Green Bay Packers NFL Combine Focus: Blazing-Fast Running Backs

The running back class runs deeper than Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, as the 40-yard dashes at the Scouting Combine showed.

A look at the 40-yard dash times from last week’s Scouting Combine shows that the backfield depth runs beyond the big two of Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott and Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

A total of 18 running backs ran the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Of the eight-fastest times, only one was run by one of the top prospects. That’s potential good news for the Green Bay Packers, if they’re looking to add an explosive home-run threat to a backfield featuring punishing and rejuvenated Eddie Lacy.

Georgia’s Keith Marshall ran a blistering-fast 4.31 in the 40. Not only was it the fastest 40 of the running backs but it wasn’t even close, as Marshall was a full one-tenth of a second faster than every other back at the Combine. Moreover, Marshall was the fastest player at the Combine and one of just six to break the 4.40 mark.

That was no surprise to Marshall.

“I’m expecting to run pretty fast,” he said two days before the workout. “I’m not going to throw any numbers out there but I expect to run fast.”

As a freshman at Georgia in 2012 — the year he ripped off touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards vs. Tennessee — Marshall allegedly ran a 4.28 in the 40.

Oftentimes, those type of 40-yard times have as much basis in reality as those e-mails from an African prince who offers to give millions of dollars if you’re willing to provide your full bank account and routing number. In this case, Marshall lived up to the hype.

“I’ve run some crazy 40 times,” he said.

Marshall, however, is not considered a crazy-good prospect. He suffered a torn ACL early in the 2013 season and missed most of the 2014 season, as well. In four seasons, Marshall rushed for 1,379 yards and 12 touchdowns while catching 24 passes. At 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, Marshall comes in a nice package. With degree in hand, intelligence isn’t an issue.

“I can’t really control that now,” Marshall said of his history. “That’s in the past. I’m really focused on the future and am excited for that.”

OUR COMBINE COVERAGE, ALL ONE CLICK AWAY

The second-fastest 40 belonged to San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, who ran in 4.41. He also had the second-best vertical jump at 39 inches. Ervin (5-10, 192) etched his name throughout the school record book. He ranks No. 1 in school history in all-purpose yardage (6,146), kickoff return yardage (2,374), kickoffs returned (101), kickoff returns for touchdowns (three), combined punt and kickoffs returned for touchdowns (five), most touchdowns of 80-plus yards (six) and most touchdowns of 70 yards or more (eight). Ervin ranks second on the school’s list for career rushing yardage (2,803), including a school-record 1,601 yards (5.4 average) this past season.

The third-fastest belonged to Henry’s backup, Kenyan Drake, who blazed in 4.45. While Henry bellied up to the Crimson Tide’s offensive buffet by touching the ball more than any player in the nation, Drake (6-1, 210) settled for scraps. He turned those scraps into 408 yards (5.3 average) and one touchdown. Drake missed most of the 2014 season with a broken and dislocated ankle.

Cal’s Daniel Lasco (6-0, 209) ran his 40 in 4.46 seconds. Moreover, his broad jump of 11 feet, 3 inches set the Combine record for a running back and his vertical jump of 41.5 inches led this year’s backs and was the third-best ever at his position group. Big things were expected this season after he rushed for 1,115 yards as a junior. Instead, it was a big disappearing act. Lasco was slowed by an injured hip muscle early in the season and a sprained ankle late. The team captain rushed for merely 331 yards (5.1 average) in nine games (three starts).

“I’m so honored and blessed that I was just able to get the (combine) invite after the season I had this past year,” Lasco said after the Combine. “I just took it for it was, went in and made the best of my opportunity that they gave me.”

Elliott, Illinois State’s Marshaun Coprich and West Virginia’s Wendell Smallwood all ran in 4.47 to tie for the fifth-fastest mark.

Coprich (5-8, 207) finished his career as Illinois State's career leader in rushing yards (5,196), all-purpose yards (5,429) and touchdowns (60 — 23 more than the previous record). He rushed for 2,274 yards as a junior. In May, he pleaded guilty to selling nine grams of marijuana to a police informant. He lost his captaincy and had his scholarship reduced. He bounced back and rushed for 1,967 yards. Among the 20-plus teams he interviewed with at the Combine were the Packers.

“I had no problems talking about my situation,” Coprich said after the Combine. “They know I’m not a bad kid and only had one little problem. I told them it’s behind me and I’ve moved forward from that. Then we went on to the next thing.”

Smallwood (5-11, 208) had legal issues, as well. Nonetheless, he had a huge final season with 1,519 yards (6.4 average) and nine touchdowns to earn first-team all-Big 12. He’s also an adept receiver, with 57 receptions during his final two seasons.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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