Skip to main content
Presented by

Triple Take: Running backs

The "Triple Take" continues its look at the 2024 NFL Draft with a breakdown of the running backs. The Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Dale Lolley and Mike Prisuta give their takes on the top prospects at the position.

The opinions of these Steelers Radio Network personalities do not reflect the views of the Steelers organization.

Stay up-to-date with Steelers draft news by downloading the Steelers Official Mobile App (Apple Store | Google Play) and enabling the "Draft" push notification category (More --> Settings --> Notifications).

Dale's Take ...

There were two running backs selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. This year, there isn't likely to be a Day 1 back selected, with a back not expected to be taken until somewhere in the middle of the second round or lower. That doesn't mean there aren't some intriguing backs, but most of this year's class are considered complementary backs who work best in a committee.

Sleeper - Cody Schrader, Missouri (5-8 ½, 202 lbs.) - Cody Schrader began his career at Division II Truman State before walking on at Missouri. In two seasons with the Tigers, he rushed for 2,372 yards and 23 touchdowns, also catching 41 passes. Schrader is a tough one-cut runner perfect for teams that run an outside zone scheme. And his lack of height helps there, as he can get lost behind blockers before cutting back. Schrader might never be a feature back, but he could be an important part of a committee.

#5 - Braelon Allen, Wisconsin (6-1, 235 lbs.) - A rare back in today's college game with power to run over smaller defenders, Allen rushed for nearly 3,500 yards with 35 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin. And he just turned 20 in January. Allen wasn't used much as a receiver in college, but for a player so young, he's logged a good number of college snaps. The best could be yet to come as he continues to fill out.

#4 - Jonathan Brooks, Texas (6-1, 216 lbs.) - If Jonathan Brooks weren't coming off a torn ACL, he'd be the No. 1 back in this draft. As it is, he hopes to be ready in time for training camp. In 11 games last season, he rushed for over 1,100 yards, adding 25 catches for another 286 yards. A backup to Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson in 2022, Robinson had just 238 career carries in college. He's smooth and fast with good size and burst.

#3 - Jaylen Wright, Tennessee (5-10 ½, 210 lbs.) - Jaylen Wright has speed to scare any defense, showing that at the NFL Scouting Combine when he blazed a 4.28-second 40-yard dash. That shows up on tape. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry last season. The only knock on Wright is that he might not be an every-down runner in the NFL, but in today's back-by-committee approach, he can certainly be the lightning to another player's thunder.

#2 - Trey Benson, Florida State (6-0, 216 lbs.) - A good-sized back with speed, Trey Benson will be a nice piece for some team to add to their backfield. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and shows good hands in the passing game, as well. He's also a willing pass blocker, though, like most young backs, he could use some refinement in that area. Benson had just over 150 carries and just under 1,000 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons. He might be more productive as a pro than he was in college.

#1 - Marshawn Lloyd, USC (5-9, 220 lbs.) - Marshawn Lloyd is a solidly-built runner with good burst. A transfer from South Carolina to the University of Southern California in 2023 (sticking with USC), Lloyd needed just 116 carries to gain 820 yards rushing last season. Lloyd ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and that flashes at times on his tape. He had a couple of injuries in college, including an ACL injury in 2020, but the best could be yet to come.

Matt's Take ...

This isn't a great running back class, and it is highly unlikely that any player at this position comes off the board in the first round. There might not even be a running back selected in the top 50 picks overall. That being said, there do appear to be some future starters in this group and a bevy of running backs that will get plenty of playing time in the next few years. The third and fourth rounds look like the sweet spot for teams in search of a running back.

Sleeper - Dylan Laube, New Hampshire (5-10, 206 lbs.) - As you would expect, Laube dominated against a low level of competition and was routinely the best player on the field in college. But he also showed well at the Senior Bowl. He isn't talented or powerful enough to handle a large dose of interior running in the league, but Laube's niche could come in the passing game, where he could excel. He runs wide receiver like routes from all over the formation and displays very sure natural hands. Laube is also an accomplished returner and special teams could be where he makes his early mark in the NFL.

#5 - Blake Corum, Michigan (5-8, 205 lbs.) - Corum probably doesn't have the size to be an every down player at the next level, but he was productive and instrumental to Michigan's national championship run behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. He is tough and plays the game in an infectious manner. Corum could have entered the NFL a year ago after a dominant campaign but tore his meniscus late in the 2022 season. Corum doesn't have the long speed you desire, but he is difficult to bring down with his leg drive and low center of gravity to go along with outstanding vision.

#4 - Braelon Allen, Wisconsin (6-1, 235 lbs.) - Allen is somewhat of a linear runner, but he has a rare combination of straight-ahead power and speed. Tacklers routinely bounce off his upper body. His vision and creativity aren't great, but once Allen gets going, he does a lot of damage. A great deal of his yardage comes after first contact. He hasn't been used much as a receiver but does have some nice catches on tape and should be a good protector in the NFL. Allen is a very young prospect, having just turned 20 years old in January. But he does have 20 career 100-yard rushing performances on his resume.

