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2017 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Donnel Pumphrey

On December 17th, Donnel Pumphrey and San Diego St. will face Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he’ll try to put the final exclamation on a resume that includes three consecutive seasons with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage.

Pumphrey is tricky as a prospect due to the intersection of size, strength of schedule, and results. At 5 feet 9 inches and 180 pounds, he will enter the NFL as arguably too small to be more than a gadget player. Moreover, the quality of opponents will be used to undermine numbers so prolific as to be almost unfathomable. College Football Reference ranks San Diego State’s schedule strength at 118th out of 128 teams.

The Production

If Pumphrey were a normal-sized back, we’d be discussing him with Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook in the first round. His 6,290 career rushing yards rank third in CFB history behind Ron Dayne and Tony Dorsett. He has also caught 98 passes for another 1,013 yards. His 2,223 yards from scrimmage in 2016 is the 12th best single-season number since 2000. With even 100 yards in the bowl, he would move to No. 7. The players ahead of him on that list are Kevin Smith, Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey, Larry Johnson, Matt Forte, and Jay Ajayi.

PlayerYearSchoolGAttYdsAvgTDRecYdsAvgTDScrimmage Yards
Kevin Smith2007Central Florida1445025675.7292424210.112809
Melvin Gordon2014Wisconsin1434325877.529191538.132740
Christian McCaffrey2015Stanford143372019684564514.352664
Larry Johnson2002Penn State1327120877.720413498.532436
Matt Forte2007Tulane1236121275.923322828.802409
Jay Ajayi2014Boise State1434718235.3285053510.742358
Derrick Henry2015Alabama1539522195.62811918.302310
Darren Sproles2003Kansas State1530619866.5162528711.522273
Ray Rice2007Rutgers1338020125.324252399.612251
Ka'Deem Carey2012Arizona1330319296.423363038.412232
Montee Ball2011Wisconsin1430719236.3332430612.862229
Donnel Pumphrey2016San Diego State1333020186.116262057.902223
Reggie Bush2005Southern California1320017408.7163747812.922218
Donald Brown2008Connecticut1336720835.71821125602208
Antonio Andrews2013Western Kentucky1226717306.5164147811.702208
Brian Calhoun2005Wisconsin1334816364.7225357110.822207
Leonard Fournette2015Louisiana State1230019536.5221925313.312206
LaDainian Tomlinson2000Texas Christian1136921585.8221040402198
Royce Freeman2015Oregon1328318386.5172634813.422186
Tevin Coleman2014Indiana1227020367.515251415.602177
Garrett Wolfe2006Northern Illinois1330919286.218282498.912177
Bishop Sankey2013Washington1332718705.7202830410.912174
Antonio Andrews2012Western Kentucky1330417285.7113743211.732160
DeAngelo Williams2004Memphis1231319486.2221821011.712158
Quentin Griffin2002Oklahoma1428718846.615352647.532148
J.J. Arrington2004California122892018715211215.802139
Jeremy McNichols2016Boise State1229516635.6233245014.142113
Willis McGahee2002Miami (FL)1328217536.2282735513.102108
Jerome Harrison2005Washington State1130819006.216242068.612106
Steve Slaton2006West Virginia1324817447162736013.322104
D'Onta Foreman2016Texas1132320286.31577510.702103
Ezekiel Elliott2014Ohio State1527318786.918282207.902098
Duke Johnson2014Miami (FL)1324216526.8103842111.132073
Donnel Pumphrey2015San Diego State1430916535.3172741415.332067
Miquale Lewis2008Ball State1432217365.422353259.302061
Ka'Deem Carey2013Arizona1234918855.419261736.712058
Johnathan Franklin2012UCLA1428217346.113333239.822057
Bobby Rainey2011Western Kentucky1236916954.613363611042056
Stefphon Jefferson2012Nevada133751883524221707.712053
Dalvin Cook2016Florida State1226816206183042614.212046
