Matthew Freedman

Prospect Comparisons

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Draft Prospect Comparisons: RB

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


FantasyLabs (a part of The Action Network) is a fantasy tools and real-time analytics platform that enables daily fantasy players to test theories and construct customized lineups with the same Tools and Models used by co-founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88). This season, Editor-in-Chief Matthew Freedman is providing NFL prospect analysis in advance of the draft. In this piece, Matt looks at the five top players in his running back rankings and sorts through their ranges of outcomes to provide player comps based on biophysical profile, college production, and expected draft position.


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No. 1: Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Junior | 6’0″ and 233 Pounds | Born February 7, 1997 (Age: 21) | Projection: Round 1

Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.40 sec | bench: 29 reps | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: 4.24 sec | vertical: 41 in | broad: DNP

In his three collegiate seasons, Saquon Barkley accumulated 5,038 yards and 51 touchdowns from scrimmage. In no season did he have fewer than 1,000 yards rushing. As a junior he led all Football Bowl Subdivision running backs with 632 yards receiving, and he also returned two kicks for touchdowns. He flashed 99th percentile SPARQ athleticism at the combine and has the most elite biophysical profile of any running back prospect of the last decade. Barkley is almost incomparable, but he’s perhaps most similar on the basis of his size-adjusted athleticism, overall production, receiving skill and even return capability to a back who through the first three years of his career has averaged one touchdown and just under 100 yards per game — except Barkley will be more than two years younger as a rookie with an extra 80-plus spots of draft position.

Player Comp: David Johnson

For more, see Barkley's player profile.


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No. 2: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Senior | 5’11″ and 220 Pounds | Born February 2, 1996 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 3-4

Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.46 sec | bench: 13 reps | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 32.5 in | broad: 120 in

A backup for the first two years of college and a timeshare back as a junior, Rashaad Penny as a senior led the FBS in rushing with 2,248 yards on 289 carries, and he additionally led all draft-eligible backs with 80 missed tackles forced and a Pro Football Focus elusive rating of 128.6. A versatile all-around player, Penny had 34 receptions in his two final years and an elite seven kick return touchdowns and one punt return touchdown since his sophomore season. For a guy of his size to have the elusiveness and long speed to break that many returns for touchdowns is unbelievable, and it gestures toward the overall success he could have in the NFL as a lead back. While Penny may be compared to a number of recent big-and-fast versatile mid-round backs such as Javorius Allen, C.J. Prosise, or maybe even Kareem Hunt, the player to whom he’s most comparable — thanks to his physical profile, final-season breakout, nation-leading rushing and return-game prowess — was a first-round pick 15 years ago and the most prolific yardage accumulator in the NFL in 2005-06.

Player Comp: Larry Johnson

For more, see Penny’s player profile.

No. 3: Derrius Guice, Louisiana State

Junior | 5’10″ and 224 Pounds | Born June 21, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Rounds 1-2

Combine numbers: Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.49 sec | bench: 15 reps | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 31.5 in | broad: DNP

A five-star recruit and the nation’s No. 2 high school back, Derrius Guice played behind starter Leonard Fournette as a freshman, but as a sophomore he led LSU with 183 carries for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns as Fournette (ankle) missed five games and struggled through much of the season with an injury. In his six 2016 games as the lead back, Guice averaged 178.7 yards and 2.2 touchdowns from scrimmage. With Fournette’s early exit for the NFL, Guice as a junior again led the backfield, rushing for 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns and adding 18 receptions for 124 yards and two scores. Although Guice’s final-season production was diminished due to injuries, he still led the Southeastern Conference in rushing over his two final campaigns. A precocious prospect, Guice is positioned to join the rare cohort of big-bodied backs over the last decade to enter the NFL as either first- or second-rounders and to play as 21-year-old rookies. With the exception of Joe Mixon (who is entering just his second season), every back in that group has had at least one NFL season of 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage. Although the comparison might strike some as sacrilegious, Guice might best be thought of as a lesser version of another productive, athletic, and big-bodied back to enter the league with significant draft capital at a young age.

 

Player Comp: Ezekiel Elliott

For more, see Guice’s player profile.

 

No. 4: Nick Chubb, Georgia

Senior | 5’11″ and 227 Pounds | Born December 27, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 1-2

Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.52 sec | bench: 29 reps | 3-cone: 7.09 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.25 sec | vertical: 38.5 in | broad: 128 in

In 2014, Chubb looked like the No. 1 running back prospect of the 2017 draft, compiling 1,760 yards and 16 touchdowns as a true freshman fill-in for starter Todd Gurley, who missed seven full games to suspension and then a knee injury. As a sophomore, however, Chubb suffered a devastating knee injury of his own, and although he was productive as a junior (1,216 yards and nine touchdowns) it wasn’t until his senior season that he seemed to return to form (1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns). A fantastic high-school athlete, Chubb at the combine showed that despite his injury he still possesses near-elite physical capabilities. Now that Chubb is in the Day 1 conversation with a selection in the top 100 almost assured, he seems (on the basis of size, athleticism, rushing production and relative lack of receiving usage) to be comparable to one of the most consistent (even if somewhat unexciting) NFL backs of the last decade.

Player Comp: Jonathan Stewart
For more, see Chubb’s player profile.

 

No. 5: Royce Freeman, Oregon

Senior | 5’11″ and 229 Pounds | Born February 24, 1996 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 2-3

Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench: 17 reps | 3-cone: 6.9 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.16 sec | vertical: 34 in | broad: 118 in

If this were 2008, there might be five running backs taken in the first round of the draft. Although Freeman isn’t getting Day 1 hype, he has the potential to outproduce many of the running backs likely to be drafted ahead of him. A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Freeman immediately made an impact as a true freshman in 2014, rushing for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns and pairing with quarterback Marcus Mariota to lead the Ducks to the College Football Championship. The next year Freeman was the focus of Oregon’s Mariota-less offense, and he turned 283 carries into 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns. After an injury-impacted junior season (in which he still had 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage), Freeman returned to form as a senior, rushing for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns. Perhaps most impressive with Freeman is his receiving ability: Rare is the big-bodied back who can accumulate 79 receptions for 814 yards across his college career. Exhibiting surprising speed and agility at the combine, Freeman is a near-lock to be selected no later than Day 2. He lacks a bulldozing run-to-contact mentality, but with his physical profile, prolonged collegiate production and functional ability as a receiver, Freeman is a slightly smaller and less athletic and much cheaper version of last year’s highest-drafted back.  

Player comp: Leonard Fournette
For more, see Freeman’s player profile.



Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs and Producer of the RotoViz and Fantasyland podcasts. He can be found on Twitter @MattFtheOracle.
Email :Matthew Freedman



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