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2019 NFL Draft Class Preview - Running Backs (Part 2)


Over the past few weeks we've been working through this NFL draft class preview series, and today we're going to wrap it up with the second half of the RB position.

Last month, we looked at the top six RBs in the class, according the rankings at NFL Draft scout. Today, we'll run through more prospects with slightly less in-depth profiles.

As I said with the WR position, I apologize in advance if I miss out on your favorite sleeper prospect.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Methodology

Before we jump into the evaluations, I'll provide a reminder to my scouting process as it differs with traditional film scouts and pure analytics scouts. My primary tools are based on the work of Anthony Amico which include a regression tree showing the historical success rates of RBs based on their college production and the age at which a player broke out. In the regression tree, success is considered a 200 point PPR season in the player's first three seasons.

Because draft stock plays such an important role in the model, most of these players will project with a low likelihood for success which is why I'll also examine how heavily the player was utilized in both the rushing and receiving games. Heavy usage can help identify players that are capable of becoming workhorse backs in the NFL.

It's worth noting that RB draft stock is heavily affected by combine performances so these evaluations are preliminary and will evolve over the course of the draft process.

 

David Montgomery, Iowa State

Height: 5' 10''
Weight: 216 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.6

David Montgomery G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Punt Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2016 12 109 563 5.2 2 13 129 9.9 0 0 0 692 57.7
2017 13 258 1146 4.4 11 36 296 8.2 0 0 0 1442 110.9
2018 12 257 1216 4.7 13 22 157 7.1 0 0 0 1373 114.4
Career 37 624 2925 4.7 26 71 582 8.2 0 0 0 3507 94.8

From an efficiency perspective, there's concerns about Montgomery, but some of that can be a criticism of his teammates. While it's difficult to quantify without play by play data, the general consensus among scouts is that Montgomery frequently had to create something out of nothing. But let's set aside his teammates for now and look at his statistical profile in a vacuum.

He proved capable of handling the workload of a workhorse back with two seasons over 200 carries. And while he had a dip in receptions during his final season, he had a season with more than two receptions per game and two others with more than one per game. Using the Amico model, he finishes with just a 2.7 percent success rate, however, with a strong showing at the NFL combine, he could raise his NDS rank high enough to improve his projection.

Make no mistake about it, Montgomery is a dynamic runner who was the key piece of the Iowa State offense for two seasons. But no season over 6.0 yards per carry is somewhat concerning. His receptions point toward a capable receiver, but not one who will solely become a receiving back. NFL Draft Scout currently projects him as a third or fourth round pick. With the right landing spot, he could easily become a top five rookie pick. A poor landing spot probably drops him to the end of round one.

 

Myles Gaskin, Washington

Height: 5' 9''
Weight: 193 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.9

Myles Gaskin G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Punt Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2015 13 227 1302 5.7 14 6 19 3.2 0 11 0 1332 102.5
2016 14 237 1373 5.8 10 19 137 7.2 1 0 0 1510 107.9
2017 13 222 1380 6.2 21 19 232 12.2 3 5 0 1617 124.4
2018 12 259 1268 4.9 12 21 77 3.7 1 74 0 1419 118.3
Career 52 945 5323 5.6 57 65 465 7.2 5 90 0 5878 113.0

From a career perspective, there's a lot to like about Gaskin. Four straight 1,000 yards seasons, three years with more than one reception per game, and over 60 career TDs. However, upon closer inspection, his final season raises a few concerns. While his reception total increased, his efficiency with those receptions plummeted and his rushing efficiency dropped by more than a full yard. He finishes with a 2.7 percent success rate in the Amico model.

Some scouts might be wary of Gaskin's durability at his size, but he's among the most heavily utilized players in this class. Had he repeated his 2017 campaign, Gaskin would likely be among the top five RBs in the class. But his 2018 season raises enough red flags that he's now being projected on the borderline between day two and day three. He looks like a decent pick in the early third round of rookie drafts.

 

Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

Height: 5' 10''
Weight: 193 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.4

Justice Hill G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Punt Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2016 13 206 1142 5.5 6 5 46 9.2 0 0 0 1188 91.4
2017 13 268 1467 5.5 15 31 190 6.1 1 0 0 1657 127.5
2018 10 158 930 5.9 9 13 68 5.2 0 0 0 998 99.8
Career 36 632 3539 5.6 30 49 304 6.2 1 0 0 3843 106.8

Coming off of a strong 2017 campaign that nearly saw him eclipse the 134 adjusted all purpose yard per game threshold needed for a breakout year, expectations were high for Hill, as a prospect. But the emergence of his teammate, Chuba Hubbard, put a damper on Hill's 2018 season. Even factoring in the missed time, Hill's workload dropped by 25 percent per game averaging nearly six fewer touches per game. Hill projects only a 2.7 percent success rate in the Amico model.