DeAngelo Williams2005Memphis1131019646.31812786.512042
Chris Perry2003Michigan133381674518443678.322041
Damien Anderson2000Northwestern1129319146.52215120802034
Toby Gerhart2009Stanford1334318715.5281115714.302028
Donnel Pumphrey2014San Diego State1327618676.82023160702027
Ezekiel Elliott2015Ohio State1328918216.323272067.602027
Kenjon Barner2012Oregon1327817676.4212025612.822023
Trent Richardson2011Alabama1328316795.9212933811.732017
Michael Turner2002Northern Illinois1233819155.719101001002015
LaMichael James2011Oregon1224718057.3181721012.412015
Cedric Benson2004Texas1232618345.619221798.112013
Aaron Jones2016Texas-El Paso1222917737.717282338.332006
Rashard Mendenhall2007Illinois1326216816.417343189.421999
Darren McFadden2007Arkansas1332518305.616211647.811994
Mark Ingram2009Alabama1427116586.1173233410.431992
Dion Lewis2009Pittsburgh1332517995.517251897.611988
Ronnie Hillman2011San Diego State1331117115.5192427011.311981
Tre Mason2013Auburn1431718165.7231216313.611979
Eugene Jarvis2007Kent State1227916696102330613.331975
Le'Veon Bell2012Michigan State1338217934.712321675.211960
Derrick Knight2003Boston College1332117215.411262278.701948
Larry Rose III2015New Mexico State1223916576.914302839.421940
LaMichael James2010Oregon1229417315.9211720812.231939
Adrian Peterson2004Oklahoma1333919255.7155122.401937
Jordan Lynch2013Northern Illinois1429219206.6231171711937
Dalvin Cook2015Florida State1222916917.4192424410.211935
Ryan Mathews2009Fresno State1227618086.6191112211.101930
Ameer Abdullah2013Nebraska13281169069262328.921922
Montee Ball2012Wisconsin1435618305.12210727.201902
Shonn Greene2008Iowa1330718506208496.101899
Mikel Leshoure2010Illinois1328116976171719611.531893
Ryan Moats2004Louisiana Tech1228817746.218151167.711890
Devon Johnson2014Marshall1320617678.617612120.221888
Chris Brown2002Colorado1230318416.119540801881
Bobby Rainey2010Western Kentucky1234016494.915292307.901879
Michael Turner2003Northern Illinois1231016485.3141923012.131878
Jonathan Stewart2007Oregon1328017226.211221456.621867
Avon Cobourne2002West Virginia1333517105.117151469.701856
Steven Jackson2002Oregon State1331916905.315171659.721855
David Wilson2011Virginia Tech1429017095.99221295.911838
James Conner2014Pittsburgh1329817655.9265701401835
Ryan Williams2009Virginia Tech1329316555.6211618011.311835
Javon Ringer2008Michigan State1339016374.222281906.801827
Ray Rice2006Rutgers1333517945.4204307.501824
Samaje Perine2014Oklahoma1326317136.521151087.201821
Jamaal Charles2007Texas1325816196.3181719911.701818
Jamario Thomas2004North Texas1028518016.3173144.701815
Brian Hill2016Wyoming1332317675.5217486.901815
Kevin Jones2003Virginia Tech1328116475.9211416111.501808
Kapri Bibbs2013Colorado State1428117416.2318597.401800
Darren McFadden2006Arkansas1428416475.8141114913.511796
Tyler Gaffney2013Stanford1433017095.22115865.711795
David Cobb2014Minnesota1331516295.2131616210.101791
Jordan Todman2010Connecticut1233416955.11419944.901789
Chance Kretschmer2001Nevada1130217325.71510555.501787
Garrett Wolfe2004Northern Illinois1125616566.5181011711.731773
Ian Johnson2006Boise State1227617146.2258556.901769
Brian Hill2015Wyoming1228116315.86201326.601763
Patrick Cobbs2003North Texas1130716805.51944310.811723
Kareem Hunt2014Toledo1020516318169394.301670

Can a RB This Small Still Be Successful?

Jordan Hoover covered Pumphrey early this season and pointed out that in the last three drafts, the average size of a RB is 216 pounds. Writing about Pumphrey for last year’s bowl season, Jon Moore’s list of small but prolific backs was equally dispiriting.

I used the RotoViz Screener to search for RBs listed at or below 190 pounds and found 93 individual player-seasons since 2000. This is the list sorted by total expected points (EP).

