Dave Caban unveils his 2021 RB Breakaway Rush Scores — a metric that has proven to be one of the most predictive measures of NFL success for RB prospects.
It’s easy to love explosive running backs — players that can take a handoff, find a hole, juke past a linebacker, and race to the end zone. These are the type of plays that circle through our minds as we think about how a player’s skill set will translate to the NFL.
There’s no denying that these plays are exciting, but if they don’t translate to professional production, they shouldn’t drive prospect evaluation. On top of that, it’s easy to let highlights build the perception that a particular back exploded to the end zone every time he touched the ball.
This drives two important questions: 1) are breakaway rushes predictive of NFL success and 2) which prospects were actually explosive?
Breakaway Rushes and NFL Production
It turns out that there is a meaningful relationship between breakaway rushes and NFL success. Breakaway rushes are rushing attempts that gain 15 or more yards. Like all things related to prospect evaluation, breakaway rushes are far from a magic bullet. That said, they do a better job of explaining the variance in fantasy output of NFL RB prospects than a variety of other measures.
This is evidenced by analyzing the relationships between RB fantasy scoring in NFL Years 1-3 with other measures. Consider RBs entering the NFL between 2015 and 2020. When these players’ speed scores are plotted against per-game Half-PPR points, the relationship is far weaker than when doing so with the most predictive combination of breakaway rushes that I’ve found. This combination is called “Breakaway Rush Score” (BRS).
Speed Score is widely considered one of the most important RB measures. It is a size-adjusted metric that considers a player’s forty-yard dash time in the context of his weight. A player that posts a sub 4.40 forty-yard dash at 195 pounds is impressive. A player of equal speed, that weighs 225 pounds is even more impressive. However, BRS does a better job of approximating a line, as evidenced by its r-squared