Compared to the RB group of a year ago, you can say that it’s definitely stronger with depth at the top with three very good backs in Booker, Elliot, and Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry.
Running Backs not listed include Kenyan Drake of Alabama, Kelvin Taylor of Florida, and CJ Posise of Notre Dame.
1. Derrick Henry/Alabama
2015 Stats: 15 games, 395 carries, 2,219yards, 28TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Brandon Jacobs to Eddie George
Grade: 93/100: Experts: 2nd/3rd round, My Grade: Top 20
Derrick Henry was the iron horse for the Alabama Crimson Tide and they rolled over many good defense along the way to his Heisman Trophy season. He’s the best Bama RB since Shaun Alexander and has a similar skill set to Alexander and George.
What I Like: I actually like the fact that he runs through and around would-be tacklers. He was also only a full-time starter until TJ Yeldon left for the draft last season. Like Elliot, he’s very good in pass protection, his H-Back like size helps too. Give this guy the ball 25-30 times in a December game in the cold and the QB will love you.
What I Don’t Like: He doesn’t accelerate well but he’s pretty fast for a guy his size. His pad level can be a bit high at times. He’s unproven as a receiver but he’s not bust.
Best Team Fits: Dallas, New England, Seattle
2. Ezekiel Elliot/Ohio State
2015 Stats: 13 games, 289 carries, 1,821 yards, 23TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Lamar Miller to Jamaal Charles
Grade: 90/100: Experts Top 15, My Grade: Top 20
The gap between Henry and Elliot are minuscule, and they’re also totally different backs. Elliot played a role in which he was a catalyst for the Buckeyes offense. Back-to-back 1,800 yard seasons has shown his consistency to maintain success.
What I Like: As a Buckeyes fan, he’s just special when he can get to the second level, whether as a runner or as a receiver. Unlike Henry, he accelerates to the hole thanks to a quick first step. As a receiver he can make an impact, and as a blocker he can resemble Marshall Faulk with his intelligence.
What I Don’t Like: He did complain about carries after a loss to Michigan State, which concerns me. He also wouldn’t be a fit in a pro-style offense. He’s no Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson.
Best Team Fits: Giants, Oakland, Washington
3. Devontae Booker/Utah
2015 Stats: 10 games, 268 carries, 1,261 yards, 11TDs
Best to Worst: Tre Mason to Doug Martin
Grade: 86/100, Experts: 3rd round, My Grade: early 2nd
Devontae Booker is a back that came from junior college and came out firing in 2014. He had back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons but injuries did hamper his senior season for Utah.
What I Like: He’s very multi-faceted. As a runner, he has the best pad level of any back in this draft. As a receiver, he has solid hands and the ability to make guys miss consistently 1 on 1. As a blocker, he’s a willing blocker to the point where he can release to a WR.
What I Don’t Like: The injury has hurt his draft stock but his wear and tear of 20-26 carries a game could be a detriment.
Team Fits: New England, Miami, Chicago
4. Alex Collins/Arkansas
2015 Stats: 13 games, 271 carries, 1,577 yards, 20TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Ryan Williams to Corey Dillion
Grade: 84/100, Experts: Late 2nd/4th round, My Grade 2nd round
Alex Collins is one of only three SEC RBs to ever rush for over a 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, but when you play in the same conference as Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette, and Derrick Henry it’s very easy to see how Collins can fly under the radar.
What I Like: Collins runs like he’s runs with vengence, at 5’11” 220lbs (roughly), you can see why. He’s got fantastic pad level using his lower body strength to run through tacklers and yet athletic enough to get to the perimeter. Would be fantastic for a team with a one-cut running style or as a team that runs between the tackles.
What I Don’t Like: Like Corey Dillon, he’s doesn’t excel as a pass catcher and could have some trouble being on the field on third down. Not particularly agile going side-to-side.
Best Team Fits: New England, Denver, Cleveland, and Dallas
5. Kenneth Dixon/Lousiana Tech
2015 Stats: 11 games, 237 carries, 1,070 yards, 19TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Bishop Sankey to Jonathan Stewart
Grade: 81/100, Experts: 2nd/3rd round, My Grade: 2nd round
Kenneth Dixon ran for 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons at Lousiana Tech. With Jeff Driskel, the Tech offense scored a lot of points and had multiple ways to do so. He was the lifeline for the Bulldog offense for four years.
What I Like: He’s multi-dimensional as a pass catcher and as a runner, great vision to break through open holes. His effort and ability to fight for extra yards is on every carry, not just near the first-down marker. Can block blitzing LBs.
What I Don’t Like: Not the most elusive runner 1vs1 on the second level, speed won’t hamper him but could be an issue in the open field.
