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2018 RB Prospect Lab Scores: Saquon Barkley Breaks the Machine

The RB Prospect Lab scores for the highly anticipated 2018 class help us separate the true stars from the pretenders to the throne. In recent seasons, players like Ezekiel Elliott (92), Le’Veon Bell (90), and Todd Gurley (85) have posted high scores and gone on to establish themselves as consistent week winners. The Lab has also helped us avoid busts like Ameer Abdullah (41) and T.J. Yeldon (38), while locating undervalued sleepers in David Johnson (65) and Jordan Howard (65).

The RB Prospect Lab give you a look at the entire prospect, and the app allows you to investigate players on your own, giving more speed to Ronald Jones if you think he’s been hurt during the draft season or trying Nick Chubb’s pre-injury production with his combine athleticism.

The Lab takes age, weight, speed, agility, rushing, and receiving production and gives you a score scaled from 1 to 100. We know these individual pieces are important. 21-year-old rookies account for twice as many RB2 seasons as 22-year-old rookies.1 You can find player age in the 2018 NFL Draft Age Database. Size and speed show up in almost all of our RB models, and you can examine size/speed with the RB Speed Scores. I’ve long talked about agility as a crucial part of the calculation for Profile 3 backs, but we also know from the regression tree that it’s valuable for big backs as well. Production, especially receiving production, is always crucially important. The Prospect Lab looks at it all.

Below the 2018 scores, we’ll examine a few of the prospects in more detail.

Three-cone times with asterisks are estimates.2

2018 RB Prospect Lab Scores

PlayerFinal AgeWeightForty3 coneAtt/GYards/GTD/GRec/GScore
Saquon Barkley20.82334.47*16.797.81.64.2100
Rashaad Penny21.82204.467.1*22.2172.91.91.573
Derrius Guice20.52244.497.1*19.81041.11.573
Kerryon Johnson20.52124.55*7.0723.75115.91.7269
Royce Freeman21.82294.546.920.3122.91.31.262
Ronald Jones20.32054.487.1*20.1119.21.541.159
Ryan Nall222324.586.951573.60.92.552
Justin Jackson21.71994.526.8122.1100.80.853.452
Nyheim Hines21.11974.387.1815.285.50.9248
Kalen Ballage222274.466.9112.
Nick Chubb222284.527.0914.989.710.2643
John Kelly21.22164.647.1317.
Chase Edmonds21.72054.556.7919.482.40.71.637
Mark Walton20.82024.6716.
Kamryn Pettway212354.747.2*15.2611.20.632
Sony Michel22.82204.547.1*
Bo Scarbrough23.32284.527.2*8.942.60.61.222
Akrum Wadley22.81914.547.1*19.485.312.222
Demario Richard212194.77.616.585.610.6720
Darrel Williams22.72294.727.


  • Saquon Barkley (100) breaks the machine. He’s a prospect on the level of LaDainian Tomlinson, bettering uber-backs like Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, and Ezekiel Elliott. It’s generally a mistake to put unproven players on the same level as proven NFL stars, but Barkley is as can’t-miss as they come.
  • Rashad Penny (73) has been a RotoViz favorite and lost to Barkley in the finals of our RB Tournament. With a 4.46 at 220 pounds to go with crazy production,3 he’s definitely in the mix for the No. 3 RB position.
  • Royce Freeman (62) is an example of why players should be allowed to declare after two seasons. Using his sophomore age and production, he would have received a 93, a better score than Elliott, Bell, and Gurley. Anthony Amico’s RB analysis suggests we should take this seriously. While we’ve discussed the value of young prospects at RB, it turns out that RB breakout age is even much more important.4 Freeman’s first-year Workhorse Score of 0.76 was second only to Jarvion Franklin and easily trumped the rest of the elite prospects. A tackle-breaking favorite of game charters, Freeman’s 6.9-second three-cone at 234 pounds is reminiscent of the agility displayed by bigger backs like Bell and Johnson before they went on to become draft steals.
  • Ronald Jones (59) is having a rough draft season, pulling up during the combine 40 and then running a pedestrian 4.48 at his pro day. The No. 3 back by average rank in the RotoViz Scouting Index, Jones fell all the way out of the first round in an early rookie draft conducted last week. Jones doesn’t impress in the Lab either, but he was the top combine-invited back in Backfield Dominator Rating, a new measure from Blair Andrews that helps us understand production and usage with the context of backfield scheme. His 76 edged Penny (75) and also finished ahead of Barkley (70).
  • Nyheim Hines (48) doesn’t have the weight or the workload that is emphasized by the Lab, but his speed (4.38) and receiving ability won’t be overlooked on draft day. He could be the next Darren Sproles.
  • With a 38.5-inch vertical to go with his 109 Speed Score, Nick Chubb (43) put together a very good all-around combine and should remain in the early-round discussion. Splitting time with Sony Michel hurts his score, but Chubb is another player who benefits from an emphasis on his early production. After his freshman campaign, Chubb would have posted a 73, a score that is much more in line with his anticipated NFL value. Chubb and Michel cannibalized each other to an extent, but they were both hurt by an extreme lack of receiving production.
  • Fordham star Chase Edmonds (37) would score a 57 if you used his 2016 stats.5 His size/speed combo leaves something to be desired, but the 6.79 three-cone offers hope as a space back. He posted four consecutive seasons with a college dominator over 0.40.
  • Sony Michel (23) is the player with the largest gap between score and perception. He’s the No. 3 back in RSI Score, and many scouts still prefer him to Chubb despite their very different combines. Michel is often comped to a Alvin Kamara – another player undervalued by the Lab – but where Kamara disappointed in the 40 only to blow up in the other drills, Michel didn’t take advantage in the same way. Especially in the context of slower development than Georgia stars like Gurley and Chubb, it’s disconcerting to see Michel disappoint. While his overall production numbers are damaged by the timeshare, he was explosive on the field, finishing among the top RBs in percentage of breakaway runs. I wouldn’t avoid Michel entirely – I was the only one to vote for Michel over Chubb in our tournament and traded for him this weekend in a Kitchen Sink league – but instead look for opportunities to add him at a discount.

Read More

2017 RB Prospect Lab Scores
2015 and 2016 RB Prospect Lab Scores
RB Breakout Age and Updated Model
RB Backfield Dominator
RB Breakaway Rushes
RB Speed Scores
RB Workhorse Scores
First-year Workhorse Scores

  1. By percentage of player seasons.  (back)
  2. I used Pro Day times where available.  (back)
  3. He led the class by a wide margin in adjusted all-purpose yards at 250.3.  (back)
  4. Chubb, Guice, and Jarvion Franklin all benefit from emphasizing their early performance.  (back)
  5. His 2017 was injury shortened. The Lab is also tested on FBS backs, so take that into account for small school players.  (back)

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