First off, the actual title, “Running Back Athletic Measurable Assessment,” is way too long. I know. So from here on out let me save some words and just refer to this running back assessment as RBAMA. If you haven’t checked out the basis for this assessment you can find it here. As a reminder, please take this information for what it is. It’s simply an assessment of a running back’s natural athletic abilities as measured at the NFL Combine (and pro day in some cases with initially incomplete data). Use this to find the running backs that your league mates are underestimating or sleeping on because of groupthink or lazy research. Please do pair this information with film study & your own research. If you do that, I promise you’ll begin to hit more than you miss on future RBs for your dynasty and redraft rosters. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how the 2015 RB class measured up.
[table id=RBAMA15 /]
First, let me go over a couple things before you scream and denounce this article as blaspheming. Remember that Todd Gurley and Tevin Coleman did not participate in the majority of combine drills. Had they been healthy, they clearly would have scored higher. Also, every other running back with “Incomplete Data” elected to not participate in at least one drill at the combine.
One thing that jumps out right away is that David Johnson is #1 on the list. As I touched on in my original RBAMA article, David Johnson was immensely underrated coming out of Northern Iowa. He was flat out dismissed by some, and even now amidst his hype there are still several long-term doubters. I’m not saying DJ haters don’t have some good points, but his natural abilities are just scary good. Not only is he 6’1, 224 pounds, but he runs a 4.5 40. He was top 5 at every drill except the 20-yard shuttle. I’m buying me some David Johnson right now.
The second thing that I noticed was that in retrospect it looks like the RBAMA completely whiffed on projecting guys like T.J. Yeldon, Karlos Williams, Thomas Rawls, & Jeremy Langford; not exactly. The threshold at which you should start paying attention to a RB is right at 0. Having a score of 0 essentially shows that the RB was at least average in most categories. With opportunity, even RBs that are “average pros” (athletically speaking) can truly breakout with the right amount of tenacity and vision (where actually watching film and researching comes in handy).
Well, what about guys like Zach Zenner, John Crockett, Trey Williams, and more? If they’re such athletes why did they go undrafted? Those below the radar undrafted guys are where things get even more interesting. Crockett & Zenner are both actually potential deep sleepers given their situations (more on them later). However, the undrafted guys below Crockett almost all had one thing in common. They were extremely lacking in multiple measurements (hand size, pounds/in, size/speed, or one of the 5 drills). Any GM with two eyes can look at an impressive 3-cone & 40, but then realize a guy with tiny hands, horrible size, strength & burst and realize that he’s not worth a draft pick. Simply put, pay attention to negative extremes and where a RB is drafted. That was huge in predicting success.
At the end of the 2014 season, I needed to be able to take what I learned and put it into action. I took several players off of my board. After ridding my board of RBs with poor measurable traits & undrafted guys with negative extremes it left me with less than 20 RBs to consider. I dug deeper into every one of them and concluded that the top 6 (refer to the numbers) were going to be the guys that I really wanted (no way I could get Gurley with my 1.08 anyway). CAP, Cobb & Davis were going to be my 3rd round or later guys. Then for everyone else below that threshold (around 3 points on the RBAMA) I would just take them at market value, or if they dropped.
In conclusion, after looking over years of RBAMA scores for RBs I have a few suggestions. Don’t eliminate guys who have scores of at least 0. They can succeed with opportunity. With that said, just about all of the big names who have owned the fantasy world have had scores of at least 3. If any RB has a score of more than 4 (with no deficiencies) they’re probably worth at least a 2nd round rookie pick or a late round flier in redraft leagues. They’ll have opportunity sooner than later. Looking at this 2015 class, it is absolutely stacked with talent. This class may officially mark the beginning of a massive changing of the guard at running back in fantasy football. Go get you, at least, one of these guys. If you have any questions or comments follow me on Twitter @FF_TravisM.
Running Backs to Target (Their Assessment Score)
Future Stud Potential
David Johnson (7.5) – It may too late to get this guy. He won a lot of teams a fantasy championship this year. He didn’t score negatively in any measurable category. He’s got the speed, the size, the vision and opportunity to be a long-term stud. If you really believe in him, just buy high.
Jay Ajayi (7) – If Lamar Miller doesn’t re-sign in Miami, look out. When he came into the league everyone was scared of his knees, but the truth is that Ajayi’s an athletic freak who could go off if given the opportunity. Buy low if you can.
Melvin Gordon (6.5) – Okay, he looked horrible this year. However, the horrific offensive line play and lack of real threats at wide receiver made Melvin’s year a nightmare. Try and buy way low on him, but do it soon before people remember that Danny Woodhead is 31.
Ameer Abdullah (6.5) & Duke Johnson (4.5) – It may also be too late to buy low on either of these guys. They measure out fairly close despite differences in their score, and both are definitely guys you want to target in full PPR leagues. If they have an impatient owner, see if you can snag them.
Javorius “Buck” Allen (5) – This guy was my ultimate sleeper. He did okay with limited snaps while playing for the arena football league roster that was the Ravens offense last year. Once Justin Forsett remembers that he is a career journeyman, all Buck has to do is beat out Taliaferro.
Below The Radar
Cameron Artis-Payne (3) – This guy gets knocked because he is older, but Jonathan Stewart tends to get injured and is going on 29. He had some limited action in which he didn’t entirely disappoint. CAP could take the backfield as soon as 2017.
Zach Zenner (4) – Zenner didn’t score negatively in any drill (hence the great RBAMA score), but was overshadowed by the big names at the combine and went undrafted. He flashed in the preseason, but currently sits behind Abdullah for a real chunk of the work in Detroit. It’s a long shot, but he’s super cheap right now.
John Crockett (3) – If you don’t own Lacy or Starks you probably don’t know him. You also may not know that Starks is a 29-year-old unrestricted free agent. However, no matter who you are, everyone definitely knows that Eddie Lacy disappointed last year. Crockett went undrafted, but had a fantastic combine. The Packers have a knack for being decent talent evaluators. This is once again a very long shot. However, it could be one that costs you next to nothing.