Over the past five NFL drafts there have been an average of 20 RBs drafted with an average of 8 going in the top 100 selections. As of right now, Denver has four picks in the top 100: 31, 63, 94 and 98. I would not be surprised if one of those picks in the 90s ends up being a running back.
Denver has not drafted a running back since they took Montee Ball with the 58th pick in 2013. Prior that they took Ronnie Hillman with 67th pick in the 2012 draft (traded up to get him) and Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.
The Broncos have not had success at drafting running backs. Ball was a bust. Hillman has never been able to sustain any kind of success. Moreno was an average NFL RB who was overdrafted and then benefited from from light boxes designed to stop the prolific passing offense that the Broncos offense had in 2012-2014. Moreno was not an Elway selection, but Ball and Hillman were.
Will Elway use the draft to bolster our RB group which currently consists of CJ Anderson, Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs? Maybe. If he does here are a few guys that he might pick:
RBs at the 2016 NFL combine
|Name||School||Proj. Round?||Height (ft.inches)||Weight||Arm (in)||Hand (in)||10 Yard||40 Yard (Official)||Bench||Vertical||Broad (in)||3-Cone||S. Shuttle||60 Yard Shuttle||Speed Score||Quix||EN|
|Marshall, Keith||Georgia||5th or 6th||5.11||219||31 5/8||9.38||1.53||4.31||25||30.5||126.9||55.5|
|Coprich, Marshaun||Illinois State||7th or FA||5.08||207||29 5/8||9.00||1.54||4.47||17||34||112||7.26||4.58||12.09||103.7||73.7||60.3|
|Smallwood, Wendell||West Virginia||6th||5.10||208||30 1/2||9.25||1.56||4.47||14||33.5||120||6.83||4.28||11.14||104.2||95.6||57.5|
|Ervin, Tyler||San Jose State||4th or 5th||5.10||192||29 3/4||9.13||1.56||4.41||17||39||130||101.5||66.8|
|Dixon, Kenneth||Louisiana Tech||2nd||5.10||215||31 3/8||9.50||1.56||4.58||18||37.5||121||6.97||4.28||11.5||97.7||94.0||65.6|
|Prosise, CJ||Notre Dame||3rd or 4th||6.00||220||32 1/8||8.50||1.57||4.48||35.5||121||109.2|
|Elliot, Ezekiel||Ohio State||1st||5.11+||225||31 1/4||10.25||1.58||4.47||32.5||118||112.7|
|Washington, DeAndre||Texas Tech||5th||5.08||204||30||9.00||1.58||4.49||24||34.5||118||7.03||4.2||11.63||100.4||89.8||68.3|
|Taylor, Kelvin||Florida||4th or 5th||5.10||207||29 1/4||8.25||1.58||4.60||15||32||113||92.5||56.4|
|Henry, Derrick||Alabama||1st or 2nd||6.02||247||33||8.75||1.61||4.54||22||37||130||7.2||4.38||11.5||116.3||96.2||69.8|
|Wilds, Brandon||South Carolina||7th or FA||6.01||220||32||10.25||1.61||4.54||21||36.5||118||7.08||103.6||67.3|
|Perkins, Paul||UCLA||3rd or 4th||5.10||208||31 5/8||9.00||1.62||4.54||19||32||124||97.9||61.3|
|Drake, Kenyan||Alabama||3rd or 4th||6.01||210||31 3/4||9.75||1.64||4.45||10||34.5||123||7.04||4.21||107.1||91.8||54.8|
|Thornton, Shad||North Carolina St.||7th or FA||6.00||217||30||9.75||1.66||4.75||12||31||116||6.85||4.21||11.53||85.3||101.5||52.7|
|Barber, Peyton||Auburn||7th or FA||5.10||228||30 1/4||9.38||--||4.64||20||32.5||111||7||4.21||11.65||98.4||101.1||61.8|
|Collins, Alex||Arkansas||2nd or 3rd||5.10||217||30 1/4||9.25||--||4.59||18||28.5||113||97.8||55.9|
|Howard, Jordan||Indiana||2nd or 3rd||6.00||230||32 1/4||9.00||16||34||122||60.2|
|Booker, Devontae||Utah||2nd||5.11||219||31 5/8||8.63||22|
|Carson, Tra||Texas A&M||7th or FA||5.11||227||31 1/2||9.25||19|
|Madden, Tre||Southern Cal||6th or 7th||6.00||223||29 3/4||9.38||24|
I'm going to focus on eight of the RBs listed above who might be available in the 3rd round or later (with the exception of Derrick Henry, who won't be). The assumption is that the Broncos are NOT going to use a 1st or 2nd round pick on a RB so I'm not profiling Elliot, Booker or Dixon. I'm only profiling Henry because he's fun to write about despite his potential to get drafted in the 1st or 2nd round.
College Career Stats
|10+||10+%||20+||20+%||Tough Carries||Tough 1st Downs||Tough 1st Down %||Rushing TDs||Catches||Rec. Yards||Rec. AVG||Rec TDs|
10+ is number of runs of 10 or more yards. 20+ is number of runs of 20 or more yards. "Tough" runs are carries on 3rd or 4th down with 1-3 yards needed to gain.
