When it comes to building an NFL team, running backs have been a commodity with differing value of late.
Sometimes, if a Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley or Le’Veon Bell falls into a team’s lap, they pounce. But, in a pass-happy league, three-down backs are the only ones who know fall into first round consideration.
In this year’s class, Saquon Barkley seems to fall into that category, but others seem to fall a little bit behind the Penn State back. Fournette’s LSU successor, Derrius Guice, seems to be someone who is also carrying the first round mantle this year, but there is a lesser-known back who should be deep in the conversation of the better backs in this year’s class.
USC’s Ronald Jones has been an impressive back over the past three seasons, showing some major big-play ability. Whether it’s with stellar blocking or not, Jones seems to be a guy in the mold of Chris Johnson, Alvin Kamara or Duke Johnson, Jr..
Weight: 200 pounds
Year: Junior (redshirt)
Draft status: Round 2
Yards: 3,921—3619 rushing, 302 receiving
Touchdowns: 42 (39 rushing, three receiving)
Yards per carry: 6.1
Balance, speed and cutback ability—those are the traits of what define Ronald Jones and his style of play. Few running backs have made as many gigantic plays out of nothing as Jones has over the past couple of years and some analysts have compared him to a smaller Eric Dickerson.
However, a couple of nagging injuries and questions on his size have some scouts worrying about his three-down ability in the NFL. Can he hang with constant hits from linemen who are in the 300-pound range?
Still, his gait and stride are unparalleled in the open field, while his receiving ability goes unheralded. He might be a “scheme guy”, where he has to wait for holes to open, but Jones has a lot of skills to like for NFL squads.
As the Bengals sit here in 2018, they seem prepared to ride the deserving coattails of Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. However, even with perceived capable backs on the roster, we’ve seen the team spring for talented backs they’ve become enamored with in recent drafts.