2016 NFL RB Prospects Part I, a look at who are the top college prospects for fantasy football

By John Laub



In the current NFL climate, teams are employing more committees in the backfield and looking for multi-purpose backs. While a draft observer cannot ignore rushing yards, there are other statistics that provide enhanced insight into a player’s professional potential: Yards per Carry, Receptions and Breakaway Ability—40-yard dash and 3-cone drill—are crucial indicators to examine a prospect for fantasy football aficionados. 


Listed below are profiles on the top-twelve ball carriers in fantasy football as well as their benchmark stats to assist in pinpointing runners at the next level.


Benchmark College Stats for Draft Consideration

Yards per Carry: Over 5 yards per carry

Receptions: Over 50 career catches

Breakaway Ability

4.55 seconds (or less) in the 40-yard dash

6.95 seconds (or less) in 3-cone drill


Running Back Prospects: Position Grade B


1. Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State

One of the all-time great runners in Buckeye history. Capped off a tremendous career with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage each of the past two campaigns while scoring 41 touchdowns. Balanced runner with excellent vision and agility. Bursts through the hole and unrelenting competitor with a punch. Well-rounded ball carrier, who runs unremittingly forward. Waits patiently for blockers to open holes. Plays with good pad level: Thumps would-be tacklers. Incredible second gear in the open field. For a big man at 6’0” and 225 lbs., very quick feet and balanced running style. Innate short strider with a stupendous jump cut. Easily changes directions while constantly moving forward. Astounding between the tackles courier who enjoys contact. Accelerates to the edge of the defense and explodes up field. Willing pass blocker and knows that protecting the quarterback foreshadows play. Changes direction on a dime and makes tacklers miss. Only three fumbles lost on campus. Multi-talented runner who could excel in a zone scheme or gap system in the NFL. Great teammate and willing blocker when he doesn’t have the pigskin. A passionate player who wants to win all the time. Never takes a play off. Underrated pass catcher and three-down back. During 2014 postseason, enjoyed a three-game stretch for the ages: Rambled for 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while leading the Buckeyes to the National Championship. Over 600 touches during the past two seasons may shorten professional career. Absorbed a lot of big hits. Can improve as a pass blocker and catcher. Not many faults as top RB prospect in class. Worthy of a top-10 pick and with potential to be an elite NFL player and fantasy football star. 

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 6.7

Receptions: 58

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.47

3-Cone Drill: n/a

Draft Potential: First round


RB Kenneth Dixon 


2. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

Workhorse runner who dominated Conference USA during career with 5,452 yards from scrimmage and 87 touchdowns. All-time leading rusher for the Bulldogs and scored a freshman record 27 times in 2012. An instinctual and determined runner with conviction. Slashing ball carrier through the hole and explodes into the second level. Good decision maker with vision and decisiveness. Uncanny balance and eludes defenders with shake-and-bake moves. Very good jump-cut ability. Delivers and absorbs blows with his head and shoulders. Effective in the trenches and on the perimeter. Elusive player who makes tacklers miss. Easily changes direction with quick feet and great feel for working between the tackles. Low center of gravity at 5’10” and 215 lbs. Within three steps, rapidly accelerates and employs wiggle to avoid opponents. Patience and toughness in traffic. A dual-threat back, who runs good routes with soft hands. Also, pass protects well and excels running routes. Despite facing lower level of competition, possesses Sunday skills.  During Senior Bowl practices, stood out among participants and nearly uncoverable on pass routes. Reminds scouts of Hall of Famer Curtis Martin. Lots of wear and tear on body. Moves east-west too often. At times, dances seeking a crease. Makes too many jump-cuts instead of accumulating the yardage available. Puts the pigskin on the gridiron too often: 14 career fumbles. Only one gear and struggles to gain separation. In the right scheme, will yield dividends as a freshman immediately for fantasy football diehards. 

