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2018 Running Back Speed Scores

C.J. Spiller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds at the 2010 NFL Combine. This is one of the fastest times ever recorded. Spiller weighed 196 pounds when he achieved this feat. Fast forward to the 2018 Combine, in which Saquon Barkley ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds, and one may question which time is better. Although not as fast as Spiller’s, Barkley’s time might be more impressive. Why? Because he weighed 37 pounds more than Spiller when recording it. Naturally, it’s alluring when a large RB prospect can keep up with his more streamlined counterparts.

In 2008, Football Outsiders created an equation to help us compare the 40 times posted by RBs of various sizes in what they called “Speed Score.” The equation is straightforward and calculated by multiplying a back’s weight by 200 and dividing this result by his 40 time set to the fourth power.1

While impressive, Spiller’s speed score of 118 is trumped by Barkley’s 124. In fact, using a data set that goes back to 1987, only two RBs have done better. Keith Marshall posted an absurd speed score of 127 in 2016 by running the 40 in 4.31 seconds at a weight of 219 pounds. Mario Fannin, a 2011 prospect, posted a time of 4.37 seconds while weighing in at 231 pounds, good for a speed score of 127.

Barkley’s score of 124, tied for third place with Knile Davis, Ben Tate, and Brandon Jacobs. As highlighted by these names, a strong speed score doesn’t guarantee success. It does, however, give us a way in which can compare the mixture of size/speed that RB prospects possess. The 2018 class did well with six backs finishing in the 90th percentile.

2018 RB Speed Scores and Historical Percentiles2

Name Height Weight Speed Score Percentile
Saquon Barkley 6000 233 124 99%
Kalen Ballage 6014 228 115 98%
Rashaad Penny 5110 220 111 94%
Derrius Guice 5104 224 110 93%
Bo Scarbrough 6013 228 109 92%
Nick Chubb 5107 227 109 90%
Royce Freeman 5114 229 108 89%
Nyheim Hines 5083 198 108 88%
Ryan Nall 6021 232 105 84%
Sony Michel 5105 214 101 71%
Jarvion Franklin 5114 225 98 62%
Donnie Ernsberger 6026 255 98 62%
Chase Edmonds 5091 205 96 55%
Lavon Coleman 5106 223 95 53%
Justin Jackson 6000 193 92 42%
Darrel Williams 5115 229 92 42%
Roc Thomas 5101 198 92 39%
Akrum Wadley 5097 194 91 39%
Dimitri Flowers 6017 248 91 38%
Mark Walton 5095 202 90 35%
Demario Richard 5086 218 89 32%
Kyle Hicks 5095 202 88 27%
Justin Crawford 5113 202 87 24%

40 Time versus Weight

RB Scatter

The scatter plot illustrates how, in general, 40 times increase as player weight increases. However, there are a number of players such as Kalen Ballage, Nick Chubb, and Derrius Guice that manage to plot in the lower half of the scatter and toward the right. If you’re looking for size/speed specimens, this is where you’d want to focus.

As expected, Barkley truly separates himself from the pack. As does Nyheim Hines. Although he’s lighter than the majority of the 2018 class, his 40 time of 4.38 differentiated him from the smaller backs. Like many things in life, it’s all relative.

  1. weight*200)/(40 time^4  (back)
  2. Based on Combine results dating back to 1987.  (back)

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