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2015 NFL Draft: RB Rankings from the Prospect Lab

Todd Gurley

RotoViz is loaded with different Apps that can help you research players from a variety of angles. The RB Prospect Lab uses FD’s running back research from 2014 to help project hypothetical running backs based on certain usage patterns and athletic profiles. With the Combine right around the corner, I’ve used this tool to get a first impression of the 2015 RB class before we see who surprises and who disappoints. I love the Prospect Lab because it helps place these results in context. By placing the player projection within the framework of other players with similar scores, you can see how the prospect compares to other recent runners, and you can see if they took the same path to that projection or have completely different attributes.

Interestingly, we often hear that a certain player should stay in school and improve his draft status, but this is easier said than done. (In fact, especially for prospects who may be a little on the old side for their grade level, it would often benefit them to be able to leave before the current rules make them draft eligible.) In experimenting with different player seasons, I found that the Lab would have given better projections to T.J. Yeldon, Mike Davis, and Ameer Abdullah after their 2013 seasons. While almost all studies have found the final player season to be the most predictive, it is worth remembering that the players in question have resumes that stretch back beyond just this season.

And as is always the case, if you have a disagreement with my athleticism estimates or are just interested in the process, don’t hesitate to go straight to the Lab yourself. Note that because we don’t have workout numbers yet, these rankings are based on some assumptions that could change.

The Rankings

1. Todd Gurley – 92

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
LADAINIAN TOMLINSON 21.44 2001 221 4.46 6.84 33.55 196.18 2 0.91 100
STEVEN JACKSON 20.44 2004 231 4.55 7.03 26.92 118.85 1.46 3.38 100
DARREN MCFADDEN 20.36 2008 211 4.33 6.86 25 140.77 1.23 1.62 97
MATT FORTE 21.97 2008 217 4.44 6.84 30.08 177.25 1.92 2.67 97
KEVIN SMITH 21.05 2008 217 4.53 6.74 32.14 183.36 2.07 1.71 93
LEVEON BELL 20.88 2013 230 4.56 6.75 29.38 137.92 0.92 2.46 93
TODD GURLEY 20.4 2014 226 4.43 6.8 20 152 1.5 2 92
ADRIAN PETERSON 21.8 2007 217 4.4 7.09 26.86 144.57 1.71 1.43 86
RAY RICE 20.97 2008 199 4.42 6.65 29.23 154.77 1.85 1.92 86
LATAVIUS MURRAY 21.54 2013 223 4.38 6.81 18 100.55 1.36 2.45 84
MICHAEL TURNER 21.79 2004 237 4.49 7.54 25.83 137.33 1.17 1.58 84
BEN TATE 21.38 2010 220 4.34 6.91 20.23 104.77 0.77 1.54 82
TOBY GERHART 22.78 2010 231 4.5 6.94 26.38 143.92 2.15 0.85 79

Gurley was the top pick in my 2015 Rookie Mock, and I suggested a healthy version might have entered draft season with a perfect 100 score. Unfortunately, that was based off of his SR/CFB listing of 235 pounds. All other sources appear to use his Georgia list weight of 226. Even with this slightly more somber projection, Gurley is an almost ideal prospect. He combines size, speed, agility, production accomplished at a very young age, and receiving ability. Even though no one is particularly concerned about the ACL injury, it’s probably a red flag in general terms. Workhorse backs in college project better as workhorse backs in the NFL. Gurley only played in 16 games his last two years in college.

 2. Jay Ajayi – 81

NAME
AGE
YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
LEVEON BELL 20.88 2013 230 4.56 6.75 29.38 137.92 0.92 2.46 93
ADRIAN PETERSON 21.8 2007 217 4.4 7.09 26.86 144.57 1.71 1.43 86
RAY RICE 20.97 2008 199 4.42 6.65 29.23 154.77 1.85 1.92 86
LATAVIUS MURRAY 21.54 2013 223 4.38 6.81 18 100.55 1.36 2.45 84
MICHAEL TURNER 21.79 2004 237 4.49 7.54 25.83 137.33 1.17 1.58 84
BEN TATE 21.38 2010 220 4.34 6.91 20.23 104.77 0.77 1.54 82
JAY AJAYI 21.5 2014 216 4.55 6.95 25 130 2.2 3.6 81
TOBY GERHART 22.78 2010 231 4.5 6.94 26.38 143.92 2.15 0.85 79
DEMARCO MURRAY 22.9 2011 213 4.37 7.28 20.14 86.71 1.07 5.07 78
JORDAN TODMAN 20.87 2011 203 4.4 7.24 27.83 141.25 1.17 1.58 78
JJ ARRINGTON 21.95 2005 214 4.4 6.81 24.08 168.17 1.25 1.75 78
LAMAR MILLER 20.6 2012 212 4.34 6.94 18.92 106 0.75 1.42 77
DEANGELO WILLIAMS 22.69 2006 214 4.45 6.57 28.18 178.55 1.64 1.09 75

