FLOWERY BRANCH -- Here are the top 10 running back prospects (with projected draft round) for the 2016 NFL draft, which is set for April 28-30 in Chicago:
1. Ezekiel Elliott, 6-foot, 225 pounds, Ohio State (first): He powered the Buckeyes to the FBS national championship as a true sophomore when he rushed for 230 yards against Alabama in the playoff semifinal and for 246 yards against Oregon in the 2015 title game. He passed Eddie George for second place on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list. Elliott ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the combine and can make defenders miss in the hole. Because of his electric running style, Elliott and Alabama's Derrick Henry are the only running back rated in Dane Brugler’s NFL Draft "Elite 60" preview of the draft.
2. Derrick Henry, 6-3, 247, Alabama (second): The Heisman trophy winner helped to carry the Crimson Tide to the FBS national championship last season. He joined Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson as the only backs in SEC history to post four 200-yard games in a season. He had just five fumbles over 619 touches. He’s a load once he’s gets moving.
3. C.J. Prosise, 6-0, 220, Notre Dame (second-third): Some scouts have compared him to Ricky Watters, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven of his 10 seasons in the NFL. Prosise has to improve his ball security in the NFL. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and has good hands as a receiver. He’s a potential three-down back.
4. Devontae Booker, 5-10, 219, Utah (third): He had to go the junior college route after failing to qualify
academically at Washington State and Fresno State. He rushed 268 times for 1,261 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns for the Utes last season. He suffered a knee injury and did not participate at the scouting combine.
5. Kenny Dixon, 5-10, 210, Louisiana Tech (third-fourth): He was the Ragin’ Cajuns leading rushing for the fourth consecutive season in 2015. The Arkansas native set school records with 4,480 yards rushing and 72 rushing touchdowns.
6. Alex Collins, 5-10, 217, Arkansas (third-fourth): He’s a tough inside runner who can make defenders miss in tight spots. He was consistently productive over his career and is solid at picking up the blitz.
7. Jordan Howard, 6-foot, 230, Indiana (third-fourth): He started his career at UAB and transferred to the Big 10 school after the program was temporarily shut down. He replaced Falcons 2015 draft pick Tevin Coleman (third round) and rushed 196 times for 1,213 (6.2 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns.
8. Paul Perkins, 5-10, 208, UCLA (third-fourth): His father Bruce (Bucs, Colts) and uncle Don (Cowboys) played in the NFL. Don Perkins, who played 1961-68, was a six-time Pro Bowl running back. The latest Perkins averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season for the Bruins. He suffered a hamstring injury at the scouting combine.
9. Kenyan Drake, 6-1, 215, Alabama (fourth-fifth): The former standout at Hillgrove High was an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 11 pick and was considered a four-star recruit. He picked Alabama over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Purdue. He never became the primary running back for the Crimson Tide and played behind Henry. Drake had a dazzling 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Alabama’s victory over Clemson in the national title game. Drake has the size, but his challenge will be to prove that he can carry the load as a full-time running back in the NFL.
10. Keith Marshall, 5-11 3/8, 219, Georgia (free agent): At the combine, Marshall ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds and bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times, which were both top marks for a running back. Marshall, a former five-star recruit, got off to a dazzling start to his career at Georgia in 2012. He rushed for 759 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games, with one start. Injuries marred his college career after the good start. “Has a lot of tread left on his tires from playing in an overcrowded backfield,” wrote Nolan Nawrocki in his 2016 draft preview guide.
Who we had last last year as the top 5 seniors for 2016 draft: 1. Devontae Booker, 5-11, 209, Utah. 2. Byron Marshall, 5-9, 201, Oregon. 3. Jonathan Williams, 5-11, 223, Arkansas. 4. Keith Marshall, 5-11, 215, Georgia. 5. Tra Carson, 5-11, 230, Texas A&M.
Top 5 seniors for the 2017 draft: 1. Corey Clement, Wisconsin. 2. Shock Linwood, Baylor. 3. James Connor, Pittsburgh. 4. Justin Davis, USC. 5. Jovon Robinson, Auburn.
NFL DRAFT 2016 – POSITION BY POSITION SERIES
Sunday, April 17 -- QUARTERBACKS
Monday -- RUNNING BACKS
D Led’s breakdown of the Running backs
A look at the top 10 Running backs chart
Tuesday - WIDE RECEIVERS
D. Led’s breakdown of the Wide receivers
A look at the top 10 Wide receivers
Wednesday -- TIGHT ENDS
D. Led’s breakdown of the Tight ends
A look at the top 10 tight ends
Thursday -- OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
D. Led’s breakdown of the Offensive linemen
Offensive linemen chart
Friday -- DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
D. Led’s breakdown of the Defensive linemen
Defensive linemen chart
Saturday, April 23 -- LINEBACKERS
D. Led’s breakdown of the Linebackers
A look at the top 10 linebackers
Sunday, April 24 -- CORNERBACKS
D. Led’s breakdown of the cornerbacks
A look at the top 10 cornerbacks
Monday, April 25 -- SAFETIES
D. Led’s breakdown of the Safeties
A look at the top 10 Safeties
Tuesday, April 26
D. Led’s breakdown of the Specialists, kickers, punters and returners
Position by position: Specialists chart
Wednesday, April 27
Final mock draft