Best Team Fits: Giants, Chicago, and Seattle
6. Jordan Howard/Indiana
2015 Stats: 9 games, 196 carries, 1,213 yards, 9TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Matt Asiata to Stephen Davis
Grade: 74/100 Experts 4th/5th round, My Grade: late 3rd round
Jordan Howard was at UAB before the boosters decided to sneaky and cut the program. Howard was a very good back for the Hoosiers and had he not been injured (the story of the 2016 Draft RBs), he might be even higher than at six.
What I Like: Howard runs hard and has vision that will allow him to find the hole and step up to the second level. He’s a brick in pass protection and his 230lb frame definitely has a lot to do with that. Howard is an ideal power-running back.
What I Don’t Like: Howard doesn’t have a second gear to beat defenses on the second level. He’s not a proven receiver out of the backfield. Not a player that would excel in the perimeter.
Best Team Fits: Detroit, Denver, and Green Bay
7. Jonathan Williams/Arkansas
2014 Stats: 13 games, 211 carries, 1,190 yards, 12TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Khiry Robinson to Fred Taylor
Grade: 73/100: Experts: 5th round, My Grade: Mid 4th round
Jonathan Williams missed the entire 2015 season due to a broken foot but did not participate in all offseason drills necessary. He made some highlight runs in 2014, and should be valued in the middle rounds.
What I Like: Williams runs like Eddie Lacy does with the Packers when Lacy is in shape. He’s got a big frame at 5’11” 225lbs, and ideal for a pro style offense, possibly for Gary Kubiak in Denver. Williams is a sound blocker in protection. He also had to share a backfield with Alex Collins.
What I Don’t Like: He wasn’t able to participate in offseason workouts and show what he can do athletically until his pro-day. Can get a tendency to dance, which could hurt in the NFL when he will be battling with stronger players.
Best Team Fits: Denver, New England, and Green Bay
8. Paul Perkins/UCLA
2015 Stats: 13 games, 237 carries, 1,343 yards, 14TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Bishop Sankey to Ray Rice
Grade: 70/100: Experts 2nd/3rd round, My Grade: Mid 4th round
Paul Perkins was a feature back for UCLA and last season with freshman Josh Rosen at QB, and he stepped up as a leader of that offense. Perkins does have some questions about his durability.
What I Like: Perkins in a sense is what you would presume a Mike Shanahan/Gary Kubiak type of RB would be. Perkins especially can contribute in the passing game and as a YAC threat. He’s a definitely a home run threat after the second level with his agility.
What I Don’t Like: In a sense, I’m not completely sure if Perkins can be a three down back. His type of frame in a physical style offense may lean to injuries, I also believe that his role may be as a third down back.
9. Marshaun Coprich/Illinois State
2015 Stats: 13 games, 321 carries, 1,967 yards, 23TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Brian Calhoun to Stevan Ridley
Grade: 67/100: Experts 5th to 7th round, My Grade Late 4th/Early 5th round
Coprich was the best RB in the FCS over the past two seasons rushed for over 3,600 rushings and 50TDs in the past two seasons. He stands at 5’8” 205lbs, and looks like a good complimentary pick or possibly the steal of the draft at this position.
What I Like: Coprich has good speed in which can make it lethal when he gets out on the perimeter. At 200lbs and a solid bench press performance I’m sure he can be durable enough to be a consistent back. Very nimble feet that help him break free in traffic.
What I Don’t Like: Coprich is not a natural one on one type of shaky. He’s not proven in the passing game as a receiver and as a pass protector. Heavy workload, had 220 carries or more in three straight seasons. He pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge in May 2015. He was caught selling to an undercover police officer.
Best Team Fits: Seattle, Washington, and Miami
10. Keenan Reynolds/Navy
2015 Stats: (as Option QB) 13 games, 265 carries, 1,373 yards, 24TDs
Best to Worst Comparison: Justin Fargas to Dion Lewis
My Grade: 66/100, Experts 6th/7th round, My Grade: 5th round
Keenan Reynolds will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play for the Naval Academy and he was the heart and soul of that offense for three years as a QB of their triple-otion attack.
What I Like: Reynolds is the highest character guy in the draft. Being a captain at Navy is very telling of that. Reynolds could be a special teams weapon like Darren Sproles was in his early days with the San Diego Chargers. I can see Reynolds as a RB or possibly a slot WR like a Dexter McCluster.
What I Don’t Like: Unproven as a RB in terms of what he’d have to do in a pro-set. Unknowns are common with guys who have switched positions. He’ll need to be in a 3rd down back type of role.
Best Team Fits: San Francisco, Dallas, Balitmore, and NE