Bjorn Yang-Vaernet reviews the NFL combine results for the 2023 running back class and shares the players that helped or hurt themselves ahead of the NFL Draft.
Thankfully the NFL combine, or as Blair called the event in his wide receiver combine winners and losers article, the “annual underwear Olympics,” is finally here. The period of time between the Super Bowl in February and the combine in early March feels incredibly long with the biggest news items being QB controversies that have no answer and players getting in off-field trouble. However, the combine marks the beginning of a new influx of talent into the league and for the best ball and dynasty fantasy players, the start of the new season.
While Blair tackled the WR position yesterday, I am going to focus on the running backs, an increasingly bifurcated position with the strongest prospects being worth more than ever given the trend toward committee backfields by many teams.
The Prospect Workout Explorer is updated with new data on every player who participated over the last few days, and offers a plethora of insight beyond just the raw numbers. Explore the recent results for yourself to find more winners and losers than just the few mentioned here.
Combine Metrics that Matter for RBs
For this section, I will defer to prior RotoViz analysis on combine metrics by Travis May. Based on his article from a year ago, a few of the relevant metrics for RBs are:
- Size-adjusted forty-yard dash or speed score
- Broad and vertical jumps (looking for average results at the minimum)
- Three-cone drill (strong results can indicate elite agility and burst)
In short, a strong RB prospect should have good speed for their weight, the power to break through contact, and the agility and burst to get through the line to the second level.
Don’t Overreact to the Combine
For better or worse, the combine matters a lot for any position, but especially for skill position players like RBs. While many people will overreact to highlight clips or a particular drill, athletic testing should be considered just one piece of the puzzle for making an assessment of any particular player. Again, as Blair noted in his article, the combine can influence draft capital and draft capital can dictate opportunity, one of the biggest factors for RB success.
The 3 RBs Who Boosted Their Stock
As the consensus No. 1 RB in this class for multiple years, Bijan Robinson was a “winner” in the sense that he did not hurt his draft stock. Robinson ran a 4.46 second 40-yard dash at 215 pounds — a speed score of 109. For reference, 100 represents good speed for the weight while anything greater than 110 is elite. Notably, while Robinson had the sixth fastest forty-yard dash of the day, his 10-yard split of 1.52 was third, tied with Jahmyr Gibbs and 0.01 seconds off of Devon Achane in second.
Robinson also did not hurt himself in the broad and vertical jumps, jumping in the 83rd and 78th percentiles, respectively. While Robinson did not have crazy testing metrics like Jonathan Taylor in 2020 or Breece Hall in 2021, in combination with his dominant collegiate production, he cemented himself as the premier RB in this draft class. Furthermore, his list of comps for both his college production and athleticism numbers includes a number of very successful RBs.