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2016 RB Rankings

April 28, 2016

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  1. Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State 5’11 ¾ 225 Jr. He ran a 4.47 40 which is elite for a RB of his size. His ‘10 ¼ hands are huge, tied for the biggest amongst all running backs at the Combine, and is good to see as big hands usually means few fumbles. He had 1,821 yds rushing in 2015 which would be in the running for tops in the country most years. Last year it was only good for 5th but at 6.3 ypc he did it very efficiently. I also love how consistent he is as he had 1,878 yds in 2014 on 6.88 ypc. Considering how different his 2014 and 2015 offenses were, it is a testament to his pure talent that he could excel in any situation. Teams in 2015 knew Ohio State struggled throwing the ball, they stacked the box and Elliott still exploded on them. Michigan State and Hawaii (38-0 win so not necessarily a valid game to complain about) were the only teams that held him to under 4.3 ypc. As a runner he’s a complete back as he’s a good pass blocker, pass catcher out of the backfield, he can lower his shoulder to get tough yards and then he can break a long one to the end zone. His 2015 Indiana game is impressive as he broke numerous long runs and each one wasn’t just a wide open hole he raced through but a cut here, a broken tackle there and then he was in the open field and couldn’t be caught. His lateral quickness and vision are rare for a back with his strength and quickness. He can juke guys and leap over guys but he doesn’t get too fancy with his footwork and usually is one cut and go. NFL teams will like that N/S style he has. Purely on talent his ceiling isn’t as high as Todd Gurley’s was last year, who I openly stated had Hall of Fame potential, but Elliott is one of the most talented backs to come out of college in quite awhile and he’s very safe too. He doesn’t lack the burst that resulted in Trent Richardson being a bust, he isn’t injury prone like Gurley and he dodges people and avoids punishment unlike next year’s Top 5 pick Leonard Fournette. Elliott projects as a future Pro Bowl running back who will excel as a runner and receiver. He’s the rare prospect that can both be called one of the flashiest players in a draft and also one of the safest as a prospect. Top 10 as my #1 RB 4/27/16.
  2. Derrick Henry Alabama 6’2 ⅝ 247 Jr. 2015 Heisman Trophy Winner with 2,219 yds rushing on 5.62 ypc with 28 TDs. His Combine was freakish as his size is so big the best comparison wasn’t between him and other running backs but between him and pass rusher Von Miller. Henry at 247 lbs ran a 4.54 40, ‘37 vertical and 10’10 broad with Miller at 246 lbs running a 4.53 40, ‘37 vertical and 10’6 broad. Miller is one of the best athletes in the league and Henry basically matched his Combine (Miller’s quickness drills were far superior to Henry’s). On film Henry is just a behemoth of a man. It takes him a bit of time to get going and he doesn’t have great lateral quickness but he has legit 4.5 speed as he made countless breakaways against NFL caliber defenders. He also is more slippery with his long legs than you would think and can often step out of tackles. His best attribute though, obviously, is his frame and size which allows him to be a true workhorse back. He had 395 carries last year and it didn’t seem to faze him as in his final 4 games he carried the ball 46, 44, 20 and 36 times. Only against Michigan State (the 20 carry game) did he have less than 150 yards rushing and those were some of the biggest games of the year and his career. Negative wise he wasn’t the most efficient runner with his 5.62 ypc being well below Eddie Lacy’s 6.48-7.25 ypc in his three seasons and much more similar to Trent Richardson’s 5.20-6.25 ypc for his three seasons. He only had 91 receiving yards last year and doesn’t project to ever be a three down back. Not surprisingly he reminds me of another former Alabama back, Eddie Lacy, in that they are one dimensional yet they are so good at that one thing, running in between the tackles, that they are still in the 1st round conversation. Due to his size he is a very good pass protector. Henry is a scary prospect to evaluate as he is an elite athlete with rare size that could become an All-Pro at the next level. Yet the NFL is becoming more and more a passing league, he has no ability as a receiver, he won’t get force fed the ball 30x a game at the next level, his efficiency as a runner isn’t great and the past three highly touted Alabama backs have not been terribly successful. Overall I think Henry is a superior athlete and talent than the other Alabama backs and he ran behind an offensive line that was very average outside the center and left tackle spot. Watching the tape Henry made a lot of those yards on his own as he regularly gained yards after contact and really surprised defenses week in and week out with how fast he was in the open field. His one dimensional nature makes him an unnatural fit in many offenses but he could be an All-Pro in the right one if featured. Late 1st round as my #2 RB 4/28/16.
  3. Jonathan Williams Arkansas 5’11 220 Sr. In 2014 when he and Collins were both healthy he looked like the more NFL caliber back. Williams missed all of 2015 with a foot injury. He is still recovering and didn’t work out at the Combine. Of the two I always like Williams more than Collins as he’s stronger, smoother and has more of a look of a lead back. He isn’t a great athlete, likely would have had a 4.6 40, but he is a bigger back that breaks a lot of tackles so he’s able to act like he’s coming right at you, the defender lowers himself for impact and then he makes a small cut to get by. It’s a unique move and is really effective. I see potential for him to be a low level starter but at worst he should be a quality #2 RB and could be a good pairing with a smaller, more explosive back. Mid 3rd round as my #3 RB 4/28/16.
