Whether they played for Group of Five or FCS programs, there are plenty of promising prospects in this year’s NFL Draft who didn’t play in the Power Five conferences.
Here’s a look at some of the best Group of Five running backs who might not go in the first round but could end up providing key contributions for a pro team sometime in the near future.
1. Tyjae Spears of Tulane
Spears had easily the best season of his career in 2022.
He was the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,528 yards and 19 touchdowns on 213 attempts, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He also caught 20 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns.
In his final collegiate game, Spears ran for 205 yards and four touchdowns against USC in the Cotton Bowl, becoming the Cotton Bowl Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Now he’s looking to continue that momentum in the pro ranks, and might be drafted as high as the third round.
Read more: NFL Draft: Tulane’s Tyjae Spears Should Benefit From A Great Final Season
2. DeWayne McBride of UAB
McBride may not quite be “under the radar” because he’s considered by many as a top-five running back prospect. But that’s only after his All-American season last year.
McBride was the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year after leading the country with 1,713 rushing yards. He was also second with 19 rushing touchdowns.
McBride may have to develop his pass-catching abilities, as he only hauled in two passes in 2022, but he would be an exciting pick for any NFL team after the second round.
Read more: NFL Draft: UAB’s DeWayne McBride A Top Running Back Prospect
3. Keaton Mitchell of East Carolina
Mitchell enjoyed more than just one breakout season at ECU. He was a first-team All-AAC running back in 2021 and 2022.
In 2021, Mitchell ran for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He was even better last season, totaling 1,452 yards and 14 touchdowns with a 7.2 yards-per-carry average.
Mitchell is also versatile, as he caught 27 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown last season and chipped in 15 receptions for 167 yards in 2021. He could also contribute on special teams as he returned some kicks in college.
Mitchell was fun to watch at ECU. He might be selected on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, but he would be extremely valuable if he’s still available on Day 3.
Read more: NFL Draft: Keaton Mitchell A Late-Round Sleeper At RB
4. Camerun Peoples of Appalachian State
Peoples has been one of the best running backs in the Sun Belt for the past three seasons.
In 2020, he rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, both good for first in the conference. The following year, he was third in the Sun Belt with 926 rushing yards and first with 14 rushing touchdowns. Last season, he rushed for 593 yards and five touchdowns.
He was on the All-Sun Belt second team twice in his career. He might fall to Day 3 of the draft, but he would be a good addition that late.
Read more: NFL Draft: Camerun Peoples Is A Late-Round Option At Running Back
5. Deneric Prince of Tulsa
Prince played well in limited games last season at Tulsa.
In eight contests in 2022, Prince paced the team with 729 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The year before, he ran for 524 yards and five touchdowns on 100 carries. He also caught 16 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown over the course of the past two seasons.
Prince will probably fall to one of the later rounds in the NFL Draft, but he could provide some important depth for an NFL team.
Read more: NFL Draft: Tulsa RB Deneric Prince – A Potential Sleeper