The RB Prospect Lab uses age, weight, speed, agility, rushing production, TD production, and receiving numbers to give a scaled projection of a player’s NFL fantasy prospects.
In the pre-combine edition, I provided a full list of scores from the last two years of projections. The Lab confirmed the community consensus on players like Ezekiel Elliott (92) and Todd Gurley (85), suggested you ignore the draft fall and snag Jay Ajayi (85), and located sleepers like Jordan Howard (65) and David Johnson (65). It also helped us avoid apparent busts like Ameer Abdullah (41), Matt Jones (40), and T.J. Yeldon (37). The Lab’s biggest miss was David Cobb (66).
When evaluating a RB’s prospects, you want to consider other information as well, especially draft slot and opportunity in the landing spot. But I love the Lab’s ability to give us a draft-agnostic projection. Once the draft creates an anchor for rookie draft ADP, the Lab numbers can help us find exploitable opportunities.
How Important Are the Comps?
Providing evidence-based comps is a big part of this process. While the Lab gives you a score, it’s important to remember that the interaction of attributes will create different types of prospects. At the RB position more than any other, accurate comparables are a valuable weapon in assessing prospects. Inaccurate comps are actively worse than having no information at all. In this exercise, I’ve provided a short list of players with similar size, athleticism, and production profiles who score in the same range. Try to remember the less enthusiastic comps in order to balance your evaluation.
*Represents an adjusted pro day time. **Reflects an estimated time.
The 2017 RB Prospect Lab Rankings
1. D’Onta Foreman 95
A stress fracture kept him from running at the combine, but Foreman put on a show at his pro day with a 4.45 forty.1 That gave him one of the best scores of the past decade, a result he also achieved in Kevin Cole’s model that predicts early RB1 seasons. He’s a smaller version of last year’s No. 1 lab finisher but earned a better score by averaging almost 40 more yards per game.
2. Jeremy McNichols 84
McNichols posted 2,187 total yards, 37 receptions, and 27 TDs for Boise State last season, and yet comes in at RB12 in the most recent RotoViz Scouting Index. Before the combine, scouts cited his lack of athleticism. After he outdistanced most of the prospects ranked ahead of him … they moved him down?
McNichols owns the perfect blend of hybrid production and multi-faceted athleticism for the contemporary NFL.
3. Christian McCaffrey 78
McCaffrey didn’t hit the 4.4 flat that would have made him the clear No. 1 pick in rookie drafts,2 but he did everything else. The best player in college football over the last two years posted the second-fastest 3-cone (6.57) for any RB in the last decade and tied for the second-best vertical (37.5) in this class behind Alvin Kamara.
McCaffrey’s three closest comps in this analysis are also the three closest in the Box Score Scout. The critics also find some ammunition. His 2016 looks a lot like Steve Slaton.
4. Joe Mixon 75
Conflicting reports exist for Mixon’s pro day times. I went with the slightly more conservative numbers, as the pro day setting is more favorable for prospects. The relative struggles of Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette could encourage teams to wait on Mixon and ignore the resulting outrage.
5. Leonard Fournette 71
Comparisons to Bo Jackson and Adrian Peterson now look overzealous, but Fournette remains well positioned to go No. 1 in rookie drafts. His 2015 season was one of the best in NCAA history, and that doesn’t change in the split second it took to record a 28.5-inch vertical.
Note that every one of the BSS comps for Fournette is lighter than his 240 pounds, underlining the difficulty in finding legitimate comps to a player of his size.
6. Curtis Samuel 70
Samuel ran the second-fastest 40 at the WR position behind the record-breaking performance of John Ross. Considered at RB, he would be easily the fastest player in the class. I continue to hope he’s drafted by a team that intends to use him in a marriage of the Tyreek Hill and Ty Montgomery roles.
7. Brian Hill 66
Although not to the level of his Mountain West compatriot, Hill was another back that impressed at the combine. In only three years, Hill gained 4,690 yards from scrimmage. He posted 1,860 on the ground in 2016 and is possibly an underrated receiver with over 200 in the air as a freshman. He may be the best reason not to trade your third-round rookie pick.
8. Dalvin Cook 65
In our latest RotoViz Roundtable, the writers discussed what to do with Cook after his disastrous explosion and agility numbers at the combine. As you might expect, the results were mixed.
The most interesting comps for Cook in terms of size and Lab score are also quite a bit more athletic, which helps to punctuate the debate. Although they share the same Lab score, he no longer looks like a particularly good fit as the next Jamaal Charles.3
9. Marlon Mack 54
Perusing Mack’s profile, we see a back who is solid in every area but outstanding in none. The South Florida runner posted three consecutive seasons between 1,200 and 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
A favorable draft location would encourage the Charles Sims comp.
10. Samaje Perine 51 (tie)
Perine disappointed in the forty and three-cone but did wow the crowd with 30 reps on the bench. In the trivia department, only the somewhat motley trio of Jerick McKinnon (32), Knile Davis (31), and Shane Vereen (31) have pressed more in the last decade.
10. Joe Williams 51 (tie)
Make sure to check out RotoDoc’s post-combine profile on the draft’s workhorse sleeper.
12. Kareem Hunt 48
Hunt struggled at the combine outside of a 36.5-inch vertical. After hauling in 41 passes as a senior, it was frustrating to see him opt out of the agility drills. His pro day 7.22 three-cone failed to balance the lethargic 40 time for a back with two separate seasons eclipsing 1,600 yards from scrimmage.
13. Aaron Jones 45 (tie)
Over the last decade, 42 RBs have managed 2,000 yards from scrimmage. None eclipsed that barrier in fewer touches. Running a 4.56 forty at 208 pounds may keep Jones out of the early rounds, but he crushed the other drills with a 37.5-inch vertical to go with his 6.82 three-cone.
13. James Conner 45 (tie)
Even after slogging to dispiriting times in Indianapolis, Conner remains one of the best stories of the draft season. His size will keep him in play for the late rounds.
15. Jamaal Williams 41
Williams’ lack of athleticism was exposed at the combine. He added a 30-inch vertical to his struggles in the other drills. At only 212 pounds and with less than one reception per game, the BYU star doesn’t have a clear fit in the contemporary NFL. His impressive Workhorse Metric results offer a glimmer of hope.
16. Corey Clement 39
Adding a 28.5-inch vertical, Clement doesn’t have the athleticism to balance out character concerns. He was reported as quick as 6.71 in the three-cone at his pro day, a time that strains credulity after his combine.
17. Elijah McGuire 38 (tie)
McGuire’s 4.56 short shuttle was also disappointing for a back with 130 career receptions at Louisiana-Lafayette. One of only four backs to go over 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving since the turn of the century, his current profile isn’t as strong as his overall resume.
17. Alvin Kamara 38 (tie)
Kamara led the position with a 170.5 Explosion Score,4 but his comps remain poor without agility numbers to balance a relatively sparse production background. The best names in Box Score Scout were much faster in the 40.
19. Donnel Pumphrey 33
20. Wayne Gallman 25
Like Artavis Scott at wide receiver, Gallman’s combine results suggest he was a product of the Clemson offense. On a more optimistic note, his lab scores are identical to Spencer Ware and Justin Forsett. Blair Andrews explains why he’s the biggest beneficiary of the 2017 Workhorse adjustments.
The Top 20 RB Prospects for 2017
|Joe Mixon ||20.5||226||4.5*||7.3*||15.6||106.2||1.25||3.1||75|
Looking to brush up on your 2017 WR Prospects? We have athleticism and production numbers for 40-plus prospects.
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