INDIANAPOLIS — LSU running back Derrius Guice hopes one message gets through in his individual meetings with teams this week during the NFL Scouting Combine.

"If you don't draft me," Guice said Thursday at the Indiana Convention Center, "I'm going to give your defense hell."

That can serve as a mission statement of sorts for the running back class as a whole.

There's plenty of depth behind Penn State's Saquon Barkley, and the soon-to-be rookie rushers are anxious to prove it.

Guice, Southern Cal's Ronald Jones and Georgia teammates Sony Michel and Nick Chubb follow Barkley on NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock's initial list of the top-five running backs.

But many decision makers believe there will be talent available on all three days of next month's draft.

"It’s a good looking crew," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said. "It’s guys that have different skill sets. Guys that can carry the ball, guys that can catch. You know, one underrated aspect of this running back class as I go through it is pass protection.

"It’s something that a lot of these guys are skilled at. With the passing games in college, which is really the key to most offenses, they have more experience in pass protection. So, it’s a little bit easier to get the evaluation done."

Nearly every running back that spoke to the media Thursday mentioned pass protection in one form or another.

They also want to prove they can catch the ball out of the backfield and be productive in the passing game.

The more you can do, the more value you have to teams.

In that area, Jones might lead the pack. He's often compared to Jamaal Charles, and his versatility could help some teams look past his relative lack of size.

"Impact. Dynamic playmaker," Jones said, listing his strengths. "I can catch, run, return, line me up wherever. I can do it all, just trying to help the team win."

The order after Barkley is subject to much debate. But the recent rise of the position in the eyes of NFL evaluators is not.

Impact rookies like Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt proved again in 2017 that plenty of talent is available after the first round.

And the recent run of success by young rushers has this year's class dreaming big.

"I think over the past few years, the running backs have done a great job of coming in on an NFL level to kind of put the position in a better situation," Chubb said. "Using the running backs a lot more in the passing game, things like that, so those guys definitely helped out in that area."


UTEP's Will Hernandez wowed scouts Thursday with 37 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press to lead the offensive line prospects.

Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson and Auburn's Braden Smith finished with 35 reps, and Appalachian State's Colby Gossett had 32. Virginia Tech's Wyatt Teller rounded out the top five with 30.

It was an impressive display of power, even if Hernandez was not fully impressed.

"I’ve done better in the past," he said. "But it was definitely around the number that I wanted to get. But I still think I could have done a little more."


Connor Williams was the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle in this class coming into the season. But injuries limited his time on the field, and now there are questions whether the former Texas star will be selected in the first round.

He's not concerning himself with any of the rumors, however, as he goes through the draft process.

"It’s not anything in my control," Williams said. "I mean it’s me performing my best, and I don’t need to pay any attention to the outside."

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