  4. CJ Prosise Notre Dame 6’0 ½ 220 Jr. Redshirted one year. He ran a 4.48 40 which is very good at his size and his ‘35 ½ vertical and 10’1 broad were all above average. He had 1,029 yds rushing on 6.55 ypc with 308 yds receiving in 2015. It was his only season with significant playing time at RB as he was a WR his first two seasons at Notre Dame. He’s a size/speed guy as he is very raw with limited vision and without great cutting ability. He could be successful in the NFL though as a one cut and go type runner as he has a noticeable burst to him and makes some runs that wow you. His ypc was very good and his 1,029 yds rushing is impressive when you realize he got almost all of that in the first 7 games of the year. What isn’t impressive is why he got almost all of those yards in that time frame as he was basically worthless the last 6 games due to injuries from a concussion to a shoulder injury. Prosise is clearly still learning the RB position and is noticeably raw. His size/speed ratio is borderline elite though and he projects as a backup RB early in his career with the potential to be a high end starter down the road as he gets more comfortable in the position. Unfortunately his odds of becoming that high end starter are low as he just doesn’t have very good vision, lacks any real power behind his pads despite his 220 listed weight and has a Roy Helu type game which is more tease than substance. That being said size/speed can’t be taught and he has one of the better ratios in this weak RB draft class so he could go early. Mid 3rd round as my #4 RB 4/27/16.
  5. Kenneth Dixon Louisiana Tech 5’10 ⅛ 215 Sr. He ran a 4.58 40 which isn’t surprising as he isn’t a speed back on film either. The rest of his Combine impressed me though with a ‘37 ½ vertical and 6.97 3 cone. He had a great freshman year with 1,194 yds rushing on 5.97 ypc yet plateaued from there with his next three seasons getting him 917-1,299 yds on 5.13-6.07 ypc. He never took that next step which I thought he would but in hindsight it’s probably because he was never a great talent to begin with. He looks the part of an NFL running back with perfect height/weight. He has good vision and a smooth running style to him that makes him look faster than he is. He lacks a great burst but he is quick and is adept at cutting suddenly which gives him a little shiftiness. Watching his film vs. Prosise or Booker is a breath of fresh air as he has less talent than them but he’s just a much better runner and knows what he’s doing. He has good thickness to him and plays with good pad level but he isn’t a bulldozer and is only average at yards after contact. He reminds me of Tashard Choice and will likely have a similar career as he’s an experienced runner that has solid athleticism, good vision and can make people miss with his cutting ability. He lacks the size or athleticism to be a quality starter but he can provide good insurance to a team as a #2 back and could handle a bell cow like workload for a few weeks if the starter went down with an injury. Mid 3rd round as my #5 RB 4/27/16.
  6. Jordan Howard Indiana 5’11 ⅞ 230 Jr. He didn’t run at the Combine but had a ‘34 vertical and 10’2 broad both of which were above average. He transferred from UAB where he 881 and 1,587 yd seasons to Indiana in 2015 (1,213 yds rushing on 6.19 ypc with only 106 receiving yds). Howard is a thick back that runs downhill. He has decent speed, likely runs a high 4.5/low 4.6, but isn’t a complete back by any stretch as he has terrible lateral quickness and isn’t experienced as a receiver. As an inside runner though he’s one of the best in this draft as he doesn’t go down on arm tackles and really lays the wood on people. Also just as you think he’s purely a power back he shows just enough speed and vision to beat you in other ways. Power is his calling card though and he projects as a thunder to someone’s lightning in a running back by committee type situation. He will excel on short yardage and goal lines runs and then can be sprinkled in 5-10x more a game to give a running game some power while resting the more athletic, flashier back. Howard’s strengths and limitations are abundantly clear. In the right system and with the right running back pairing he could be effective. Late 3rd round as my #6 RB 4/27/16.
  7. Devontae Booker Utah 5’11 219 Sr. Redshirted one year. 5 years out of HS so he’s an older prospect. He didn’t run at the Combine due to a late season knee injury. In 2015 he had 1,261 yd rushing on 4.71 ypc with 318 yds as a receiver. It wasn’t as good as his 2014 season (1,512 yds rushing on 5.18 ypc with 311 as a receiver) with neither ypc being all that good, especially in the Pac-12 where defenses aren’t considered as stout as in the SEC or even possibly Big Ten. Booker shows good speed on film, likely running a high 4.4, low 4.5 which is very solid for his frame. At 219 lbs he’s a thicker back but on film he has a long gait which isn’t terribly common for a running back. He’s a lefty and throws a good spiral on trick plays. He has good speed and runs aggressively, has a bit of recklessness to his running style, but his long legs, thinner frame and mediocre pad level don’t impress me. He’s a slippery back and cuts well but he gets few yards after contact which is again strange for his 219 weight. Going back I reviewed his listed weight at Utah and it was only 203 in 2014 and 213 in 2015 so the 219 weight could easily be different from his playing weight. On film he reminds me a bit of Isaiah Pead, the former 2nd round bust for the Rams. There are a lot of mediocre runs on film with Booker. Some of it has to do with an offense that wasn’t dynamic but part of it is that he doesn’t have great speed, doesn’t have good vision and has no power to his game. His running style is awkward and he seems almost like a wide receiver playing running back at times. Some view him as a very good prospect and the #3 RB in this draft, I do not. Early 4th round as my #7 RB who looks like a change of pace back at the next level due to his herky jerky running style and poor pad level which likely will make him injury prone 4/27/16.
