2016 NFL Scouting Combine Running Backs
Ezekiel Elliot is the real deal (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY)

The first day of the combine is in the books. The offensive lineman, specialists, and running backs set the tone for the 2016 combine. For this article let’s check out some running backs who caught my eye for better or worse.

General Overview:

> A lot of the verbiage in this section may be difficult to understand but I will simplify it as best I can. When watching the offensive lineman during the on the field drills I take a different approach than more draft experts would. For backs I trust the college game tape a lot more than the on the field drills. By that I am not as concerned with production. I watch for whether or not a player dances to much around the scrimmage and how quick are his instincts in and out of breaks.

2016 NFL Scouting Combine Running Backs Rankings

  1. Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State)
  2. Derrick Henry (Alabama)
  3. Alex Collins (Arkansas)
  4. Paul Perkins (UCLA)
  5. Kelvin Taylor (Florida)

One back stands above the rest in this draft and that is Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot is what you would call a complete back. He is explosive, possesses elite agility, and has a 2nd gear when he gets to the second level of the defense. The only question I have on Elliot is whether or not he is a natural pass catcher. In terms of comparison he reminds me a lot of Steelers back Le’Veon Bell. I expect him to be taken in the top 15 of this year’s draft.

Up next is Alabama’s Derrick Henry. Henry is a height, weight, speed specimen. For 6’3” and 250 pounds he ran way faster than I had anticipated at a 4.54. He also jumped really well in the broad and vertical jump (37” vert, 130” broad). Henry is LeGarrette Blount all over again at the next level. For me he deserves recognition in the 2nd round range. Scouts everyone should be very frightened on whether or not he becomes the next Trent Richardson. To me I don’t see that pattern as he is one to delivery punishment as a team’s pure workhorse. Henry ran the ball 395 times for Bama this season and is the school’s all time leader rusher.

Alex Collins from Arkansas is an under the radar kind of guy and for no apparent reason. Collins did serious work in the SEC this season against superior talent. Collins is an extremely shifty back and reminds me a lot of Chris Ivory having the ability to break tackles as well. Collins ran a 4.59, 40 and is one of those guys is much quicker then he is fast.

Paul Perkins fits the mold of what Collins brings to the table. Excellent footwork but a guy that isn’t going to out run you by any means. Perkins could find himself a nice role as a third down guy right from the start. Perkins also reeled in 30 catches this season that boasts his value. My question is his pass blocking ability where I saw defenders beat him to the quarterback consistently. The UCLA alum was one of the standouts in the broad jump at 124”.

The last guy to make my rankings is a player much deeper on everyone else. That player is Florida’s Kelvin Taylor the son of Jaguars legend Fred Taylor. In the footwork drills no one had quicker feet than this guide. He isn’t an overly powerful guy but he could be a very nice change of pace option at the next level. We are looking at a player who could very well be the next Giovanni Bernard, at least that’s what I see. His production in college isn’t what you would like it to be but it is hardly his fault. Matt Jones was in the same boat a year ago because Florida’s quarterback play is absolutely putrid allowing teams to focus all their attention on stopping the run. Taylor’s 4.60, 40 time does not concern me one bit.

The other two guys that stood out to me could end up being late round steals. Kenyan Drake can do more than one job in the pros. Whether he is a gunner, returner, or third down back Drake is going to find a role on your football team.

The player with the fastest 40 time of any of the running backs was Georgia’s Keith Marshall. Marshall was actually more highly recruited than Todd Gurley in high school both coming to college during the same year. The only thing that held Marshall back in college was his injury history. Marshall really struggled to stay on the field and his only real production can be traced back to his true freshman season (A season by all accounts is very good). When it comes to taking a flier out on 6th or 7th round picks why not go with one of these guys.

K*Honorable Mention: Kenneth Dixon, Glenn Gronkowski, C.J. Prosise, Wendall Smallwood, DeAndre Washington, Jonathan Williams