The NFL draft creates an offseason hype machine like no other, and the reality often fails to live up to the buzz. The 2019 running back class fits that description – or does it? Curtis Patrick uses the RotoViz Box Score Scout to provide advanced metrics and player comps for the five of the top 2019 running back prospects.
After a multiple year run on solid rookie running backs, the talk in draft and dynasty fantasy football circles is that the 2019 RB class is lacking difference-makers. Today, we’ll use the Box Score Scout to examine some of the top prospects from the post-combine version of the RotoViz Scouting Index to see whether the data agrees. For the purposes of brevity and practical application, I’m going to cherry-pick a few of the most compelling player queries and leave further exploring in the tool to readers.
THE BOX SCORE SCOUT
The new BSS allows you to look at raw and market share stats by position or select individual players for closer inspection. The Player Summary tab gives you combine results and career stats broken down by season. The Game Log tab provides the stats for every game played by the prospect, including a wealth of market share information. And finally, the Sims tab gives you closest comps for each prospect. The Sim emphasizes players who accumulated their stats in the same number of seasons, giving the edge to those who didn’t need the fourth season to improve their stats. The stats and metrics included for sims in our running back comparison tool are:
- career rushing yards per game
- career receptions per game
- final season rushing yards
- final season receptions
- career rushing yards adjusted market share
- career total yards adjusted market share
In order to keep the tables from becoming too large you won’t see career “per game” metrics listed in the tables below, however I included all of the data above to generate my comp groups. The BSS also lets you customize the draft position for prospects. We don’t yet know where these players will be drafted, but this feature helps you explore different scenarios. In providing comps today, I’ll use my current rough guess at where each player may land and give you the seven closest player comps with projected draft position in mind (this means I’m excluding undrafted prospects and fellow rookies from the query returns).
Before we discuss any further, based on the nature of the BSS, I expected the Jacobs query to return questionable comps. Primary drivers of the BSS are production and athletic metrics and Jacobs famously had little college production and didn’t participate in the speed or agility drills at the NFL combine. It’s an imperfect comp pool, but let’s analyze it anyway. I assumed early-second round draft position for Jacobs, and as you can see by the cohort, players with his production profile just don’t get selected in the top-40. Jacobs is going to end up being a unicorn prospect if he’s even selected that early, let alone first round. Draft analysts seem certain that Jacobs will have strong draft pedigree though; he’s rated number one in the post-Combine RSI. Kenyan Drake, Eddie Lacy, and Devonta Freeman are all comps who have found NFL fantasy success despite not having elite market share numbers. Each also had at least 20 receptions in his final college season. On the downside spectrum, a trio of disappointing third round picks (C.J. Prosise, Matt Jones, and Knile Davis) give cause for a slight pause.
|100||David Montgomery||Iowa State||50||1216||22||0.64||0.25||4.63||222|
|96||Todd Gurley II||Georgia||10||911||12||0.55||0.27||4.52||222|
|84||Mike Davis||South Carolina||126||982||32||0.45||0.21||4.61||7||217|
|78||Marlon Mack||South Florida||143||1187||28||0.61||0.31||4.5||213|
|76||LeVeon Bell||Michigan State||48||1793||32||0.54||0.25||4.6||6.75||230|
I entered mid-second round NFL Draft position for Montgomery, which I think is certainly within the reasonable range of outcomes. What happened next made me look twice – this list is impressive. Returning Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as two of the closest NFL player comps is about as good as we could hope for with any prospect when using the BSS. Two fantasy RB1s in the same query is drool-inducing. Also included are Jeremy Hill and Marlon Mack, productive fantasy assets in their own right. Mack is interesting here because Montgomery dropping in the draft would make him an even closer comp. With the quality of the comps in the Montgomery’s cohort, it almost makes me wonder whether we need to declare it #WayneGallmanSZN because he’s the only player on the list who hasn’t popped at least to some degree in the NFL (yet?).
|100||Miles Sanders||Penn State||55||1271||24||0.33||0.14||4.49||6.89||211|
|94||Devonta Freeman||Florida State||103||1016||22||0.37||0.17||4.58||7.11||206|
|90||Jordan Wilkins||Ole Miss||169||1011||26||0.34||0.12||216|
|88||Wendell Smallwood||West Virginia||153||1519||26||0.38||0.18||4.47||6.83||208|
|84||David Wilson||Virginia Tech||32||1709||22||0.43||0.22||4.38||7.09||206|
Having been assigned mid-second round draft pedigree, the Sanders comp list includes mostly players who have been valuable dynasty assets at one time or another, whether they actually showed production or not. Freeman and Sony Michel are the only two who have accomplished much fantasy-wise, but there’s still reason for optimism with his closest comp, Kerryon Johnson, and also with Derrius Guice. If you’re someone who is extending the production excuse to Jacobs, make sure you are doing the same with Sanders.
|96||Devonta Freeman||Florida State||103||1016||22||0.37||0.17||4.58||7.11||206|
|94||Kalen Ballage||Arizona State||131||669||20||0.29||0.14||4.46||6.91||228|
|86||Christine Michael||Texas A&M||62||417||8||0.45||0.17||4.54||6.69||220|
A former top recruit, Harris is old news in devy and dynasty circles, but he’s finally being delivered. I’m projecting him as a third-round selection. Given his very metered production as part of the Alabama committee, it’s not surprising that we find some of the same names as we did on the Jacobs list. The change in draft pedigree provides some level of alteration, and we should also understand that the Harris comp list is less noisy (read, more accurate) because we have a combine forty time for him whereas we didn’t with Jacobs. Other than (my assumed) draft position, Harris looks very similar to Michel. I think that’s how he’ll likely fit into a NFL offense as well – a game script sensitive pounder.
|90||David Wilson||Virginia Tech||32||1709||22||0.43||0.22||4.38||7.09||206|
|86||Wendell Smallwood||West Virginia||153||1519||26||0.38||0.18||4.47||6.83||208|
|84||Rashaad Penny||San Diego State||27||2248||19||0.36||0.26||4.46||220|
Admittedly, Henderson’s was a list I was greatly looking forward to because I’m such a fan of his college production. He was a historically efficient running back on a per touch basis and still managed to post impressive per-touch numbers against Power-5 schools even with opposing defenses (over 6 yards per carry). I’m a little nervous about this mid-third round projection as I think he’s a player that could actually go anywhere from the mid-second to the early fourth … but I split the difference. Throw in solid receiving numbers and market share metrics to go with a sub-4.5 combine forty time and we see a list of comps that reads like a Who’s Who of dynasty hype children. Unfortunately, most of these players have failed to materialize the hype into meaningful fantasy production (though we may finally get to see Tevin Coleman’s ceiling this season). If anything, looking at the comps makes me think I could be underestimating how early he’ll go in the NFL Draft, as five of his closest seven comps went by pick 55.
The BSS is just one tool in the box for evaluating prospects, but it’s one that marries production and athleticism, whereas many tools focus on exploring data in one category or the other. Whether it’s continued evaluation of the top 2019 running back prospects or hunting for hidden gems from a year or two ago, there’s plenty more to explore here, especially for dynasty purposes. If you want to check out how some of this year’s top wide receiver prospects stand up to BSS scrutiny, Shawn Siegele has it covered.