Despite the dropoff in workload, there's a lot to like about Hill. He averaged more than two receptions per game in 2017 and even with the loss of work, still managed 1.3 receptions per game in 2018.  He projects as a borderline day two or three player and if that occurs, he's likely a late-second round or early third round rookie pick.

 

Elijah Holyfield, Georgia

Height: 5' 10''
Weight: 215 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.1

Elijah Holyfield G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Return Yards Punt Return Yards Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2016 3 6 29 4.8 0 1 19 19.0 0 0 0 48 16.0
2017 10 50 293 5.9 2 1 4 4.0 0 64 0 361 36.1
2018 14 159 1018 6.4 7 5 40 8.0 0 0 0 1058 75.6
Career 27 215 1340 6.2 9 7 63 9.0 0 64 0 1467 54.3

Holyfield probably picked the wrong college to attend if he was concerned about becoming an NFL prospect. He's never had an easy path to a heavy workload while playing alongside Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D'Andre Swift.

Over his career, he never had a season with more than 200 carries, but his final season finally showed some of his potential as he averaged more than six yards per carry on 11.4 carries per game. He projects with a 2.7 percent success rate in the Amico model.

Holyfield has shown glimpses of his skill, but he was never utilized enough in special teams or the receiving game to indicate that he's more than just a runner who couldn't earn carries in a crowded backfield. He projects as an early day three selection. In rookie drafts, he's likely worth taking in the mid-third round.

 

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

Height: 5' 9''
Weight: 200 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.4

Devin Singletary G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Punt Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2016 12 152 1021 6.7 12 26 163 6.3 0 284 0 1468 122.3
2017 14 301 1918 6.4 32 19 198 10.4 1 0 0 2116 151.1
2018 12 261 1348 5.2 22 6 36 6.0 0 0 0 1384 115.3
Career 38 714 4287 6.0 66 51 397 7.8 1 284 0 4968 130.7

Devin Singletary or "Motor", as he known by his fans, had one of the most impressive workhorse seasons in all of college football in 2017. And while there was the expected regression, he still put together a campaign that featured 22 TDs.  Coming off of a season in which he broke out, Singletary saw his workload drop by just 2.6 percent. He averaged more carries per game and the dropped was only in the passing game. He finishes with just a 2.7 percent success rate, but his breakout season helps his chances slightly.

Singletary is the anti-Elijah Holyfield. He never had real competition for work so he became a superstar at a small school. But both are projecting on early day three for one reason or another. If Singletary runs well and shows that he's a capable receiver at the combine, he's a strong candidate to move up draft boards. If he's a day three pick in the NFL Draft, then he's probably a second-round rookie pick in dynasty.

 

Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

Height: 6' 1''
Weight: 220 lbs
Final Season Age: 22.3

Rodney Anderson G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Punt Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2015 2 1 5 5.0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 5 2.5
2017 13 188 1161 6.2 13 17 281 16.5 5 38 7 1515 116.5
2018 2 11 119 10.8 3 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 119 59.5
Career 17 200 1285 6.4 16 17 281 16.5 5 38 7 1639 96.4

There was plenty of excitement about Anderson entering the 2018 season and the first game was an exciting start. Five carries for 100 yards and two TDs. It's too bad that his season ended six carries later. But since he never got out of the gate for the 2018 season, his profile from before the year will have to suffice. His 2017 season saw him average 6.2 yards per carry on 188 carries and averaging more than one reception per game. He fell 18 yards per game short of a breakout season, but it was still impressive. He finishes with a 21 percent success rate in the Amico model because of his receiving efficiency.

Losing out on a final season of Anderson was disappointing particularly with how historically good the Oklahoma offense played. It's hard to fully evaluate Anderson as a prospect because of his missed final season. He projects as an early day three pick and he's fairly landing spot dependent with his likely ADP. Assuming a decent landing spot, he should be considered at the turn of the second and third.

 

Bryce Love, Stanford

Height: 5' 9''
Weight: 202 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.5

Bryce Love G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Punt Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2015 14 29 225 7.8 2 15 250 16.7 1 22 0 497 35.5
2016 12 111 783 7.1 3 8 83 10.4 1 47 0 913 76.1
2017 13 263 2118 8.1 19 6 33 5.5 0 0 0 2151 165.5
2018 10 166 739 4.5 6 20 99 5.0 0 56 0 894 89.4
Career 49 569 3865 6.8 30 49 465 9.5 2 125 0 4455 90.9

Sometimes returning for a senior season helps a prospect, but for Bryce Love, it's proving to have been a very bad decision. Not only was Love coming off a breakout season, but he was being projected as a potential first-round NFL draft pick. After averaging over eight yards per carry in 2017, Love's efficiency plummeted to under five yards per carry. The only real positive from his 2018 season was increased usage in the passing game. Using the Amico model, he finishes with a 21 percent success rate.

It's hard to fault a player for choosing to return to school and finish his degree, but from a financial perspective, this may have been a very poor decision. After being projected among the top five backs in a strong 2018 RB class, Love is now being projected as a fifth-round pick and outside of the top 10 of a much-maligned RB class. Bryce Love is still a very good athlete who could dominate the NFL combine and improve his draft stock, but it's hard to take him before round three in rookie drafts, right now.

