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Is There a Correlation Between RB Combine Numbers and Fantasy Football Success?

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NFL Combine and Fantasy Success

The stretch from the last whistle of the Super Bowl to the first mock draft of the next season is a lonely one for the fantasy football community. But on a few occasions during this time of utter boredom, the fantasy football fanatics do get a chance to get excited again about football. The first of which is the NFL Draft Combine.

While casual fans get an opportunity to watch the next wave of NFL talent run and jump in t-shirts and shorts, many fantasy footballers try to get the inside track on which soon to be rookie will have a fantasy impact at the next level. So with that in mind, I was curious to which, if any, of the NFL Combine measurables, were predictors of future NFL success.

To explore this potential advantage over my fellow fantasy dynasty/keeper leagues mates, I first started by taking a look at the running back position. More specifically, if any of the measurables done at the Combine could be used to predict fantasy goodness at the next level for the position.

Using information from the last five NFL seasons, I examined the top fantasy running back single season performances and those players’ Combine stats to look for trends that may help Fantasy Football players target certain rookies ball carriers moving forward.

Full NFL Combine Results HERE

Rk Player Season Age Team FantPt
1 David Johnson 2016 25 ARI 327.8
2 Jamaal Charles 2013 27 KAN 308
3 Adrian Peterson 2012 27 MIN 307.4
4 DeMarco Murray 2014 26 DAL 294.1
5 Ezekiel Elliott 2016 21 DAL 293.4
6 Le’Veon Bell 2014 22 PIT 287.5
7 LeSean McCoy 2013 25 PHI 278.6
8 Marshawn Lynch 2014 28 SEA 265.3
9 Matt Forte 2013 28 CHI 263.3
10 Doug Martin 2012 23 TAM 262.6
11 Arian Foster 2012 26 HOU 262.1
12 LeSean McCoy 2016 28 BUF 248.3
13 Marshawn Lynch 2012 26 SEA 246.6
14 Matt Forte 2014 29 CHI 244.6
15 Devonta Freeman 2015 23 ATL 243.4
16 Le’Veon Bell 2016 24 PIT 242.4
17 Alfred Morris 2012 24 WAS 241
18 DeMarco Murray 2016 28 TEN 240.8
19 Marshawn Lynch 2013 27 SEA 239.3
20 Knowshon Moreno 2013 26 DEN 236.6
21 Arian Foster 2014 28 HOU 235.5
22 Adrian Peterson 2015 30 MIN 230.7
23 Eddie Lacy 2014 24 GNB 230.6
24 Devonta Freeman 2016 24 ATL 230.1
25 LeGarrette Blount 2016 30 NWE 225.9
26 Ray Rice 2012 25 BAL 222.1
27 C.J. Spiller 2012 25 BUF 212.3
28 Jamaal Charles 2014 28 KAN 210.4
29 Melvin Gordon 2016 23 SDG 209.6
30 Eddie Lacy 2013 23 GNB 207.5
31 DeMarco Murray 2013 25 DAL 205.1
32 Jamaal Charles 2012 26 KAN 204.5
33 Adrian Peterson 2013 28 MIN 203.7
34 Trent Richardson 2012 22 CLE 203.7
35 Justin Forsett 2014 29 BAL 202.9
Rk Player Season Age Team FantPt
36 Jordan Howard 2016 22 CHI 201.1
37 Stevan Ridley 2012 23 NWE 199.4
38 Doug Martin 2015 26 TAM 199.3
39 Chris Johnson 2013 28 TEN 198.2
40 Frank Gore 2012 29 SFO 196.8
41 Mark Ingram 2016 27 NOR 196.2
42 DeAngelo Williams 2015 32 PIT 191.4
43 Jay Ajayi 2016 23 MIA 188.3
44 Fred Jackson 2013 32 BUF 187.7
45 Todd Gurley 2015 21 STL 187.4
46 Lamar Miller 2014 23 MIA 185.4
47 Reggie Bush 2013 28 DET 185.2
48 Lamar Miller 2015 24 MIA 184.9
49 Ryan Mathews 2013 26 SDG 184.4
50 Jeremy Hill 2014 22 CIN 183.9
51 Matt Forte 2012 27 CHI 177.4
52 C.J. Anderson 2014 23 DEN 177.3
53 Frank Gore 2016 33 IND 176.2
54 Chris Johnson 2012 27 TEN 175.5
55 Latavius Murray 2016 26 OAK 175.2
56 Frank Gore 2013 30 SFO 174.9
57 David Johnson 2015 24 ARI 173.8
58 Chris Ivory 2015 27 NYJ 172.7
59 Le’Veon Bell 2013 21 PIT 171.9
60 Reggie Bush 2012 27 MIA 171.8
61 LeSean McCoy 2014 26 PHI 171.4
62 Alfred Morris 2014 26 WAS 170.9
63 Matt Forte 2015 30 CHI 170.7
64 Alfred Morris 2013 25 WAS 169.3
65 Shonn Greene 2012 27 NYJ 167.4
66 Giovani Bernard 2013 22 CIN 166.9
67 Isaiah Crowell 2016 23 CLE 165.1
68 Carlos Hyde 2016 25 SFO 165.1
69 Joique Bell 2014 28 DET 164.2
70 Latavius Murray 2015 25 OAK 163.8