  8. Alex Collins Arkansas 5’10 217 Jr. He’s the more explosive of the Arkansas backs. He ran a 4.59 40 which isn’t as good as I expected. His explosion drills were below average. He was the change of pace back to Jonathan Williams until 2015 when Williams was hurt and it gave him unlimited touches. He responded with the same efficiency (5.39-5.82 ypc all three seasons) but upped his rushing total from 1026-1100 to 1,577. He is quick footed and has a little juke to him. He doesn’t have good strength and isn’t an elite athlete, quicker than fast, so he looks like a #2 RB in the NFL which makes sense as that basically was his role in college. I also am not thrilled with his ypc as he had a very solid OL in front of him. Mid 4th round as my #8 RB 4/28/16.
  9. Tyler Ervin San Jose State 5’9 ⅞ 192 Sr. Redshirted one year. 5 years out of HS so he’s an older prospect. He ran a blazing 40 (4.41) and showed elite athleticism with his vertical (‘39) and broad jump (10’10). Barely played his first three years (1 redshirt) and then had 888 yds and 1,601 yds rushing. His ypc of 5.45 his last year was mediocre. He’s extremely thin and is more like a WR than a RB. He has true gamebreaking speed and just blows by people in the open field. He should be a good kick returner. He played a weak schedule but his speed looked elite against teams like Auburn too. He is similar to a Dri Archer type as he can be a little bit RB, a little bit slot receiver. His speed is elite and if used correctly he could be an impact player but these types of guys have such a high bust rate and Ervin seems injury prone to me as his frame and lack of strength is even more obvious than other guys in this mold. Late 4th round as my #9 RB who is a Dri Archer type scat back with elite speed 4/28/16.
  10. Kenyan Drake Alabama 6’0 ⅝ 210 Sr. He ran a 4.45 40 which is very good but I was expecting a little better. His ‘34 ½ vertical and 10’3 broad were very good too. You could immediately tell when Drake came onto the field as his athleticism was impressive. After his 2013 season where he had few touches but averaged 7.54 ypc and 11.25 ypr I expected big things yet he missed almost the entire season in 2014 due to injury and didn’t seem to be 100% in 2015. That being said he looks the part of a change of pace back as he’s an elite athlete with a lack of strength, lack of vision and who is injury prone. There are a lot of guys like that on NFL rosters as #3 RBs who get 3-5 touches a game and sometimes make an impact. Drake will be that guy and should be drafted according to his low visibility role. Some people might still think of Drake as a late bloomer with starter potential but they are mistaken as he’s shown his true colors, he’s a tease and can’t be counted on for consistent production. Late 5th round as my #10 RB who is a good late round addition to a backfield due to his elite athleticism 4/28/16.
  11. Kelvin Taylor Florida 5’10 ¼ 207 Jr. Son of Fred Taylor. He was a big time recruit coming out of HS. He ran a 4.60 40 (below average) and was below average in his explosion drills as well. In all three of his seasons he averaged less than 5.0 ypc which is atrocious for college. He has great quickness and is an elite cutter but he just doesn’t have much of a burst and looks like a 4.6 guy with great cutting ability. I think his vision and cutting ability will get him a backup roster spot on some team but he just lacks the athleticism to ever be more than that. Mid 6th round as my #11 RB 4/28/16.
  12. Daniel Lasco California 6’0 ¼ 209 Sr. Redshirted one year. 5 years out of HS so he’s an older prospect. He ran a 4.46 40 with a rare ‘41 ½ vertical and 11’3 broad! IN 3 of his 4 seasons he had under 400 yards rushing with 2014 (1,115 on 5.31 ypc) being his big season. In 2015 he had a hip injury that kept him under wraps even when he was able to make it on the field. Late round flier type that likely won’t be drafted despite his elite measurables. Mid 7th round as my #12 RB 4/28/16.
  13. Paul Perkins UCLA 5’10 ⅜ 208 Jr. Redshirted one year. He ran a 4.54 40 and was mediocre in the explosion drills as well. He had back to back seasons with +1,300 yds yet his ypc declined from 6.27 in 2014 to 5.67 in 2015. He also had an elite OL to run behind throughout his career. He has no burst for a guy of his small stature. He has good vision and is surprisingly tough for his size but he doesn’t look like an NFL runner to me. Free Agent as my #13 4/28/16.
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