One thing you will notice while watching the combine is the analysts will make comparisons between the combine participants and current NFL players based upon their physical and athletic measurements. The comparisons are fun to make and it gives a quick snapshot on how the player stacks up athletically at the next level.
Athletic metrics demonstrate what a player is capable of doing on the field through speed, quickness, strength and explosiveness. They are measurements of potential and will not predict a player’s performance during their NFL career. A running back can test well for explosiveness with a great vertical and long jump, but the running back’s attributes won’t translate well if they have poor vision or a bad habit of dancing in the backfield.
When comparing prospects, it is best to compare players with similar heights and weight to get the most accurate assessment. Smaller running backs are faster, quicker and more agile compared to bigger running backs. On the contrast, bigger running backs don’t have to be as fast as the smaller running backs because their extra size and power creates a different way they can win on the field. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, even though they are both fruits, they have different dynamics we have to examine while evaluating them.
I sorted through the numbers from all the combine participants from 2008 to present date, starting with their height and weight and then following with their athletic metrics (40-yard dash and 3-cone) until the sample size of comparable prospects dwindled down to around ten or less. This gives us a list of comparable players based off their size and athleticism.
Devontae Booker, RB Utah
Booker did not test for the 40-yard dash, 3-cone and the vertical jump, which makes it hard to make accurate comparisons for him. The one thing we can do is go back and watch more tape and concentrate more on his athleticism to make an educated guess on what he would test to make the best evaluation to who he compares too. The listing above provides running backs that have the same height and weight as Booker. Alfred Morris is the most productive out of the group with 5,078 career yards, and Vick Ballard, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis had their stints of productivity during their career as well. The one thing we can take away from Booker’s combine numbers is that he has the height and weight to potentially handle a three-down role. He’s a player we need to spend a little extra time watching tape on since we don’t have concrete data on his athletic metrics.
Alex Collins, RB Arkansas
Collins compares athletically to Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Vick Ballard when you look at their combine metrics. I think he’s a better prospect then both of those running backs but there are similarities that stick out when watching Collins on tape. He’s a strong, physical runner that’s more than willing to fight for the extra yard, but he definitely doesn’t have the speed to burn past defensive backs in the open field. His combine numbers reflect that with a 4.59 40-yard dash and his vertical tells us that he lacks explosiveness.
Marshaun Coprich, RB Illinois State
Coprich is a small-school prospect with an interesting height-weight speed combination. He lacks burst and quickness due to his 3-cone and vertical being below average for a running back his size.
Kenneth Dixon, RB Louisiana Tech
At first glance, Dixon’s athletic comps are not very impressive as Dan Herron and Cierre Wood have not been very productive in the NFL. Dixon is a better prospect than both of those players. He was more productive in college and his draft status will be much higher than both running backs. Herron started three games for Indianapolis in 2014 and during that stretch where he was the starting running back he displayed excellent short-area quickness and burst. Dixon is a very explosive runner who can move laterally very well which is what you would expect when you take in consideration his vertical (37.5) and 3-cone (6.97) that he posted at the combine.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State
It was hard to find a list of players that compared to Elliott’s size and athleticism. The only two players that popped up on the list were Montario Hardesty and Jalen Parmele and those two backs combined for just 724 yards rushing for their careers. Parmele was a sixth-round pick in 2008 and he has bounced between several teams without sticking to an NFL roster long enough to make a true impact. Hardesty suffered a torn ACL during his first preseason game against the Chicago Bears and he wasn’t the same after the injury. Elliott is a totally different prospect because he has elite college production and he is projected to be a first-round draft pick. His outlook for the NFL is far more promising compared to the previous mentioned running backs.
Josh Ferguson, RB Illinois
Kerwyn Williams isn’t as bad of a player to be compared to then what you would think. He’s a very explosive runner who finds a way to be productive every time he gets the opportunity to play. Ferguson is a better prospect than Williams and only compares to him by size, speed and explosiveness, other than that there are a lot of different traits between the two backs. Ferguson is an excellent receiver and might be the best receiving back in this draft. His quickness makes him very dangerous with the ball in the open field.
