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Will Denard Robinson be the Next Mid-Round Small Stud RB? (Also Featuring 5 Other Scrubs)

denardrobinson

In my last two pieces, I’ve looked at mid and late round small stud RBs to enter the NFL in the last twenty years, noting that these guys on average weigh about 200 lbs., are acquired with fourth-round picks, and are comparable as athletes and collegiate producers to the first-round small RBs of the same timeframe. In general, these mid- and late-round small stud RBs can be thought of as a type.

I’ve also recently introduced the metric of non-QB Dominator Rating (nQBDR), based on the work of Shawn Siegele and Ryan Rouillard. Dominator Rating (DR) is a measure of a player’s dominance within his own offense in comparison to his teammates. For a runner, DR measures the market share he is able to capture of his team’s rushing yards and TDs. What nQBDR does is remove from consideration any rushing production by the QB position in order to know how one RB did in comparison only to his teammates who also took handoffs. In general, my early work on nQBDR shows that the metric can serve to highlight small and/or late-round (or undrafted) RBs with relatively high likelihoods of producing usable fantasy seasons.

In this article, I want to transform all of this information into actionable guidance.

First, let’s look at the mid- to late-round small RBs and see if any of them look like future studs. Using the same criteria from my original PFR screener (drafted RBs of the last twenty years selected no earlier than Round 3 and weighing no more than 202 and no less than 182 lbs), six 2013 rookie RBs fall into the cohort for consideration. As a staff we’ve already spent some time trying to determine these guys’ values.

As athletes, do any of these guys have the potential to be mid or late round small stud RBs? Here’s a table with some of their measurables accompanied with the average and median measurables belonging to the mid to late round small RBs from the last twenty years to have a top-30 season.

Player

Year

Age

Round

Pick

Ht

Wt

40 Time

Speed Score

Denard Robinson

2013

23

5

135

71

199

4.43

103.3

Chris Thompson

2013

23

5

154

67

192

4.42

100.6

Kenjon Barner

2013

24

6

182

69

196

4.52

93.91

Andre Ellington

2013

24

6

187

69

199

4.61

88.12

Theo Riddick

2013

22

6

199

70

201

4.66

85.25

Kerwynn Williams

2013

22

7

230

68

195

4.48

96.82

R3-7 Avg

NA

22.125

4

120.875

69

197.25

4.5

96.2

R3-7 Median

NA

22

3.5

100

69

199

4.47

99.69

 

Right away, Denard Robinson looks like a potential candidate. His weight, 40 time, and draft status are close to the averages for the previous studs, and out of the 2013 RBs considered here he is certainly one of the better athletes. Thompson is an athletic player (who may be a better rookie pick than Gio Bernard), but his weight is a little low. Ellington and Riddick are in the right weight range, but they have questionable athleticism (although we’re not sure about Ellington, because he injured himself while running his 40). Williams is intriguing, but his draft status makes him an unlikely breakout prospect. Finally, Barner and Ellington will be 24 years old as rookies, and it’s not generally good for an RB to be that old entering the NFL.

What else can we look at?

 

Player

Vert Jump

Broad Jump

Explosion Score

Long Shuttle

Short Shuttle

3 Cone

Agility Score

Bench Press

Denard Robinson

36.5

123

159.5

NA

4.22

7.09

11.31

NA

Chris Thompson

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

21

Kenjon Barner

35.5

122

157.5

11.33

4.2

6.87

11.07

20

Andre Ellington

34

122

156

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Theo Riddick

32

118

150

NA

4.32

6.99

11.31

14

Kerwynn Williams

35

118

153

12.04

4.15

7.15

11.3

17

R3-7 Avg

33.75

116.5

150.25

NA

4.124

6.846667

10.97067

21.75

R3-7 Median

33.75

118

151.75

NA

4.09

6.795

10.885

21

As a leaper Robinson looks like the best athlete, but he seems no more agile than Riddick and Williams. Meanwhile Barner’s Explosion and Agility Scores are both strong—but even with the best Agility Score, Barner is nowhere near as agile as the previous small top-30 RBs. And we have no data for Thompson and Ellington. They might be wonderfully agile, but we have no hard data that proves it.

Based on measurables alone, what we have now is inconclusive. None of these guys seems to fit the devalued small stud RB profile, mostly because of the Agility Scores. The guy who fits the best, it seems, is Robinson.

And what about their college production? Here are their rushing stats.

