There were 20 running backs selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, although only two of them were chosen in the first 70 picks, and only one in the first 40 selections. What can we expect from these running backs in 2016 from a fantasy football perspective? We take an early look one week after the completion of the NFL Draft.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Elliott steps into a great situation and could reasonably be a first round pick in all fantasy football drafts this year. He has a great offensive line in front of him with Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free. He also benefits from a good passing game highlighted by Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, keeping teams from stacking the box against him. He is a great pass blocker, which should keep him in the field on passing downs, and the Cowboys don’t have any obvious touchdown vultures to steal goal line carries. Elliot could become a productive workhorse for the Cowboys cranking out volume much like DeMarco Murray did when he was in Dallas.
FFL Status: Round 1
Derrick Henry, Titans
Just when DeMarco Murray looked to have regained relevance in fantasy football, the Titans use a second round pick on another workhorse back in Henry. Just last month the Titans were saying that Murray would be used extensively, which makes Henry's selection odd, and his fantasy value frustratingly low. The Titans have an already crowded backfield with Murray, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews and David Cobb. Until Henry's role is established, we can only assume it is the same role Rudi Johnson had in Cincinnati when the Bengals still had Corey Dillon - which was minimal. Murray has an injury history, and is only one year removed from a 450 touch season, making Henry a potential late round pick as a handcuff. If it seems as the season approaches that Henry will be the starter, his status will certainly change.
FFL Status: Late Round Handcuff for Murray
Kenyan Drake, Dolphins
Drake was constantly in the background at Alabama, behind Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, and Derrick Henry. This past season, Henry dominated the carries for the Tide in 2015. While Drake only had 77 rushes, he did contribute 29 receptions. He is an explosive player who recorded a 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash. Drake steps into a situation where he should be able to get touches with only Jay Ajayi ahead of him on the depth chart. Ajayi is a much bigger back, meaning, unlike Henry, Drake could have a defined and productive role this season. Drake's current value is as a handcuff to Ajayi and someone who probably stands to see five to 10 touches per week when Ajayi is healthy.
FFL Status: Late Round RB4 and Handcuff for Ajayi
C.J. Prosise, Seahawks
The retirement of Marshawn Lynch opens up the Seahaks' backfield, but former undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls will likely get the first chance to establish himself as the starter after a very good rookie campaign replacing Lynch. With Rawls currently injured, Prosise has a limited window of opportunity to impress Seahawks' coaches before Rawls returns. If Prosise can impress in camp, and if Rawls is not ready by the beginning of the season, Prosise could force his way into a timeshare with Rawls. If Prosise fails to impress right away, his value will be limited to a handcuff.
FFL Status: TBD
Kenneth Dixon, Ravens
Dixon was the last of eight picks the Ravens used in the first four rounds of the NFL draft, and was something of a value to be selected as late as he was. Dixon steps into a crowded, but underwhelming backfield and could potentially find significant playing time in his rookie season. Justin Forsett remains the starter, but has only once carried the ball more than 151 times in a season, and when he did that, he missed almost 40% of the following season. In fact, Forsett, Buck Allen, and Lorenzo Taliaferro all suffered injuries in 2015. Dixon is a true wildcard who could get buried in a blurred backfield with minimal touches in year one, or could emerge as the top running back on a team devoid of exciting talent at that position.
FFL Status: Undrafted, TBD