NFL scouting combine: Top RB standouts

Mike Renner breaks down the top NFL combine performances among running backs on Friday.

| 1 year ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

NFL scouting combine: Top RB standouts

There were several standouts among running backs at the NFL combine workouts on Friday. Where did those prospects rank in our grades? Let’s take a look at the top five.

1. Derrick Henry, Alabama

Henry is a complete freak of nature. Nothing about his measurables suggests a running back, but it’s tough to argue with the Heisman winner’s choice of position. Henry put up some of the most eye-popping combine numbers in recent memory. He ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4-inches, 247 pounds, while adding a 37-inch vertical, a 10-foot-10-inch broad jump, and 22 reps on the bench. The biggest knock on him, though—Henry’s change of direction—wasn’t eased, as his 7.2 three-cone time was one of the lowest in the class. Henry racked up the sixth-highest rushing grade in college on 396 carries a year ago.

2. C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame

Unlike Henry, Prosise has prototypical size for an NFL running back at 6-foot, 220 pounds. That’s why it’s head-scratching that the Notre Dame back hadn’t taken a single snap at the position until this past season. Prosise started out as a safety before switching to receiver, and eventually running back. After Tarean Folston went down in Week 1, Prosise was thrust into a featured role and put up fantastic numbers. He was our 24th-highest graded running back in the FBS, despite taking only 156 carries all year. His 4.46 40-yard dash on Friday was one of the most explosive of the day.

3. Keith Marshall, Georgia

Coming in as a five-star running back, Marshall’s career at Georgia didn’t go at all as planned. He took 117 carries his first year there in 2012, but was stuck behind fellow freshman Todd Gurley on the depth chart. As it turns out, though, those 117 carries would be the most in any year of his career with the Bulldogs. He had two injury-plagued seasons before settling in as a backup yet again as a senior, this time behind Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. On only 68 carries this past season, Marshall managed a +4.6 cumulative grade and broke 12 tackles. If he would have maintained those rates for a full season’s worth of carries, it would have put him among the top-20 graded running backs on the year. Marshall’s 4.31 40-yard dash will certainly give teams something to think about. Considering he sat behind multiple future NFL running backs at Georgia, Marshall will be drafted earlier than his college production might suggest.

4. Daniel Lasco, California

Lasco is yet another back with under 100 carries in 2015. Lasco had an injury-plagued senior season after grading out as PFF’s 18th-best running back as a junior. He was similarly productive as a senior, but was only handed the rock 72 times. Lasco’s freaky explosion at the combine, though, will help to make up for his disappointing season. He was in the top-five for 40-yard dash (4.46), bench press (23), vertical jump (41.5 inches), and broad jump (11-feet-3-inches), earning the highest figure in the last two.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

If there are boxes you’re looking for a running back to check, Elliott filled all of them in Indy. A sub 4.5 40-yard dash is great for a running back, but when it comes from a 6-foot, 225 pound back as productive as Elliott, you start to move up draft boards. Our second-highest graded running back in 2014, Elliot took a bit of step back to No. 3 in 2015. His 2,039 yards after contact over that span were the most of any college back. There’s no real concerns with Elliott’s game to this point, other than he may not do one singular thing at an elite level.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Mike J.

    No three-cone time for Elliot?? I have been curious about that. I’ve seen him as a a good fit in a zone scheme, whereas Henry, more of a power-blocking guy, & that appears to be confirmed with Derrick’s cone time.

    • Tim Edell

      Henry is no doubt a freak of nature but there are definite concerns with him. His agility and ability to make defenders miss in the hole is the obvious question. Ih he goes to a team with a dominant OL where he can get that head of steam going yes he could dominate. However, if the blocking isnt there and hes forced into making defenders miss behinf the LOS were looking at a Brandon Jacobs type of back.

  • JudoPrince

    Prototypical size for a rb in my opinion should be about 5’9 or 5’10. Low to the ground and shifty.

  • bill jaffe

    i think Marshall will get drafted by a team looking to pair an explosive back with their thumper like the Eagles or Saints.Elliot will be a bell cow back for someone and so will Henry, Lasco and Prosise will be later round picks but will help their teams in year one