List of top NFL rookie running backs includes Pitt’s Qadree Ollison |
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Joe Rutter

An ranking of the top five projected rookie running backs this season includes someone who has spent time working out on the fields at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Hint: It is not Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie Benny Snell Jr.

Rather, former Pitt running back Qadree Ollison made the list compiled by NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt, the longtime player personnel director for the Dallas Cowboys.

Ollison, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons, is ranked No. 5 on Brandt’s list. Brandt projects 96 carries, 391 yards and seven rushing touchdowns for Ollison in his rookie season.

Brandt expects Ollison to get on the field despite the presence of Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith on the Falcons roster.

Here is a portion of what Brandt wrote about Ollison:

“Freeman has struggled to stay healthy, and both he and Smith lack the ideal size for short-yardage situations, which is where the 6-1, 228-pound Ollison can find a niche. It is true that, after a strong freshman season (1,121 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns), Ollison’s production dipped quite a bit in 2016 (127 yards, two scores) and ‘17 (398 and 5). However, in fairness to him, that period coincided with fluctuations on the offensive line. Ollison did run pretty well last season, putting up 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns (an average of 6.3 yards per carry). And the fact that he served as the primary protector on Pitt’s punt team bodes well for his ability to contribute to the passing game as a blocker. Finally, he’s capable of catching the ball, as well, which could make him dangerous in Dirk Koetter’s offense.”

The top-rated rookie running back on Brandt’s list is David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears. Josh Jacobs of the Oakland Raiders is second, followed by Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys, Darrell Henderson of the Los Angeles Rams and Ollison.

Brandt’s “dark-horse candidate” is Devin Singletary of the Buffalo Bills.

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