The 2015 NFL season is firmly in our rear view mirror, which means it is time to look forward through the early stages of draft season. We start with a sneak peak at the NFL Combine for the rest of this weekend through Monday. lthough 332 draft-eligible prospects were invited to the NFL Combine, Friday is the day we see on-field workouts for running backs and offensive linemen. Since they are two distinct groups, we'll have two articles looking at prospects. We started with the offensive linemen, and now move on to running backs.
How to watch
2016 NFL Combine
Location: Indianapolis, IN | Lucas Oil Stadium
Time: 6:00 AM - 1:00 PM PT
Channel: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Now
There are four critical areas the 49ers and all other NFL teams deem important during the NFL Combine process, which are medical evaluations, one-on-one interviews, verified measurements, and agility tests and drills. For viewing NFL fans, it is the on-field drills and agility tests the NFL Combine highlights, particularly with five on-field measurable drills performed by all prospects choosing to participate. These five drills consists of:
The marquee event of the combine is all about speed and explosion with the timed 40-yard interval measuring vertical speed over distance and acceleration from a static start. Prospects are also timed at 10 and 20 yard intervals (10-yard split and 20-yard split), where the 10-yard split measures initial quickness and burst, and the 20-yard split measures sustained quickness and burst.
The vertical jump is all about lower-body explosion, power, and leaping ability.
The broad jump is all about lower-body explosion and lower-body strength testing explosion and balance.
3 Cone Drill
The 3 cone drill is all about the prospect's athletic ability to change direction at a high speed. The drill measures agility, flexibility, and change of direction skills (COD).
The short shuttle or 20-yard short shuttle (5-10-5) is all about testing a prospect's lateral quickness, agility, burst, flexibility, balance, and explosion in short areas.
Although the bench press (225 pounds) is not part of the five on-field measurable drills performed today (bench press performed the day before), it is a crucial part of measurables testing upper-body strength (not functional strength) and endurance; moreover, it gives insight for NFL clubs on how often the prospect frequented his college weight room for the last 3-5 years.
How the measurable drills translate for running backs:
When looking at the running backs perform their drills today, keep in mind of some minimum measurable targets running backs should be expected to target as a minimum result. For the most part, prospects exceeding these minimal targets tend to find success in the NFL.
40-yard dash - Minimum Target: 4.55
10-yard split - Minimum Target: 1.60
Vertical jump - Minimum Target: 36"
Broad jump - Minimum Target: 9'9"
3 cone drill - Minimum Target: 7.25
20-yard shuttle - Minimum Target: 4.20
Bench press - Minimum Target: 20
Flying-20 - Minimum Target: 1.93
As for the drills themselves in relation to predicting future success, there is not an exact science on which drill equates to NFL success; however, specific drills for each position tend to garnish more importance than other drills. For the running back position, measurable drills aiding future success are: 10-yard split, 40-yard dash, broad jump, and the *Flying-20.
(*The flying-20 is the measured last 20 yards of a 40-yard dash measuring separation speed. The flying-20 is a key measurable the 49ers value)
Running back prospects to watch:
RB08 *Ezekiel Elliott, No. 15, 6000 - 225 lbs., 31 1/4" arms, 10 1/4" hands - Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliot is an explosive and powerful runner showcasing great speed, short area quickness, vision, body control, and impressive balance always leaning forward gaining positive yards. He excels running between the tackles, but also possesses the speed and quickness turning the corner on the outside. The junior is arguably the best running back prospect in this years' draft class, and displays a dynamic combination of size (6'0"), speed, and athleticism, as well as the versatility to be a quality receiver out of the backfield and solid as a blocker in pass protection. If Elliott does not power through defenders, he is hurdling over them.
Draft Projection: 1st
Elliot's 2015 stats: 289 rushes, 1,821 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, 23 rushing touchdowns, 27 receptions, 206 yards, and averaging 7.6 yards per reception.
RB06 Kenneth Dixon, No. 28, 5100 - 215 lbs., 31 3/8" arms, 9 1/2" hands, 18 bench - Louisiana Tech
Kenneth Dixon is a complete running back with good speed, explosion, quickness, and strength. A very productive and successful college running back, Dixon runs with a somewhat aggressive style, breaks tackles (sometimes goes down in one hit), and although he does not have an elite explosive burst, he shows excellent patience and vision, impressive cuts, and runs with solid balance and a great lean. He has fluid feet, very agile and good change of direction skills with great flexibility and tremendous balance. Shows good aggression in fighting and gaining extra yards, but sometimes the aggressiveness comes with a lack of ball security. Occasionally, Dixon tends to have lapses of vision and patience (needs more consistency) attempting excessive cuts at times bouncing outside going lateral (where the speed of the NFL will catch him) instead of going north and south. He is a solid pass catcher with nice reliable hands and route running, and will need to improve on pass protection.