If he manages to be either fast or quick at the Combine, Ajayi is going to be this year’s Le’Veon Bell from an analytics perspective. He’s a big, bell cow back with an established history of catching passes and scoring touchdowns. Ajayi didn’t post a gaudy yards per carry average despite playing in the Mountain West and that will probably ding his draft status a little.

3. Melvin Gordon – 77

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
MICHAEL TURNER 21.79 2004 237 4.49 7.54 25.83 137.33 1.17 1.58 84
BEN TATE 21.38 2010 220 4.34 6.91 20.23 104.77 0.77 1.54 82
TOBY GERHART 22.78 2010 231 4.5 6.94 26.38 143.92 2.15 0.85 79
DEMARCO MURRAY 22.9 2011 213 4.37 7.28 20.14 86.71 1.07 5.07 78
JORDAN TODMAN 20.87 2011 203 4.4 7.24 27.83 141.25 1.17 1.58 78
JJ ARRINGTON 21.95 2005 214 4.4 6.81 24.08 168.17 1.25 1.75 78
MELVIN GORDON 22 2014 207 4.4 6.8 24.5 185 2.3 1.4 77
LAMAR MILLER 20.6 2012 212 4.34 6.94 18.92 106 0.75 1.42 77
DEANGELO WILLIAMS 22.69 2006 214 4.45 6.57 28.18 178.55 1.64 1.09 75
RYAN MATHEWS 22.65 2010 218 4.37 7 23 150.67 1.58 0.92 74
BISHOP SANKEY 21.3 2014 209 4.49 6.75 25.15 143.77 1.54 2.15 73
CHRIS HENRY 21.48 2007 230 4.4 6.96 15 52.82 0.64 1.91 73
CHRIS PERRY 22.03 2004 220 4.56 7.02 26 128.77 1.38 3.23 73

It doesn’t seem like the Gordon bandwagon is quite as full as it should be when you consider how close he was to Barry Sanders last season. I know it’s trendy in fantasy circles to have a strong preference for Gurley over Gordon, but the gap may be quite a bit smaller than this projection suggests. I’ll have more on that in the future, but right now it’s worth noting that the biggest red flag for the Wisconsin superstar is receiving ability.

4. Duke Johnson – 71

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
BISHOP SANKEY 21.3 2014 209 4.49 6.75 25.15 143.77 1.54 2.15 73
CHRIS HENRY 21.48 2007 230 4.4 6.96 15 52.82 0.64 1.91 73
CHRIS PERRY 22.03 2004 220 4.56 7.02 26 128.77 1.38 3.23 73
LESEAN MCCOY 20.48 2009 204 4.5 6.82 23.69 114.46 1.62 2.46 72
JALEN PARMELE 21.91 2008 224 4.47 6.96 23 125.92 1.17 1.42 72
CEDRIC PEERMAN 22.15 2009 216 4.34 6.99 13.91 70.36 0.64 4 72
DUKE JOHNSON 21.3 2014 206 4.38 6.8 18.6 127 1 2.9 71
MIKEL LESHOURE 20.76 2011 227 4.56 6.82 21.62 130.54 1.31 1.31 71
BERNARD PIERCE 21.62 2012 218 4.45 7.07 22.75 123.42 2.25 0.25 71
DOUG MARTIN 22.95 2012 223 4.46 6.79 21.92 108.25 1.33 2.33 70
ANDRE WILLIAMS 21.36 2014 230 4.56 7.27 27.31 167.46 1.38 0 70
DAVID WILSON 20.57 2012 206 4.38 7.09 20.71 122.07 0.64 1.57 69
JAHVID BEST 20.78 2010 199 4.34 6.75 15.67 96.33 1.33 2.44 69

Johnson leaves Miami having eclipsed players like Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, and Lamar Miller. He looks like the premier Profile 2 back in this class, perhaps the top Profile 2 back in a handful of seasons. With so many bigger, pass-catching backs available in a draft that comes on the heels of big seasons from Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, and Marshawn Lynch, it will be interesting to see where the electric Johnson fits on team boards.