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 5.6

Receptions: 87

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.58

3-Cone Drill: 6.97

Draft Potential: Second round 


3. Derrick Henry, Alabama

After hammering opponents for 2,219 yards rushing and scoring 25 touchdowns last season, named the Heisman Trophy and Walter Camp Award winner. A unique combination of speed and power. Mesmerizing straight-line propulsion for a 6’2” and 247 lbs., ball carrier. A light-footed crusher who is an instinctive and patient runner. Illustrates good vision in a maelstrom of defenders. Destroys arm tackles, employs stiff arms and delivers a blow. Plants foot and cuts back against the grain. Turns corner rather easily and increases speed downfield. Gains the much-needed first down in short yardage and hits home runs on toss sweeps. Attacks holes and accumulates yardage. Excellent pass blocker: Aggressive at blitz pickup. A bell cow runner who improves as the game progresses and seldom fatigues. Good YAC runner and does not go down on first contact. An elite one-cut, north-south runner who is dynamite behind pads. Best employed in a gap scheme. Not a prototypical profile: Top-heavy frame and long legs. Absence of shifty moves to make defenders whiff. Choppy feet when redirected by tacklers and lackluster cut-back ability. Durability may be questioned by scouts after 395 carries. Comparisons to Eddie George not undeserved. Best suited for a power-blocking scheme like Dallas. If an offensive coordinator commits to the Tuscaloosa star, a 1,000-yard rookie campaign is undoubtedly possible.

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 6.0

Receptions: 17

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.54

3-Cone Drill: 7.20

Draft Potential: Second round


RB Paul Perkins


4. Paul Perkins, UCLA

Redshirt junior enters the NFL Draft after two prolific seasons on campus. As a sophomore, led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards and followed up the campaign with 1,343 last year. Finished tenure as the third-leading rusher at UCLA and all-time receiver at running back, catching 80 passes in 39 games. At 5’10” and 208 lbs., a compact competitor with balance and clout. Top-notch vision with elusiveness, toughness and shiftiness. Shakes and bakes would-be tacklers. Breaks ankles with jump cuts and cut-back moves. Good patience with excellent vision. A plant-and-go slasher who quickly detects an opening in traffic. Exceptional eyes and always scanning up field to exploit the next defender. When in space, can make tacklers whiff with incredible ankle flexibility, wonderful hip movement and stupendous lateral burst. A patient ball carrier who sets up blocks with good spatial awareness. A three-down back with soft hands and good hand-eye coordination: Immediately scoots up field after the catch. Stout and willing pass blocker. Smaller back than teams seek in the draft. Lean frame and thin thighs. Needs to add strength and not a short-yardage runner. An underrated prospect who is a better football player than the sum of all individual skills.

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 5.6

Receptions: 80

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.54

3-Cone Drill: n/a

Draft Potential: Second round


5. Alex Collins, Arkansas

The punishing Razorback became only the third SEC player to record three consecutive seasons with 1,000-yards rushing, joining Herschel Walkerand Darren McFadden. At 5’10” and 217 lbs., thickly built north-south ball carrier, who keeps shoulders square. A gap-scheme runner who runs with anger and purpose. Stupendous between the tackles and scolds defenders: Lowers head and shoulders and delivers a blow. Patient in the hole and explodes through a crease. Bobs and weaves through heavy traffic. Noble lateral cutter who easily changes direction. Tough competitor with good field vision, decision making and quick feet. Determined goal-line runner who reaches Paydirt by barreling tacklers. Advances to the boundary and easily turns up field. When in the open field, accelerates rapidly and impressive long speed. Mirrors the violent style of Marshawn Lynch and Marion Barber. Shared backfield duties for first two years on campus. SEC freshmen of the Year in 2013: In 38 career games, averaged nearly 100 yards rushing and scored 36 touchdowns. Not a three-down back in school and pass-catching experience negligible. Last year, illustrated improvement as a receiver and lined up in slot occasionally: Only logged 13 catches. Too many career fumbles (13) will undoubtedly dismay some scouts. Not an explosive twitch athlete and can be dragged down from behind. Pass protection technique must be upgraded. Concerns about maturity on campus. In the NFL, can power be maintained against faster and bigger linebackers if speed and agility increase? Response will likely determine career trajectory. Will be able to contribute from opening kickoff based on quickness, power and fortitude.

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 5.6

Receptions: 27

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.59

3-Cone Drill: n/a

Draft Potential: Second round  


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