The running backs were back with a vengeance in the 2015 NFL Draft. Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon broke a recent trend of NFL teams not spending their first round picks on runners. Will that trend continue in 2016? It's probably too early to tell, but there are a few names that could end up being in the first round conversation. Here are my top five running backs entering the 2015 college football season.
1. Ezekiel Elliott
6'0, 225, Junior
Elliott's stock spiked after Ohio State's run to the national title game. Much of the focus was placed on Cardale Jones, but Elliott was the the driving force behind the Buckeye's offensive attack. Elliott ran for over 1,800 yards, averaging nearly seven yards per carry last season.
Elliott is a smooth runner with excellent hip flexibility. He can do anything that you ask of him, whether it be pass blocking, run blocking or running a go route downfield. Elliott proved to be a load to bring down last season, playing with excellent leg churn. He's agile enough to make you miss and has enough top end speed to hit the homerun. Elliott has a decent shot to go in the first round next year, if he decides to declare.
2. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
6'1, 223, Senior
Jonathan Williams will return to Fayetteville this season to compete in his Senior campaign. He blossomed in 2014, running within Arkansas' power rushing attack. Williams accumulated nearly 1,200 yards last season, despite sharing most of the touches with teammate Alex Collins. Both Collins and Williams are set to return this season, looking to do some more damage.
Williams is a stout back that wins with balance. He's a smooth operator with great feet. He's able to plant seamlessly, changing direction with ease. Williams' frame looks like he would lack wiggle, but that isn't the case. He flashes decent power to go along with excellent agility. That combination makes him dangerous in space.
3. Alex Collins, Arkansas
5'11, 215, Junior
Collins will return to Arkansas this season, forming an incredible duo with the aforementioned Jonathan Williams. Bret Bielema will utilize both backs once again in 2015, hoping to have even more success this season. Collins has been able to reach 1,000 yards in each of his two seasons at Arkansas, averaging over five yards per carry.
Collins is a more explosive runner than Williams, but doesn't offer the same power or balance. He has an electric lower half, flashing incredible acceleration and burst. He's more of a slasher, but he has the feet and agility to work through a pile. Collins is a nightmare in the open field. He knows how to set defenders up and doesn't waste any movement making his man miss.
4. Derrick Henry, Alabama
6'3, 243, Junior
Derrick Henry is an interesting case. There is a lot to like about him, but plenty that concerns me about him. He's 6'3 -- much taller than the average back in the NFL currently. This offers a bit of an issue in that he runs extremely upright. With this being said, Henry maintains outstanding balance. He's able to bounce off of first contact routinely.
Henry's size does limit his agility, however. You won't see him making too many people miss. His game is running through tacklers. Henry is more of a momentum runner than an explosive runner. He doesn't have great acceleration through the hole, but once he gets moving he's tough to bring down.
5. Devontae Booker, Utah
5'11, 212, Senior
Devontae Booker landed at Utah last season and immediately started turning heads. He ran for over 1,500 yards in his first season while adding 43 receptions out of the backfield. Booker is a do-it-all type that will add value to any group in any scenario. He's landed himself on several Heisman watch lists this preseason and is primed for a huge 2016.
Booker may only be listed as 212 pounds, but he's a load to bring down. Booker always runs with his head down, looking to pop someone. It isn't all about power, however. He shows nice agility and balance when sifting through the lanes. He offers teams a ton of value with his ability to catch the football out of the backfield. That alone should guarantee Booker playing time early on in the NFL.
Other names to watch:
James Conner, Pittsburgh
Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
Kenyan Drake, Alabama
Johnathan Gray, Texas
DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech
Aaron Green, TCU
Kareem Hunt, Toledo