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Think You Can Predict the Rams Backfield? Don’t Forget to Factor in Benny Cunningham
Photo Courtesy of MT Athletic Communications.

After I wrote my Zac Stacy piece yesterday, it was brought to my attention yesterday by astute commenter Coleman Kelly that there is another back currently on the roster who has a shot to compete for the starting job along with Richardson and Pead and Stacy and Ganaway….Benny Cunningham from Middle Tennessee State.

Cunningham didn’t get much publicity during the pre-draft process (at least not to my knowledge).  That’s presumably because he tore his patellar tendon on the second to last offensive play of his game against Florida International on October 13th, 2012.  This injury is similar (if not identical) to what Ryan Williams suffered in 2011’s preseason, and what Greg Childs suffered for the second time – in both knees – last preseason.  His surgery was performed by The Knee Whisperer, also known as Dr. James Andrews.  The injury kept him almost entirely out of the pre-draft process as he rehabbed.  Luckily, he was able to participate in MTSU’s pro day late in April where he was able to run a 40 yard dash.

Cunningham is one of those guys who forces us Stats Folk into a bit of a corner.  We have some numbers, but not all the numbers.  And the numbers we do have, like his 40 time, may be impacted by his injury.  As they say with models, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  But it’s still fun to play with those numbers a little and see what he looks like compared to the other backs on the Rams roster.

Player Model Score DA Score College Year School Draft Slot Height Weight Forty Speed Score Rush DR Vert Broad Shuttle 3 Cone Agility
Zac Stacy -0.38 0.02 2012 Vanderbilt 160 68 216 4.55 100.8 0.46 33.0 122 4.17 6.70 10.87
Daryl Richardson -1.11 0.07 2011 Abilene Christian 252 70 192 4.47 96.2 0.50 40.5 133 4.36 7.07 11.43
Isaiah Pead 0.60 0.20 2011 Cincinnati 50 70 197 4.39 106.1 0.48 33.0 116 4.32 6.95 11.27
Terrance Ganaway -0.54 0.48 2011 Baylor 202 73 239 4.61 105.8 0.54 37.5 119 4.25 7.15 11.40
Benny Cunningham (Raw) -1.11 -0.08 2012 Middle Tennessee St 70 212 4.51 102.5 0.43
Benny Cunningham (Prorated) -0.52 1.40 2012 Middle Tennessee St 70 212 4.51 102.5 0.79

His “Raw” numbers are simply his market share of the total rushing yards and touchdowns scored by MTSU in 2012.  So he accounted for .43 of those stats while only participating in 5/12ths of the games.  The “Prorated” numbers are his market share of the yards and touchdowns gained by MTSU over the five games he played in.  Simply put, his prorated .79 DR is elite.  Obviously, you have to discount that a bit since it wasn’t a full season, but it’s still impressive.  Combine that with his better-than-average Speed Score of 102.5 (despite having a metal cable in his knee just a few months ago) and his Draft-Agnostic (DA) Model score of 1.40 would have been very very good.  That would put him in the company of a host of guys who have been successful in the NFL including guys like Alfred Morris (1.80 DA Score), Ray Rice (1.54 DA Score), and DeMarco Murray (1.21 DA Score).  Of course, it’s all speculative since he didn’t actually play the rest of the season.

I’m sure patellar tendon injuries are nothing to mess around with.  They may have sapped him of some of his pre-injury ability.  And he’s probably at higher risk for re-injury.  For all we know he may be cut tomorrow.  But he could make a fine “no-downside” flier pick in the last round of your rookie draft, especially if you want a cheap put option to hedge your Zac Stacy investment.

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