Let’s begin here: Ezekiel Elliott is the best running back in the NFL Draft.
If he’s available with the 13th pick, don’t be surprised if the Dolphins take him.
Elliott worked out for Miami last week, and the front office is not philosophically opposed to taking a running back high in the first round.
But if not, there are plenty of options in the subsequent rounds. This is considered a deep draft at a position.
And although it’s a tired cliché to say that running backs are a dime a dozen — tell that to the Rams and Todd Gurley — it remains true that you can find value throughout the draft.
Still, the idea that a seventh-round pick will be as productive as a top-five selection is a bit of a stretch.
Can it happen? Sure. But like any other position, high draft picks are high draft picks for a reason. They’re the best players.
Let’s look at 2015 statistical leaders.
Seven backs went over 1,000 yards a season ago: Gurley, Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Darren McFadden, Chris Ivory, Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman.
Their respective draft round: First, first, first, first, undrafted, sixth and fourth.
Fourteen qualifying running backs averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in 2015. All but three went in the first two days of the draft — including Lamar Miller, who signed a megadeal with the Texans.
Four of Pro Football Focus’ 10 highest-graded backs last season were first-round picks; second- and third-rounders made up most of the rest.
So where do the Dolphins currently stand at running back?
They have five: Jay Ajayi, Jahwan Edwards, Isaiah Pead, Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams.
Of those five, only Ajayi is guaranteed to be on the team this fall, and he went in the fifth round a year ago.
(The Dolphins’ new coaching staff is high on Williams, but he’s a role player. Thomas and Pead, former high picks who never panned out, must vastly improve to survive final cuts.)
All of this suggests that the Dolphins will take a running back at some point next week — and probably sooner rather than later.
So who if not Elliott, Ohio State’s star who averaged 6.7 yards per carry in college?
A few names to watch: Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, Utah’s Devontae Booker, Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech), Alabama’s Kenyan Drake and Alex Collins of Arkansas, who played in high school at South Plantation High.
Booker and Drake, like Elliott, have visited the Dolphins in recent weeks.
Henry is the flashiest name, but some wonder if his 567 carries at Alabama since 2014 will have long-term effects.
“I’m good. I’m healthy. I’m ready to go,” Henry said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked about his durability.
As for a scouting report on himself, Henry said: “Dynamic player, very versatile. Can play running back and receiver and can make a lot of plays.”
Drake, Henry’s backup in Tuscaloosa, carried the ball just 233 times in his four-year career, but was just as efficient, averaging 6.4 yards per attempt.
Then there’s Collins, the former state champion sprinter who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his past two years at Arkansas. He not only participated in the Dolphins’ local pro day, but he also had a private visit and went to dinner with the team the night before.
“I honestly feel like I’m the best running back in the draft,” Collins said at the combine. “I don’t like to settle with being mediocre.
“… I feel like I can compete with the best.”
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