2025 NFL Draft Summer Scouting: Running Backs

Welcome to a new series here at NFLTR: Summer Scouting! In this series, I’ll be going position by position taking a look at some early names to watch for the 2025 NFL Draft. I’ll be breaking down my preliminary top five prospects for each position to set the table for the upcoming collegiate season and 2025 draft cycle.

TreVeyon Henderson

Today we kick things off with a beloved but controversial position in the NFL: running backs. The true value of running backs is a hot debate in today’s NFL landscape, but “running backs don’t matter” hasn’t killed the pipeline of talented backs coming up from the lower levels yet. We also saw a mini resurgence with the position in free agency this year with teams like the Eagles and Packers handing out significant contracts to running backs.

A good running back can add so much to an offense, and they’re often some of the most athletic players on their teams. Let’s dive right in to the evaluations! I watched ten running backs and ranked my top five:


1: Ashton Jeanty, Boise State

I was blown away watching Jeanty’s tape. I expected Quinshon Judkins or Ollie Gordon II would be my RB1 this summer, but there isn’t a back in this class more NFL-ready right now than Jeanty. A 5-9, 210-pound back, Jeanty started playing high school football in Naples, Italy, before returning to the U.S. He played linebacker, safety, edge rusher and receiver in high school — in addition to running back — as well as basketball and track-and-field. He’s an elite athlete primed to help Boise State contend for a spot in the newly expanded College Football Playoff.

Jeanty’s college career has been exceptional so far. He dominated as a freshman in 2022 before taking the Mountain West by storm in 2023, leading the nation in all-purpose yards with 1,916. He’s a versatile back, racking up over 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving with 19 total touchdowns, as well as having a nation-leading 106 missed tackles forced per PFF. 

The contact balance Jeanty displays is nothing short of sensational. He absorbs and dishes out hits with impunity, rampaging through defenses and gashing them for huge chunks of yardage. He’s the fastest running back I watched, with easy acceleration in his gait. He can hit holes in a flash and outrun the entire defense to the edge and down the sideline. Jeanty is a punishing runner with a strong lower half, consistently powering through arm tackles. He’s quick in his cuts and patient with his vision. He knows how to wait for plays to develop and he can make anyone miss in the open field.


Jeanty finishes runs with the best of them. He always knows exactly where he needs to get to and refuses to be brought down early. In short-yardage and goal-line situations, he’s as reliable as they come. He manages to fall forward every time and will use the tiniest crease to get what he needs.

As good of a pure runner as he is, Jeanty is also such a natural pass-catcher. He confidently plucks the ball out of the air, demonstrating his soft, strong hands. He runs a fairly diverse route tree for a college back; he can legitimately split out when asked to. He’s a demon after the catch and always knows exactly where he needs to go. He’s very good in pass protection, as well, with solid technique and quick reaction time.

As far as weaknesses go, there really aren’t many to list. He needs to continue to develop his route tree, but his NFL coaching staff will get on that right away. About the only major concern is his very physical style of play. It could lead to a shorter career than backs who don’t thrive taking and making the kinds of hits Jeanty enjoys on a game-to-game basis. But these are minor nitpicks. Jeanty is an exceptionally developed, well-rounded back.


I have Jeanty with a late first-, early second-round grade. I don’t give out first round grades to running backs lightly and he’ll have to have another spectacular season at Boise State to earn that kind of draft capital from an NFL team, but I was so impressed with what Jeanty has put on tape so far. He has the kind of speed that gives him true homerun ability, a powerful build with an incredibly strong lower half, and refined skill and finesse in his game. He’s everything the modern NFL wants in a three-down, workhorse running back. In my opinion, he’s a first-round talent.

2: Quinshon Judkins, Ohio State

Judkins transferred to Columbus after two seasons at Ole Miss and will pair with TreVeyon Henderson as they look to form the most dominant running back duo in college football next season. At 5-11 and 210, Judkins has the ideal size and build for the position. He racked up 2,725 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in two seasons at Ole Miss. As he heads to Ohio State for his true junior season, he’s one of college football’s premiere running back talents with a chance to stamp his name as one of the best NFL prospects at the position.


Judkins’ burst, agility and power are all off the charts. He’s a true workhorse — there isn’t a player in this class you’d be more comfortable handing the ball to 20-25 times per game, even in an NFL offense. Once he gets going downhill, he’s tough to stop, as he runs with remarkable compactness and his contact balance is excellent. He has the rare ability to absorb contact and keep his momentum and forward speed. Judkins also has some serious wiggle to his game, consistently able to juke a defender out of his cleats. He’s so effective in congested areas of the field, keeping his feet moving in traffic and staying upright through contact.