 

Dexter Williams, Notre Dame

Height: 5' 11''
Weight: 215 lbs
Final Season Age: 22.0

Dexter Williams G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Return Yards Punt Return Yards Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2015 6 21 81 3.9 1 0 0 0.0 0 20 0 101 16.8
2016 11 39 200 5.1 3 4 16 4.0 0 67 0 283 25.7
2017 9 39 360 9.2 4 2 13 6.5 1 0 0 373 41.4
2018 9 158 995 6.3 12 16 133 8.3 1 0 0 1128 125.3
Career 35 257 1636 6.4 20 22 162 7.4 2 87 0 1885 53.9

Dexter Williams nearly had a breakout season in 2018. Had he remained a part of the return team, he likely would have broken out. But in only nine games, Williams nearly cracked 1,000 yards rushing and he did so by averaging over six yards per carry on 158 carries. Averaging nearly two receptions per game answer some questions about his versatility, as well. He finishes with a 2.7 percent success rate in the Amico model.

Evaluating a player with only one season of meaningful productivity is difficult and it's even more difficult when that season includes meaningful missed time. Williams 6.4 yard career average makes him a meaningful prospect, but he remains a fifth-round projection. He's a late third-round or early fourth round rookie pick and there will likely be more intriguing options on the board.

 

Karan Higdon, Michigan

Height: 5' 9''
Weight: 203 lbs
Final Season Age: 22.3

Karan Hidgon G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Return Yards Punt Return Yards Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2015 3 11 19 1.7 0 1 3 3.0 0 0 0 22 7.3
2016 12 72 425 5.9 6 0 0 0 0 0 425 35.4
2017 13 164 994 6.1 11 8 131 16.4 0 0 0 1125 86.5
2018 11 224 1178 5.3 10 7 43 6.1 0 0 0 1221 111.0
Career 39 471 2616 5.6 27 16 177 11.1 0 0 0 2793 71.6

During my in-season series, I was regularly reminded that Higdon is the most underrated prospect in the class whenever he wasn't featured. And looking at his numbers, I mostly disagree. His two seasons of productivity are very good, but with other players producing at a higher rate, it's difficult to call him underrated. He never had a season with over one reception per game and he only had one season over 200 carries. Because he was efficient with his limited number of receptions, Higdon finishes with a 21 percent success rate in the Amico model.

Despite playing is a run-centric offense, Higdon only received a sizeable workload during his final season. And his stat line would indicate that he's fairly one-dimensional. He projects as a fifth or sixth round pick so he'll need a strong combine to even secure his name being called. He's a fourth-round rookie pick barring a spectacular combine that improves his draft stock.

 

Jalin Moore, Appalachian State

Height: 5' 9''
Weight: 203 lbs
Final Season Age: 23.1

Jalin Moore G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Kick Return Yards Punt Return Yards Adj All Purpose Yards AdJAPYPG
2015 11 99 731 7.4 5 0 0 0 0 0 731 66.5
2016 13 237 1402 5.9 10 5 32 6.4 0 0 0 1434 110.3
2017 11 183 1037 5.7 12 12 163 13.6 1 0 0 1200 109.1
2018 5 63 400 6.3 6 6 40 6.7 0 0 0 440 88.0
Career 40 582 3570 6.1 33 23 235 10.2 1 0 0 3805 95.1

With over 3,500 career rushing yards on a 6.1 YPC average, there's some reason to like Moore's late-round upside. While he never broke out, he had back-to-back seasons in which he averaged over 100 all-purpose yards per game. The red flags, however, are also meaningful. Not only did he fail to truly dominate a lower level of competition, but he wasn't utilized in the passing game significantly.

With his small school background, small stature, and the fact that he's coming off of an injury, there's plenty of red flags for Moore. Still, he projects as a fifth or sixth round rookie pick. Should Moore land on an offense with a cloudy depth chart, he would be worthy of a last-round rookie pick.

 

Other Notable RBs

Alexander Mattison had back-to-back seasons with more than 200 carries, including 300 during his 2018 campaign. With over 60 career receptions, he's proven versatile enough to have three-down potential.

James Williams is the most exciting receiving back in the class. He averaged more than six receptions per game during his final season.

Qadree Ollison had a strong freshman campaign before losing work to a returning James Conner and Darrin Hall. He finished his career on a high note with a 6.3 YPC average and over 1,200 yards.

Darwin Thompson had three straight 1,000 yard seasons and is one of the best athletes at the position. His pro day will be a must monitor since he was a combine snub.

Wes Hills is a small school prospect who is coming off a 1,700-yard season and a season that included over two receptions per game.

Miles Sanders had the unfortunate task of following Saquon Barkley.  While he couldn't make fans forget about his predecessor, he had a 1,200-yard season and averaged nearly two receptions per game.

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