#3 - Trey Benson, Florida State (6-0, 216 lbs.) - Benson is a rare pure combination of size and speed, having run a 4.39/40 at the Combine. He is powerful with a great build to handle a heavy workload at the next level, but only averaged 13.5 touches per game in 2023. Benson regularly runs through arm tackles and once he builds up a head of steam, is very difficult to get on the ground. He could use work on diversifying his routes, but Benson is capable in protection. He is more of a straight-line athlete than a guy with great wiggle and his vision isn't the greatest.

#2 - MarShawn Lloyd, USC (5-9, 220 lbs.) - Lloyd is a compact powerful running back that is built low to the ground with excellent contact balance. He's a very good athlete with explosive traits and long speed but does tend to bounce runs to the outside too often-something that he'll need to clean up at the next level. Lloyd is a weapon in the passing game and already shows a strong acumen for pass protection. He does have fumbling issues as well as an injury history.

#1 - Jonathan Brooks, Texas (6-1, 216 lbs.) - As mentioned, this isn't a great class for running backs at the top of the draft and even the highest rated player here, Brooks, is coming off a torn ACL in November which, of course, will affect his draft stock. Brooks doesn't have an abundance of power and is a good, not great, receiver, but overall, he is a very well-rounded player for his position. He has excellent vision and is a smooth mover with strong acceleration from his long legs. He has the body to handle a heavy workload, but with the stable of backs Texas has had as well as his injury, Brooks has only carried the ball 238 times in his college career.

Mike's Take …

They come in all shapes and sizes, Mike Tomlin has maintained regarding running backs, and they come from anywhere and everywhere. The most recent Super Bowl featured one from the first round (San Francisco's Christian McCaffrey) and one from the seventh round (Kansas City's Isiah Pacheco). Teams in need at the running back position can look in the first round and the last round and in the rounds in between and probably find what they're looking for if they're thorough. They're out there, and they're still relevant.

#Sleeper - Jonathon Brooks, Texas (6-foot, 216 lbs.) - Brooks would be a lot higher on this list had he not suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 11 against TCU. Prior to that he had established himself as a three-down, two-way threat for Texas in what for Brooks had been a breakout season in 2023 (he entered last fall with just 54 career touches). Brooks attended the NFL Scouting Combine and gave an optimistic prognosis for complete recovery from surgery ("expected timeline is training camp, July 1 or the start of training camp") but it's a long way between now and then. A leap of faith may initially be required.

#5 - Braelon Allen, Wisconsin (6-1, 235 lbs.) - Ground and pound, and repeat as necessary. Wisconsin's latest factor back amassed 3,494 yards and scored 35 touchdowns over the last three seasons (984 and 12 in 2023). He's a between-the-tackles masher who also has the vision and burst to bounce such runs outside and up the sideline when such opportunities knock at the second level. Bring the big boy pads and two chinstraps.

#4 - Jaylen Wright, Tennessee (5-10 ½, 210 lbs.) - Wright's 4.38 40-yard dash at the Combine was the second-fastest among running backs. His broad jump of 11'2" and vertical leap of 38" were, likewise, attention-getting numbers. But it's how Wright applies his explosive traits that really tantalizes. Take it from Tennessee alum and NFL Network analyst Charles Davis: "Tennessee, you know they go really fast on offense, want to throw the ball? Because of his talents, they shifted their emphasis as the season went on and became much more of a run-first team because of Jaylen Wright." Game-changer.

#3 - Bucky Irving, Oregon (5-9, 192 lbs.) - A Minnesota transfer that can run and catch. Irving averaged 6.3 yards per attempt in a 186-carry, 1,180-yard, 11-touchdown rushing season and also produced 56 catches, 413 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. He had a combined five of the latter over the last two seasons. "You can do a lot of things with Bucky Irving," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah observed.

#2 - MarShawn Lloyd, USC (5-9, 220 lbs.) - Jeremiah considered Lloyd one of five "No Assembly Required" players at the Senior Bowl. "They're consistent on tape, consistent during their week of practice, they have defined roles once they go to the next level, and you feel very confident with what you've seen through the process they can get on the field right away." Lloyd wasn't asked to catch the ball much at South Carolina or with the Trojans but he established he's plenty capable in that department in Mobile, Ala. He's also a physical blocker. A back for all situations.

#1 -Trey Benson, Florida State (6-0, 216 lbs.) - A home run hitter in the running game and the passing game, and a yards-after-contact/catch specialist. Benson has gone 85 yards on a sweep against Virginia Tech and 80 yards on a screen against Wake Forest. His most eye-catching play may have been the flat pass he caught against Clemson on which he ran away from linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. on the way to a 27-yard gain. Speed and power.

Related Content