Judkins’ first step is blazingly fast and he’s an incredibly dangerous one-cut runner for this reason. He displays good vision and can see holes develop quickly and get through them in an instant. While Judkins doesn’t possess true game-breaking speed, he’s fast enough to outrun corners and safeties to the edge and in the open field. He knows how to choose his rushing lanes and won’t get caught hesitating or trying to overextend plays. He has solid hands and while he’s not an experienced pass-catcher, he’s effective on screens and check-downs.


If anything, Judkins needs to learn to be more patient and not be so eager to cut upfield as quickly as possible. Too often, he’s trying to run through defenders before his blockers have time to clear him a path. If he can be more patient in his runs, he’ll be even more effective as a runner. He also needs to add some route-running chops to his game if he wants to be a serious three-down NFL player. Perhaps most importantly, he needs to become a better pass protector, though this often just comes with time for young players. He has the size and mentality for it.

There are two players in this running back class that I can see working their way into the first round, based on what I’ve seen so far. Judkins is one of them. I’ve given him a second-round grade right now, and I can see him following in the footsteps of early second round picks in recent years like Jonathan Taylor and Breece Hall. He has that kind of potential as a three-down workhorse running back, even in an era where more teams than ever are using running backs in committees.


3: Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State

Gordon burst onto the scene in 2023, winning the Doak Walker Award and earning unanimous All-American honors off the back of a 1,732-yard, 21-touchdown season. A 6-1, 211 pound back out of Fort Worth, Texas, Gordon played a backup role as a true freshman in 2022 before dominating college football as a sophomore. He has some areas of his game he needs to grow if he wants to be the first running back selected in the 2025 draft, but he’s set for a monster 2024 season nonetheless.

As a pure between-the-tackles runner, Gordon might be unmatched in this class. He knows how to pick defenses apart from behind the line of scrimmage, setting up his blocks and remaining patient until he finds the gaps he can exploit. He’s a bigger back with a strong frame but runs with a low pad level that makes him difficult to tackle. He wears on defenses over the course of games, remaining durable and fresh as tacklers get tired of slamming into him.


His physicality is impressive, but he’s not purely a power runner. He’s bursty and explosive as well, able to hit holes with a vengeance once he plants his foot. He routinely breaks off 20, 30, or even 40-yard runs. Once he gets moving north-south, he’s tough to tackle, and he can get upfield very quickly.

Gordon also possesses some third-down flexibility. He’s not an experienced pass-catcher but he has natural hands. This gives him some versatility, though NFL teams will want to see him develop his game more. He’s also a capable pass protector, both willing and able to pick up blitzers from the pocket when needed.

Despite being a natural runner with intriguing receiving abilities, there are three things holding Gordon back from being the top running back in this class going into the 2024 college football season. First, he lacks elite top-end speed. He can accelerate in an instant but will get caught from behind at times in the open field and sometimes fails to reach the corner against linebackers and cornerbacks. He loves to bounce runs to the outside, but he can’t always successfully stretch the run, and this can result in lost yardage.

Gordon also lacks premiere agility in the hole. He primarily breaks tackles by running through people, but there aren’t as many examples of him making defenders miss on tape as I’d like to see. Gordon can also get caught hunting too much for the big play, which leads to negative plays, even in short-yardage situations. He’s often reliant on his big plays to outweigh the times he gets stuffed at the line.


I have Gordon with a third-round grade right now, but this could improve if he builds off what he accomplished in 2023. He’s a gifted straight-line runner with good feel in the passing game. He plays with anticipation and patience, and if he can curtail his tendency to bounce to the outside all the time, he’ll be an effective NFL running back.

4: Donovan Edwards, Michigan

Edwards is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2023 campaign and looking to bounce back and boost his draft stock. A monster high school runner, Edwards made an impact at Michigan during his true freshman season but truly broke out his sophomore year in 2022, tallying almost 1,200 all-purpose yards. He’s played behind Blake Corum his entire career and the battled inconsistency in 2023. Corum is now with the Los Angeles Rams and Edwards returns for his senior season as the unquestioned leader in the Wolverines’ backfield.


Standing at 6-1 and 210, Edwards is a true dual-threat running back. He has excellent hands and is a weapon in the Michigan passing attack. He can run actual routes, though he’s not quite refined enough to reliably split out wide or in the slot full-time, and he can turn a screen or check-down into a big play. In the running game, he displays superb burst through the hole. Despite his taller frame, he’s elusive in the backfield and uses his superior acceleration to stop and start on a dime, using small cuts to break free from crowds of tacklers.

