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The Transitive Property: Isaiah Crowell, Bishop Sankey, and Christine Michael


A total of 224 picks went by, and the NFL Draft was over. Isaiah Crowell went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. Even his biggest backers thought he would fall but would still land at a value for a NFL team in the 4th or 5th round.  Not one NFL team was willing to take the chance on the troubled running back from Alabama State by way of Georgia regardless of how talented he looks; the character concerns are clearly as bad 1 as they were made out to be.

Before we go any further, link back to my initial take on Isaiah Crowell after I had a little bit of an epiphany when I peeled back the onion. I found initial comparisons of Crowell to Christine Michael to a bit off base. In fact, the comparisons were speculative at best. In fairness, the comparisons were drawn because Crowell was entering the draft with loads of talent yet character concerns would make him a value play. As it turns out, Pete Carroll and Co. were willing to spend a 2nd round pick on Christine Michael even though they knew he would wait in the wings. It’s very telling that not a single team was willing to take a leap of faith for Crowell throughout the draft.

To keep the draft community honest, The Artist Formerly Known As Rotoviz Staff2 walked downstairs to the RB Prospect Lab and put Crowell under the microscope. What he found was that while Crowell has size and age in his favor, his production actually didn’t bode well for his prospects as a three-down back.

Post-Draft Twitter is touting Crowell as the steal of the century for the Cleveland Browns. In fairness, this was to be the case if he was actually drafted, say, in the 4th round. The knee-jerk reaction has many people jumping ship on long-term dynasty value for Terrence West with Crowell picked up as an UDFA.

Let’s take a look at these two in the lab.3

Crowell – Closest Scores

STEPFAN TAYLOR Stanford 21.58 2013 214 4.70 7.13 23.00 109.29 0.93 2.93 40
DAVID FLUELLEN Toledo 21.82 2014 224 4.72 6.90 18.44 123.78 1.11 3.00 40
STEVAN RIDLEY Louisiana State 21.96 2011 225 4.65 6.78 19.15 88.23 1.15 0.85 40
ZAC STACY Vanderbilt 21.75 2013 216 4.53 6.70 15.92 87.77 0.77 0.77 40
MIKE GILLISLEE Florida 22.19 2013 208 4.48 7.12 18.77 88.62 0.77 1.23 39
DION LEWIS Pittsburgh 20.30 2011 193 4.56 6.90 18.25 88.42 1.08 2.25 39
HYPOTHETICAL BIG STATE UNIVERSITY 21.40 2014 224 4.57 7.28 14.75 80.00 1.00 0.80 38
DAREL SCOTT Maryland 22.67 2011 211 4.31 7.15 9.38 54.46 0.38 1.08 38
JOE MCKNIGHT Southern California 21.65 2010 198 4.40 7.12 13.67 84.50 0.67 1.83 37
DWAYNE WRIGHT Fresno State 23.52 2007 228 4.66 7.23 21.75 121.83 0.92 2.42 37
LADELL BETTS Iowa 22.26 2002 220 4.62 7.06 20.00 96.00 0.91 1.27 36
BRANDON JACKSON Nebraska 21.26 2007 210 4.54 7.00 13.43 70.64 0.57 2.36 36
KOLBY SMITH Louisville 22.06 2007 220 4.50 7.22 11.85 66.31 0.54 1.85 36

West – Closest Scores

RYAN MOATS Louisiana Tech 21.97 2005 210 4.46 7.22 24.00 147.83 1.50 1.25 61
CYRUS GRAY Texas A&M 22.02 2012 206 4.40 7.17 18.00 95.00 1.09 2.82 58
RONNIE BROWN Auburn 23.08 2005 233 4.43 7.12 12.75 76.08 0.67 2.83 58
CEDRIC BENSON Texas 22.03 2005 222 4.62 7.50 27.17 152.83 1.58 1.83 58
TIM CORNETT Nevada-Las Vegas 21.69 2014 209 4.48 7.01 20.31 98.77 1.15 2.31 57
ANTHONY THOMAS Michigan 23.05 2001 229 4.58 7.48 26.09 141.00 1.45 1.18 55
HYPOTHETICAL BIG STATE UNIVERSITY 23.00 2014 225 4.54 7.28 22.00 131.00 2.20 1.00 55
CARNELL WILLIAMS Auburn 22.72 2005 217 4.43 6.95 18.38 89.62 0.92 1.62 54
GARRETT WOLFE Northern Illinois 22.35 2007 186 4.39 6.69 23.77 148.31 1.38 2.15 53
TONY HUNT Penn State 21.12 2007 233 4.68 7.39 21.31 106.62 0.85 2.08 53
ISAIAH PEAD Cincinnati 22.06 2012 197 4.39 6.95 18.23 96.85 0.92 2.85 53
DANIEL THOMAS Kansas State 23.19 2011 230 4.62 7.06 22.92 121.92 1.46 2.08 53
ANTHONY DIXON Mississippi State 22.19 2010 233 4.67 7.09 23.36 126.45 1.09 1.64 52

West annihilated Crowell in every production metric across the board: Y/G, ATT/G, TD/G, and neither back was really utilized in the passing game. You’ll notice one Zac Stacy show up in the comp list for Crowell, but these two are not comparable when you bring athleticism into the picture as Zac Stacy is an agility super star.

But Crowell has amazing lateral agility, right?


