NFL Combine: Running Backs – What Do They Need To Prove?

    Who are the best running backs going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?

    February 16, 2016

    Who are the best running backs going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?


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    1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – The physical will be in the spotlight. There’s no knock on him health-wise, and there aren’t any red flags, but considering he’s been beaten on over the last two years, there can’t be any surprises.

    – He’s tremendously quick on the field, now it has to come across in the workout. The quickness in the short drills isn’t a question mark in any way, but it’ll be what everyone wants to see. He has the pop and power, but does he have elite feet when up against all the other backs in Indy?

    – Is he ready to be an NFL star with an NFL focus? He’s still just 20 years old – he’ll be 21 in July – and while that’s a positive overall, he’s still 20 years old with a pro franchise about to be strapped to his back.

    2. Alex Collins, Arkansas

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Flexibility. Can he start to get low and can he be a bit more elusive? He’s a big, tough, talented back who takes big shots and doesn’t shy away from contact, but is his style going to be an issue in terms of durability?

    – It would be nice if he showed off good hands in the passing drills. He can be a good receiver and he was more than fine at times in college, but he has to look the part of a three-down back.

    – The 40 might be an overrated drill, but a big run would boost his stock. Speed was never an issue at Arkansas, and he has home run hitting ability, but a 4.5 would be terrific.

    3. Derrick Henry, Alabama

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Will the physical reveal anything concerning? No one gets the ball as much as he did over the course of last season, and no one takes that kind of punishment without having something to worry about. Shelf life is going to be the biggest discussion.

    – Can he move? He’s not going to be Barry Sanders through the short drills and cones, but he can’t appear plodding. Everyone knows he can destroy defenders in front of him, but he needs to be able to run around them, too.

    – Can he catch the ball? He’s probably going to come off the field on third downs, but he needs to show the potential to be used as a receiver from time to time. He can’t look like he’s battling the ball.

    4. Kenyan Drake, Alabama

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Keep the buzz going. It’s been the line of the pretentious – “he’s a better pro prospect than Derrick Henry.” That might not be wrong. The tools are there to have a workout that makes everyone talk about him in early March.

    – How will he survive the medical evaluation? With a bad broken leg two years ago – which looked awfully fine last season – and after suffering an arm injury, there’s going to be a lot of prodding and poking.

    – Can he show any power? He’s a third down back and a returner, but can he run the ball 15 times a game or so? No one thinks he’s a workhorse, but just how special is he considering all his skills, injuries, and potential?

    5. Paul Perkins, UCLA

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Fourth Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – How big is he and what are his real measurements? Is he build to be a regular running back at an NFL level? Does he have the raw bulk and look of a workhorse who can be a No. 1 guy?

    – He’s not going to be an NFL power runner, so he has to be really, really quick and smooth. The 40 doesn’t really matter too much, but he can’t be lumbering. He needs to show off the raw wheels to be seen as a possible third down option.

    – His hands were good at UCLA, but the more he looks like a receiver, obviously, the better. This isn’t a great class for pass catching running backs, and he needs to stand out.

    6. Jordan Howard, Indiana

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is the quickness there? He has the body and he has the toughness through the hole, but he needs to show off the feet and the smoothness through the short drills.

    – Just how flexible is he and just how elusive can he become? He’ll have a career of about ten minutes with his running style, and he’s always going to be dinged up. If it’s possible to show off a different gear and aspect of his game, he’ll need to.

    – The potential is there to get everyone jacked with a big 40. With his size and his power, if he can crank up a 4.5 he’ll be one of the pet prospects over the next several weeks.

    7. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Fourth Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – The medical check and the physical will be what everyone wants to see. Just how much of a concern is there about his foot issue? Will it possibly be a concern going forward and could it be a reoccurring problem?

    – Can he catch the ball cleanly? He was emerging as a nice receiver out of the backfield at Arkansas, and he could up his stock by looking smooth sucking in the ball – he could surprise here.

    – Is the quickness and physical ability all back full? He looked the part of an NFL back two years ago, but after a year off, all the tools have to be there. He has to smoke these drills.

    8. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Is he built for the gig? He doesn’t quick look the part of a three-down star NFL running back, and he’s not built to provide a whole bunch of power. The shorts section of the program will be well noted.

    – How’s the physical? He played a lot of football over his career and he touched the ball a whole bunch. Is there anything about to pop up and be a problem? There might be a lot of tread off the tires.

    – The bench could make a difference. He’s not much of a blocker, but if he has the raw strength, it might go to show the potential of being a hitter a coaching staff can work with as a pass protector.

    9. Devontae Booker, Utah

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – He has to be really, really quick. He’s not a big back, and he’s not all that fast, but as long as he can zip in and out of the cones and the short drills, he’ll come out of Indy doing what everyone is looking for.

    – Does everything check out? Hurt late last year, how worn down is he? The physicals are going to be scrutinized – he took a beating at Utah.

    – Just how fast is he? He’s not going to be anywhere near a 4.4, but a slow 40 will be a killer for his option. A low 4.6 gets him into the picture of potentially being a tough third down back. He needs to be seen as more versatile than he probably is.

    10. C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Fourth Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Be a star receiver. He has the quickness and he has the hands, and now he has to show them off. He could be easily be seen as a third down back at worst, and he can look head-and-shoulders ahead of most of the runners if he catches everything.

    – How much does he look the part of a real runner? He’s still learning the subtle nuances of the position, and there’s a lot of tread still on the tired, but how does he look in the reps next to everyone else? There can’t be any glaring gaps.

    – There’s a chance he could blow up the charts with a great workout. He’s not as sexy as some of the big name backs in the draft, but there’s a world of upside and lots and lots of reasons to like his game and his potential. He can make himself a ton of money.

    Other Running Backs Invited To The Combine (alphabetically)

    Peyton Barber, Auburn
    Tra Carson, Texas A&M
    Marshaun Coprich, Illinois State
    Tyler Ervin, San Jose State
    Josh Ferguson, Illinois
    Devon Johnson, Marshall
    Daniel Lasco, California
    Tre Madden, USC
    Keith Marshall, Georgia
    Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
    Kelvin Taylor, Florida
    Shad Thornton, NC State
    Deandre Washington, Texas Tech
    Brandon Wilds, South Carolina

    MORE: Ranking Quarterbacks Ahead Of NFL Combine

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