Charlie Garner2000154.81.40.62138.112.668292.9
Charlie Garner200299.337.90.44159.349.891258.6
Charlie Garner2001110.9-210.47126.315.572237.2
Warrick Dunn2000140.318.50.5193.8-544234.1
Warrick Dunn2002139-4.30.4491.68.150230.6
Darren Sproles201148.423.90.2166.232.886214.6
Warrick Dunn200181.1-18.40.39132.29.568213.3
Warrick Dunn2006165.9-28.90.5340.63.822206.5
Warrick Dunn2005152.76.90.5353.23.829205.9
Warrick Dunn2007122.7-26.70.5978.4-17.637201.1
Warrick Dunn2004146.817.80.5152.26.229199
Darren Sproles201226.53.90.13169.813.975196.3
Warrick Dunn200895.7-5.10.4197.3-17.347193
Tatum Bell2006125.8-11.30.4842.6-7.124168.4
Darren Sproles201549.9-0.20.19110.4-10.655160.3
Darren Sproles201333.60.40.14125.617.871159.2
Charlie Garner200361.511.80.2896.7-4.148158.2
Dexter McCluster201161.7-4.10.2494.4-9.646156.1
Tatum Bell2005110.529.60.3238.5-10.118149
Darren Sproles200962.2-9.90.2285.433.345147.6
Warrick Dunn200367.417.80.2971.910.737139.3
Darren Sproles201029.3-2.60.11109.713.359139
Darren Sproles201644.9-2.30.2392.96.147137.8
Darren Sproles201434.334.60.1289.4-10.740123.7
Dexter McCluster20136.3-5.80.02115.40.753121.7
Dexter McCluster20125.91.10.02105.1-1.952111
LaRod Stephens-Howling201268.6-90.3240.9-13.317109.5
Dante Hall20037.8-0.50.0482.16.24089.9
Darren Sproles200834.24.80.1450.842.42985
Dexter McCluster201527.730.155763184.7
Napoleon Kaufman200046.63.30.1834.4-2.71381
Dante Hall20053.3-2.20.0174.321.33477.6
Dexter McCluster201420.2-7.10.1156.6-4.92676.8
Dexter McCluster20109.7-2.60.0352-4.12161.7
Dante Hall20043.81.80.0255.2-7.22559
Dante Hall20061.5-0.40.0156.91.52658.4
Dante Hall20026-0.60.0249.820.42055.8
De'Anthony Thomas20146.410.90.0347.2-8.62353.6
Tatum Bell200441.416.20.1410.52.5551.9
Tatum Bell200722.71.50.1429-8.71451.7
LaRod Stephens-Howling201122.8-6.10.1126.721.71349.5
Chris Rainey201215.270.0633.1-13.11448.3
Tatum Bell200821.415.50.1122.6-6.91044
LaRod Stephens-Howling2010116.30.0731.5-4.41642.5
De'Anthony Thomas20154.74.70.0235.31.71740
Darren Sproles200723.25.20.0815.5-2.41038.7
Antone Smith201411.4150.062429.21335.4
Garrett Wolfe200715.2-6.70.0719.71934.9
Charlie Garner200413.7-2.60.0818.6-3.4932.3
LaRod Stephens-Howling20092.6-1.10.0226.3-21028.9
Dante Hall20081.4-0.50.0126.4-3.91227.8
De'Mond Parker200010.1-1.60.0416.7-2.7926.8
Tyrell Sutton201070.10.0318.30.71225.3
Akeem Hunt20159.9-0.30.0413.4-3.5623.3
Tyrell Sutton20097.5-0.70.0215.1-2.9622.6
Dantrell Savage20095.3-0.80.0216.3-4.2721.6
Dexter McCluster20162-1.80.0118-7.4720
Dri Archer20145-10.0214.9-5.6719.9
Armando Allen201214.
Dante Hall20071.50.30.0116.8-9.1518.3
Antone Smith20165-0.30.0311.62.1616.6
Garrett Wolfe200911.
De'Anthony Thomas20161.510.0111.6-2.5613.1
Akeem Hunt20168.9-
Clifton Smith2008400.027.4-1411.4
Stefan Logan20121.30.40.0110.1-1.3611.4
Dantrell Savage20088-
Stefan Logan20107.
Darren Sproles20053.
Clifton Smith20091.8-
John Avery20030.5-0.507.62.828.1
Armando Allen20116.8-20.031.1-1.107.9
Eric Metcalf20010007.9-247.9
Garrett Wolfe20087.2-0.30.030007.2
Ronney Jenkins20003.8-
LaRod Stephens-Howling20132.8-
Antone Smith20132.623.90.023.9-0.926.5
Stefan Logan20114.1-
Jeff Demps20130.50.904.50.635
Chris Barclay20070.6-0.304.2-0.924.8
Garrett Wolfe20103.3-2.50.010003.3
David Palmer20000002-1.212
Antone Smith20100.4-0.701.4-1.401.8
Ronney Jenkins20030001.4-1.401.4
Senorise Perry20140001.4-0.511.4
Antone Smith20120001.3-1.301.3
Chris Rainey20130001.3-1.301.3
Stefan Logan20090001.30.211.3
Dante Hall20011.2-0.200001.2
Eric Metcalf20021.1-0.400001.1
Trey Williams20150.90.30.010000.9
Antone Smith20150.50.600000.5
Ronney Jenkins20010.5-0.600000.5

