In a year full of Heisman caliber seasons form running backs across the country, quite a few have been overshadowed by the likes of Alabama’s Derrick Henry, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, FSU’s Dalvin Cook, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott.
That will change with the NFL Draft in April.
Last year was the first year since 2012 that a running back was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, but it won’t be the last.
While guys like Henry and Elliot are obvious bids to receive first-round consideration, look for Arkansas RB Alex Collins to sneak up draft boards.
Though he might not be the fastest player in the 2016 draft, at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, Collins has all the physical tools to be a top-tier NFL back.
“He’s a much more patient runner, which has allowed him to make a lot more yards than he did a year ago,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told WholeHogSports.com after Collins outrushed Fournette 141-91.
Fournette, just a sophomore, is considered by many to be the most talented running back in the nation, but he watched on the sidelines as Collins ran all over his Tigers on Nov. 14.
Anybody noticed, Alex Collins is shifty. https://t.co/yByCUhWXGO
— Josh Goforth (@joshgoforth) November 18, 2015
“We thought maybe last year he left 100 to 300 yards on the field because of patience and reading blocks the way you need to,” Bielema said. “It’s been fun to see him develop this year. My hat goes off to Alex.”
Earlier in the week Collins was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, well-deserved for his work this season but just the start of what this future NFL standout can accomplish.
In terms of numbers, a guy like Ohio State’s Elliot (1,458 yards, 17 TDs) may have Collins (1,262 yards, 14 TDs) beat thanks to a plush Big Ten schedule, but Collins’ big-play ability will match up with just about anyone.
“I think his maturity level is off the charts from where it was a year ago … he knows that even when he’s getting four and five yard carries, it’s going to open up the rest of our offense,” Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen told ArkansasNews reporters early this month.
Collins has topped 1,000 yards in all three seasons with the Razorbacks, and his progress is becoming impossible to ignore.
He already ranks third all-time among Razorbacks running backs with 3,388 career yards. While he won’t supplant Darren McFadden (4,590) at the top spot, he has two games to pass Ben Cowins (3,570).
He’s tied with Cowins for fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns with 30.
Collins is projected to be a third-round pick by CBSSports.com, but based on his ability and physical tools, that seems too low.
Don’t be surprised if a team in need of a running back decides to snag him with a early second, or even a late-first round pick in next year’s draft.