 

Player

Gms

Att

Yds

TD

Y/A

A/G

Yds/G

TD/G

TD%

Denard Robinson

48

722

4498

42

6.23

15.04

93.71

0.875

0.058

Chris Thompson (Hypothetical)

49

507

3555.6

26.8

7.01

10.35

72.56

0.547

0.053

Chris Thompson (Actual)

35

275

1739

14

6.32

7.86

49.69

0.400

0.051

Kenjon Barner

49

582

3623

41

6.23

11.88

73.94

0.837

0.070

Andre Ellington

49

621

3436

33

5.53

12.67

70.12

0.673

0.053

Theo Riddick

25

219

1077

5

4.92

8.76

43.08

0.200

0.023

Kerwynn Williams

49

382

2515

22

6.58

7.80

51.33

0.449

0.058

R3-7 Avg

36.63

605.38

3549.00

35.13

5.86

16.53

96.90

0.959

0.058

R3-7 Median

36.5

583

3255

33.5

5.58

15.97

89.18

0.918

0.057

 

On the basis of pure rushing production—and I know that a QB running the ball is different than an RB doing it and that sacks technically count as rush attempts in college football—Denard Robinson sure looks a lot like a late mid-round small stud RB. He has the attempts per game, the high rushing average, and the TD rate. He’s definitely intriguing.

Note that, even with the best-case hypothetical scenario (instead of breaking his back as a junior, he suddenly achieves his senior-year productivity, and then instead of tearing his ACL as a senior, he stays healthy and continues to play at his best five-game pace), Chris Thompson on the basis of his collegiate rushing production doesn’t fit the profile of a future productive fantasy RB.

Barner, with his double-digit carries, high rushing average, and high TD rate is also intriguing, but I wish he had even more carries.

Note that, for Riddick, I counted only those games in which he played RB, not WR. Eh. Ellington just seems a tad mediocre. And Williams didn’t do anything in his first three years, and so not even his outstanding senior-year production was enough to improve his career averages drastically.

What about receiving production?

Player

Gms

Rec

Yds

TD

Y/R

Rec/G

Yds/G

TD/G

TD%

Denard Robinson

3

3

31

0

10.33

1.00

10.33

0.000

0.000

Chris Thompson (Hypothetical)

49

100.6

965.4

1

9.60

2.05

19.70

0.020

0.010

Chris Thompson (Actual)

35

45

430

1

9.56

1.29

12.29

0.029

0.022

Kenjon Barner

49

54

591

7

10.94

1.10

12.06

0.143

0.130

Andre Ellington

49

59

505

2

8.56

1.20

10.31

0.041

0.034

Theo Riddick

25

42

413

2

9.83

1.68

16.52

0.080

0.048

Kerwynn Williams

49

64

870

5

13.59

1.31

17.76

0.102

0.078

R3-7 Avg

36.45

76.56

806.89

6.38

10.54

2.10

22.14

0.175

0.083

R3-7 Median

35.81

65.5

653

3.5

9.97

1.83

18.23

0.098

0.053

Note that for Robinson’s receiving production I used the 3 games when he wasn’t a starting QB. Do any of these guys, as receivers, look like future top-30 RBs? Not really. Maybe Thompson is closer to his hypothetical than his actual self, and maybe Robinson could become a decent receiver out of the backfield, but these guys seem pretty average as receivers.

And, finally, what about nQBDR?

Name

Year

School

Season

Games

nQBDR

Denard Robinson

2012*

Michigan

SR

3

88.37

Kerwynn Williams

2012*

Utah State

SR

12

79.55

Andre Ellington

2010*

Clemson

SO

7

70.27

Kenjon Barner

2012*

Oregon

SR

12

58.75

Chris Thompson

2012*

Florida State

SR

5

46.32

Theo Riddick

2012*

Notre Dame

SR

13

36.58

Post-2000 R3-7 Avg

NA

NA

NA

11

85.7167

Post-2000 R3-7 Median

NA

NA

NA

11

88.045

 

If you read my nQBDR article, you’ll probably know what I’m about to say. On the basis of nQBDR alone, Robinson has a shot at becoming a top-30 RB—and the rest of the guys don’t—and this is the point that the rest of the analysis has been driving toward anyway. I grant that Williams is intriguing, and so is everyone else to a degree (except Riddick), but Robinson really is the most promising of the group.

 

I grant that a three-game sample is problematic, but in conjunction with Robinson’s athleticism and his overall collegiate rushing production, his three-game nQBDR is suggestive. In the three 2012 games in which Robinson was not a QB he dominated the non-QB rushing production. He averaged 15.3 carries and 106.7 yards per game for a 6.96 rushing average. True, he scored only 1 TD—but he was the only RB to score a TD across that timeframe. And this production came when Michigan most needed it: the final three games of the season, when Michigan was ranked, playing against Iowa, Ohio State (#4), and South Carolina (#11). When his team needed some RB production, Robinson delivered.

If any of these guys looks poised to become the next mid-round small stud RB, it’s Robinson. If you have to draft one of these guys, he’s the one you want. He doesn’t exactly fit the profile, but he’s pretty close.

The rest of the guys? Avoid like the plague. Who should you take instead of the five remaining scrubs? That’s in the next article.

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