The top three seasons are from Charlie Garner, a back who is listed at 190 and might be enough bigger to belong in a different class. Twelve of the next 13 are from Warrick Dunn and Darren Sproles, two players we want to emphasize as we make the positive case for Pumphrey.

Warrick Dunn – College Resume
Year School G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Rec TDs Scrim Yds
1993 Florida State 12 68 511 7.5 4 25 357 6 868
1994 Florida State 11 152 1026 6.8 8 34 308 1 1334
1995 Florida State 11 166 1242 7.5 13 43 294 3 1536
1996 Florida State 11 189 1180 6.2 12 30 355 2 1535
Darren Sproles – College Resume
Year School G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Rec TDs Scrim Yds
2001 Kansas State 6 28 210 7.5 1 210
2002 Kansas State 13 237 1465 6.2 17 9 99 0 1564
2003 Kansas State 15 306 1986 6.5 16 25 287 2 2273
2004 Kansas State 11 244 1318 5.4 11 32 223 0 1541
Donnel Pumphrey – College Resume
Year School G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Rec TDs Scrim Yds
2013 San Diego State 13 125 752 6 8 22 234 2 986
2014 San Diego State 13 276 1867 6.8 20 23 160 0 2027
2015 San Diego State 14 309 1653 5.3 17 27 414 3 2067
2016 San Diego State 13 330 2018 6.1 16 26 205 0 2223

Dunn was the No. 12 pick in the 1997 NFL draft and went on to post 11 seasons with 1,000-plus yards from scrimmage. He caught 35 or more passes in his first seven campaigns.

Sproles lasted until No. 130 in the 2005 draft and wasn’t heavily utilized in San Diego. After signing with the Saints as a free agent, he quickly posted a season with 1,313 scrimmage yards and began a three-year stretch with at least 70 receptions.

We might also take some encouragement from Garrett Wolfe and Dexter McCluster even though they have not been successful NFL players. Wolfe was similar to Pumphrey from a size/production perspective. He ranks No. 21 in single-season scrimmage yards, his name falling right after a pretty good group in Fournette, LaDainian Tomlinson, Royce Freeman, and Tevin Coleman.

McCluster posted 1,689 yards from scrimmage with Mississippi in 2009. He was drafted No. 36 overall despite being even smaller than Pumphrey1 and disappointing with his speed at the combine. Wolfe was drafted No. 93 overall despite playing at Northern Illinois. These results are hopeful simply because they suggest a small, prolific back can be selected early enough to get a real NFL opportunity. That, in itself, is a big victory.


Despite his almost unparalleled stats, Pumphrey is not going to be drafted in the same hemisphere as Dunn, and his chances of a similar career are vanishingly remote. If he’s selected somewhere between McCluster’s No. 36 and Sproles’ No. 130, then his chances to emerge as a useful NFL space back are encouraging. The odds of becoming a viable fantasy player in the mold of a Sproles, Danny Woodhead, or Theo Riddick will improve if he posts an electric 40 time at the combine.

Keep an eye on Pumphrey against Houston, and check back for updates as we get more information this spring.

  1. Pumphrey may yet turn out to be even smaller than his listed weight.  (back)

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