The RotoViz Scouting Index (RSI) is up and running for 2018. The RSI tracks NFL draft prospect rankings from a variety of traditional scouting sites, giving you quick insight into how incoming rookies are currently being valued over in “real football” land.
This serves as a counterpoint to our usual stats-and-metrics based analysis. Discovering where the stats and film crowds agree and disagree is not only fun but often illuminating. We’ll track the rise and fall of player values throughout the draft season and assess the impact on player fantasy valuations. We’ll be aggregating rankings from a half-dozen popular and well-respected sites.
NFL DRAFT RUNNING BACK PROSPECT RANKINGS
Make sure to read the introductory article to this series so you understand where the data comes from and how the scores are calculated.
The Top Running Back Prospects
With many of sources having digested the results of the Combine, there were some notable changes to our RSI scores.1 Royce Freeman leapfrogged his way into fifth and Ronald Jones II, who only participated in the vertical at the Combine, fell to seventh place. Kerryon Johnson moved up a ranking to sixth. Rashaad Penny’s RSI score decreased but he managed to move ahead of Mark Walton.
Battle of the Bulldogs
Sony Michel retained his ranking of RB3 while improving his score by five points. His college teammate, Nick Chubb, improved by six points and held onto his ranking of RB4. I was fully expecting Chubb to improve. He crushed the combine and proved that he was one of the most athletic backs in the class. Michel, on the other hand, performed poorly.
Chubb’s 98th percentile SPARQ-x, great speed score, incredible burst, and dominant strength are hard to overlook. While Michel didn’t participate in all of the combine drills, it seems more likely than not that Chubb is the superior athlete. He also saw more usage as a runner; granted, Michel was more heavily targeted in the passing game. Both backs played in 47 games during their college careers. Chubb recorded 758 rushing attempts and 31 receptions (18 as a rookie). Michel rushed 590 times and caught 64 balls. There’s a good chance that the two will meet in our RB Sweet 16 series. At any rate, I was expecting to see Chubb overtake his inferior teammate.2
The Rest of the Field
In last week’s RSI, we looked at the top-five backs. In this week’s iteration, we’ll focus on six through 10.
Royce Freeman – Oregon, 5-11, 229
We didn’t cover Freeman in last week’s edition as he ranked outside of the top-5. He had a solid combine posting an agility score of 11.06 – I consider anything sub 11.1 to be impressive – and a speed score of 108, which places him just outside of the 90th percentile. Freeman was a precocious talent at Oregon going for 1,523 yards and 19 touchdowns as a freshman. In his sophomore season, the best of his collegiate career, he accumulated more than 2,100 yards and demonstrated an ability to make an impact as both a rusher and a receiver. Given his strong balance of size, speed, and agility, Freeman should be able to contribute at the next level.
Kerryon Johnson – Auburn, 5-11, 213
Johnson displayed great burst at the combine with a vertical of 40 inches (tied for second in the class) and a broad jump of 10’6″ (third in the class). He didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash, but displayed average agility in the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle. Johnson averaged 4.9 yards per carry in both his sophomore and junior seasons while scoring 31 total TDs and accumulating 2,600 yards. He was involved as a receiver and had the fourth-highest Workhorse Score among combine-invited prospects. A knock on Johnson has been his ability to stay healthy as he’s dealt with nagging injuries throughout his collegiate career.
Rashaad Penny – San Diego State, 5-11, 220
Penny failed to demonstrate burst and explosiveness at the combine with a vertical of just 32.5 inches and an average broad jump. However, he ran the 40 in 4.46 seconds, which as a 220-pound back yields a speed score of 111 (third best in the class). Penny had an absurdly productive senior season. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry while rushing for 2,248 yards and 23 TDs. He also caught 19 passes and two scores through the air. As a prospect from a small school with just a single season as a lead back, Penny’s stock has been depressed. However, one can only wonder about the production he would have amassed if he hadn’t been stuck behind Donnel Pumphrey for the first three years of his collegiate career. Penny shined as a workhorse when given the opportunity and was solid as a return man on special teams.
Mark Walton – Miami, 5-9, 202
As a smaller prospect, demonstrating quickness at the combine was imperative for Walton. Unfortunately, he ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds, yielding a speed score of 90. To make matters worse, he displayed poor burst with a vertical of just 31.5 inches (second worst in the class) and a poor broad jump. This was a major disappointment for an RB that had his junior season cut short due to an ankle injury that required surgery. While it’s possible that the injury contributed to his weak combine, the combination of the two is certainly a concern for front offices. He does, however, have some upside if given the chance. As a freshman, Walton played a significant role in the Hurricanes offense, catching 22 passes for nearly 300 yards. As a sophomore, he remained heavily involved in the team’s passing game and added 1,100-plus yards on 209 attempts as a rusher.
Nyheim Hines – North Carolina State, 5-8, 198
Unlike Walton, Hines ran the 40 in a stellar 4.38 seconds and displayed better burst. It was encouraging to see him produce a speed score of 108. However, his agility score of 11.58 leaves room for improvement, especially for a back that figures to be used primarily as a receiving threat. Hines saw a limited opportunity as a rusher until his junior season. He did spend time at WR and was a solid kick/punt returner. Given his smaller stature and ability in the receiving game, Hines has drawn comparisons to Darren Sproles and could be useful for teams in need of a check down option or an additional dimension in the red zone.