One of the stronger positions heading into the 2016 NFL Draft is at runningback, as it is loaded with talent. Although there is a clear cut number one ranked back heading into the upcoming college football season, there are a handful of others who will find themselves drafted in the first or second round. Here are the top five running backs to keep an eye on during 2015.
Ezekiel Elliot – Ohio State
There is no doubt that Ezekiel Elliot is the top running back heading into the 2015 season. After showing lots of promise in his rookie season despite limited action, Elliot took college football by storm in 2014. He rushed for 1878 yards with 18 touchdowns, while averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He was also effective in the passing game, as he recorded 28 receptions for 228 yards.
At 6-feet, 1-inch and 225 pounds, Elliot has the ideal size to be a power rusher in the NFL, but also has the speed to take the ball upfield for big gains. Elliot is often difficult to tackle and is able to make tacklers miss because he can be very shifty with the ball. The only part of his game where he could improve is in his blocking, and he will look to do this in the coming season. There is no reason why Elliot won’t be the first back taken in the 2016 draft.
James Conner – Pittsburgh
Although the second ranked running back headed into the 2015 season could go to a number of players, James Conner stands out for many reasons. The first is his size. At 6-feet, 2-inches and 240 pounds, Connor will be a true power back in the NFL, able to run over defenders. In 2014, he ran the ball 298 times, while accumulating 1765 yards while scoring 26 touchdowns. Conner knows how to find the end zone, especially when given goal line carries.
Conner is a smart runner with good vision. He does an exceptional job of rolling his blocks and hitting the right hole. He loves to lower his shoulder and just run right through opposing defenders. He is a great blocker and uses his size to his advantage. The only thing Conner lacks is outside speed. You won’t see him beating defenders outside for a home run; however, he makes up for this with his power. There is a chance Conner will be selected in the first round, but it is more likely to see his name called on day two of the draft.
Derrick Henry – Alabama
Yet another Alabama running back should find himself drafted in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft. Derrick Henry is another big back standing at 6-feet, 3-inches and 242 pounds. In 2014, Henry didn’t have eye opening numbers as he rushed the ball just 172 times for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns. Despite only five receptions, Henry showed he can be effective in the passing game, averaging 26.6 yards per catch with one score.
Henry is an extremely powerful and strong runner with very solid size. The issue with Henry at times is his that he is very inconsistent. If he can establish himself as an every down back in 2015 and avoid fumbling the ball, then he will be a very intriguing prospect to watch come draft day.
Devontae Booker – Utah
Arguably the best all purpose back heading into the draft, Devontae Booker will look to continue to establish himself as one of college footballs best running backs in 2015. Booker has good size at 5-feet, 11-inches and 212 pounds. In his first college season, Booker put up impressive numbers as he recorded 1512 yards with ten touchdowns. He also had 43 receptions for 306 yards and two scores.
Booker is a smart runner who is rather difficult to bring down. He possesses great vision, and has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. What Booker needs to improve on if he wants to be classified with the top backs in this draft is his blocking, as he tended to struggle in his first college season. All things aside, Booker should hear his name called on day two of the draft.
Kenneth Dixon – Louisiana Tech
Another running back worth keeping an eye on in 2015 is Kenneth Dixon. Heading into his fourth season as the teams starting back, Dixon has a nose for the end zone. In 2014, he rushed the ball 253 times for 1299 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also added 30 receptions for 385 yards and another six scores.
At 5-feet, 10-inches and 210 pounds, Dixon has decent size for a running back. His best asset is his speed, as he is extremely difficult to catch when he hits the open field. He never gives up on plays, and can make a significant impact in the pass game. Where he needs to make improvements is in his blocking, as this is where he really tended to struggle at last season. Overall, Dixon should find himself drafted late during day two or early on day three of the draft.