While he might ideally possess a little more mass at 6-1, Edwards is still a beast with a great strength profile. He runs through arm tackles with ease and is a load to bring down once he gets going. As previously mentioned, he’s an excellent cutter, using his agility to make defenders miss in the open field. He has great patience as he waits for plays to develop, but once he puts his foot in the ground, he’s gone. He’ll sometimes hit creases in the defense so fast that it makes you wonder how he saw them so quickly. He’s an underrated pass protector, as well, possessing ideal size, strength, and technique for the role.


Edwards is a patient runner, but sometimes that patience can turn into hesitancy. He tends to want to hit the big play, but in doing so can wait too long and get caught in the backfield. This can also lead to what many scouts have dubbed as “inconsistent vision.” I don’t think he’s not seeing these holes as much as he is passing up some of these opportunities in search of the big play. This kind of boom-or-bust mentality won’t fly in the NFL. He needs to learn to take what’s there.

Contact balance and top-end speed are the other things holding Edwards back as a prospect. He can run through arm tackles all day but doesn’t “pinball” off hits quite like some backs do. At 6-1 he’ll never have the lowest center of gravity, but if he can improve in this area, he’d be that much better. He also doesn’t have real breakaway speed. He accelerates very quickly but can get caught from behind on long runs and probably isn’t a threat to house an 80-yard run in the NFL.

Ultimately, Edwards can be inconsistent, but he’s a smart player with a high football IQ and refined technique. His hands, burst, size, agility, and pass protection are all NFL-caliber. He just needs to put it all together as the starter this year. Right now, I have him with a third-round grade. If he can learn to drive upfield a little faster and more consistently, he could easily be a top-50 pick.


5: TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State

Henderson was the toughest evaluation of all the backs I’ve watched so far for 2025. A rising senior, Henderson was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and burst onto the scene as a freshman. He broke multiple Ohio State school rushing records for freshmen and put the draft community on notice, setting himself up to be one of the top running backs in the 2024 draft.

Unfortunately, a foot injury derailed his sophomore campaign. He played through it for the most part, but it clearly hampered him. He was visibly less explosive and elusive in 2022 before eventually shutting it down and getting surgery. Henderson returned to the field in 2023 and looked much healthier. He did miss some time with an undisclosed injury, but he still played nine games and looked better than he did his sophomore season.


Explosiveness is the name of the game with Henderson. He’s an elite athlete at 5-10 and 212 pounds, and has an incredible feel for the game. He has true game-breaking, runaway speed to break open huge runs. He plays with great vision and patience, willing to set up his blocks, and will find holes and creases to maximize his carries. Henderson has great lateral quickness and agility, able to chop his feet and cut on a dime. He makes defenders miss in the open field, and one of his best traits is his contact balance. He plays with a low pad level and knows how to utilize his leverage. Arm tackles and lazy hits won’t bring him down. As a receiver, he has soft hands and can make things happen after the catch.

The question marks with Henderson, and why he’s my RB5, are mostly health-related. He had a great 2023 season but was still clearly hampered by injury. He needs to show scouts that he’s fully regained his pre-injury form. Additionally, he needs to get better at pass protection and route running. He’s a fine receiver but lacks a diverse route tree and is a liability when asked to stay in and pass protect. He’ll be played off the field in the NFL if he can’t improve in those areas, and he’s too talented for that.

I have a third-round grade on Henderson, and this is entirely due to health concerns. Were he coming off a fully healthy season, I’d tag him with a second-round grade. He has a lot of room to move up these rankings if he can stay healthy and bounce back. Ohio State has a crowded backfield this year, but Henderson doesn’t need to be the bell cow. He just needs to perform when called upon, and hopefully he has a chance to do that in 2024. If he can showcase the speed and acceleration he had in his freshman year, he might be the RB1 in this class and contend to be taken in the first round.


Best Of The Rest

6 – Jaydn Ott, California: Prototypical receiving back with electric speed. Better finisher of runs than you’d expect with decent pass protection skills.

7 – Trevor Etienne, Georgia: An undersized back with great receiving ability and elusiveness. Better between-the-tackles runner than most with his profile and can make anyone miss in a phone booth.

8 – Devin Neal, Kansas: Shifty receiving back with slot receiver versatility. Plays with excellent vision and quick feet, one of the better cut-back runners in this class.

9 – Omarion Hampton, North Carolina: Powerful runner with an elite build. Good burst with the expected power profile. Limited receiver with average speed and agility.

10 – Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech: Smart, quick runner with a bad habit of bouncing everything to the outside. Knows how to set up blocks and pick his holes. Powerful cutter with the burst to get upfield quickly.


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