In two years you may only remember Barkley’s cyborg-like performance, but many runners stood out to me last weekend. I’m excited to share this quick rundown and give everyone their first look at my overall scores for this year. I’d like to remind everyone these scores are subject to change according to draft position, landing spots, and pro day performances for some players. The radar plot charts I am using in this article are designed to give you a visual representation of a player’s percentile rank in my running back model. My model sample includes all running backs since 2000 that have produced at least two top 12 seasons. Due to the smaller, elite sample size, players are held to a different standard than sites that use a larger sample size. If you enjoy these charts and want to see how these players compare to a larger, less elite sample size with more metrics to look at, I would recommend mockdraftable.com. Much like the combine just did, the NFL draft will shake up my scores again. I would like to remind everyone these are not necessarily my rankings. Although I do tend to be a bit more bullish on players my model favors, I am learning guys will always come along and break the mold, and any given year I might get “Trent Richardsoned” or “Jeremey McNicholsed” by one of my model’s favorites. If you’re willing to look at these charts with an open mind and take what you see with a grain of salt, you can use them to get an idea of a player’s strengths and possible red flags. If the red flags raised by my model match what you find in your film evaluations, then we might be onto something. I’ll have more to say about some of these guys than others. With that said, I give you my 2018 post combine scores.
Barkley is a freak, an absolute machine. I haven’t been this excited about a prospect since Zeke or Gurley. Fast forward 365 days and we might be talking about Barkley ahead of every running back in the NFL. I really don’t care that we don’t have a 3-cone time for him, he’s such an animal in every other aspect of his game. His 3-cone wouldn’t have been alarming by any means. Perhaps he’ll give us a show at the Penn State pro day, but I have a feeling he will forgo his opportunities to provide us with a 3-cone time and that is just fine. He looked like a stud in the receiving drills displaying ability to work the route tree with ease. He’s a locked and loaded top-4 NFL pick who could be a game changer to add to your dynasty roster. I don’t really care where he ends up getting drafted, his talent should be considered system proof. The only way Barkley doesn’t end up with multiple top 12 running back seasons is if he suffers some sort of tragic injury that derails his career.
Nick Chubb has the looks of a truly solid 3 down back. He’s going to find a majority of his success on first and second down and should be a highly coveted short yardage back for NFL teams. I was really happy to see Chubb come out and run faster than expected. He demonstrated respectable long speed for a back his size. He also posted an impressive 3-cone. When considering the previously mentioned combine numbers, college production, and early second-round draft projection, Chubb is a top 3 back in this class. He’s one of the safer options as far as my model is concerned and I couldn’t agree more.
Ah, my man! At this point I guess I’d be considered a bit of a Freeman truther. He’s been one of my favorites for this class since last offseason when I was hoping he’d declare but didn’t. Many great film evaluators I follow have criticized Freeman for not playing aggressive enough and failing to utilize his size as much as he could. I can agree to an extent. Freeman often uses his smooth hips and turning ability to avoid contact rather than initiate it. I couldn’t find many instances where he lowered his shoulder and ran through a tackle, but the amount of runs where he used his vision and hips to find the opening and turn up field are countless. I realize the combine was just an underwear workout, but Freeman’s 3-cone was remarkable. When I look at my size adjusted 3-cone metric, which factors in a player’s weight and BMI, Freeman is the best. His 6.9 second 3-cone is far better than I expected and only furthers my love for him. I don’t have comps for all of these guys, but I can’t help seeing a Jordan Howard type player in Freeman.
Take everything I just said about Royce Freeman and his tendency to avoid contact and go the exact opposite direction when thinking about Derrius Guice. He’s very much so a bruiser. He weighed in bigger than I expected which should support his aggressive run style. The first thing I notice when looking at his radar plot chart is the lack of opportunities he has seen. Battling minor knee problems and playing behind Leonard Fournette kept his workload in check compared other top options at the position this year. Although Guice scores below Chubb and Freeman right now and probably will when all is said and done, he’s still the guy I’m going after if I hold the 1.02 and can’t find a suitable trade partner. I’m willing to look at his lack of production alongside the lack of opportunities he received and move on. I don’t hold the 1.02 but I do have a bunch of money in an auction league format. I’ll probably dabble at Guice till his price gets too high for my taste then move on to the value that will be found in Royce Freeman and some other options further down my list.
Fun fact, a penny costs approximately 1.5 cents to make, God bless America. Also a fun fact, Rashaad Penny has the best rushing average in the class. Due mostly to the amazing season he posted his senior year, Penny provides us with an amazing production profile. To back up that rushing average and production he came out and showed off that long speed with a very impressive 4.46 40-yard dash. Like many this year, no 3-cone for Penny. He decided not to participate in running drills besides the 40-yard dash. I’m sure there’s strategy as to why these guys don’t run certain drills, but I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why. Penny is all you could ask for in a running back who will probably be drafted towards the back of the first round in your dynasty rookie drafts.
Sony Michel just screams versatility. If there’s ever a guy who passes the eye test for me it’s Michel. He runs with tremendous balance and has game speed misrepresented by his 4.54 40-yard dash. Michel and Chubb were both able to emerge from the same school which goes to show what kind of a running back factory Georgia really is. The narrative that Michel might go before Chubb in the NFL draft is beginning to fade, but neither should survive the first 50 picks. At this point we should be considered blessed to be talking about a guy with this kind of potential as a second-tier option. This class is truly stacked and could provide returns similar to the 2017 running backs. Historically speaking some guys won’t pan out, but the 2018 rookie running back class as given me a strong case of the rookie fever.
