In an effort to get through all of the positions before the draft, I’ll be just shortly naming some of the prospects to watch in this draft class, as well as some potential sleepers and maybe busts. I wasn’t able to go as far in depth this year as I did last year, but enough to develop a feel for the class and compile my rankings.
Believe it or not, there are more runningbacks in this class than Ezekiel Elliot and Derrick Henry. There’s a little bit of everything in this class of backs, and quite a few coming off of injuries. Elliot is likely the only one drafted in the first round, but between rounds 2-4 I expect around 10 or so to be taken. Look for speedsters like Tyler Ervin of San Jose State and Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State to create some buzz, as well as bruisers Alex Collins of Arkansas and Jordan Howard of Indiana.
Top RB Prospect: Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State 5’11” 225
Simply put, Elliot is the best back in this class, and likely would have been last year as well, ahead of Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. For a back of his size, he has excellent quickness, and good speed, having ran a 4.47 at the Combine in Indianapolis. He’s a chore for defenders to bring down, and is very quick in close quarters, which makes a tough back even harder to deal with. He’s also a competent pass blocker, and an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Elliot is the total package, and absolutely worth a top 10 pick in this class. Cleveland could take him at 2, and it wouldn’t upset me.
Biggest Bust Potential: Derrick Henry Alabama 6’2″ 247
Don’t get me wrong here, I really like Henry a lot as a prospect. I think he’s probably one of the most over-thought prospects we’ve seen in some time. He’s really unlike any player we’ve seen at the position. People often look at the size and say lazily, “he’s Brandon Jacobs/LaGarrette Blount”. He’s not the bruiser that Jacobs is, and he’s faster than Blount. He’s really good at what he does, but he’s a bit limited in other areas. He doesn’t have much experience as a receiver, and if you make him change directions behind the line of scrimmage, he’s toast. But if he gets down hill, he’s likely going for 20 plus.
Biggest Sleeper: Keith Marshall Georgia 5’11” 219
If someone told you three years ago that Keith Marshall would be a sleeper in an NFL Draft, they’d have called you a liar. The former partner of “Gurshall” has been hampered by injuries and an absolutely stacked backfield in Athens, but still possesses all of that talent that led him to sharing carries with Todd Gurley as a true freshman for the Bulldogs. He exploded in Indianapolis, running a 4.31 in the 40 and tossing up 25 reps at 225. Not bad for a third string runningback at UGA last year, huh?
Small School Stud: Tyler Ervin San Jose State 5’10” 192
San Jose State isn’t quite as small as the schools I usually feature in this spot, but Ervin is criminally under-exposed. He had a great game against Auburn, and is as fast in game speed as anyone in the country. He’s not the biggest back, but he plays bigger than his frame should indicate. He excels in a gap blocking scheme, pretty rare for a back under 200 pounds. Not that he doesn’t also play well in a zone blocking scheme, but Ervin’s patience is encouraging outside of the zone blocking scheme.
My Runningback Rankings:
1. Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State Top 10
2. Derrick Henry Alabama 1st-2nd Round
3. Alex Collins Arkansas 2nd Round
4. Devontae Booker Utah 2nd Round
5. Jonathan Williams Arkansas 3rd Round
6. Paul Perkins UCLA 3rd-4th Round
7. Tyler Ervin San Jose State 4th Round
8. Kenneth Dixon Louisiana Tech 4th Round
9. Jordan Howard Indiana 4th Round
10. C.J. Prosise Notre Dame 4th Round
My Fullback Rankings:
1. Derek Watt Wisconsin 6th Round
2. Quayvon Hicks Georgia 6th Round
3. Soma Vainuku Southern California 7th Round