(Editor’s note: This is part one of two. Be sure to keep an eye out for part two, due tomorrow!)
The 2019 running back class is different compared to the last few years. We don’t have any bonafide studs or “generational” talents, but we do have some interesting prospects. Almost every back in this class has a red flag on their profile which is a major scarlet letter, preventing them from being a top tier prospect.
I think this might have been the first time that the Combine negatively shifted the overall value of a running back class. We had two promising ones completely bomb the Combine and none of them really exceeded expectations. Not competing at the event this year might have been the best move for running backs with marginal talents.
When it comes to my comparison model, I like to run the comparisons tight to a player’s height and weight because I want the numbers to be as accurate as possible. This provides a snapshot of how a player could potentially look at the NFL level. Keep in mind, these are athletic comps and don’t take into consideration the player’s production and how they look on tape. It is just a view of a player’s Combine numbers.
My database has athletic metrics from the NFL Combine and pro days from the year 2002 to now. The database has over 550 running backs in it, providing a deep sample of running back talent.
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Myles Gaskin, RB Washington
With four straight 100-yard seasons at Washington, Gaskin looks to make his mark in the NFL once he makes the leap to the next level. He didn’t really wow the crowd at the Combine, but his numbers could be a lot worse. Being compared to Devonta Freeman is never a bad thing. Between the two running backs, Gaskin tested with more burst with similar speed and short-area quickness.
Damien Harris, RB Alabama
The Alabama product is one of the most underrated running backs in this draft class. He posted a ‘good enough’ 4.57 40-yard dash time and a good 37-inch vertical. Unfortunately, we don’t have a gauge on his short-area quickness because he skipped out on the three-cone. He drew some interesting comparables in my model, being compared to Frank Gore and Alvin Kamara. The difference between Kamara and Harris is that Kamara has more burst and that shows in his 39.5 inch vertical. Nonetheless, Harris can do damage if he lands in a promising situation.
Darrell Henderson, RB Memphis
There was a tale of two different stories for Henderson’s 40-yard dash time. His first attempted netted a time of 4.53 seconds. He then ramped things up on this second try by blazing a 4.36-second 40-yard dash. With everything considered, at the end of the day he posted a 4.49 official time on the books. At 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds, Henderson has enough size to make an impact for an NFL team. He just needs to land in the right situation and play to his potential in camp and in games for him to develop into a functional fantasy asset for dynasty leaguers.
Justice Hill, RB Oklahoma State
Hill made some money. Not only did he run a 4.4 40-yard dash, but he displayed burst by hitting a 40-inch vertical. When it comes to size and speed he compared to Ray Rice. However, we don’t know how they compare in short area quickness, because Hill didn’t run the three-cone but Rice and the rest of the running backs listed in his comparison table don’t hold a candle to his 40-inch vertical.
Elijah Holyfield, RB Georgia
Something went horribly wrong here. As you can easily see, Holyfield didn’t fire at the Combine. This was one of the worst performances from a heavily-touted running back prospect in recent memory. His 6.4 yard per carry average in 2018 doesn’t reflect this sloth-like athleticism. When we look back at his performance at the Combine we can gather one of three things: He’s either a poor athlete, injured or doesn’t care enough to prepare for this event. None of these options help his stock or are good excuses for this dismal output. Even after he ran the 40-yard dash, he still participated in the drills. I don’t know if he tapped out, but he decided to skip out of the three-cone when he obviously didn’t have much else to lose.
The Combine isn’t the end-all-be-all. He still could turn things around and deliver a solid performance at his pro-day. Right now, we have to be concerned about his suboptimal results at the Combine.
Travis Homer, RB Miami
Homer is another talented running back prospect who was flying under the radar going into the Combine. His 4.48 40-yard dash combined with his 39.5-inch vertical makes him one of the most athletic running backs in the draft class. The fact he compares to Christian McCaffrey as an athlete is very encouraging. Of course, there are some differences – you are never going to have exact doppelgangers when it comes to prospects. Homer has the potential to excel as a pass-catching specialist at the next level.