The 2014 RB class is impressively deep but not particularly flashy. As a result, you’ll have to choose among a group of supposedly similar players in Round 2 of your rookie draft. In order to capitalize, it’s important to know what translates to the NFL. I started out my RB series by focusing on this exact topic. Running back is a position ruled by physicality and there are several specific player profiles that will help you avoid busts and hit on your breakout candidates.
What Makes A RB Prospect Elite?
Profile No. 1: The Workhorse requires plus size and good straight line speed. I break down the exact criteria in my first running back article, a piece that also profiles an unfairly marginalized runner who might be closer in talent to Adrian Peterson than most realize.
Profile No. 2: The 3-Down PPR Star requires adequate size and speed but electric lateral agility. Again, 2014 features a potential breakout star – he’s my pick for the best prospect since Jamaal Charles – but this runner should remain reasonable in rookie drafts since he doesn’t flash on tape.
Finally, I’ve also examined a player nobody is talking about, but he almost meets the criteria for both categories. He’s a rookie draft must-target.
Today we’re looking at West Virginia redshirt senior Charles Sims.
Charles Sims Comparables
Charles Sims is an interesting case study. The Combine confirmed an impressive size/speed profile, but he’s not necessarily big enough or fast enough to fit into Profile 1. That’s not the disappointing part, however. For a guy with good size, impressive speed, solid leaping ability, and tremendous collegiate receiving production, I was really surprised at his lack of lateral agility. His 11.46 Agility Score disqualifies him from Profile 2.
Despite that disappointment, his comp list includes a trio of enticing names: Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, and Marshawn Lynch. Unfortunately, MJD and Murray aren’t the closest comps on the list. They both ran sub-4.4 forties, very fast times for players of that size.
Age – A Huge Red Flag
If you’ve read Keenan Allen and Why Breakout Age is the Skeleton Key, you know age plays a huge role in player evaluation. It may not be quite as significant for running backs, but this really hurts Sims nonetheless. He will be 24 years old as a rookie, one of the oldest rookies in the class. (For all of the relevant age information, hop over to Jon Moore’s NFL Prospect Age Project.) Since 1990, twenty-six rookie runners have recorded 500 or more yards at the age of 24 or older. LeGarrette Blount, Alfred Morris, and Andre Ellington are still in the NFL, but none of the other 23 became above average NFL starters. What about Sims’ two most intriguing comps? Lynch and Jones-Drew were both 21 during their first professional campaigns, or three years younger. In other words, they aren’t really similar at all.
On the other hand, Sims offers intriguing value as a receiver. Runners with a pass-catching skillset age better than early down grinders, so perhaps that offsets at least a little of the age concern. (It’s worth noting that the age concern isn’t really about a player already being over the hill when drafted as age skeptics sometimes believe but that he has excelled in college only because he’s largely competing against younger players.) Let’s take a quick look at how the elite run/catch backs from the last 10 years have translated to the NFL.
Minimum 2000 rushing yards, 120 receptions, 30 total touchdowns
|Taurean Henderson||2002||2005||Texas Tech||587||3241||5.5||50||303||2058||6.8||19|
|Ontario Sneed||2005||2008||Central Michigan||577||2749||4.8||25||157||1357||8.6||13|
|Curtis Brown||2002||2006||Brigham Young||581||2995||5.2||27||157||1309||8.3||5|
|Chris Johnson||2004||2007||East Carolina||557||2663||4.8||30||125||1296||10.4||10|
|Shannon Woods||2005||2008||Texas Tech||378||2086||5.5||30||153||1195||7.8||7|
|P.J. Pope||2002||2005||Bowling Green State||523||2673||5.1||30||133||1148||8.6||8|
|Baron Batch||2006||2010||Texas Tech||436||2368||5.4||25||140||1111||7.9||5|
|Jacquizz Rodgers||2008||2010||Oregon State||756||3748||5||45||151||1056||7||5|
Although there are some big names on this list – C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson – the conclusions to be drawn are probably a little discouraging. C.J. Spiller and Chris Johnson are much, much faster than Sims and probably fit into something of a hybrid Profile 1/Profile 2 category. We also see Murray again and James Starks. The recently re-signed Packers second-stringer is probably the most accurate comp for Sims and not necessarily a depressing one. Starks just completed an outstanding 2013 season in limited action, one in which he easily outperformed Eddie Lacy.
But the general conclusion is negative because we don’t see any players who might be considered limited athletes. Sims fans should want his lack of outstanding attributes to be canceled by on-field success. That doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead we see Jacquizz Rodgers, notable because he’s an example of a draft reach who didn’t fit the profiles. We also have a handful of Texas Tech system backs. While Sims is almost certainly a better prospect, he shares some similarities in that he benefited from the favorable systems run by Houston and West Virginia.
In my article on four explosive below-the-radar runners, I examined the best breakaway runners from the past three years using Bill Connelly’s highlight yards metric. Sims was almost unparalleled in this category, although the soft schedule he faced as a Cougar could explain part of his success. (You would expect to see more long runs from a player facing less athletic secondaries.) After two seasons of averaging over 7.0 highlight yards per opportunity at Houston, he moved to the Big 12 and saw his carry numbers rise. He still averaged 6.54 hl/opp with West Virginia. That came in well ahead of other dual threat runners like Bishop Sankey (5.44) and Ka’Deem Carey (4.45).
Conclusion and Fantasy Spin
Optimistically, Sims looks like a poor man’s DeMarco Murray. Murray has been something of an injury-prone cipher during his time with the Cowboys, but the 2013 Stealth Star validated our Sim Score praise with an RB1 campaign. If Sims could come close to approximating that kind of production, it would be a clear win for his owners.
Sims probably has a future as a committee back at the NFL level. He doesn’t meet the criteria for any of our draftable profiles but his impressive blend of Profile 1 and Profile 2 attributes could make him a valuable player. Considering his solid weight/speed combination, there’s even a slight chance he ends up with an Arian Foster-like touch split that’s heavy on both goal line touches and receptions. Sims went at 3.05 in the RotoViz Pre-Combine Rookie Mock and that would seem to fairly price both his upside and his age-related concerns.
If you’re looking for other under the radar runners to add to your dynasty squad before rookie drafts take place, you might like my Top 10 sleeper article. It correctly anticipated the current Khiry Robinson phenomenon and has been a reader favorite.