5. Tevin Coleman – 67

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
JAHVID BEST 20.78 2010 199 4.34 6.75 15.67 96.33 1.33 2.44 69
JOSH SCOBEY 21.97 2002 218 4.42 6.96 21.82 114.82 1.36 0.82 68
DESHAUN FOSTER 21.83 2002 222 4.57 6.82 27 138.62 1.5 1.12 68
RUDI JOHNSON 21.19 2001 227 4.57 7.32 27 130.58 1.08 0.75 68
ROBERT TURBIN 22.05 2012 222 4.42 7.16 19.15 116.69 1.46 1.31 67
MONTEE BALL 22.09 2013 214 4.46 6.88 25.43 130.71 1.57 0.71 67
TEVIN COLEMAN 21.7 2014 210 4.45 6.9 22.5 170 1.25 2.1 67
JAVON RINGER 21.93 2009 205 4.55 6.87 30 125.92 1.69 2.15 66
MARSHAWN LYNCH 20.7 2007 215 4.46 7.09 17.15 104.31 0.85 2.62 66
KNOWSHON MORENO 21.48 2009 217 4.5 6.84 19.23 107.69 1.23 2.54 65
MAURICE DREW 20.79 2006 207 4.39 7.08 15.5 76.17 1.08 2.58 65
JAMAAL CHARLES 21.01 2008 200 4.38 6.8 19.85 124.54 1.38 1.31 65
GIOVANI BERNARD 21.02 2013 202 4.5 6.91 18.4 122.8 1.2 4.7 64

Rich Hribar detailed how Coleman suffered from a paucity of goal line carries in Indiana’s atrocious offense. You can use the Lab to create a TD-scoring version of Coleman, and he vaults further up the rankings.

6. David Cobb – 60

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
KNILE DAVIS 21.15 2013 227 4.35 6.96 11.2 37.7 0.2 1.1 64
TYLER GAFFNEY 22.72 2014 220 4.49 6.78 23.57 122.07 1.5 1.07 63
MONTARIO HARDESTY 22.93 2010 225 4.49 6.87 21.69 103.46 1 1.92 62
JAMIE HARPER 21.32 2011 233 4.53 7.16 15.15 58.46 0.54 2.69 62
JEROME HARRISON 22.75 2006 201 4.47 6.79 28 172.73 1.45 2.18 62
ANTONIO PITTMAN 21.07 2007 207 4.4 6.84 18.62 94.85 1.08 1.08 62
DAVID COBB 21.6 2014 229 4.6 7.1 24 125 1 1.2 60
ANDRE BROWN 22.05 2009 224 4.37 7.35 13.46 59 0.54 2.23 61
RYAN MOATS 21.97 2005 210 4.46 7.22 24 147.83 1.5 1.25 61
CYRUS GRAY 22.02 2012 206 4.4 7.17 18 95 1.09 2.82 58
RONNIE BROWN 23.08 2005 233 4.43 7.12 12.75 76.08 0.67 2.83 58
CEDRIC BENSON 22.03 2005 222 4.62 7.5 27.17 152.83 1.58 1.83 58
TIM CORNETT 21.69 2014 209 4.48 7.01 20.31 98.77 1.15 2.31 57

I projected Cobb at 3.01 in my dynasty rookie mock (with IDP), but this offers more fuel to Chris Begnaud’s undervalued thesis. 229-pound workhorse backs do not grow on trees, even at the NFL level.