Derrick Henry, RB Alabama
There is no running back that compares to Henry and that’s okay. As you can see, there hasn’t been a running back in the last eight years that has his size and speed. Many analysts like to compare him to Brandon Jacobs, but Henry is a little different because he’s faster and more explosive. This list of players proves that Henry is a different type of athlete and we have to be extra diligent when evaluating him for our rookie drafts.
Jordan Howard, RB Indiana
Howard has the most impressive list of running backs that compares to him athletically. We don’t know his 40-time or 3-cone, but I assume he runs at least a mid 4.6 to a mid 4.5 40-yard dash. Le’Veon Bell, Carlos Hyde and Karlos Williams are all bigger backs who are very nimble and quick for their size. Howard is an all around good football player and I wouldn’t be surprise if he doesn’t end up the most productive back in this draft class.
Keith Marshall, RB Georgia
Marshall won the combine as he proved to be this year’s size-speed freak. Ben Tate was the only running back that compared to him athletically. Tate was a popular roster stash for many years but Arian Foster’s efficient play prevented him from seeing the field enough to become fantasy relevant. Expect Marshall’s value to creep in the third round of rookie drafts and he could go much higher if he gets drafted into the right situation.
Paul Perkins, RB UCLA
Duke Johnson is the most notable player on this list and his athletic metrics matches Perkins almost perfectly. Perkins was very productive in college, rushing for 3,488 yards and catching 80 receptions during his career at UCLA.
CJ Prosise, RB Notre Dame
Prosise, who is a fan favorite for a lot of draft analysts, has a few interesting running backs that compare to him athletically. Tyler Gaffney was a prospect that many dynasty owners had stashed away at the end of their roster due to his athleticism, but he couldn’t find a way to crack the starting lineup due to being setback by a knee injury. Chris Ivory blew up last season eclipsing the 1,000 yard barrier for the first time in his career. Like Gaffney, before last season Ivory was a popular end of bench stash in dynasty. Prosise has the size, speed and quickness to become an everyday starter in the NFL.
Wendell Smallwood, RB West Virginia
Smallwood’s dynasty stock increased dramatically after his combine performance. He was off a lot of people’s radar until he posted a 4.47 40-yard dash and a 6.83 3-cone. He was productive in college as he owned a 26.92 percent market share of West Virginia’s offense during his junior season. He also caught 68 receptions during his collegiate career, proving that he has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Every player that is listed as a comparable to Smallwood has held a fair amount of dynasty value at some point during their career, either through draft pedigree or on-field production. The hype machine is about to gas up and Smallwood’s stock should only increase going forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands in the second round of rookie drafts if he gets drafted into a favorable situation.
Jonathan Williams, RB Arkansas
Williams didn’t run the 40 or the 3-cone during his combine, so it’s really hard to get an accurate list of players that compare to him athletically. This is another instance where we have to go back to the tape and study him a little harder to see where he would fit. He has the size to be a three down back which is very encouraging. He runs with a lot of pop as he shows a lot of burst and allusiveness while running the football. Everything on tape is pointing in the direction of him being a good athlete and he’s player you should monitor during the draft process.
Kenyan Drake, RB Alabama and Daniel Lasco, RB Cal
Kenyan Drake and Daniel Lasco both have the same comparable prospects when you sort out their combine data. Drake has been considered a trendy second- to third-round rookie draft pick by some fantasy analysts and Lasco’s 4.46 40-time puts him in consideration of being an end-of-bench stash for a lot of dynasty enthusiasts.
Of course, comparing players by their athletic metrics won’t give you a full evaluation of the running back’s profile but it gives you a visual of what the player is capable of doing on the football field. The combine is just a small part of the process and there’s still a lot that can be discovered about these running back prospects between now and your rookie drafts.
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Update: Tyler Badie, RB BAL - June 27, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Update: Keaontay Ingram, RB ARI - June 22, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Update: Jerome Ford, RB CLE - June 15, 2022