Is There a Correlation Between RB Combine Numbers and Fantasy Football Success?
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
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|
|Cohen, Tarik||North Carolina A&T State||66″|
|Dayes, Matt||North Carolina State||69″|
|Henderson, De’Angelo||Coastal Carolina||67″|
|Logan, T.J.||North Carolina||69″|
|McNichols, Jeremy||Boise St.||68″|
|Pumphrey, DJ||San Diego St.||68″|
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|
|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.
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
|Cohen, Tarik||North Carolina A&T State||11|
|Leonard Fournette||Louisiana State||DNP|
|Logan, T.J.||North Carolina||17|
|Mack, Marlon||South Florida||15|
|McNichols, Jeremy||Boise St.||DNP|
|Pumphrey, DJ||San Diego St.||5|
|Williams, Jamaal||Brigham Young||DNP|
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|
|Henderson, De’Angelo||Coastal Carolina||34”|
|Mack, Marlon||South Florida||35.5”|
|McNichols, Jeremy||Boise St.||35.5”|
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
|Carson, Christopher||Oklahoma State||130|
|Dayes, Matt||North Carolina State||109|
|Fournette, Leonard||Louisiana State||DNP|
|Hood, Elijah||North Carolina||DNP|
|Rogers, Sam||Virginia Tech||114|
|Shell, Rushel||West Virginia||DNP|
|Stevenson, Freddie||Florida State||111|
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|
|McNichols, Jeremy||Boise State||4.28|
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.