7. T.J. Yeldon – 58

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
JEROME HARRISON 22.75 2006 201 4.47 6.79 28 172.73 1.45 2.18 62
ANTONIO PITTMAN 21.07 2007 207 4.4 6.84 18.62 94.85 1.08 1.08 62
ANDRE BROWN 22.05 2009 224 4.37 7.35 13.46 59 0.54 2.23 61
RYAN MOATS 21.97 2005 210 4.46 7.22 24 147.83 1.5 1.25 61
CYRUS GRAY 22.02 2012 206 4.4 7.17 18 95 1.09 2.82 58
RONNIE BROWN 23.08 2005 233 4.43 7.12 12.75 76.08 0.67 2.83 58
TJ YELDON 21.3 2014 221 4.45 6.9 15 75 0.92 1.2 58
CEDRIC BENSON 22.03 2005 222 4.62 7.5 27.17 152.83 1.58 1.83 58
TIM CORNETT 21.69 2014 209 4.48 7.01 20.31 98.77 1.15 2.31 57
ANTHONY THOMAS 23.05 2001 229 4.58 7.48 26.09 141 1.45 1.18 55
CARNELL WILLIAMS 22.72 2005 217 4.43 6.95 18.38 89.62 0.92 1.62 54
GARRETT WOLFE 22.35 2007 186 4.39 6.69 23.77 148.31 1.38 2.15 53
TONY HUNT 21.12 2007 233 4.68 7.39 21.31 106.62 0.85 2.08 53

Yeldon was underwhelming as a junior, but had the sophomore version been draft-eligible he would have scored a 71 and tied with Johnson. Rich Hribar looks at Yeldon’s failure to emerge as a true workhorse in the Alabama RB factory and examines what it means for his NFL prospects.

8. Ameer Abdullah – 58

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
JEROME HARRISON 22.75 2006 201 4.47 6.79 28 172.73 1.45 2.18 62
ANTONIO PITTMAN 21.07 2007 207 4.4 6.84 18.62 94.85 1.08 1.08 62
ANDRE BROWN 22.05 2009 224 4.37 7.35 13.46 59 0.54 2.23 61
RYAN MOATS 21.97 2005 210 4.46 7.22 24 147.83 1.5 1.25 61
CYRUS GRAY 22.02 2012 206 4.4 7.17 18 95 1.09 2.82 58
RONNIE BROWN 23.08 2005 233 4.43 7.12 12.75 76.08 0.67 2.83 58
AMEER ABDULLAH 21.5 2014 195 4.4 6.8 20 124 1.7 1.7 58
CEDRIC BENSON 22.03 2005 222 4.62 7.5 27.17 152.83 1.58 1.83 58
TIM CORNETT 21.69 2014 209 4.48 7.01 20.31 98.77 1.15 2.31 57
ANTHONY THOMAS 23.05 2001 229 4.58 7.48 26.09 141 1.45 1.18 55
CARNELL WILLIAMS 22.72 2005 217 4.43 6.95 18.38 89.62 0.92 1.62 54
GARRETT WOLFE 22.35 2007 186 4.39 6.69 23.77 148.31 1.38 2.15 53
TONY HUNT 21.12 2007 233 4.68 7.39 21.31 106.62 0.85 2.08 53

The algorithm thinks the Nebraska back should have left school after his breakout junior campaign. A year ago Abdullah would have entered the draft at 20.5 years of age and with Maurice Jones-Drew and Jamaal Charles as his two closest comps. This helps illustrate why Jon Moore and I are so fixated on age. Even though Abdullah improved slightly as a senior, it was not enough once adjusting for age.

9. Javorius Allen – 57

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
ANTONIO PITTMAN 21.07 2007 207 4.4 6.84 18.62 94.85 1.08 1.08 62
ANDRE BROWN 22.05 2009 224 4.37 7.35 13.46 59 0.54 2.23 61
RYAN MOATS 21.97 2005 210 4.46 7.22 24 147.83 1.5 1.25 61
CYRUS GRAY 22.02 2012 206 4.4 7.17 18 95 1.09 2.82 58
RONNIE BROWN 23.08 2005 233 4.43 7.12 12.75 76.08 0.67 2.83 58
CEDRIC BENSON 22.03 2005 222 4.62 7.5 27.17 152.83 1.58 1.83 58
JAVORIUS ALLEN 23.3 2014 220 4.5 7 21.2 115 0.9 3.2 57
TIM CORNETT 21.69 2014 209 4.48 7.01 20.31 98.77 1.15 2.31 57
ANTHONY THOMAS 23.05 2001 229 4.58 7.48 26.09 141 1.45 1.18 55
CARNELL WILLIAMS 22.72 2005 217 4.43 6.95 18.38 89.62 0.92 1.62 54
GARRETT WOLFE 22.35 2007 186 4.39 6.69 23.77 148.31 1.38 2.15 53
TONY HUNT 21.12 2007 233 4.68 7.39 21.31 106.62 0.85 2.08 53
ISAIAH PEAD 22.06 2012 197 4.39 6.95 18.23 96.85 0.92 2.85 53

Allen is older than you might guess for a redshirt junior, but his 2014 receiving numbers paint the picture of a back who could end up with quite a bit of fantasy value right away. He may be poised to outperform 7.0 in the 3-cone. His cutting ability is on clear display in the highlights I included with the Rookie Mock.

