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Derrick Henry stole the NFL Combine, but Ezekiel Elliott is still the draft's best running back

The Heisman Trophy winner had a stellar week in Indianapolis, but the Ohio State star remains the top prospect at their position.

Alabama running back Derrick Henry stole the show at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday.

Despite being the heaviest running back this year at 247 pounds, Henry put up incredible numbers in drills. Most notably, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds. While that was good for just 11th among running backs, doing it at his size is almost unheard. He also registered a standing vertical leap of 37 inches and broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches. None of those numbers were tops among running backs, but doing them while being almost 6'3 leaves Henry without much comparison.

The combine showing goes along with a Heisman Trophy junior season where he ran for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns and won a national title. Why then, is Henry not considered the best running back prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft?


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That distinction almost universally goes to Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott. He didn't have a bad season either, with 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Elliott is more highly regarded because he's more of a complete package than Henry. Much of Henry's game is based on power and running away from defenders in the open field. Elliott is much better at making defenders miss and quickly bursting through tiny gaps, despite being 225 pounds.

While Henry had the edge in running stats, Elliott had 48 receptions at Ohio State compared to just 11 for Henry at Alabama.

"I'm a guy that can play three downs," Elliott said on Friday. "You don't have to take me off the field. I value blocking more than anything. I obviously love to run the ball and I think I have great hands out of the backfield."

Henry's blocking is a little bit underscored, but Elliott's is at a much higher level. For an incoming rookie running back, the ability to block is critical.

"They’ve got to be able to protect," Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said earlier in the week. "That comes up in conversation quite a bit. They’ve got to really be able to protect. A lot of times you’ll see running backs that have a great skill set in terms of a runner, but sometimes they don’t have the aptitude or sometimes the eyes to pick up those blitzes and the guys off the edge."

Suffice to say, Elliott is the type of running back who can play all three downs. It's largely why he projects as a certain first-round pick while Henry is expected to be picked in the second round. But Henry, to his credit, understands his weaknesses and why teams are asking about them.

"The questions are my quickness, catching the ball, my protection," Henry said. "I definitely want to get better at that and showcase that I can do things like that, but I know I need to work on that."

If Henry can work those issues, he could go on to be a steal in the NFL, much the same way he stole the combine this year.

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