Height

The first NFL Combine measurable that I looked at was the running backs’ height. Of the top-30 fantasy seasons in the last five years, 25 of the running backs measured in at a minimum of 70 inches.


And of the top-14 single season running back fantasy seasons in those five years, just one of those running backs (2012-Doug Martin) came in under 70 inches tall. So it appears that the 70-inch mark is the target for elite fantasy running backs.

It should be noted that even as you move down the list into the 31-75 top running back fantasy performances of the last five years, a majority of the running backs continue to be above the 70 inch cut off. Just 15 of those ball carriers measure in under the mark.
With it looking like that height does matter for a running back in terms of success, this information does help eliminate some of these soon to be rookie running back from fantasy consideration at the next level. Just 22 of the 33 running backs tested at the NFL Combine this year hit the 70-inch mark.

Running Backs at 2017 NFL Combine who are less than 70 inches tall
Player School Height
Cohen, Tarik North Carolina A&T State 66″
Dayes, Matt North Carolina State 69″
Henderson, De’Angelo Coastal Carolina 67″
Jones, Aaron UTEP 69″
Logan, T.J. North Carolina 69″
McGuire, Elijah Louisiana-Lafayette 69″
McNichols, Jeremy Boise St. 68″
Pumphrey, DJ San Diego St. 68″
Redding, Devine Indiana 68″
Thomas, Jahad Temple 69″
Williams, Stanley Kentucky 67”

Weight

After examining the top 75 single season fantasy performers over the last five season, it appears that weight is similar to height. There is some insight into predicting fantasy success by taking a look at the weight of the ball carriers at the Combine.

While it is not as predictive as the height measurement, 38 of the top 75 single-season fantasy rushers over the past five seasons weighed between 215 and 225 pounds at the Combine. The next closest range was the 195-200 pounds, that included just eight of the top fantasy runnings over the last five seasons.

This year’s rookie running back class is not loaded with players in the ideal fantasy range of 215 to 225 pounds. In fact of the 33 ball carriers to attend the NFL Combine, just six of them weighed in this 215 – 225 lbs range.

 

RB’s at 2017 NFL Combine who weighed between 215-225 lbs
Player School Weight
Carson, Christopher Oklahoma St. 218 lbs
Clement, Corey Wisconsin 220 lbs
Gallman, Wayne Clemson 215 lbs
Hill, Brian Wyoming 219 lbs
Hunt, Kareem Toledo 216 lbs
Smith, De’Veon Michigan 223 lbs

This isn’t to say that these running backs will be the only ones of the 33 to provide fantasy success in the NFL but the data suggests this weight range has provided the most success by running backs over the last five seasons.