10. Mike Davis – 55

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
ANDRE BROWN 22.05 2009 224 4.37 7.35 13.46 59 0.54 2.23 61
RYAN MOATS 21.97 2005 210 4.46 7.22 24 147.83 1.5 1.25 61
CYRUS GRAY 22.02 2012 206 4.4 7.17 18 95 1.09 2.82 58
RONNIE BROWN 23.08 2005 233 4.43 7.12 12.75 76.08 0.67 2.83 58
CEDRIC BENSON 22.03 2005 222 4.62 7.5 27.17 152.83 1.58 1.83 58
TIM CORNETT 21.69 2014 209 4.48 7.01 20.31 98.77 1.15 2.31 57
MIKE DAVIS 21.9 2014 223 4.5 6.95 15.3 75.5 0.85 2.5 55
ANTHONY THOMAS 23.05 2001 229 4.58 7.48 26.09 141 1.45 1.18 55
CARNELL WILLIAMS 22.72 2005 217 4.43 6.95 18.38 89.62 0.92 1.62 54
GARRETT WOLFE 22.35 2007 186 4.39 6.69 23.77 148.31 1.38 2.15 53
TONY HUNT 21.12 2007 233 4.68 7.39 21.31 106.62 0.85 2.08 53
ISAIAH PEAD 22.06 2012 197 4.39 6.95 18.23 96.85 0.92 2.85 53
DANIEL THOMAS 23.19 2011 230 4.62 7.06 22.92 121.92 1.46 2.08 53

Davis took a step back in 2014 but would have had a solid score in the 61 range if you use his 2013 exploits. Some scouts expect him to tear up the Combine, and it’s likely he’ll be given a mulligan on his final season if he does so.

Others:

11. David Johnson 48

12. Cameron Artis-Payne 47

13. Josh Robinson 34

14. Jeremy Langford 34 

 

Bonus: Terrell Watson – 88

The RB Prospect Lab is really meant to evaluate big school runners who are all playing in roughly similar environments. But if you enter Terrell Watson into the lab he generates pretty incredible results.

NAME AGE YEAR WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
LADAINIAN TOMLINSON 21.44 2001 221 4.46 6.84 33.55 196.18 2 0.91 100
STEVEN JACKSON 20.44 2004 231 4.55 7.03 26.92 118.85 1.46 3.38 100
DARREN MCFADDEN 20.36 2008 211 4.33 6.86 25 140.77 1.23 1.62 97
MATT FORTE 21.97 2008 217 4.44 6.84 30.08 177.25 1.92 2.67 97
KEVIN SMITH 21.05 2008 217 4.53 6.74 32.14 183.36 2.07 1.71 93
LEVEON BELL 20.88 2013 230 4.56 6.75 29.38 137.92 0.92 2.46 93
TERRELL WATSON 21.4 2014 239 4.65 7.2 29 196 2.6 1.7 88
ADRIAN PETERSON 21.8 2007 217 4.4 7.09 26.86 144.57 1.71 1.43 86
RAY RICE 20.97 2008 199 4.42 6.65 29.23 154.77 1.85 1.92 86
LATAVIUS MURRAY 21.54 2013 223 4.38 6.81 18 100.55 1.36 2.45 84
MICHAEL TURNER 21.79 2004 237 4.49 7.54 25.83 137.33 1.17 1.58 84
BEN TATE 21.38 2010 220 4.34 6.91 20.23 104.77 0.77 1.54 82
TOBY GERHART 22.78 2010 231 4.5 6.94 26.38 143.92 2.15 0.85 79

The NFL decided not to invite Watson to the Combine which further decreases the chances he’ll even be drafted, but his Pro Day results will be intriguing. He’s someone to keep in mind for deeper leagues.

 

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