Top 5 Dolphins options at running back in 2016 draft

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) carries the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Romeo Okwara (45) defends during the second half in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) carries the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Romeo Okwara (45) defends during the second half in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Dolphins need a running back and for now, they are playing the waiting game to see how the NFL Draft shakes up. It’s a smart move that could pay off.

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With the loss of Lamar Miller and the inability to land C.J. Anderson, the Dolphins are hoping that Jay Ajayi can carry the full load at the position. Damien Williams is returning and the Dolphins added Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead in free agency. None of the latter three options are ideal and on paper sit as camp bodies. That could change with the draft later this month.

It’s been widely circulated that the Dolphins would love to add Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot but Elliot very well could be gone by the time the Dolphins select at 13. Others believe that Elliot will still be on the board when the Dolphins select.

The problem for Miami however rests with the knowledge that other positions are more critical than running back. Choosing Elliot makes sense with the 13th pick but using a 2nd round selection on a runner does not. If Elliot is gone by 13, the Dolphins may want to wait until the mid-rounds to find a tailback. The Dolphins haven’t found a lot of success in early rounds of the draft but they have managed to hit on the mid-round runners. Miller was taken in the 4th and Ajayi in the 5th of their draft classes.

Here is a look at the top five runners Miami could target later this month.

Ezekiel Elliot – Ohio State

Bar none, Elliot is the best running back in this years class. Some compare him to Todd Gurley who was the offensive rookie of the year last season. It’s a little much to presume that Elliot would have that same effect on his new team but it is reasonable to believe that he will have a big impact.

In Miami, Elliot would split carries with Ajayi but would form a powerful duo in the back-field and give the Dolphins a very solid offensive weapon in Adam Gase’s offense. Elliot can’t play corner or linebacker or offensive line but passing up on the opportunity to add a game changing offensive weapon would be hard. The only real question is whether or not Elliot falls that far.

It’s assumed that the Eagles will target Elliot at eight overall. The previous position held by the Dolphins before the trade that swapped selections. Elliot is a powerful runner with very good visioin of the field in front of him. He is able to take on tackles and use his quickness to avoid them. He is for lack of a better word, a game changer. If Philadelphia passes on Elliot, it’s very possible that he falls to 13.  Each of the teams between 8 and 13 have more pressing needs than running back. In fact, most media sites don’t have running back listed as team needs for the teams between those positions. Barring someone trading up, Elliot could be a Dolphin.

Derrick Henry – Alabama

If the Dolphins move back in the draft, a possibility if Elliot or top corners are off the board, the Dolphins could target Alabama runner Derrick Henry. Or they could target him in the 2nd round. Miami has more pressing needs than running back and Henry isn’t the breakaway threat that Elliot is. It’s because of this that Miami should wait on a running back until later.

Henry is projected as a 1st or 2nd round talent and if the Dolphins do want to address the position early in the draft, Henry could be in play when the Dolphins select at pick 42 (11th in the 2nd round).

Henry had a good combine running faster than most expected. A power runner, Henry would be a solid fit to pair with Ajayi but again, with so many other needs and not a blue-chip prospect, Miami should look at addressing corner or offensive line in the 2nd round instead.

Kenneth Dixon – Louisiana Tech

Projected as a late third to fifth round draft pick, Dixon could be a very good target for the Dolphins in the 4th round. Dixon doesn’t have elite running back speed and doesn’t have the power running ability that Henry has but he has developed into a solid combination of the two equally. He is quick but not speedy and he has power but not big power. He should be able to develop his pass protection ability as well.

Dixon finished his senior season with 19 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards and has been the bell cow back for Louisiana Tech the last three seasons making him well seasoned for the transition to the NFL.

D.J. Foster – Arizona State

Foster is dual threat runner with a great ability to catch passes. At Arizona State he played wide-receiver in 2015 and while he didn’t play anywhere near as well as he did at running back he learned to catch the ball and in the Adam Gase offense that could serve him well as another option to Ajayi. The problem is he will need some time to develop as a runner and it’s unclear if he would be much better than Damien Williams. He could however be a 5th round selection and the Dolphins would be able to address other areas of need ahead of him.

Tyler Ervin – San Jose State

Ervin is an interesting prospect in that he is more of a specialist than a true runner. In Miami he would not start or even challenge Ajayi for a starting job but he would provide insurance and is explosive in the return game. While he averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2015 and ran for over 1,000 yards, he isn’t viewed as a full-time running back but in Miami he wouldn’t need to be.

Projected as a late draft pick, rounds six or seven, Ervin would enter the season competing to return punts and kicks and that would keep Jarvis Landry out of those duties. If the Dolphins fail to land a mid-round running back, Ervin could be a strong possibility late in the draft. He is small but fast and can catch the ball out of the back-field possibly making him a 3rd down weapon.