40 Yard Dash

All of the pre-draft hype associated with the 40-yard dash is for good reason. The data is very predictive of fantasy success for running backs in recent years.

Starting at 4.35 and advancing in 0.05 increments there is not much of a difference in the number of players in each range. The largest range is 4.6 – 4.65, which has 11 of the top-75 players. But each 0.05 increment from 4.35 – 4.65 has at least six players. While there is not one dominate 0.05 range to pick from, there is still a strong trend if you expand out the increments to 0.10. With that in mind It may be best to target running backs from the 4.4 – 4.7 range as the majority of the top fantasy running backs from the last five seasons fell between this range.

Of the 75 running backs being examined here, 17 of them did not run the 40-yard dash at the Combine. This leaves only 58 running backs in which to evaluate. 48 of those ball carriers ran a 40-yard dash at the Combine between the 4.4 – 4.7 range.
While that is a vast majority of the running backs, this information does not help us decipher through this year’s crop of soon to be rookie runners. Of the 28 running backs to run the 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine, 24 of them ran between a 4.4 and a 4.7. Only Devine Redding, Sam Rogers, Rushel Shell and Freddie Stevenson failed to be clocked at that speed.

Bench Press

Of the top 75 single season fantasy running backs of the last five years, just 47 of them participated in the bench press event at the NFL Combine. Those that missed the bench press includes three of the top five running backs in this span. But the majority of those top fantasy ball carriers that did participate finished in the 18-24 rep range.

29 of the 47 top fantasy running backs over the last five seasons who lifted at the Combine, fell into this range.

This year’s rookie crop landed 16 of the 33 running backs at the 2017 NFL Combine within the 18-24 range. It should be noted that of 17 that failed to hit this mark, two of them did not lift and one exceeds the mark with 30 reps.

RB’s at 2017 NFL Combine who did not do 18-24 reps

Player School Reps
Cohen, Tarik North Carolina A&T State 11
Leonard Fournette Louisiana State DNP
Hill, Brian Wyoming 15
Jones, Aaron UTEP 16
Kamara, Alvin Tennessee 15
Logan, T.J. North Carolina 17
Mack, Marlon South Florida 15
McCaffrey, Christian Stanford 10
McGuire, Elijah Louisiana-Lafayette 15
McNichols, Jeremy Boise St. DNP
Ogunbowale, Dare Wisconsin 14
Perine, Samaje Oklahoma 30
Pumphrey, DJ San Diego St. 5
Redding, Devine Indiana 16
Thomas, Jahad Temple 11
Williams, Jamaal Brigham Young DNP
Williams, Joe Utah 14

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Vertical Jump

At first thought you may not think that the vertical jump measurement would be predictive of future fantasy success, but there were some strong trend discovered with this NFL Combine event.

Of the top 75 single season fantasy running back performances of the last five years, only 50 of those running backs participated in the vertical jump at the Combine. But 42 of the 50 jumped in the 30 and 38 inch range. And 34 percent of those that did jump were measured between 34 and 36 inches.

10 of the 33 running backs to participate in this year’s NFL Combine failed to reach 30 inches in the vertical jump, with three of those being because they did not participate.

And eight of the 33 soon to be ball carriers land in the 34-36 range that was the most populated by the top fantasy running backs over the last five years.

RBs at 2017 NFL Combine who reached 34-36 range in Vertical Jump
Player School VJ
Henderson, De’Angelo Coastal Carolina 34”
Hill, Brian Wyoming 34”
Mack, Marlon South Florida 35.5”
McGuire, Elijah Louisiana-Lafayette 36”
McNichols, Jeremy Boise St. 35.5”
Ogunbowale, Dare Wisconsin 35”
Williams, Joe Utah 35”
Williams, Stanley Kentucky 36”

Broad

Like many of the measurables not named height and weight, a number of the top 75 single-season fantasy running backs of the last five years sat out the Broad Jump at their respective NFL Combine appearance.

