Each week, Frank Coppola will provide scouting reports of the top prospects for the 2016 NFL draft. Today we feature the top running backs and wide receivers.
1. Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State) – Projected Pick: Top 20
Elliot carried the Ohio State Buckeyes’ offense the past two seasons, leading them to a National Championship title as a sophomore. He is the most NFL-ready running back in this year’s draft class and will be able to become a three–down back in any offensive system. His ball carrier is vision is practically flawless, following blocks and exploding through holes with ease. He has a strong 225-pound frame and has demonstrated his ability to punish defenders and break tackles. Despite his powerful running style, Elliot is incredibly agile and exhibits graceful footwork. He is also an able pass catcher out of the backfield, and he further proved this in the combine drills. The only concern for Elliot’s game was his high workload while at Ohio State, averaging 281 carries per season in his two years as a starter. Despite this workload, he maintained durability and proved that he can handle a large number of touches. Ezekiel Elliot is a prospect with superstar potential who posted over 2,000 all-purpose yards in each of his two years as a starter, and he looks to be the NFL’s next workhorse out of the backfield.
2. Derrick Henry (Alabama) – Projected Pick: Early-Mid 2nd Round
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner was the leader of the Alabama offense in their championship season as a junior. After rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns, Henry broke Herschel Walker’s single-season SEC rushing record. He has surprisingly fast cap speed despite his 6’3’’, 247-pound body, running a 4.54 40-yard dash time at the combine. Henry’s main asset out of the backfield is his ability to accelerate through holes created in the trenches and cause defenders in the second-level to miss. Being such a big back, he thrives in zone-run schemes as a power rusher. He proved to be very efficient at Alabama, averaging 6.0 yards per carry over the course of his three-year collegiate career. The major flaw in Henry’s game is that he often has trouble creating his own lanes out of the backfield and relied on the strength of his powerful Alabama offensive line. He will need to improve his ability to create space in the backfield and locate his second read, but Derrick Henry is a solid prospect with the physical potential to develop into an effective NFL starter.
3. Alex Collins (Arkansas) – Projected Pick: Early-Mid 3rd Round
Collins is a strong back with a wide, solid frame and was the definition of consistency during his three years at Arkansas. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons with the Razorbacks, averaging 222 carries per season and 5.6 yards per attempt. He thrives in a power-run scheme, which brings out the best in his powerful legs and strong use of low pad level. The only knock on his game is that he doesn’t have the cap speed of a three-down NFL running back. He also was virtually ineffective as a pass catcher, failing to record over 100 receiving yards in any season. He is a situational runner who will give teams consistent power rushing out of the backfield, and his 36 total rushing touchdowns displays his redzone efficiency.
4. Devontae Booker (Utah) – Projected Pick: Early-Mid 3rd Round
The featured back for the Utes’ offense, Devontae Booker demonstrated his ability to explode through holes and exhibited fluid ball-carrier vision, locating lanes and avoiding defenders to break off runs. Booker is also able to maintain his speed and agility when making cuts and changing direction in the open field. He proved to be a solid pass catcher out of the backfield as well, with great acceleration after getting around the edge. His main weakness is that he is under-sized. Being that he is only 5’11’’ and 219-pounds, he may struggle to function as a three-down back at the next level, especially considering his history with fumbles. Despite this physical setback, Booker is a quick and agile rusher who can be effective in situational running plays, and has the potential to develop into a full-time NFL starter if put in the right system.
5. Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech) – Projected Pick: Mid-Late 3rd Round
Dixon was a first-team All-Conference USA selection in his senior year after capping off an impressive four-year collegiate career that featured 87 total touchdowns and over 5,000 yards from scrimmage. Dixon is a speed runner who uses his quick footwork to follow blocks and dissect defenses. His elusiveness as a ball carrier helped him thrive after contact, posting an average of 3.3 yards after first contact. He was also a threat as a pass catcher, averaging 426 receiving yards per season in his junior and senior years at Louisiana Tech. The main concern with Dixon’s draft stock is his small size, being a 5’10’’, 215-pound back. Considering the fact that he battled knee and ankle injuries in college, his durability is a question mark going forward at the next level. However, Dixon is an agile, dual-threat running back who use his speed and quickness to take advantage of holes in the defense to create big-plays and force tacklers to miss.
1. Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) – Projected Pick: Top 20
Treadwell, a five-star recruit coming out of high school, developed into everything the Rebels had hoped for and more. He was selected as the SEC’s top freshman in 2013. He was on track for another strong season as a sophomore before suffering an injury to his fibula, sidelining him for the rest of the year. He came back strong in 2015, however, recording 82 receptions for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning him a first team All-SEC selection. Treadwell is a big receiver with great hands and the ability to leap up and make plays in the air by tracking the ball over defenders. He is a fluid route runner with premier footwork and body control, giving him the ability to shake off corners on routes. The only concern for Treadwell’s game is his lack of speed and quickness. He struggles to gain separation against quick corners and lacks pure vertical speed. Treadwell looks to be a talented receiving prospect who can make plays downfield with his incredible size, vertical catching ability, and solid route running.
2. Josh Doctson (TCU) – Projected Pick: Late 1st Round
Doctson is a receiver who has the speed, height, and vertical ability to be effective anywhere on the field. He was selected as a first-team All-American in 2015 as a senior after setting the TCU school record for receptions with 79. He posted consistent production, receiving for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and scoring 25 touchdowns over that time span. He has very strong hands and has the ability to secure catches in traffic. His speed and route running provide him with the physical tools to make plays downfield. He also has a tremendous vertical leap and body control, allowing him to go into the air and make plays over defenders. The only weakness to his game is his lack of muscle and physicality. His lack of overall strength prevents him from being effective against press coverage and could lead to durability issues and injuries. However, Doctson makes up for his lack of physical strength with solid speed and the ability to pinpoint passes out of the air. He is a high potential prospect who could turn into a deadly target in the NFL.
3. Corey Coleman (Baylor) – Projected Pick: Late 1st Round
Coleman is a dangerous vertical threat who has the speed, agility, and quickness to beat any cornerback that he faces. He was very productive in 2015, producing 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns on 74 receptions. He is able to shake off defenders at the line of scrimmage and runs crisp routes to get down the field and demand safety help over the top. Coleman is also a prolific carrier with the ball in his hands and will be able to provide help in the return game as a rookie. Coleman’s weakness is his small size. He is only 5’11’’, which is a relatively undesirable height for a vertical receiver, especially because Coleman he proven to be less effective in the middle of the field. He also struggled during the more difficult part of Baylor’s schedule last season, failing to score a touchdown or receive for over 100 yards in any of the final four regular season games. Regardless, he is a speedy vertical threat who was a touchdown-scoring machine while operating in a spread offense at Baylor. He will need time to develop into a more fundamentally sound receiver who can overcame his insufficient size, but he is a great prospect with the physical characteristics to become a superstar.
4. Will Fuller (Notre Dame) – Projected Pick: Late 1st Round-Early 2nd Round
Fuller is a vertical threat with lightning speed, running a 4.32 40-yard dash time, the fastest among all receivers. He has potential to create huge plays, taking over 27% of his receptions for 25+ yards in 2015. Fuller recorded 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior and was named the Irish’s MVP of the season. His speed and quickness cause corners to give him a cushion to work with, which allows him to work his routes and build up speed down the sideline. Fuller’s potential is weakened by his small size. He is 6 feet tall but weighs only 186 pounds, a very light build for an outside receiver. He also has very small hands, which has led to some inconsistency and dropped passes. Overall, Fuller is an agile receiver with elite speed and although he may not be a consistent outside receiver in the NFL, he has the ability to make big plays and expose holes in the secondary.
5. Tyler Boyd (Pitt) – Projected Pick: Early-Mid 2nd Round
Boyd became the Pitt all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards during his three-year collegiate career as a Panther. He received first-team All-ACC selections in both his sophomore and junior seasons, recording 78 and 91 receptions respectively. The 6’1’’ receiver has strong hands and has the ability to make spectacular catches through tight windows. He was targeted frequently at Pitt and displayed the confidence to step up and handle a high volume of workload on the offense, and he is a polished route runner who creates passing lanes with his footwork. Boyd also proved that he can be effective as a special teams returner as well. His biggest weakness is his lack of speed and agility in the open field as a ball carrier. This setback limits his ability to produce yards after the catch, creating the belief that he is more of a possession receiver rather than a true #1. Boyd is a solid receiving prospect that can be a reliable target for NFL quarterbacks, using his route running abilities and big, strong hands to get open and make plays.