April 10, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
The Top 5 Running Backs in the 2016 NFL Draft
In the 2013 and 2014 NFL Drafts there wasn’t a running back drafted in the first round. Last year the running back class was good and we saw two get selected in the first. Todd Gurley from Georgia went 10th overall to the Rams and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon went at 15 to the San Diego Chargers. This year I feel that we will again see two backs selected in the opening round of this year’s Draft. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott and Alabama’s Derrick Henry should both be gone by the end of the first day of the Draft on April 28th. Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State At 6000 – 225 with 4.47 speed, Zeke Elliott has the size. Speed, power and run instincts to become a very good NFL running back. In three seasons at Ohio State Elliott ran for over 3900 yards and 43 touchdowns. He is quick to the hole with excellent vision and instincts. He seldom makes a poor decision. He shows the ability to create and has the power to consistently break tackles and get yards after first contact. As a receiver he has soft hands and can work to uncover. When asked to pass block he will face up his opponent and can anchor. There really isn’t anything he doesn’t do well. Some analysts feel he is a legitimate top 10 selection. I’m not quite that high but I do feel he should go in the 10 to 15 area. While he is very good, he isn’t special like an Adrian Peterson. If a club is going to use a top 10 pick on a running back, he has to be “special”. Derrick Henry – Alabama It’s no secret that every year Alabama recruits some of the best running backs coming out of high school. In their 2013 recruiting class, they got one of the best in Derrick Henry. While some players never live up to the high school hype. Henry did. In his first two years at Alabama he had to play in a rotation with another top recruit T.J. Yeldon. With Yeldon off to the NFL following the 2014 season, Henry got his chance to be the bell cow in 2015. He responded with 2219 yards and 26 touchdowns. When you watch Henry play, it’s hard to come up with a player that is similar. The one I feel he is closest to form the past id Eddie George. Like George, Henry has rare size to go along with outstanding speed for one so big (4.54). He is an outstanding inside runner with top vision/instincts. Henry can move the pile and get the tough yards and can also take it the distance if a seam is there. With his size and power, Henry wears a defense down and he is actually better in the fourth quarter than he is in the first. Not only can Henry be productive as runner but he is very reliable as a receiver and is an outstanding blocker. While I know there are some who feel he is overrated, I can’t help but laugh at that notion. Derrick Henry will be a feared running back in the NFL starting next September. Alex Collins – Arkansas Like Henry and Elliot, Collins was highly recruited out of high school and he lived up to the hype. The 5010 – 217 pound back ran for over 1000 yards in each of his three seasons at Arkansas. He finished 2015 with 1577 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also has 13 pass receptions. Collins runs with good lean and is quick to the hole and is a very good decision maker. He is patient, with quick feet. Excellent cutback skills and jump cut ability. He is not a speedster (4.59) but he is quick and has a burst. Collins is best as an explosive inside runner who can consistently get yards after contact. He also shows that he can make defenders miss both in - tight and in space. Alex is a very reliable receiver and a willing blocker but he will need work on his pass blocking technique. Can start for a team with a need as a rookie. Jordan Howard – Indiana Howard began his career at Alabama – Birmingham and then transferred to Indiana for the 2015 season after UAB dropped football. His final year at UAB he ran for 15 87 yards and in only 9 games at Indiana he had 1213 yards. Howard has size and power (6000 – 230) to go along with fairly good speed (4.62). He is a productive inside runner who can get the tough yards and move the pile. As an outside runner, he shows vision and patience but lacks the top end speed to be a break away type. I see him starting out as a rotational back and he should become a solid starter in his second or third year. C.J. Prosise – Notre Dame When you look at the numbers that Prosise put up in 2015, it’s hard to believe that he has played the running back position for less than a year. He came to Notre Dame as a safety, then moved to wide receiver before making the switch to running back for the 2015 season. As a rookie running back he ran for 1032 yards, 11 touchdowns and a long run of 95 yards. At 6000 – 220 with 4.48 speed he has the natural traits to be an outstanding NFL runner. While he is still raw, his upside is unlimited. What impressed me the most about Prosise, is his natural run instincts. He makes quick decisions and has the elusiveness to make people miss both in tight quarters and in space. Once he gets in space he’s gone with his speed and acceleration. On the negative side, Prosise runs tall and needs work on his pass blocking. He shows a willingness to block but needs to use his hands better and learn how to position himself. These will come as he gains experience at the position. Because of his inexperience at the position I don’t see him playing in a rotation as a rookie but if progresses the way I feel he will, he will be a solid starter by year two.