Luke Easterling's 2016 NFL Draft RB Rankings

Luke Easterling rolls out his full running back rankings for the 2016 NFL Draft.


1. Ezekiel Elliott | Ohio State | 6'0" | 225 | Junior | 1st Round

Todd Gurley proved that rare talents at running back can still warrant a top selection, and Elliott is the one runner in this year's class worthy of a first-round pick. His rare blend of vision, burst, patience and power should allow him to make an instant impact at the next level, especially if he goes to a team with a strong group of blockers up front. He may not go top-10, but Elliott is worth a top-15 pick, regardless of any loss of value the running back position may have experienced in recent years.

2. Kenneth Dixon | Louisiana Tech | 5'10" | 215 | Senior | 2nd Round

Some might be surprised to see him this high on the list, but Dixon is a legitimate three-down back who checks all the boxes as a ball-carrier, pass-catcher and protector. He was easily the most complete back at this year's Senior Bowl, and his film backs up the solid performance he put forth in Mobile. He could be an instant starter in the NFL and extremely productive as a rookie in the right situation.

3. Derrick Henry | Alabama | 6'2" | 242 | Junior | 2nd Round

Henry's projections seem to be all over the place, from the first-round to the middle rounds. While I don't expect him to be the type of rare back that warrants a first-round pick, Henry's combination of sheer size and power, along with surprising lateral quickness and explosiveness for a bigger back, make him the most intriguing back in this class. Despite concern over his heavy workload in 2015, Henry's has less career touches than many other backs in this class, and should be fine when it comes to durability and longevity at the next level. That said, I still think he'd be most effective as the power back in a thunder-and-lightning, 1-2 punch backfield.

4. Devontae Booker | Utah | 5'11" | 212 | RS Senior | 2nd Round

A season-ending knee injury this year didn't go his draft stock any favors, but Booker's tape doesn't lie. He's explosive enough to beat defenders to the edge, tough enough to churn out the tough yards between the tackles, and is an effective third-down option as both a receiver and pass-blocker. Even with the injury, Booker is as complete a back as there is in this year's group, and if he's fully healthy, he could easily carve out a significant role in his first NFL season.

5. Alex Collins | Arkansas | 5'11" | 218 | Junior | 2nd Round

Collins has a unique blend of toughness and quick, light feet, two traits that should translate incredible well to the NFL. He runs with a high pad level and has had ball security issues at times, but he's an explosive runner who is a constant threat to turn the corner and eat up big chunks of yardage. A highly sought-after recruit coming out of high school, Collins may not be the flashiest back in this class, but he'll be an effective runner in the right system.

6. Paul Perkins | UCLA | 5'10" | 210 | RS Junior | 2nd Round

Arguably the most underrated back in this class, Perkins racked up nearly 3,000 rushing yards over the past two seasons for the Bruins. He's got great vision and quick feet, allowing him to make precise, explosive cuts at a moment's notice that leave defenders grasping at air. He also proved to be a valuable receiving threat out of the backfield, catching 80 passes over his three seasons. Elliott and Henry will get the most attention of the underclassmen backs this year, but don't sleep on Perkins as a potential playmaker at the next level.

7. Jordan Howard | Indiana | 6'1" | 225 | Junior | 2nd Round

Another junior runner who was highly productive over his three college seasons, Howard rushed for over 3,500 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Hoosiers. He carries 225 pounds well on his leaner frame, but still runs with adequate pad level, making him an effective back between the tackles and after contact. He's explosive in space and can make defenses pay for giving him room to work or letting him get to the edge, and he's got the toolbox to become a quality starter early in his NFL career.

8. C.J. Prosise | Notre Dame | 6'1" | 220 | RS Junior | 3rd Round

He struggled to stay healthy at times last season, but when he's at 100 percent, Prosise is one of the most fun backs to watch in this year's group. In his first action in 2014, he proved his abilities as an explosive playmaker, averaging over 12 yards per carry and 17 yards per reception, then topped 1,000 yards rushing with 11 scores in 2015. He's got a great blend of power and quickness, and is just as dangerous in the passing game as he is on the ground. If he can prove to be durable in the NFL, he could easily outplay his draft position.

9. Jonathan Williams | Arkansas | 5'11" | 219 | Senior | 3rd Round

The other half of the Hogs' impressive 1-2 punch in the backfield, Williams' 2015 was lost before it even began thanks to a foot injury prior to the team's first game. When healthy in 2014, both he and Collins rushed for over 1,000 yards, with Williams leading the way with 1,190 yards while scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground. Williams was present at the Senior Bowl, but injuries cost him a week at 100 percent, which could impact his draft stock even further. If he's able to stay healthy at the next level, he could end up being quite a steal on Day 3.

10. Kenyan Drake | Alabama | 6'0" | 210 | Senior | 4th Round

After suffering a broken leg in 2014 and a broken arm in 2015, Drake's ability to hold up at the next level is easily his biggest concern. That said, he's an intriguing prospect with great speed and explosiveness, and he's a more physical runner than he's given credit for. He may never be a full-time bell-cow back, but he'll make an immediate impact as a return man and be a valuable change-of-pace playmaker  for a long time.

11. Daniel Lasco | California | 6'0" | 205 | RS Senior | 4th Round

12. Kelvin Taylor | Florida | 5'10" | 205 | Junior | 4th Round

13. Aaron Green | TCU | 5'11" | 203 | RS Senior | 3rd Round

14. Josh Ferguson | Illinois | 5'10" | 196 | RS Senior | 5th Round

15. Tyler Ervin | San Jose State | 5'10" | 192 | RS Senior | 5th Round

16. DeAndre Washington | Texas Tech | 5'8" | 199 | RS Senior | 5th Round

17. Keith Marshall | Georgia | 5'11" | 212 | Senior | 6th Round

18. D.J. Foster | Arizona State | 5'10" | 195 | Senior | 6th Round

19. Leon Allen | Western Kentucky | 5'11" | 235 | Senior | 6th Round

20. Wendell Smallwood | West Virginia | 5'11" | 202 | Junior | 6th Round

21. Marteze Waller | Fresno State | 5'11" | 214 | Senior | 7th Round

22. Maurice Coprich | Illinois State | 5'8" | 205 | Senior | 7th Round

23. Keenan Reynolds | Navy | 5'10" | 191 | Senior | 7th Round

24. Travis Greene | Bowling Green | 5'10" | 192 | RS Senior | 7th Round

25. Tre Madden | USC | 6'0" | 225 | RS Senior | 7th Round

26. Peyton Barber | Auburn | 5'10" | 225 | RS Sophomore | 7th Round

27. Johnathan Gray | Texas | 5'11" | 206 | Senior | 7th Round

28. Devon Johnson | Marshall | 6'1" | 253 | Senior | 7th Round


I fully expect the Bucs to bring back Doug Martin on a somewhat long-term extension, and Charles Sims is proving to be the perfect change-of-pace back as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, leading all NFL running backs with 6.9 yards per touch last season. It's possible the Bucs may bring in a veteran to compete with the likes of Bobby Rainey and Mike James for a roster spot, but I don't expec them to spend a draft pick on a running back this year.

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