Chase Edmonds became the first running back in Fordham school history to attend the combine and boy did he show up. Although a 4.55 forty isn’t slow, he didn’t have the long speed to match other competitors. He did however run faster than every other running back in the 3 cone and short shuttle drills. I’ve been high on Edmonds since I saw his production numbers and watched a few of his games. The agility drills confirmed what I’ve been seeing from him. Edmonds deserves the “Most Valuable Performance” at this year’s combine. What he did should give NFL teams more assurance when selecting a him. For better or for worse, Edmonds and Royce Freeman are guys that I’ll be targeting in my own leagues and would happily endorse at their current ADP value.
I thought about including a chart with Jones’ actual 40 time but decided I didn’t want to go there. He pulled up with a bum hammy and we didn’t get an accurate depiction of his speed. People can argue about what he “would’ve” run, or what he was “on pace” to run but really his combine 40 time is null and void. I wasn’t able to find 10-yard splits so the conversation about Rojo’s athleticism is over as far as I’m concerned. I’d be shocked if he was able/willing to run at USC’s pro day. With the unanswered questions about his athletic ability and the red flags that I have been seeing in his receiving production, I can understand why Jones isn’t one of my models favorites this year. I still like him a lot, but I’d rather have him at the end of the first than the 1.04-1.08 range. I was low on Kamara last year as well, but ultimately ended up drafting him when given the chance at 11 overall in one of my rookie drafts. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones was one of the best this year. However, when I select players I do so with a certain level of calculated risk involved in my decision. When drafting a guy like Jones you have to factor in a little more risk than some of the other backs this year.
Josh Adams didn’t do much for his draft stock at the combine. Hopefully he shows us something at the Notre Dame pro day. I was expecting him to come out and impress with his size adjusted athleticism, but he came in lighter than expected and didn't participate in the running drills. I’m fading Adams for some players that came away from last weekend with better performances. Nonetheless, I am still interested in where he goes in the NFL draft. He could make a good one cut runner.
Perhaps a riser, Jarvion Franklin came out with a decent performance himself. His 40 time was nothing to write home about and he didn’t jump like someone with explosive traits, but a 6.93 3-cone at 225 is very impressive by my standards. His production profile is solid, and I ALWAYS take note of guys that have above average adjusted 3-cone times.
Johnson didn’t run the 40 at the combine but jumped well, He also laid down respectable 3-cone and short shuttle times. The 4.54 40-yard dash is an unofficial time recorded from Auburns pro day.
Ballage delivered as the size/speed monster that he was hyped up to be. He was 4th in both the adjusted 40 and the adjusted 3-cone categories. If it weren’t for his horrifically alarming rushing production, Ballage would have a much higher total score. He’s going to be a great 2nd round flyer in rookie drafts this year.
If Wadley is to find success in the NFL it’s likely to be in a pass catching role. I just don’t see anything more than a complimentary back, and that will require the right team fit and opportunity.
What the heck is happening in this cluster of a chart? Let me explain. Justin Jackson is a physically gifted guy who is trapped in a skinny little body. His 6.81 3 cone was just behind Chase Edmonds and his 4.07 short shuttle is tied with Edmonds for the fastest among RB’s. Something worth noting: Jackson has had quite a large workload for his sub 200-pound frame.
Alabama has had no shortage of players lobbying for work in their backfield over the last few years. I tend to believe injuries kept us from seeing Scarbrough’s potential in college. Besides playing behind Derrick Henry, Bo failed to carve out a large role when challenged by Damien Harris this past year. I’m not writing Bo off, but I’m not getting giddy over the possibility of drafting him either.
Nall is another size adjusted agility guy that will be worth watching. He doesn’t have a ton of hype and might go undrafted, but he’d be a great pickup for a team who needs to add a big body to their backfield rotation.
Fastest long speed in the class. Likely to fit a 3rd down role rather than a 1st and 2nd down role.
Kelly is an interesting guy for me. When Kamara came out of Tennessee I questioned his production profile. I find myself asking the same questions when looking at Kelly. He didn’t see a big enough market share to make an impact on the ground but shows flashes of big play ability on tape. I haven’t formed a strong opinion on Kelly yet, but I’m leaning towards letting others draft him at the beginning of the 2nd round.
For a 250 lb man, Warren sure looked good in the 3-cone drill. He showed up with a 4.69 forty so he’s not a big burner, but a big guy like that with a sub-7 second 3-cone will catch people’s eye.
I appricate you taking the time to look through my list of post-combine scores. Hopefully you came away with useful, understandable insight. To see more of my work, follow me @FFSkiBum or check out my content at http://dynastyhappyhour.com/blog-posts
Combine RB’s/FB’s not mentioned: Donnie Ernsberger, Dimitri Flowers, Nick Bawden
Notable RB’s absent from combine: Martez Carter, Ito Smith, Phillip Lindsay, Trenton Cannon, D’Ernest Johnson, James Butler, Ralph Webb, Larry Rose, Ja’Quan Gardner