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NFL Combine 2016: Running back drills

The running backs are one of the first groups to put their physicality on display at the combine.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL Combine kicks off for the first time with running backs hitting position drills on Day 1, along with offensive linemen and special teams players. Last year's NFL Draft saw a running back go in the first 10 picks for the first time since 2012. With a good showing at the Combine, that trend could continue.

The first set of players to arrive took over Indianapolis on Tuesday, and went through the standard medical and psychological evaluations, media interviews and are now ready to put their physicality on display. Twenty-nine of the players participating this year are running backs, including big names like Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, as well as sleepers like Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech.

Most players at the Combine will participate in the standard workout drills, including the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, 3-cone drill and shuttle run. Position drills are a little more focused on a particular set of skills NFL scouts are looking for, such as the off-tackle reaction drill for running backs.

The off-tackle drill shows coaches a back's initial burst of speed, ability to accelerate, awareness and speed of his feet, and ability to read and avoid tackles. The drill starts with a handoff to the prospect, who then has to quickly shuffle his feet over several bags on the field, and then finishes by reacting to a coach holding a big bag that he sways right or left, requiring the running back to run in the opposite direction of the "tackler."

For a tutorial of the drill, Mike Mayock breaks it down on

Players to watch

Derrick Henry (Alabama): One of the most dominating rushers in college football, Henry is also a bit of an enigma ahead of the NFL Draft. Experts have had a tough time trying to draw comparisons to his athleticism, size and ability with current players, making him a possible boom-or-bust candidate. The Heisman winner is expected to put up impressive numbers at the Combine, with projections of a dash time in the mid-4.4s and a vertical jump around 40 inches. He's considered a solid Day 2 draft choice, with his quickness called into question.

Jordan Howard (Indiana): The former UAB star transferred to Indiana last season, and took over running back duties from Tevin Coleman, who was drafted in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. In his one season in Bloomington, Howard rushed for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing four games due to injuries. The 6'1, 230-pound rusher could be one of the top five running backs in this year's draft, but his injuries could cause some scouts concern.

Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State): Arguably the top running back in this year's draft class, Elliott will be proving his name among the top 10 prospects is valid. There might be some concern with his off-the-cuff remarks about playcalling issues following the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State, but his reputation on and off the field should quell any questions by scouts. He proved to be an impressive blocker throughout his college career, which will only bolster what he's able to do at the Combine.

Peyton Barber (Auburn): You won't find Barber's name on the top-100 lists or early-round projections, but he is someone that you'll be rooting for at Lucas Oil Stadium. Speaking to the media a couple days ago, Barber revealed that the reason he left Auburn early to enter the pros -- a decision that was a surprise to many at the time -- was because his mother is homeless right now. Barber will get a chance to raise his stock and possible increase the number on his NFL paycheck when he competes Friday with the other running back prospects.