Bears

NFL Draft: Top 5 running back prospects

NFL Draft: Top 5 running back prospects

As the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago quickly approaches, CSNChicago.com is releasing a list of the Top 5 prospects at each position leading up to Day 1 of the draft on Thursday, April 28. Next up is running back.

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

6’0” | 225 lbs.

2015 stats:

289 carries, 1,821 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: A foundation piece of an NFL offense and a complete back. Zeke’s eyes and feet are so in tune that he seamlessly shifts his line to accommodate blocking strengths and positioning. Elliott turns plenty of three-yard gains into eight-yard carries with balance, agility and power. He might be the best pass-protecting running back I’ve seen out of college, on top of being a solid receiving option." — Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

2. Derrick Henry, Alabama

6’3” | 247 lbs.

2015 stats:

395 CAR, 2,219 YDS, 28 TD | 11 REC, 91 YDS

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: A great athlete for a 6’2/242 lbs ball carrier. Defenses will need to slow him down behind the line and attempt to tackle him low, because once he is up to speed Henry is a monster. When allowed the second level, Henry has long speed to outrun defenders or power to gain a few yards after contact, if not run over them completely." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

3. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

5’10” | 213 lbs.

2015 stats:

198 att., 1,073 yds., 19 TD; 33 rec., 464 yds., 7 TD

Scouting Report:

"Highly determined runner with a strong desire to compete through the whistle on every snap. Dixon possesses outstanding feet with exciting suddenness in his change of direction, but he’s very willing to finish his runs with authority and has a knack for finding the endzone. Dixon has all the traits of being a quality, three­-down starter in the NFL but his frame and suspect pass protection could be long-term concerns." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

4. C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame

6’0” | 220 lbs.

2015 stats:

157 CAR, 1,029 YDS, 11 TD | 26 REC, 308 YDS, 1 TD

Scouting Report:

"Ascending running back prospect with the physical build to handle a workload, the athleticism to create for himself and the hands to keep stacking total yardage up. While Prosise has the acceleration and play strength to fit into an NFL offense, he needs to become a shade more decisive and has to improve in protections if he is to become a three-­down option. Prosise looks like an immediate "committee" runner with future starter potential." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

5. Devontae Booker, Utah

5’11” | 219 lbs.

2015 stats:

268 CAR, 1,261 YDS, 11 TD, 37 REC, 316 YDS, 0 REC TD

Scouting Report:

"Rhythm runner who has experience in a pro­-style running game and who gets better with the more carries he has. Booker is a three-down running back who has the toughness and determination to grind out short yardage while possessing the vision and footwork to create for himself when near the line of scrimmage or the second level. Booker isn?t fast, but he plays at a consistent speed and should have enough quickness to be consistently productive as an NFL starting running back." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Click here for profiles of more than 150 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player. Video analysis provided by NBC Sports and Rotoworld NFL Draft expert Josh Norris.

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 31 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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