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NFL Draft 2016: Top Five Running Back Prospects

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Who should the Eagles pick?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It is amazing how devalued running backs have become in the eyes of NFL teams and their fans. The pass heavy nature and the propensity to go with committees has disillusioned people with the idea of a highly valued, bell cow back. The truth is that running backs are just another skill player to help an offense out and their value is dictated more by their coaches than some sort of general "direction of the game". A featured back is a spearhead of the running game and can also be a major factor in the passing game. In other words, no other player besides a QB will dictate an offense more than the lead running back. The Eagles have a major need at running back. Darren Sproles is on his last legs and Ryan Mathews, while talented, is not dependable. Luckily for the Eagles, there are a lot of potential lead backs in this class, with a few that have the potential to be stars.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State: If I fawn over Ezekiel Elliott any more, I'll probably be committed. Regardless, Ezekiel Elliott is the best player in this class. He is a do it all back with outstanding vision, great size and very good athletic ability. His running style combines excellent open field moves with leg drive and natural power. He can be a major contributor in the passing game as well, be it as a receiver or as a blocker. He is guaranteed offense. Every team could benefit from Elliott being on their offense, which is why it is imperative that he is a target for the playmaker starved-Eagles.

  2. Derrick Henry, Alabama: Derrick Henry might be one of the most polarizing players in the class. His size (6-4, 246) and school that he played at have people questioning his ability to translate to the NFL. Ridiculous, I know. Henry is a bit unique as a running back, because he is not a classic power back, who breaks tackles at the line of scrimmage and is a safe 4 yards on every play. Henry is a 246 pound missile with incredible top speed and open field skills. He is decent at the first level, but at the second wave of a defense is he really dangerous. He is not going to be as consistent a player as Ezekiel Elliott, but Henry's home run threat skills will make him a touchdown waiting to happen for whatever drafts him.

  3. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech: Ever since Kenneth Dixon stepped onto the field as a freshman, he has been one of the best and most prolific players in college football. He may not have the size or top end athletic ability of the other two backs, but Dixon is a well rounded and dynamic running back. He has a thick build, but has great wiggle and burst. He can outrun, run around or run through defenders and he is also an asset in the passing game. Dixon is not as clockwork consistent as Elliott, but he would be great value in the second or third round for teams that wanted Elliott.

  4. CJ Prosise, Notre Dame: After Elliott and Dixon, Prosise is another well rounded, polished three down back who can help a team immediately. The 6-0, 220 pound former wide receiver has very good vision and cut back ability which is complimented by decent burst and power. His background also helps him contribute at a high level in the passing game. He is still relatively new to the position, so there is lots of room to grow, but Prosise has immediate impact ability.

  5. Paul Perkins, UCLA: One of the more fun players to watch in this draft, Perkins is absolutely dynamic in the open field. His agility and open field moves make him a pain in the ass to square up and tackle. Perkins can contribute as a receiver as well as a runner which keeps him on the field. As dynamic as he is in the open field, I worry about explosiveness and power. He is very shift, but he is a bit of a one speed runner, albeit he maintains that speed through open field moves. His power lets him down at the line and he will rarely break a tackle with power. Regardless, he is still a dynamic open field threat who can make big plays out of nothing.
Even after the top five, this class has a lot of intriguing players like Alex Collins, Aaron Green and Keith Marshall. Plenty of different flavors of running backs for teams to choose from. With that said, it is important to address that the Eagles should not play the value game with running back, as it is a dumb game to play with any position. If a star is there for them at their first round pick (Elliott), it would be ludicrous for the team to pass on drafting him because they *might* be able to get one of these other backs. Trying to play the board like that could leave them without any of the top guys, especially since they don't have a second rounder and I feel like a lot of these guys will go there. Take stars when they are there.