Ranking Top Running Backs For NFL Draft
|Date & Time||Sunday March 27, 2016, 10:00 PM (EDT)|
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Running backs aren’t treated the same in the NFL draft as they have been in the past, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of teams looking for difference makers in the backfield. The 2016 class has a lot of very good running backs to choose from, including a couple who are guaranteed to go in the first round.
Here are the top-10 running backs for the 2016 NFL draft.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State - Ezekiel Elliott is the most polished runner in this class and is somebody who could be selected in the top-10. Elliott has a great first step, quick burst in and out of his cuts, and he runs with terrific pad level that allows him to get the most out of his runs. Elliott is also a proven winner who usually plays at his best in big moments or games. The only real knock on Elliott is that he doesn’t have the elite speed you’d like to see from a franchise back, but there’s just so much to like from the former Buckeye.
2. Derrick Henry, Alabama - You don’t often see running backs 6’2”, 250 pounds, but that’s what Derrick Henry is. Henry is the size of a linebacker and punishes ball carries with his physical style of play, often never going down on initial contact and a guy who wears down the defense. Henry is a downhill runner, oldschool back who also gets better later in games once he gets warmed up. Henry does run high and isn’t that elusive, but nobody in the NFL is going to want to tackle this guy 30 times a game. Henry is another back who could get selected in the first round.
3. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech - Kenneth Dixon is very impressive, as he’s built extremely well, gets to top end speed rather quickly and is very elusive in the open field. What also separates Dixon from the rest of these runners is that he’s a polished receiver who runs solid routes and catches just about everything thrown his way. Dixon also breaks more tackles than you’d expect from someone his size. The one concern with Dixon is that he was the workhorse for the Bulldogs, racking up nearly 900 total touches. Other than that, I see Dixon with possible Pro Bowl potential if put in the right system.
4. Alex Collins, Arkansas - Alex Collins is a one-cut runner who plays angry and with a ton of heart. Collins does not like to be tackled and is going to fight for every single yard. Collins makes quick decisions and actually gets to top speed rather fast for somebody his build. Collins is a tough runner who is going to succeed due to his work ethic and passion for the game. The concerns with Collins is that he doesn’t run with great balance and did have ball security issues with the Razorbacks.
5. DeVontae Booker, Utah - DeVontae Booker was one of my favorite running backs in college due to his no nonsense running style and despite speed that catches defenders by surprise. Booker hits the hole hard and is very tough to bring down with arm tackles. Booker runs with great balance and also has above-average leaping ability. The concerns with Booker is that he did rack up 560 carries in two seasons and is coming off a torn meniscus. Without those two things, Booker is a lock for an early round pick.
6. Jordan Howard, Indiana - Jordan Howard is somebody who has deceptive speed and quickness in the open field. Howard runs with great vision and has a little power to his running style to where he’s not afraid to lower his pads and pick up more yards. While his numbers don’t show it, Howard has shown flashes of being a decent receiver who can contribute out of the backfield. Decision making, ability to block consistently and injuries are the concerns with Howard.
7. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas - Jonathan Williams is a big back who likes to run north and south, and he has rare lateral quickness for a guy his size. Williams doesn’t go down with arm tackles and is usually money in short yardage situations. Williams has also shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his body after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Williams’ health is obviously a concern, and he needs to run with lower pad level. If those two check out, Williams could be a steal in the 2016 NFL draft.
8. Paul Perkins, UCLA - Paul Perkins is a patient and natural running back who sees the field well and waits for his blocks to set up. Once he hits the hole, Perkins is very explosive and does a nice job of getting to the second level quickly. Perkins has shown he’s a capable blocker and can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Perkins may be the most underrated running back in this class with all of the little things he does well. The concern with Perkins is that he is on the small side of 5’10” and durability is a concern.
9. Kenyan Drake, Alabama - It’s not often you see a running back who stands in at 6’1” and is capable of running a 4.4. That’s Kenyan Drake. Drake may be the most explosive running back in this class who has a second gear that even NFL defenders are going to struggle to keep up. Drake is one of those players coaches find creative ways to get the ball, and unlike a lot of Alabama players in the past, he wasn’t overused. The concern with Drake is that he isn’t a natural running back, more of an athlete capable of lining up at the position.
10. Keith Marshall, Georgia - Keith Marshall was one of the highest recruited players in high school but was often overshadowed by Todd Gurley. Don’t let the lack of hype now fool you. As you saw at the NFL combine, Marshall has elite speed and is damn near impossible to tackle once he gets a defender on an island. Marshall won’t get caught from behind too often, and he’s also shown the ability to catch the ball well. Marshall would be an absolute steal in the mid rounds due to his game changing speed.