As discovered in the first Crowell shake-down, he didn’t perform well in this area. Again, if he is an agility superstar, he didn’t give two shits to show it in his pro-day, which solidifies the character concerns. Now that we know West was more productive than Crowell in college, let’s take a look side-by-side in terms of overall physicality:

 hgtwgt40benchvertbroad3 coneSh ShttlspeedAgility
Crowell5 112244.5723381177.28*4.51*102.7111.79
West5 092254.541633.51207.28*4.44*105.9211.72

These two backs are basically the same. Crowell is stronger and can jump higher, but he didn’t perform as well in the broad jump and isn’t as shifty or as quick. The overall nod does lean in favor of Crowell here, but when you couple the resume with the physical scores, the nod goes to West. The Cleveland Browns selected West in the 3rd round, so it’s fair to say that Crowell’s draft ceiling could have been the 3rd round as well.4

As we dissect Crowell and West, there is another able back that’s in Cleveland too, and all of a sudden we all want to write off Ben Tate. It’s no secret that he hasn’t been the healthiest, but it will be his job to lose. All three backs are a good fit for the Shanny system. If we’re talking about draft value, the hype will likely inflate the price of Crowell.5 Prior to the draft, Crowell was coming off rookie draft boards in the beginning to middle 2nd round. I can’t say for sure if this price tag will remain consistent, but based on the recent fluff it sure feels that way. Crowell was signed as an insurance policy to West, so West is likely to be given the opportunity first. I’d rather take West in the 3rd/ 4th round of drafts as opposed to the 2nd for Crowell.

While we’re talking about rookie value, let’s walk through some additional Crowell comparisons and how they relate to other rookie running backs.

Let’ start with the low point. Let’s say that the Crowell hype somehow simmers down and he becomes as late round draft guy. Might there be another comparable back that can be had late? I’m glad you asked.

 hgtwgt40benchvertbroad3 coneSh ShttlspeedAgility
Crowell5 112244.5723381177.28*4.51*102.7111.79
Williams5 112224.451635.51217.374.25113.2311.62

Damien Williams has been a Rotoviz sleeper favorite and just signed with the Miami Dolphins. He’s an UDFA that doesn’t come with all the baggage but could have just as much upside. We’re talking late round flyers here, so why take the one that comps off the field to Maurice Clarett?

 hgtwgt40benchvertbroad3 coneSh ShttlspeedAgility
Crowell5 112244.5723381177.28*4.51*102.7111.79
Freeman5 082064.5814*31.51187.114.0293.6311.13

Now let’s say that you want to take a chance on Crowell but not until after the top tier of receivers and Tight Ends have been taken. Now you’re looking at that late first to mid second round area.  Do you want to invest in a guy that’s maybe not going to turn his life around, or take a shot6 on a guy that is likely to find a clear path to carries behind an aging back? It may take a while and there are concerns about Freeman, but he could find himself in a complementary role as Jacquizz Rodgers hasn’t impressed anyone. With a 2nd round pick, there’s less risk for similar reward.

Many have Crowell as the top runner in this class.7 Familiar Rotovizzers know that we’re (as a whole) extremely high on Bishop Sankey and have him as the top back in this class.  Sankey has been given a gift8 and landed in the best opportunity to make him the top option in upcoming rookie drafts. In fact, Sankey has landed in the situation we’ve been waiting for when we think about Christine Michael. I’m actually shocked that Sankey isn’t getting even more love, but then again, there are many that view him as a productive runner that “lacks vision” and “runs tentatively.” Never mind the fact that Sankey ran behind the 23rd ranked offensive line in terms of adjusted line yards, or the 89th ranked in standard-down line yards/carry.9

Let’s put Crowell and Sankey up side-by-side physically.

 hgtwgt40benchvertbroad3 coneSh ShttlspeedAgility
Crowell5 112244.5723381177.28*4.51*102.710114611.79
Sankey5 092094.492635.51266.754102.846831810.75

So, Crowell can jump higher. Yippee ki-yay

Let’s get back to that early comparison of Crowell to Christine Michael. Since we now know that there really wasn’t a draft stock comparison to be had, let’s compare the two backs physically.

 hgtwgt40benchvertbroad3 coneSh ShttlspeedAgility
Crowell5 112244.5723381177.28*4.51*102.7111.79
Michael5 102204.5427431256.694.02103.5710.71

Like the Crowell to Sankey comparison attempt, the above table shows that Michael is on another level.

Last but not least, let’s take a look at Sankey in comparison to Michael.

 hgtwgt40benchvertbroad3 coneSh ShttlspeedAgility
Michael5 102204.5427431256.694.02103.5710.71
Sankey5 092094.492635.51266.754102.8510.75

These two running backs have a lot in common. The knock on Michael was that he didn’t have a great resume coming out. Sankey, however, has the production resume to go along with the physical comps we love about Michael.

There is a safer option at every point of rookie drafts. If we’re chasing the Christine Michael dream, we can look no further than Sankey, as we’ve been given the perfect prospect in terms of production, physicality, and opportunity. This is bigger than Josh Gordon smokin’ a doob.



  1. if not worse  (back)
  2. many of us RV writers know that Rotoviz Staff is actually Ted Thompson, and Ted Thompson is actually Rotoviz Staff  (back)
  3. RV Staff averaged the 3 cone w/ there not being a combine score, but I went ahead and used the pro-day 3 cone scores for both backs  (back)
  4. this is giving him a production mulligan  (back)
  5. well beyond where he’s worth the risk  (back)
  6. see what I did there  (back)
  7. Throwing off-field concerns out the window of course  (back)
  8. as have we  (back)
  9. I’ve been toying around with these metrics from Football Study Hall and their impact on college RBs, so more to come on that at a later date  (back)

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