2016 NFL Running Back Prospects: The Young Whipper-Snapper Review

Hark, my pretties!” The madman bellowed. “Today I disavow the two best runners in the land!”

Why?” The citizens gasped. Who would entertain such a vile notion?

Because…” the madman began, a mischievous grin sliding across his villainous face, “they bore me.”

Top running back prospects Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry have been very well covered already during this draft cycle. To be completely honest, I’m more familiar with the former Ohio State and Alabama stars than I am with some of my extended family. Shockingly, the terrifying madman introduced above is yours truly, and I am exercising my “journalistic discretion/evil powers” to omit Elliott and Henry from this article. The rest of this running back class is full of enough intrigue to keep The Young and The Restless busy for years, and my only lament is that there is less than a month left to cover them all.

2016 NFL Running Back Prospects: The Young Whipper-Snapper Review

Tre Madden, University of Southern California 

Tre Madden’s name is technically Curtis Ray Madden III, but he is a powerful runner with good pad level and burst. In 2013 Madden was the first USC Trojan running back to start the season with three straight 100-yard rushing games since Marcus Allen in 1981. Madden’s grandfather Curtis Madden and uncle Daylon McCutcheon both had successful NFL careers, which I believe will help Tre avoid the common pitfalls that plague rookies entering the NFL.

His health/medical history is the primary detriment to Madden’s draft grade. Madden started his collegiate career in 2011 at linebacker. He converted to running back in 2012, only to have a knee injury cause him to miss the entire season. He also missed the whole 2014 season with a turf toe injury, and had his 2015 season cut short by a knee injury. Playing running back, the position that reaps more punishment than any other, doesn’t exactly keep him healthy either. He is a solid receiver out of the backfield, allowing him to be a potential three-down back in the NFL.

Madden reminds me a lot of Chris Ivory, not just in terms of similar size and running styles, but also in terms of medical history: Ivory was hurt for most of his collegiate career at Washington State and Tiffin. When healthy, both Ivory and Madden are capable of anchoring a rushing attack. NFL teams employ some of the finest medical professionals, and Madden won’t be asked to be a workhouse in 2016. He’s at least a third-round talent when healthy, but most teams won’t consider him until the fifth round. He’d make an excellent compliment to Melvin Gordon in San Diego, giving the Chargers a power runner that their offense has been lacking since…it’s been a hot minute since they had a bruiser in a Chargers uniform. Let’s leave it at that.

Aaron Green, TCU

With TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin’s Heisman candidacy and wide receiver Josh Docton’s prolific career, no one seems to remember the third amigo. Heck, the NFL didn’t even remember to invite Aaron Green to the Scouting Combine. Green might as well change his name to Griffin, thus making his transformation into The Invisible Man complete.

Green is actually a running back with exceptional speed and receiving skills. His ankle-breaking jukes and stutter-steps left defenders in the dust from start to finish during the 2015 season, including the Senior Bowl. Grabbing the talented back in the third round would give the Carolina Panthers a new element that they’ve been sorely lacking. Pairing Green at running back with Jonathan Stewart, in addition to Kelvin Benjamin’s return at wide receiver, would make that offense the stuff of nightmares.

Tyler Ervin, San Jose State

Now I’ve got to come clean here: I was a complete ninnyhammer on this one and disregarded Tyler Ervin because he is a small guy. Until I watched the Senior Bowl. Then it was, “Holy crow this guy can play” (it may not have actually been crow). Ervin, along with pass rusher Noah Spence, did the most during the Senior Bowl to improve their draft stock. My only solace in letting size bias hinder my scouting abilities is the thought that I was probably not alone.

Unlike Tavon Austin of the Los Angeles Rams, Ervin has a clearly defined position. He is a running back. Ervin is an accomplished route runner capable of lining up in the slot in addition to being a traditional running back. Is it lunacy to say he could have a Darren Sproles like impact in the NFL? No. Lazy, perhaps, comparing Ervin to Sproles, but not insane (finally). His potential as a returner bumps him up into the fourth round easily. Tyler Ervin would give San Francisco 49ers fans something to be excited about.

Jordan Parker, Middle Tennessee State

If Aaron Green is the Invisible Man, what does that make Jordan Parker? Jaques McCaskell? (Don’t look up that name, I just made it up. Any reference to an actual Jaques McCaskell is purely accidental. I’m merely a writer trying to make a point). Parker split time at Middle Tennessee State and only amassed 469 yards in the 2015 season for a surprisingly talented Blue Raiders team. Not exactly stalwart numbers for a diamond-in-the-rough prospect, but with Parker there is more than meets the statistical eye.

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Parker is a big running back with a lot of strength and power. He couples that with soft hands and unexpectedly impressive vision and open field creativity with the ball in his hands. At his height he does run upright too often, exposing himself to hits. Fortunately he is a hard man to tackle and has the great habit of falling forward for extra yards. He may never be a super star, but Jordan Parker does have the talent to last in the NFL. I just can’t seem to pass up the chance to shine a little light on the Suwanee, Georgia native. Jordan Parker will probably be a sixth-round pick at best; however, he could wind up going undrafted. A team like the Washington Redskins could certainly use Parker in their running back rotation.

While hopefully not running wild (HA-HA!), this was actually a fun and informative foray into the 2016 running back class with a specific focus on anybody but the frontrunners (I’M ON FIRE!). Sadly, the race is run (THESE ARE TOO EASY!) and I must bid y’all adieu. Until next time, let’s be good to each other. In the immortal words of Porky Pig, “That’s All Folks!”

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