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2018 NFL Combine: Stock up, stock down for running backs

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Who won the day for running backs? Who lost stock?

NFL: Combine
Louisiana State Tigers running back Derrius Guice runs the 40 yard dash during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. 
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins saw the emergence of running back Kenyan Drake as a potential feature back for 2018.

However, the Dolphins know better than to put all their eggs in one basket for a player. The devastating injuries to Ryan Tannehill showed Miami that depth is crucial to a team’s success.

The 2018 draft running back class has a lot of depth, but there were only seven who chose to complete every drill.

Let’s see what running backs improved or killed their stock after workouts.

STOCK UP

Kalen Ballage, Arizona State

Ballage has been an intriguing prospect for two years now. Known for his 6-foot-1, 230 pound frame, Ballage was used as a big plug-and-play athlete who could do it all for ASU. Though he was underused his entire career, Ballage showed promising talent as a running back and pass catcher. He continued to show off his athleticism by posting a 4.46 40-time, 33.5 vertical jump and 4.35 20-yard shuttle run. Ballage also looked smooth in the on field workouts, cutting and slashing through drills. With the combination of size and speed, Ballage could be the first running back selected out of the third round.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Stanford
Stanford Cardinal fullback Houston Heimuli (34) attempts to defend against Arizona State Sun Devils running back Kalen Ballage (7) during the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Barkley entered the combine projected as a top-five pick, with not much to gain and a lot to lose. Yet, the star running back dazzled in his workouts, making a strong case for the No. 1 selection overall. Barkley ran an impressive 4.4 40-yard dash, benched an astounding 29 reps and jumped a 41 inch vertical. He also added a 4.24 20-yard shuttle run. Barkley was already an elite athlete, and with Friday’s performance, he showed teams just how special he can be at the next level. The Cleveland Browns have searched for a quarterback for years now, but Barkley’s performance may have single-handedly changed their course of action with the first pick.

NFL: Combine
Penn State Nittany Lions Saquon Barkley running back goes through workout drills during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Derrius Guice, LSU

It’s never easy to follow up a workhorse back that started over you, and was drafted fourth overall. However, Guice finally got his chance at a full-time starting gig this season for LSU, after star teammate Leonard Fournette declared for the NFL draft last year. Guice failed to stay healthy, but he shined on the ground when active, even though LSU lacked a throwing identity again this year (shocker). We knew Guice was strong, elusive, agile and an overall great athlete who hits holes as hard as a RB possibly can. What we didn’t know is how fast Guice can be. He ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds which is a great time for someone Guice’s size. While he had a tough showing at the bench press (15 reps), we know Guice is strong based off his ability to use his pads, and his compact frame shows he’ll be a nightmare to deal with. He didn’t participate in most of the drills, but the 4.49 time gives teams something to think about. If he was on the cusp, he may have solidified his first-round status after running a faster time than most anticipated.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Notre Dame vs Louisiana State
LSU Tigers running back Derrius Guice (5) runs in for a touchdown past Notre Dame Fighting Irish J.D. Carney (14) during the second half in the 2018 Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Other notable mentions: Nick Chubb

STOCK DOWN

Akrum Wadley, Iowa

Wadley’s hype isn’t as high as many running backs in this draft, but his vision, patience and cutting ability shows he has deadly potential. However, Wadley’s 40-time may have hurt his stock. He ran 4.59 and 4.54 for his 40, and he didn’t look very explosive doing so. His breakaway speed was never a problem on tape, but running a slower time than Guice who is 30 pounds heavier than Wadley, raises concerns. Had Wadley ran in the 4.4’s at a 194 pounds, his stock would’ve been rock solid for the second round. Now? He may find himself in the fourth. Not a day to remember for Wadley, though he could rebound on his scheduled pro day workout.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Boston College vs Iowa
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley (25) rushes against Boston College Eagles defensive tackle Noa Merritt (94) during the second half of the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Demario Richard, Arizona State

Richard had the lowest vertical at 29.5” and failed to measure strongly in any other areas. He also ran an incredibly disappointing 4.7 40-time, one of the lowest out of running back participants. Richard looked a step slow from start to finish, struggling to show any explosion or athleticism. He’s in danger of being undrafted.

NFL: Combine
Arizona State Sun Devils running back Demario Richard goes through workout drills during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ronald Jones, Southern California

Jones injured his hamstring running the 40-yard dash, and was unable to resume workouts. He’s also pressed for time to heal, with his pro day scheduled for March 21. He also chose not to participate in bench press, so other than measurements and tape, nobody really knows what they’re getting in Jones at this point. He could fall from the second round to the fourth, if he’s unable to bounce back by the 21st.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California
Southern California Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) runs past Southern California Trojans cornerback Greg Johnson (9) in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports