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Prospect Profiles: The Running Backs Class

In order to familiarize fans with some of the top names in the 2017 NFL Draft, Chargers.com will be highlighting top prospects by position each week leading up to the first day of the draft on April 27th.

*Next up is a look at some of the premiere running backs according to pundits. *

Dalvin Cook

School: Florida State
Height: 5-10
Weight: 210 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Edgerrin James

It's easy to see why Dalvin Cook draws comparisons to former All-Pro and two-time rushing king Edgerrin James.  With excellent patience, athleticism and speed, he can beat teams in a number of ways without appearing to even break a sweat.

Cook took college football by storm from the first moment he stepped onto the field.

The 5-10, 210-pounder was the first running back to surpass 1,000-yards as a freshman in over three decades.  He continued to get better each year, culminating with a 2016 campaign in which he totaled 1,765 rushing yards, 488 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns on the way to being named a unanimous All-American. In the process, he broke Warrick Dunn's 20-year FSU record for career rushing yards. 

Cook ended his collegiate career in resounding fashion, earning Orange Bowl MVP honors leading the Seminoles to a 33-32 win over Michigan.  It was a contest the junior dubbed "the best game of my life." Cook carried the ball 20 times against the Wolverines for 145 yards and one touchdown, averaging 7.3 yards per carry.   He also caught three passes for an additional 62 yards.

Combine Metrics

40-Yard Dash:4.49 seconds
Bench Press: 22 reps
Vertical Jump: 30.5 inches
Broad Jump: 116.0 inches

Leonard Fournette

School: Louisiana State
Height: 6-0
Weight: 240 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Bo Jackson

The nation's number one overall recruit coming out of high school, Leonard Fournette only cemented his status as an elite NFL prospect over a standout three-year career at LSU.

Following an impressive freshman season, Fournette broke out with a legendary sophomore campaign.  He carried the ball 300 times in 2015 for 1,953 yards (6.5 ypc) and 22 touchdowns.  Both marks set a single-season school record.

Unfortunately, an ankle injury limited Fournette to only seven games last season. Nonetheless, he still managed to churn out 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a result, Fournette leaves Baton Rouge ranked fourth in school history with 3,830 rushing yards.

Pundits note that the 6-0, 240-pound rusher is one of the most physical running backs to ever enter the NFL Draft. However, he brings more to the table than just a bruising presence as he also boasts excellent speed with the ability to make defenders miss all on his own.

Combine Metrics

40-Yard Dash:4.51 seconds
Vertical Jump: 20.5 inches

Alvin Kamara

School: Tennessee
Height: 5-10
Weight: 214 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Thomas Jones

When the college season ended, many draft pundits believed Alvin Kamara would be one of the draft's biggest day two steals.

Now, they believe there's a strong chance he is taken off the board in the first round.

Kamara flourished after transferring to Tennessee in 2015 from Hutchinson Community College.  A dual-threat back, he carried the ball 210 times for 1,294 yards (6.2 ypc) and 16 touchdowns while catching 74 passes for 683 yards (9.2 ypc) and another seven scores in 24 career games. He ended 2016 with a team-high 1,188 all-purpose yards including 596 on the ground, 392 through the air and 200 return yards with 13 total touchdowns.

Powerful between the tackles, Kamara boasts soft hands to pluck the ball out of the backfield. Pundits also laud his competitive nature on every down. While Kamara split the load in college, never carrying the ball more than 20 times in a single game, draft experts believe he can be a three-down back in the NFL. 

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.56 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 39.5 inches
Broad Jump: 131.0 inches

Marlon Mack

School: South Florida
Height: 5-11
Weight: 213 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Denard Robinson

Teams looking for a change of pace scat back capable of taking it to the house on any given play will likely target the South Florida product.

After all, following his three-year career, Mack declared for the draft as the school's all-time leader in rushing yards (3,609), all-purpose yards (4, 107 yards) and touchdowns (33).  Last season, he carried the rock 174 times for 1,187 yards (6.2 ypc) and 15 touchdowns along with 28 catches for 227 yards (8.1 ypc). Overall, Mack owns 14 USF records and was named an American Athletic Conference first-team selection each year.

The 5-11, 213-pound running back is known for his electric runs, boasting touchdowns of 85 and 75 yards. He also averaged over 100 yards per game over his career.

Despite playing at a small school, pundits expect Mack's skillset naturally translates to the NFL level.  His slippery running style drives would-be tacklers crazy, and he boasts breakaway speed at the second level. If paired with a big, powerful rusher, experts believe he'll take a team's running back corps to the next level.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.50 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches
Broad Jump: 125.0 inches

Christian McCaffrey

School: Stanford
Height: 5-11
Weight: 202 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Tiki Barber

Is there anything Christian McCaffrey can't do on offense?

That's the question in NFL circles as the versatile Stanford running back led college football in all-purpose yards per game the past two years.  He averaged 276.0 yards per game in 2015 and 211.5 last season. As a result, the jack-of-all-trades running back has drawn comparisons to Tiki Barber, Brian Westbrook and former Charger Danny Woodhead.

After being used sparingly as a freshman, McCaffrey broke out his sophomore season to set a school record with 2,019 rushing yards.  He also led the Cardinal in receptions (45) and receiving yards (645) as he was named the AP and Pac-12 Player of the Year, and won the Paul Horning Award as the nation's most versatile player.  Last season, he ranked seventh in the country with 1,603 rushing yards despite being limited by a hamstring injury.

The 20-year old McCaffrey is the son of former NFL wideout Ed McCaffrey.  With a football pedigree and the ability to transform an offense, many believe the running back is a surefire bet to be selected in the first round.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.48 seconds
Vertical Jump: 37.5 inches
Broad Jump: 121.0 inches

Donnell Pumphrey

School: San Diego State
Height: 5-8
Weight: 176 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Tyler Ervin

Donnell Pumphrey enters the draft as the all-time leading rusher in college football history. His 6,405 yards are eight more than former Wisconsin running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.

Now, the 5-8, 176-pound Pumphrey needs to prove he can be just as effective in the NFL.

A workhorse at San Diego State, he led the nation in carries (349), yards (2,133) and rushing touchdowns (17) last season. Pumphrey captured Mountain West Player of the Year honors for the second straight year after an impressive 2015 campaign where he toted the rock 309 times for 1,653 yards and 17 scores.

Pundits marvel at Pumphrey's change of direction and ability to break ankles. He also boasts top end speed, which coupled with patience and vision allows him to pick up large chunks once he hits the hole.  Pumphrey is another running back draft experts believe can be a top change of pace option in the NFL.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.48 seconds
Vertical Jump: 33.5 inches
Broad Jump: 117.0 inches

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed above do not represent the opinions or policies of the Los Angeles Chargers' front office staff, coaches or executives.

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