Second-tier rookie RB fantasy player comps

Kevin Cole breaks down the best fantasy comps for the second tier of the 2016 running back draft class.

| 7 months ago
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Second-tier rookie RB fantasy player comps

Last week we went through this year’s top wide receiver prospects in a couple installments, identifying their most comparable NFL players based strictly on the numbers, helping us resist the temptation to elevate every prospect into the Hall of Fame. This week we’re going to do something similar for the running back position.

We compiled the statistically significant variables for predicting NFL success (weight, 40-yard dash time, final season rushing and receiving yards per game) for all running back prospects entering the league from 2000-2016, and divided them into similar groupings using a k-means clustering algorithm.

In this post, we’re going to look at running back prospects in the second tier of recent dynasty rookie mock drafts. Three of the top-10 prospects are missing 40-yard dash times (Devontae Booker, Jordan Howard and Jonathan Williams), so they were excluded from the analysis. In their stead, I added three lower prospects that scored well in our post-combine running back success model: Tyler Ervin, Daniel Lasco and DeAndre Washington.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
DeAndre Washington Texas Tech 2016 NA 204 4.49 114.8 29.6
Duke Johnson Miami (FL) 2015 77 207 4.54 127.1 32.4
James White Wisconsin 2014 130 204 4.57 111.1 23.1

DeAndre Washington doesn’t profile as an early-down hammer in the NFL, despite averaging almost 115 rushing yards per game in his final collegiate season. In a league that is increasingly tilting towards the pass, Washington should be useful at the next level.

Washington is currently projected to go in the fifth round of the NFL draft, in the same neighborhood as James White. Landing spot will be critically important for Washington’s fantasy value, potentially providing RB2 production in PPR leagues.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Tyler Ervin San Jose State 2016 NA 192 4.41 123.2 25.7
Trung Canidate Arizona 2000 31 193 4.41 133.5 21.1
LaMichael James Oregon 2012 61 194 4.45 150.4 17.5
Darren Sproles Kansas State 2005 130 187 4.47 119.8 20.3

Tyler Ervin was one of the favorites of our running back success model, having the fourth highest score of all 2016 prospects. Ervin’s comps, like Washington’s, paint the picture of a third-down back.

Trung Canidate and LaMichael James never did much in the NFL. Canidate was a curious first-round selection by the Rams, who already had the then 27-year-old Marshall Faulk on the roster.

Darren Sproles has top-15 and top-five PPR seasons on his fantasy resume, so there’s hope for Ervin to be an NFL success. That said, Ervin’s role will likely be too limited to see similar success to speedy workhorses like Jamaal Charles, who is both slightly faster and heavier than Ervin.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Daniel Lasco California 2016 NA 209 4.46 92.9 29.7
Charles Sims West Virginia 2014 69 214 4.48 91.2 33.4
Johnny White North Carolina 2011 133 209 4.50 80.0 32.0

We’re fudging things a little with Daniel Lasco’s comps. Lasco was injured for large chunks of last season, so I substituted his junior year stats to go with his combine weight and forty time.

Lasco profiles similarly to Charles Sims, who was an early third round pick and nearly a top-15 PPR running back last season. Johnny White was a fifth round selection of the Bills in 2011, and had only 20 total rushing attempts before bouncing out of the NFL after a couple seasons.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Keith Marshall Georgia 2016 NA 219 4.31 31.8 2.5
Justin Fargas Southern California 2003 96 219 4.35 59.6 8.4

Keith Marshall is the 10th running back off the board in early dynasty rookie mocks, largely based on his outstanding speed. Marshall’s 4.31-second 40-yard dash was the third fastest time in the last 10 years.

Because Marshall’s outstanding size/speed profile and lowly production are such a unique combination, the cluster algorithm only found one comparable player in the entire 2000-2015 database. Justin Fargas also vaunted up draft boards with his stunning combine performance. Fargas was only a late third round selection, even with better collegiate production than Marshall, 

Fargas had a productive career from a real football standpoint, totaling nearly 3,500 in seven NFL seasons. But from a fantasy perspective, Fargas wasn’t very useful, only breaking the into the top-25 running backs once in PPR scoring.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Alex Collins Arkansas 2016 NA 217 4.59 121.3 7.3
Montee Ball Wisconsin 2013 58 214 4.66 130.7 5.1
Thomas Rawls Central Michigan 2015 NA 215 4.65 122.6 10.3

Alex Collins has been sliding down more quickly in fantasy boards than prospect rankings. Collins’ disappointing combine moved him down to RB7 in dynasty rookie mock drafts, but he’s still RB5 according to NFL Draft Scout’s prospect rankings.

Montee Ball and Thomas Rawls make an interesting pair of comps. Ball, a second round pick that was handed one of the most valued running backs roles in the NFL in his second year, was a complete flop. Rawls, on the other hand, was undrafted and posted some of the best efficiency metrics of any running back in 2015.

Collins’ 4.59 forty is better than his comps’, but still a little on the slow side for a 217-pound back. Landing spot will be extremely important for Collins, since it’s unlikely he’ll be high enough of a selection to immediately take over the backfield.

In the next post, we’ll move on to the top-tier running back prospects, like Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry and Kenneth Dixon.

  • faggy

    nigga queers

  • Mike B

    This is great! How would J-Williams look with his 2014 numbers and pro day 40 time of 4.59?