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Scouting combine: Top RB prospects compare themselves to NFL greats

D'Andre Swift had 1,434 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in 14 games during his final season at Georgia. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI
D'Andre Swift had 1,434 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in 14 games during his final season at Georgia. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Top college football running back prospects compared themselves to some of the NFL's best during the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Thirty running backs were invited to the league's annual examination of more than 300 prospects. Georgia's D'Andre Swift, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins are among the top players at the position.

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"Everybody is here for a reason," Swift said Wednesday. "I'm just blessed to be in this position with a lot of great backs in this draft class and be one of the top guys [running backs]."

Running backs who chose to attend the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine will participate in drills starting at 4 p.m. EST Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Those who opt into participating in the drills, including the 40-yard dash and cone drills, can be seen on TV at that time on NFL Network.

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Offensive linemen and special teams players also will work out Friday.

D'Andre Swift

Swift is widely regarded as the top running back prospect ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. The former Georgia star will follow a long line of former Bulldogs into the NFL, including Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Swift was known as one of the fastest Georgia players during his college tenure.

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He compares himself to LeSean McCoy and Christian McCaffrey, both known for their speed, quickness and pass-catching ability.

Swift was constantly working on his pass-catching skills while with the Bulldogs. He often stayed after practice, catching 50 to 100 balls to make sure he remained sure-handed. The 5-foot-8, 212-pound back also has drawn comparisons to Frank Gore, mostly because of his compact stature.

"I think I'm the most versatile running back in the draft class," Swift said. "I can do whatever I'm asked to do. God gave me a lot of ability."

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J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins -- listed at 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds -- is a versatile back who modeled his game after NFL star Adrian Peterson. He now tries to mimic Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey, who is arguably the most-dynamic running back in the NFL.

He exploded for 2,003 yards and 21 scores on 301 carries during his junior season at Ohio State before opting to leave college for the 2020 NFL Draft. His 2019 season-single yardage total set a Buckeyes record, passing marks left by Ezekiel Elliott, Eddie George, Archie Griffin and other Ohio State legends.

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Dobbins sustained a high-ankle sprain in December and said he "feels pretty good," but declined to say if he was 100 percent healthy. He said he could save his 40-yard dash for Ohio State's March 25 pro day if he doesn't run for NFL front offices at the combine.

He said he has talked to the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, but hasn't met with the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles or Pittsburgh Steelers.

"If I were to go first round in the NFL Draft, it would show the value of running backs isn't down," said Dobbins, referencing the narrative that NFL teams are moving away for high-salary running backs. "A lot of people think that, but i don't.

"We do a lot of things on the field. We help our teams win. The Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs [used running backs to go far into the playoffs]. The Chiefs closed out the Super Bowl with a running back [touchdown]."

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Edwards-Helaire broke out for 1,414 yards and 16 scores on the ground to help the Clemson Tigers win a national title in 2020. He also had 453 receiving yards, the most among the top running back prospects in the 2020 draft class.

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The 5-foot-7, 207-pound playmaker has drawn comparisons to longtime Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who always have been dynamic playmakers out of the backfield.

He grew up trying to play like Marshall Faulk, Kevin Faulk and Maurice Jones-Drew. He now compares himself to Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs.

"He's a guy that is versatile," Edwards-Helaire said of Jacobs. "He came out [in 2019] and was able to do everything asked of him. Pass protections and being able to catch the ball were things he prided himself on."

Edwards-Helaire admits that Jacobs is a little bigger, at 5-foot-10 and 220-pounds, but said he has studied players with similar games to improve on his body position leverage against defenders while running routes.

"Me being able to catch the ball is something that sets me apart [from the other running back prospects]," Edwards-Helaire said.

Jonathan Taylor

Taylor, who racked up a lot carries at Wisconsin, has drawn comparisons to Ryan Mathews. Mathews spent most of his career with the San Diego Chargers and showed glimpses of fantastic ability, but couldn't stay on the field because of numerous injuries.

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Taylor matched Dobbins' yardage total of 2003 yards in 2019, but needed 19 more carries to do so. Unlike Dobbins, Taylor put together back-to-back seasons with at least 2,000 rushing yards. The 5-foot-10, 226-pound running back is just the second player in college football history to accomplish that feat, matching former Iowa State running back Troy Davis.

Taylor said he added more understanding of offensive schemes during his final year with the Badgers. He also improved his patience as a runner, waiting for the blocks in front of him to develop before running through holes created by his offensive line.

He has had meetings with the Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons.

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