Dixon does not have elite speed or a second gear, but as a complete running back, he does everything well: running inside with solid power and agility, outside with good burst and enough speed, breaks tackles, causes defenders to miss with change of direction, and one of the better pass catchers, plus is decent at pass protection. Moreover, solid college production.
Draft Projection: (2nd-3rd)
Dixon's 2015 stats: 198 rushes, 1,073 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, 19 rushing touchdowns, 33 receptions, 464 yards, averaging 14.1 yards per reception, and 7 receiving touchdowns.
Dixon's career stats: 802 rushes, 4,483 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, 72 rushing touchdowns, 87 receptions, 969 yards, 11.1 yards per reception, and 15 receiving touchdowns.
RB20 *Paul Perkins, No. 24, 5100 - 208 lbs., 31 5/8" arms, 9" hands, 19 bench - UCLA
Paul Perkins, a junior, is a hard nosed playmaker with tremendous instincts, awareness, patience, and vision. A complete and natural running back, Perkins displays a solid combination of size, speed, quickness, physicality, balance, athleticism, and elusiveness. He accelerates around the edges and runs solid inside between the tackles making consecutive moves in a short area running low and through the cracks maintaining the desired low pad-level hitting and slashing the hole exploding to daylight. An ankle-breaker, Perkins' suddenness is impressive forcing 85 missed tackles on 265 touches. The home run hitter also displays excellent pass-catching ability skills.
Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd
Perkins' 2015 stats: 237 rushes, 1,343 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, 14 rushing touchdowns, 30 receptions, 242 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per reception, and 1 receiving touchdown.
RB07 Kenyan Drake, No. 17, 6010 - 210 lbs., 31 3/4" arms, 9 3/4" hands, 10 bench - Alabama
Kenyan Drake has been an excellent compliment running back to the powerful Derrick Henry, and he is likely projected in a similar role at the next level. Drake displays superb skills as a receiver out of the backfield with solid reliable hands and good route running. He showcases a terrific combination of size (6'1"), speed (should be around the 4.40 40 range), agility, and athleticism with impressive quick feet, superb stop and start quickness, nice change of direction skills, and tremendous burst with amazing acceleration exploding into a second gear pulling away from defenders. Drake possess sound vision and instincts, showcases impressive inside running ability making decisive consecutive moves in a short area maintaining low pad-level exploding through the cracks hitting the hole with adequate power. Moreover, with his elite speed, Drake shows the excellent capacity to hit the home run play at anytime.
Drake is fair in pass protection, but will need more room for improvement (has a tendency to lunge towards defenders propelling himself out of the action). Drake is a perfect zone-blocking scheme running back showcasing great patience, vision, and will one-cut exploding to daylight adding his terrific ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Drake also has been battling several injuries throughout the season (also a broken leg in 2014); therefore, durability could be a concern. Brings value on special teams as his impressive kick return touchdown during the National Championship game can attest to.
Drake's 2015 stats: 77 rushes, 408 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, 1 rushing touchdown, 29 receptions, 276 yards, averaging 9.5 yards per reception, and 1 touchdown.
RB09 Tyler Ervin, No. 7, 5100 - 192 lbs., 29 3/4" arms, 9 1/8" hands, 17 bench - San Jose State
Tyler Ervin is a very smart decisive explosive versatile football player hitting holes with tremendous burst and speed exploding to daylight. Ervin is expected to have an elite timed speed in the 40-yard dash (low 4.3s), as well as impressive vertical and broad jump measurables going along with his terrific receiving skills in space, his elusiveness and vision will likely launch him up draft boards. Although not a powerful running back, Ervin bursts and hits the hole with authority, maintains low pad-level squirming his way to daylight exploding and separating from defenders with elite speed. A true home run hitter, Ervin is not a typical complimentary scatback, but a true workhouse with an impressive inside and outside game and solid instincts. Ervin is a well-rounded back showing enough strength to pick up the difficult yards, and suddenness to make defenders miss.
With all the fame and accolades going to fellow Bay Area collegiate player, Christian McCaffrey (king of the All Purpose yards--3,864 averaging 276 yards per game), the underrated Ervin sits only second nationally behind McCaffrey in All Purpose yards at 2,637 total yards averaging 202.85 yards per game, with one less game and 63 fewer plays than McCaffrey.
Draft Projection: 5th
Ervin's 2015 stats: 294 rushes, 1,601 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, 13 rushing touchdowns, 45 receptions, 334 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per reception, and 2 touchdowns.
* = indicates junior status