On January 1st, Benny Snell Jr. and the Kentucky Wildcats will square off against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Citrus Bowl. The 5-foot-11, 223-pound junior has been one of the most productive running backs in the country over the last three seasons. Can he play a similar workhorse role in the NFL?
THE EARLY YEARS
A three-star recruit from Columbus, Ohio, Snell rushed for 3,903 yards and 55 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons at Westerville Central. He received only a handful of offers, eventually choosing Kentucky over Iowa, Boston College, and West Virginia. As a true freshman in 2016, Snell Jr. captured the lead back role in the Wildcats offense, finishing with a solid 186-1091-13 rushing line.
2017 AND BEYOND
Snell assumed an even bigger role in 2017. He accounted for 67 percent of his team’s rushing yards and TDs, and finished with a gaudy 262-1333-19 rushing line. His 0.67 Rushing Dominator was the fifth-best mark in the country. As a junior in 2018, Snell’s market share of rushing production dipped slightly (0.55) but still ranks 11th nationally. We’ll see why his lack of receiving production is important momentarily. But from a pure rushing standpoint, Snell is one of the most prolific and consistent RBs in the 2019 draft class:
- The only RB in the country to rush for at least 1,000 yards and 13 TDs in each of the last three seasons
- 18 games with at least 100 yards rushing and a TD since 2016, second-most in the country
- Second-most rushing TDs (46) and fourth-most yards rushing (3,754) in the country since 2016
Early-age production is a strong indicator of future success for RB prospects. Achieving a Workhorse Score of 0.25 or better in your first college season is an important threshold. As you probably guessed, Snell’s first-year Workhorse Score (0.43) easily crosses this barrier. He’s also a relatively young prospect at 20.8 years old. Blair Andrews showed that almost 40 percent of the seasons produced by RBs who were 21-year-old rookies have been RB2 seasons:
Rushing production is important for RBs, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. By incorporating the concept of adjusted yards per game into his analysis of RB breakout ages, Anthony Amico showed the importance of ancillary production in prospect analysis. As a result of his lack of receiving and return yards, Snell lacks a true breakout season, which has historically limited fantasy success.
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The Draft Network’s Joe Marino wrote that Snell’s lack of burst and elusiveness limit his NFL upside and will likely relegate him to rotational back. The 40-yard-dash is the most crucial component to Kevin Cole’s RB Success Model so Snell’s combine performance will be crucial. At 223 pounds, we don’t necessarily need Snell to run in the 4.4 second range. But poor workout results should force us to re-evaluate Snell’s outlook.
Snell’s production is impossible to ignore. NFL scouts dreaming of an RB capable of handling a large volume of touches should automatically be drawn to him. But until we have definitive workout results, I’m hesitant to make a final call on his dynasty value. For now I value him in the late-first, early-second round range of most rookie drafts. If he surprises at the combine, however, he would shoot up my board.