Buyer-beware when drafting these 3 running back prospects
In preparation for the 2016 NFL draft, PFF’s team of analysts has spent the past few months putting together our overall draft board and positional prospect rankings.
In doing so, PFF has identified players at each position who qualify as “buyer-beware” prospects, based on where these players are showing up on most evaluators’ draft boards. Here are three such prospects among this year’s running back class.
1. Devontae Booker, Utah
Booker is not without an intriguing skill-set, but his value will take a hit if circulating second-round predictions come to fruition. Receiving the third-most carries within the class since joining Utah, the resulting numbers he accumulated highlight some reasons for concern at that juncture of the draft. In addition to the third-highest fumble rate (1.61 percent), Booker registered the 27th-best (out of 30) 15-or-more yard run rate (5.2 percent), and the 25th-highest yards per touch value (5.22).
Should Booker find his way into the fourth round or beyond, his value will see an exponential increase. At that evaluation, a team will take advantage of Booker’s pass protection experience (34.8 percent of passing snaps), 86 percent catch rate (fourth-best), and 1.44 yards per route run (sixth-highest). As it stands, the projection is far too high, as Booker could use additional seasoning after registering the 18th-highest per-snap impact rate within the class since 2014.
2. Kelvin Taylor, Florida
While Kelvin Taylor holds the genetic pedigree of his father, Fred Taylor, he simply did not show enough in college to warrant a draftable grade. Looking closely into running back numbers since 2014, it’s interesting to find that Taylor produced the fourth-lowest yards before contact per attempt (1.98), and third-lowest yards after contact per attempt (2.35) within the class. In addition, Taylor ranked 22nd in this class since 2014 in both elusive rating and breakaway percentage, while accumulating the second-lowest yards per touch (4.47).
Should the running game issues not be enough to sway opinions, consider that Taylor was utilized less in the passing game than any other back in this draft (one target per 11.1 passing snaps), sans Alabama’s Derrick Henry. The reasoning behind his passing game absence was actually appropriate, as Taylor produced the third-lowest yards per route run (0.48), and also displayed issues in pass protection (11 total pressures allowed in 118 snaps in pass protection).
3. Keith Marshall, Georgia
Everyone remembers the impressive display Marshall showcased at the combine. He recorded the most 225-pound bench press reps (25) and his official 40-yard dash time (4.31) was a full tenth-of-a-second faster than the second name on the charts. Marshall was certainly able to gain interest from NFL teams with his combine metrics, but the in-game numbers he produced at Georgia state a different case entirely.
Marshall produced the sixth-lowest yard averages before (2.12) and after contact (2.50) per attempt, and the highest drop rate within the class (37.5 percent). He was easy to tackle (fifth-lowest elusive rating) and—despite the speed mentioned above—was unable to establish himself as a breakaway threat (second-lowest breakaway percentage). Any reasoning independent of combine results toward selecting Marshall in the draft simply does not exist.