Daniel Lasco - Cal
At 6-0 and 209 lbs Lasco is a good combination of size and speed. He ran a 4.46s 40 yd dash at the combine. He is also very strong having one of the best explosion numbers at the combine. Lasco is fully capable of running over guys and around guys. Below is his career highlight reel.
The Broncos have been linked to him already. So we know there is some interest there. Lasco is currently projected as a 4th round pick meaning that a pick at the tail end of the 3rd round (98th) would be right in line with that projection.
The knock on Lasco that he has a history of injuries one of which caused him to miss most of the 2015 season - when he only touched the ball 70 times. he had a great junior year (accounting for almost 1500 yards from scrimmage) but did little in his other three years at Cal. Some may look at this as a positive since he didn't get much wear and tear while in college (similar to fellow Cal Bear, CJ Anderson), but the injury history is why Lasco is currently a 4th round projection and not higher.
One-year wonder who put himself on the map with a strong, overall performance in 2014 but suffered through a hip injury in 2015 and was unimpressive when he played. Lasco has some positive physical traits and might post some interesting combine numbers, but his lack of vision and inability to run with consistent physicality will be challenges when it comes to making an NFL roster.
Keith Marshall - UGA
Marshall, similar to current Chief Knile Davis, is a freak who opened many eyes with his 40 time at the combine. Marshall weighed in at 219 at the combine then proceeded to ran 4.29 and 4.31 in his 40yd dash attempts. This combination of speed and size gave him far and away the best Speed Score (127) of any player at the 2016 combine. Marshall had a jinxed career at UGA where he basically lost two whole seasons to injury (ACL tear).
Marshall was very productive when he was on the field for the Dawgs, but that wasn't all that often. There has to be some concern after he was only able to jump 30.5" in the vertical which was the second worst at the combine (only Alex Collins at 28.5" was worse). The limited use at UGA could be viewed as a plus for Marshall (about 260 career touches in college), but any team will have to weight that against his injury history before drafting him.
Marshall was a highly recruited running back who flashed massive potential as a freshman but never made his way back up the Georgia ladder due to injuries and incredible depth at the position over the last few years. Marshall could become a lottery ticket for a zone scheme team willing to take a chance that his speed and confidence return with a fresh start in a new location. His ceiling is much higher than many of the Day 3 running backs who could be drafted ahead of him.
C.J. Procise - ND
This is my favorite RB in the draft, and that is not just my Irish fandom speaking. CJ is probably the most elusive back in the draft. He started his career at ND as a safety, moved to slot receiver as a freshman and only really only played one season at RB due to injury and transfers leaving the Irish thin at RB in 2015. His quickness and elusiveness are what you would expect from a slot receiver. He also has amazing balance and is fairly strong meaning that he rarely gets taken down by the first tackler to reach him.
CJ only had 167 career carries but 25% of those went for 10 or more yards while 8.4% of his runs went for 20 or more yards. He has the vision, balance, size and speed to make him an every down back in the NFL. The knocks on him (outside of his limited experience as a RB) are that he fumbled five times in 2015 (losing two) and that he has lapses where he looks lost in pass protection. That is why he is currently projected as a 3rd or 4th round pick. In my opinion he will end up being a steal for the Broncos if they get him in the 4th.
Ascending running back prospect with the physical build to handle a workload, the athleticism to create for himself and the hands to keep stacking total yardage up. While Prosise has the acceleration and play strength to fit into an NFL offense, he needs to become a shade more decisive and has to improve in protections if he is to become a three-down option. Prosise looks like an immediate "committee" runner with future starter potential.
Derrick Henry - Bama
Henry won the 205 Heisman trophy and was a beast of a runner for the Crimson Tide in 2015. He basically was their offense touching the ball 406 times in 2015 and accounting for 28 of their 55 TDs. Henry is a huge RB in the Eddie George-mold with a gaudy combination of size and speed. He weighed in a 247 lbs at the combine and had combine results strikingly similar to Von Miller. In case you don't know, Von is really quick for his size. So is Derrick. Henry lead the nation this past season forcing 60 missed tackles. He has deceptive speed for his size despite only running a 4.54 40 at the combine.
Derrick Henry played in a zone-blocking rushing scheme at Alabama and was consistently making the right "read" on the play through his combination of vision and patience. He would seem to be an ideal fit for what Kubiak likes in a running back. While he doesn't have the break-away speed that some of the other guys in the article have, his size and balance makes it almost impossible for Henry to get tackled once he has a head of steam. He can be brought down in the backfield if he hasn't gotten up to speed yet, but he is a nightmare for CBs and safeties to tackle in the second level.
The knocks on Henry are the huge number of touches (and hits) he took in his final year at Bama and his relative inability as a receiver. For those two reasons Henry may still be available in the 2nd round. While Elway might still be smarting from the failed pick of Monte Ball, if Derrick Henry is still available in the middle of the second round, I would not be surprised in the least if the Broncos traded up to take him. Bama has produced a lot of NFL RBs recently, but few of them have had sustained NFL success (TJ Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram).
