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Elliott, Henry don't diminish lofty draft status at combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott and Alabama's Derrick Henry did nothing to diminish their status as the 2016 NFL Draft's top-rated running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday.

As Henry was impressive in the jumps (tied for second in the broad and fifth in the vertical among running backs), Elliott blazed a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, good for fifth among running backs.

"I saw what I thought I would see from (Elliott and Henry) today," NFL Media draft analyst Mayock said. "Solid, all-around days from both Elliott and Henry."

With NFL Media draft expert mock draft projections as a guide, Elliott appears to be a near lock to be a first-round pick. Meanwhile, Henry -- the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner -- might need to show a little extra something to entice a team to select the 6-foot-3, 247-pound behemoth of a back on the draft's opening night.

Alabama's recent history in the NFL at the position has been scattershot. While Eddie Lacy has been told to get into shape and Trent Richardson has entered a vagabond existence in the pros, T.J. Yeldon had a promising rookie season and Mark Ingram was a 2014 Pro Bowl selection. This doesn't do Henry any favors.

"When you're an Alabama back people question whether or not you're overworked," Pro Football Hall of Famer and NFL Media analyst Marshall Faulk said. "So today for Derrick Henry, it was about proving that he's just not another Alabama running back. He ran well for a guy his size, and he caught the ball pretty well today for a guy who didn't catch a lot of balls at Alabama."

Beyond the top backs

At the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, David Johnson -- a little-known running back from Northern Iowa -- tore through his on-field workout. He was a top performer in every event but the 20-yard shuttle. He parlayed that combine performance into a third-round draft spot to the Arizona Cardinals and then a standout rookie season.

Who might be the lesser-known running backs in this year's draft who could experience a similar rise as Johnson did in 2015?

A trio of backs might have thrown their names into that hat: Alabama's Kenyan Drake, California's Daniel Lasco and Notre Dame's C.J. Prosise.

"Kenyan Drake made some money today," former NFL running back and current NFL Media analyst Maurice Jones-Drew said.

Drake posted a 4.45 40 (third-best for RBs) and had a 10-foot-3 broad jump.

"In this day and age, he could come into a team right now and be a third-down back," NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein said.

Lasco was among the workout wonders on Friday, and now has hope that an injury-riddled 2015 won't cost him a draft spot.

"Daniel Lasco, nobody knows about because he had a hip injury and only played three or four games," Mayock said. "At the East-West game, he opened my eye. He ran well in the 40 and caught the football well. He'll be a natural out of the backfield for somebody next year."

Prosise -- a member of NFL Media reporter Albert Breer's 2016 combine Spandex All-Star Team -- finished with the seventh-best vertical jump (35 1/2 inches), and eighth-best 40 time (4.48) and broad jump (10 feet, 1 inch) among running backs. However, he is a prospect to monitor closely this draft season.

"Prosise only played running back one year in college. He played the slot (receiver spot). He was a defensive back. He's a big back. He's really intriguing," Mayock said. "There's a lot of upside to this kid."

Tunsil saves some for pro day

Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil opted to skip the combine's runs and jumps, and is saving himself for Ole Miss' pro day on March 28. This was big news.

Tunsil did, however, put on a show in the positional drills.

Tunsil is a unanimous choice by NFL Media draft experts to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is Daniel Jeremiah's top-rated player, and Mayock's top-ranked offensive tackle.

Competition for Tunsil?

Mayock proposes that Tunsil's grip on the top tackle spot has a challenger in Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley.

"To me Ronnie Stanley is a top 10 pick. Would you pick him No. 3 overall?" Mayock said. "I think he's closer to Tunsil than a lot of people do, so I think he could be in the conversation, also."

Conklin shows well

Tunsil and Stanley aren't the only offensive linemen pegged for slots in the first round of the 2016 draft. Another is Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin, who NFL Media draft experts project as a mid-to-late first-rounder.

"He's so consistent," Jeremiah said. "I went to the game against Alabama where Michigan State got crushed, (Conklin) was the one guy that held up well in that contest."

Conklin came out of a small high school and without any major college football scholarship offers. His rise from walk-on to all-Big Ten honoree helps fuel his approach to the game.

"I just go about my business. I'm the type of guy who keeps my head down," Conklin said. "I'll show you how I play once I put you on the ground and on your back. I get back up and walk back to the huddle and don't say anything. I thnk that goes to show something in your game."

Gronk runs well in 40

In case you haven't already heard, Kansas State's Glenn Gronkowski -- the younger brother of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski -- participated in this year's combine.

As a fullback, he faces a long road toward being selected in the 2016 NFL Draft and earning a spot on a 53-man roster.

"He's going to have to do all of the dirty jobs ... play fullback, play halfback, block linebackers, block defensive ends, play special teams," Mayock said.

Gronkowski dropped a 4.71 40 time.

"That's a good time for a 239-pounder," Mayock said.

"Because he's a Gronkowski, you have to say he was cruising," NFL Network host Rich Eisen added.

Glenn fared better in the 40 at the combine than his more famous brother did at the 2010 combine. Of course, Rob didn't run because he was still recovering from a back injury that kept him out of his final college season at Arizona.

Poor fella

Arkansas offensive tackle Denver Kirkland was called "a little bit of a waist-bender," by Mayock. This was the first on-air "waist-bender" reference of this combine.

In case you're not familiar with Mayockisms, this isn't a compliment.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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