Jordan Howard is Still Undervalued and Other Running Back Updates
The 2016 RotoViz Scouting Index (RSI) has recently been updated, and at the running back position in the Jan. 18 version the one thing that strikes me is the extent to which Indiana true junior running back Jordan Howard is still sooooooo undervalued.
Before Indiana’s bowl game against Duke, I wrote a draft profile for Howard, arguing that he is one of the best running backs in this year’s class and likely to be selected in rookie drafts as high as pick 1.04. Read the original article for fuller analysis. Evidently, the updated RSI disagrees with my Howard hype.
In late December, Howard wasn’t even on the RSI, and I speculated that his absence was the result of his being a true junior and not having declared yet for the draft. Now, he is only the ninth-ranked running back — which is a three-spot improvement from the previous RSI — but Howard is still criminally undervalued, and I expect to see his ranking continue to rise in the RSI throughout the coming months.
Ultimately, I expect that Howard will be selected with a top-100 pick in the NFL draft because of his excellent combination of production (two years of over 1,200 yards rushing per season) and size (6 feet 1 inch and 230 pounds). And if Howard displays strong athleticism in his pre-draft workouts, he easily could be selected in the second round.
Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry: Works For Me
Ohio State true junior running back Ezekiel Elliott is currently the top running back in the RSI, and he has been for a while. I expect that he will remain the RSI’s top-ranked back unless Alabama true junior Derrick Henry tests well at the combine, which is very possible. Either way, these two deserve to be the highest-ranked running backs. Elliott is a strong prospect given his college dominance and age, and Henry with his production, size, and likely draft position is a candidate to be selected with pick 1.01 in rookie drafts.
Devontae Booker: Arbitrage Special
Utah super redshirt senior running back Devontae Booker is an intriguing player. The RSI’s third-ranked back, he could be a steal in both the NFL and rookie drafts, given his college production and especially his ability as a receiver and return man. For more analysis, consult this draft profile for Booker. He will turn 24 about a month after the NFL draft, so his age will likely keep him from being a top-five selection in rookie drafts, but he absolutely has the ability to outplay for a couple of seasons some of the players who will be selected before him. Right now, Booker is one of my pet prospects for the 2016 draft.
C.J. Prosise: The 2016 David Johnson and/or Javorius Allen
Notre Dame redshirt junior running back C.J. Prosise is the fifth-ranked back in the RSI and one of the last players in the second tier of running back prospects. Here’s a draft profile on Prosise if you want further analysis. I expect Prosise to be selected in the NFL draft anywhere from the third to the fifth round, and I like him a lot because he is big, good at catching the ball, and reasonably productive. He really could be the 2016 big rookie running back who comes out of nowhere because of this three-down potential.
Alex Collins: I’m Higher on Him Than I Used to Be
Since the last RSI, Arkansas true junior running back Alex Collins has dropped two spots to No. 7, specifically being jumped by Prosise and Alabama backup running back Kenyan Drake. I think that Prosise deserves his top-five ranking and that Drake was probably underutilized at Alabama — but Collins is a top-five back in this draft class. Before his bowl game onslaught against Kansas State, I suggested that Collins is a really good “meh” SEC runner — but I think that I made a mistake in underselling him.
Collins has been consistently productive throughout college with three straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards rushing, and his most recent campaign, with 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing in 13 games, was impressive. And he’s got good size, being 5 feet 11 inches and 215 pounds. If he isn’t a horrible athlete, he has a good chance of being a top-100 (maybe top-50) pick in the draft and a starter within his first two seasons.
Jonathan Williams: The Other Arkansas Running Back
Arkansas redshirt junior running back Jonathan Williams missed all of the 2015 season to a foot injury, but in the two previous seasons he and Collins essentially split the workload. In fact, in the exact same 25 games played at the same age, Williams touched the ball fewer times but had more yards and touchdowns and displayed more ability as a receiver. And at 6 feet and 223 pounds, Williams certainly has NFL size.
Williams currently is the 10th-ranked back in the RSI, but he might deserve to be a couple of spots higher. He is a relatively forgotten back right now, but his upside is as high as that of any other running back prospect whose surname isn’t Elliott or Henry.
An Offseason of Updates: Hold On To Your Jockstrap
Brace yourself. Two to three times per month RotoViz Editor Charles Kleinheksel will update the RSI. Exciting, I know.
And whenever that happens, I will within a day or so provide a running back update that uses the most recent RSI as a loose launching point.
In other words, get ready for an entire offseason of my telling you two to three times per month that Elliott and Henry are great; that Howard, Booker, Prosise, Collins, and Williams are good; and that most of the other running backs suck.
Of course, there are a few running backs whom I like that aren’t discussed in this article . . . be sure to find out who they are in future updates . . .
Matthew Freedman is a writer for Fantasy Labs and a contributor to RotoViz and Pro Football Focus. He is (not) the inspiration for the character in The League who shares his name. You can follow him on Twitter @MattFtheOracle — but you probably shouldn’t.