Bell-cow running back with an ability to strap on feedbag and eat for four quarters. Henry's long legs and angular running style is a much better fit for downhill running teams who value lead backs and physicality. Henry needs early running room as he's not a creator in the backfield, but once he gets up a full head of steam, he is a nightmare with his ability to punish on the second and third level or take it to the house. Henry should come in and provide immediate production as a starter.
Kenyan Drake - Bama
Drake was the #2 or #3 RB at Alabama for his entire career (behind Henry, Yeldon and Lacy). He finished with 233 career carries so he, like Prosise, has limited wear and tear on his body. He's nowhere near as big as Henry, Drake is a tall lean RB at 6'1" and 210 lbs. He is also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield with 46 career catches. He has KO return experience, returning one for 95 yards in the national championship game. He has very quick feet and breakaway speed if he gets to the second level. Kenyan made the most of his touches with 22% of his runs going for 10 or more yards.
Drake his injury issues suffering a broken leg one season and a broken arm in another. He also supposedly lacks patience and vision
Drake become the forgotten running back with Derrick Henry's Heisman winning season, but he has good size, quick feet can catch the football. Drake's draft stock could depend on whether or not teams envision him as quality backup who could become part of a committee approach. Drake's physical traits and special teams could make him a good value selection early in the third day.
Wendell Smallwood - WVU
Wendell is a "smaller" back at 5'10" 208, but he was an every down back for the Mountaineers in his final season at WVU. He is a big threat out of the backfield in the passing game who was very good as a runner at maximizing his runs (3rd best of the profiled back at getting 10-20 yards on his carries). He showed good speed and decent quickness at the combine. He is probably the best pass blocker of any RB in the draft, despite being smaller than many of the RBs in the draft. He is known for his ability to read blitzes and pick up the blitzer.
The knock on Smallwood is that he lacks the breakaway speed of some of the other backs in the draft. He will get the nice 10-20 yard run, but he rarely gets runs longer than 20 yards. He had very few TDs either in the running or passing game during his career (12 total). His touchdown rate (TDs/touches) for his career is the worst of the RBs in the table above. Smallwood also is not a RB that you want carrying the ball on 3rd or 4th and short, but with CJ Anderson I doubt the Broncos would give those carries to another RB in 2016.
Smallwood changed West Virginia from an "Air Raid" offense to a "ground and pound" attack. Smallwood's tape features few, true flash plays, but the quality runs seem to stack up one after another. His intelligence in pass pro and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield give him an immediate shot as a third-down back, but his combine could determine whether he hears his name on Day 3 of the draft or not.
Jordan Howard - IU
Jordan Howard started his career at UAB, but they decided to discontinue their football program so he transferred to IU where he knew he could start and be the focus of their offense. Howard is another larger back at 6'0" 230 lbs and he uses his size to break tackles. Like Henry, he is deceptively fast for his size causing many DBs to take bad pursuit angles on him when he ran the ball outside for the Hoosiers. Howard was the go-to guy on 3rd and 4th down and short both with the Blazers (UAB) and with the Hoosiers. His 69 career careers in those situations show that he is trusted by his coaches to deliver in those situations. his moderate success rate in those situations could be more a function of poor offensive lines in front of him than his ability to get tough yards in tough situations. His 43 career first downs in "tough" run situations was second only to Booker in this draft, but many of those came while at UAB.
BOTTOM LINEHoward has the optimal size and talent needed to strap the pads on and become a productive workhorse for a team looking for one, true lead back. Howard's vision, power and subtle shiftiness allow him to create and break tackles along the way. Staying healthy in the NFL is a legitimate concern for Howard considering his relentless running style. If he can stay healthy, Howard has the ability to become an instant factor as an NFL starter.
Tyler Ervin - SJSU
Tyler is very reminiscent of Ronnie Hillman and that's not just because they both played in the same conference. Ervin is a smaller RB at 5'10" 192 lbs who almost got under the magical 4.40 mark at the combine (his official average was 4.41s despite running one trial at 4.39s and the other at 4.40s). For some reason teams drool over guys who can run a "4.3 40". Ervin, like Hillman, does not break tackles, but he has a second gear that allows him to take it to the house if he makes it to the second level. Unlike Hillman, Ervin showed a lot of lower body power at the combine with his 39.0" vertical and his 130" long jump (both second only to Lasco among RBs at the combine this year). Despite that, he struggled to break even poor arm-tackles in college. While Ervin was used a lot in the passing game, he seemed to be limited in the routes that he could run and he was a liability if his was asked to block.
Ervin was very effective as a punt returner while at SJSU.
Ervin is a long-legged, linear runner with the vision and demeanor to be a first down runner, but the thin- frame and poor play strength that will force him into becoming a change of pace running back who will need to make his mark in open spaces when given his opportunities. With Ervin's lack of size in blitz protection, his best chance to make a team, initially, will be as a kick returner.
So tell me who you like in the poll and in the comments.