Only 50 of those runners participated at their respective Combines. Of those that jumped, 33 of them finished in the 115-125 range. 19 of the ball carriers jumped between 115 and 120, while 14 jumped from 120-125.

20 of the 33 running backs at this season’s NFL Combine fell within the 115-125 range. With 14 of them falling into the more heavily populated 115-120 range. Just these 13 college players failed to be within the coveted range for fantasy success:

 

RBs at 2017 NFL Combine who didn’t reach 115-125 on the Broad Jump

Player School BJ
Carson, Christopher Oklahoma State 130
Connor, James Pittsburgh 113
Davis, Justin USC DNP
Dayes, Matt North Carolina State 109
Foreman, D’onta Texas DNP
Fournette, Leonard Louisiana State DNP
Hood, Elijah North Carolina DNP
Jones, Aaron UTEP 127
Kamara, Alvin Tennessee 131
Rogers, Sam Virginia Tech 114
Shell, Rushel West Virginia DNP
Smith, De’Veon Michigan 108
Stevenson, Freddie Florida State 111

3-Cone

Only 44 of the top 75 fantasy single season running backs of the last five years participated in the 3-Cone event at their respective NFL Combines. The distribution of the results of these times presents an interesting situation. When looking at the times broken down by 0.1 seconds the two most populated slots are the 6.8-6.9 and the 7.0-7.1. But the 6.9-7.0 is one of the least populated with just two of those 44 players falling into that range.

While looking at this year’s NFL Combine results only 15 of the 33 running backs ran the 3-cone drill. And of the 15 that did, only three were able to fall into one of the two trends of past successful running backs. Those three were: Brian Hill, Aaron Jones and Stanley Williams.

20 Yard Shuttle

Using the successful running backs of the last five seasons as the benchmark, the 20-Yard Shuttle run appears to be a great predictor of fantasy excellence by ball carriers. Of the top 75 fantasy ball carriers of the last five years, 43 of them ran the short shuttle at their combine. And 31 of them finished between the 4.1 – 4.3-second range

With 72 percent of these top running backs landing between 4.1 and 4.3 seconds these seem like the times to target when looking at future running backs for fantasy purposes.

Only 15 of the running backs at this season’s NFL Combine ran the short shuttle. Six of them were able to record a time within the desired range in which most of the top fantasy running backs of the last five season fell.

 

RBs at 2017 NFL Combine who ran the 20 Yards Shuttle between 4.1 – 4.3

Player School 20 Yard Shuttle Time
Gallman, Wayne Clemson 4.28
Jones, Aaron UTEP 4.2
McCaffrey, Christian Stanford 4.22
McNichols, Jeremy Boise State 4.28
Williams, Joe Utah 4.19
Williams, Stanley Kentucky 4.18

Conclusion

Admittedly this look at the past five years of Fantasy success by running backs and their NFL Combine numbers was not a scientific study. But instead, it was an opportunity to find trends among the top fantasy running backs of recent history and their measurable numbers from the Combine.

So this look into the measurables is not an end all be all for determining which soon to be NFL running backs will be successful. Instead, it is another tool to use in determining if one of these running back should be a part of your future fantasy teams.

In order to help condense all of this information in an easy to read format, below is a chart that shows how each running back stacks up against the trends found for each of the NFL Combine measurables from the top 75 single season fantasy performances by running backs over the past five season. If the cell is highlighted green they fit the trend. Gray means the running back did not participate in that event. Finally, red means that the ball carrier did not fit within the trend discussed.

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About the author

Wes Anderson

After participating in fantasy football for over a decade and a half, Wes started to share from his experiences and began his fantasy football-writing career at TodaysPigskin.com in 2013. There he has provided draft strategies, a deep analysis inside the numbers of each week’s matchups as well as winning FanDuel lineups ever since.
While Wes is a big believer in the numbers, he also understands that the eye in the sky does not lie. So instead of just reading box scores, Wes also watches the tape of each NFL game that is played each week to help stay ahead of the pack in his quest to provide top-notch fantasy football information on a weekly basis.

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