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Houston Texans

Running Back Prospects at the 2021 Senior Bowl

It's the second installment of my Senior Bowl positional breakdown and it's a position the Texans haven't drafted since 2017 (D'Onta Foreman). Now, okay, sorry, Gilly, I forgot that the Texans did in fact draft you, Cullen Gillaspia, in 2019, but he's a fullback so, technically, I'm not wrong. 

Over the past few seasons, the Senior Bowl has featured Antonio Gibson (2020 - tremendous rookie campaign in Washington), Tony Pollard (2019), first rounder Rashaad Penny (2018), Darrel Williams (2018 - started last week's Divisional round playoff win for Kansas City), Kareem Hunt (2017 - leading rusher in the league as a rookie) and Jamaal Williams (2017 - Packers). That's a pretty stout group, but this year's group might be my favorite ever. As such, let's take a look at the running back group headed to Mobile next week.

Players headed to Mobile (as of 1/19/2021)
Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma (6-0, 246)
Trey Sermon, Ohio State (6-0, 224)
Michael Carter, North Carolina (5-10, 200)
Larry Rountree III, Missouri (5-10, 210)
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State (5-11, 215)
Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana (5-11, 218)
Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech (5-9, 212)

Weapon X Demetric Felton, UCLA (5-9, 185)
Fullback Ben Mason, Michigan (6-3, 254)

Fullbacks Matter - The closest thing we've seen to Pat Ricard (Ravens)
Mason - After watching Pat Ricard turn himself into a Pro Bowl fullback after a career as a defensive lineman, EVERYONE is looking for the next Ricard. Enter Mason. He started his Michigan career as a defensive end but by 2019 he moved over to the offensive side of the ball. Mason is an absolute destroyer with receiving ability, quite frankly, he's a smaller version of Ricard. As such, he's not 305 lb. like Ricard, but a fast moving aircraft carrier is still a fast moving aircraft carrier, if you catch my drift.

Ohhh, he's HOT!
Sermon - No running back, not named Najee Harris (Alabama), had as strong a finish to the season as Sermon. Unfortunately for Sermon and the Buckeyes, he was knocked out of the Championship game blowout loss to Alabama after just one carry. In the three game stretch prior to the Natty against Alabama, though, Sermon ran for 112, 331 and 193 yards and four total touchdowns. He also had four catches for 61 yards in the Semifinal win over Clemson (254 total yards and a touchdown). No running back's stock soared higher than Sermon, but that injury he suffered could eliminate any, and all, time on the field in Mobile.

Carter - The Tar Heel star opted out of the Orange Bowl against Texas A&M, but prior to that, he put on a record performance in that same Hard Rock Stadium against Miami. Carter ran through, and around, a feeble Miami defense to the tune of 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In fact, Carter ran for five touchdowns in his final two games (Miami & Western Carolina).

Rountree III - In three of his last four games, Rountree III ran for 121+ yards and eight touchdowns (Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Mississippi State). It felt as if he was at Missouri for a decade but he was incredibly productive throughout his entire career, especially in a strong finish to the 2020 season.

Intrigue Meter is high
Stevenson - He's as big as a fullback but he's every bit the tailback/ball carrier as any other back in Mobile. When I saw him, wearing #29 at Oklahoma, he immediately reminded me of LeGarrette Blount, one of the best big backs in the history of the NFL. Blount was a hammer in the run game, but he had the ability to make defenders miss too. Stevenson is much the same as he can wear down a defense, but take it to the house after making defenders miss him in space as well. He missed the first few games of the 2020 season serving a suspension for failing a drug test. When he returned, however, he changed the fortunes of the Sooners' 2020 season. 

Crush Alert - My positional crush - I have one every year at each position.
Felton - At the outset of his UCLA career, it appeared as if Felton was the perfect candidate to play slot receiver. He was great in that role until he moved over to running back and was even better. Quite honestly, it didn't matter whether he lined up in the backfield or in the slot or settled under punts/kicks, Felton changed games. With speed to burn and the insane ability to make defenders miss in a phone booth, Felton is tailor-made to be a factor on some team's offensive/special teams roster as a rookie. When he made the move to full-time running back in 2020, I was a tiny bit skeptical whether he could be as dynamic in the run game, but I needed to not worry because he was brilliant in every facet of the run game. I still think that he can be deployed all over the field in the future and every team in the league is looking for a player of his caliber and his explosive/dynamic abilities.

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