-in with violence. Regardless, Mixon as a pure prospect has a ton of skills and an insanely high ceiling. Someone will punt the PR nightmare to the moon to take this kid and mold him into a beast. Why shouldn’t it be the Colts?

Round Three

FootballJamaal Williams, RB, BYU

Williams has to be one of the first running back options if the Colts don’t spend a first round pick on the position. After maybe Joe Mixon in round two they’d drop down into round three, where they hold the 80th overall selection. Some mock drafts already have this exact pick project to Indy, which could allow the Colts to add an impact offensive lineman or elite defender in the first round.

That could certainly be a good way to go, especially when you look at how talented Williams is. If you’re looking for fluidity, vision, anticipation, short area quickness and high level awareness, you’re getting it here. It’s not every year you’re going to find a complete back that offers pretty much everything you’re asking for in round two, yet this astounding BYU product continues to get overlooked.

There are certainly some concerns with Williams, of course, as he does not appear to have that big second gear or home run speed and he often gets taken down too easily.

Those are potentially big hiccups, but Williams runs with purpose and is in constant search for a way to keep himself from going down. His hips are deceptive, his short area quickness can leave people standing in their tracks and his feet never stop. These are tough traits to train and they help make Williams a very dangerous runner even though he’s not necessarily as dynamic as you’d like due to his inability to break away from the defense.

You’re missing that home run option with Williams and when you look at him, that’s really his main knock. He’s a proven ball carrier who can get the tough yards and make defenders work to get him the first, second and even third time. That style almost mirrors what an aging Frank Gore has done for most of his career, which obviously wouldn’t be providing an upgrade in the explosiveness department, but the Colts would at least be bringing in a similar talent that can take the torch and run with it.

FootballWayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

Gallman is another very interesting tailback for Indy to consider, as he was a monster for a very good Clemson team that just got done winning a national title. More specifically, Gallman was a big reason why, as he stepped up against an elite Crimson Tide defense when it mattered most, putting up 85 total yards and a touchdown.

Gallman was a force for Clemson the past two years, displaying fantastic size, athleticism and initial burst out of the gates. His ability to carve out his own production is up in the air, but he’s otherwise a creative and physical runner that switches up his decision-making when it comes to seeking out or avoiding contact. He has the speed and agility to get past defenders and make them miss, offering up a complete blend of rushing moves that make him a handful in the open field.

There is no denying Gallman has been overlooked at Clemson due to bigger star offensive players. He does have some issues with waiting for blocking and a general lack of patience as a runner can turn would-be gem runs into average gains. Gallman needs to work on sustaining his impact and consistency, while his high-energy, physical playing style understandably prompts durability concerns at the next level.

Can Gallman stay healthy and iron out some inconsistencies? Who knows, that’s why he’s a day two prospect. On the surface, however, he’s a dynamic runner who could easily end up being a very special one. That makes him worth Indy’s time if he’s there when they pick in round three.

Honorable Mentions

If Indy really wants to address their problems at running back, they’ll hopefully be smart about it and attack it early on. Running back is without a doubt a huge problem for an offense that could use some scary balance, so attacking the position in the first three rounds is ideal.

If not, they could perhaps land prospects like Jeremy McNichols, Alvin Kamara, Marlon Mack or D’Onta Foreman in round four or later.

All of these guys are capable of being the long-term upgrade the Colts are seeking, but they’re available beyond round three for a reason. Everyone beyond round three has issues with size, durability, long speed, scheme fit or character concerns. If Indy really wants to make a chance and protect themselves from Frank Gore getting hurt, regressing or ultimately retiring, they should go after a guy they can really invest in and get behind.

Colts Running Back Prediction

Ultimately, Indy needs to get serious and invest a first round pick in a rusher. Gore is almost 34 years old and no longer provides the speed or reliability he used to. He’s only going to keep regressing and once the wheels fall off, Indy is suddenly stuck with Josh Ferguson or a replacement level talent like Robert Turbin?

That simply will not do, so we think Indy takes a shot at a big upgrade in round one. Christian McCaffrey is option B if things don’t break just as they’d like, but if available, Indy has to have their eye on Dalvin Cook. He offers the most upside that they can get their hands on and unlike a lot of these solid options they could consider, he offers serious speed. Andrew Luck has been handcuffed to a team with a bad o-line and a shaky defense for years, so it’s high time he at least gets bailed out a bit by a running back who can get defenses off of his back.

If the Colts have their way, Cook will last to 15 and that’s who they’ll take.

Think the Colts should take McCaffrey or wait for a different running back later in the draft? Think they’re all set and don’t even need to add fresh legs? Share with us your thoughts on Indy’s running back situation in the comments below!

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