NFL Draft Early Entries: Running Backs

    2016 NFL Draft Early Entries: Are the running backs making the right or wrong moves by leaving early? Where are they likely to be drafted?

    September 26, 2016

    2016 NFL Draft Early Entries: Are the underclassmen running backs making the right or wrong moves by leaving early? Where are they likely to be drafted?


    Follow @PeteFiutak

    Alex Collins, Arkansas

    5-11, 215
    Right Move? Considering he’s a workhorse who doesn’t need any more tread to come off the tires in the Bret Bielema rushing attack, he made the right move to get out now. Arguably the best pro talent at running back Bielema has coached – all the Wisconsin backs included – he cranked out 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns in a bruising season as the main man for the ground attack. He needs to be a better receiver but his hands aren’t an issue.
    Projection: Second Round

    Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

    6-0, 225
    Right Move? He was ready to go after winning the national title last season. The 6-0, 225-pound home run hitter was able to pound as a workhorse, can catch a little bit, and has the breakaway speed to make big things happen in the open field. A true franchise back, he should be the first running back off the board after cranking out 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns as the one thing that consistently worked well for the Buckeye offense. With over 600 touches in the last two seasons, he needed to leave now.
    Projection: Late First Round, Early Second Round

    Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State (FB)

    6-3, 234
    Right Move? Easily the best fullback prospect in the draft, Rob’s brother is a sledgehammer of a blocker with the Gronk family mentality when it comes to providing the big hit. He’ll never be an offensive weapon after running for just 45 yards and catching five passes, but he’ll be a nice luxury to have for the right offense. Can he turn into an H-Back/No. 2 tight end? Someone will want to give it a shot.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Derrick Henry, Alabama

    6-3, 242
    Right Move? Built like a defensive lineman and with 406 touches this year, he’s not built for a long NFL career and needed to start getting paid as soon as possible. He’s fast enough to crank up a few big runs here and there, and there’s no questioning his workhorse ability, but there’s going to be a concern about injuries here and there when he starts taking shots from NFL defenders on a consistent basis. He blasted away throughout his Heisman-winning and national title season, and he’ll be at his best if he’s part of a rotation with a smallish quick back to form a thunder-and-lightning tandem.
    Projection: First Round

    Jordan Howard, Indiana

    6-1, 230
    Right Move? It’s not his fault, but it would’ve been nice if Tevin Coleman did anything in his rookie year – the Indiana back is running back friendly. However, the NFL types are going to love the Michigan game when Howard was able to grind his way to 238 yards and two scores almost carrying the Hoosiers to the win. The speed and size are there, but the former UAB Blazer couldn’t stay healthy and couldn’t stay on the field in the second half of the season. The stock will go up after the Combine and workout process, but he’ll go a round later than his talent because of durability concerns.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Paul Perkins, UCLA

    5-11, 210
    Right Move? He’ll be the guy who’ll go later than his talent because of the position, but he’ll be a great value pick with great receiving skills to go along with a tough running style. He got banged up throughout the season, but he still ran for 1,343 yards and 14 scores to go along with 30 catches. With the right type of offense for his skills – let him make one cut and go – he’ll be a must-have in the middle rounds if the quickness on film translates to the workouts.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame

    6-1, 220
    Right Move? Is he going to be durable enough? He’s a tough runner who can slash and cut, but he also takes plenty of big pops missing time over the second half of the season and being unable to go against Ohio State. For the first half of the season he was the steadying force who helped the cause when the quarterback situation was a question mark with big runs and huge gashes to go along with a little bit of thunder here and there. He’ll be a nice part of a rotation.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia

    5-11, 201
    Right Move? He’ll never be anyone’s franchise back who can carry an offense by himself, but he could find a nice role as a third down playmaker with good hands to go along with enough pop and speed in a spread attack. His calling card will be his wheels and athleticism as a possible jack-of-all-trades. Several offensive coordinators will lobby hard for him.
    Projection: Fifth Round

    Kelvin Taylor, Florida

    5-10, 205
    Right Move? Start with this – he’s not his dad. Fred Taylor was a devastating home run hitter, while Kelvin has some of the same quickness and cutting skills to go along with enough power to get by. He’ll have to be part of a rotation, and there won’t be any flash to his game at the next level, but he’ll be ultra-reliable and should forge a nice career as a No. 2 back.
    Projection: Fifth Round

    Dwayne Washington, Washington

    6-2, 226
    Right Move? Uhhhhh, okay. He has the size and he showed flashes throughout his career at Washington, but he couldn’t stay on the field. He has leg issues and durability concerns are going to probably keep him from getting drafted, but he only has so many carries left in him. He could make a roster is he can show flashes in offseason workouts – and if his physical checks out.
    Projection: Free Agent

    Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

    6-0, 224
    Right Move? It might have turned out to be a positive to get injured before the season, because now he’s ready and should be fresher. The foot injury is healed and he saved about 250 carries by not playing. Now he has to prove that he has the same quickness and cutting ability for a back of his size. He’ll be a key call after the first 100 picks and could blow up as a rookie. He’s going to be ready right out of the gate.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    MORE: 2016 Early Entries: Quarterbacks


    DOWNLOAD THE APP

    Have the full Stadium experience

    Watch with friends

    Get rewards

    Join the discussion