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Week 9 was a fun one. A few of the top 10 teams established their dominance and make a case for the college football playoff while two top ten teams were somewhat exposed and now appear to be on the outside looking in.

This week should be another fun one with a handful of meaningful matchups. The SEC has two games that will not only decide who plays in their conference title game, but also will help clear up the playoff picture. And the Big Ten will feature both of its division leaders taking on highly regarded teams at home.

And while that's all fun, we're here to scout players for the next level. This week we're going to take a look at the running back position. From a production perspective, the biggest factors are workload, efficiency, and usage in the passing game. And while their production is a big factor in both NFL draft and fantasy prospect evaluation, it's only one part because combine testing has been shown to have a correlation to fantasy success.

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Scouting The Running Backs

Bryce Love, RB Stanford

Week 10 - at Washington (11/3)

It was a surprise when Bryce Love return for his senior season at Stanford.  He was projected as an early round selection with some scouts projecting him in the first round. But on January 16th, 2018, Love announced his intentions to return for his final season and graduate from Stanford. I can't blame any person for finishing out their studies, nor can I critique a player for wanting another college season. I can, however, state that this season hasn't positively influenced his draft stock.

Bryce Love G Att Rush Yds Avg Rush TD Rec. Rec. Yds Avg
Rec. TD
2015 14 29 225 7.8 2 15 250 16.7 1
2016 12 111 783 7.1 3 8 83 10.4 1
2017 13 263 2118 8.1 19 6 33 5.5 0
2018 6 93 419 4.5 3 12 58 4.8 0
Career 496 3545 7.1 27 41 424 10.3 2

The standout numbers from Love's stat line is his insane rushing efficiency. He outrushed now NFL superstar, Saquon Barkley, by more than 800 yards on just 46 additional carries. And through his first two seasons, in a secondary role, he averaged over seven yards per carry. And then you get to 2018. It's hard to know where the blame lies for such regression. Some regression was expected from over eight yards per carry, but to drop by 44 percent, it's more than expected regression to the mean. Some of the blame lies with the team who has struggled as a whole, but Love's decline is still noteworthy.

There's a strong argument that Bryce Love should have left for the NFL draft following his 2017 season because it was always going to be difficult to recreate that level of efficiency, but had he rushed for close to six yards per carry and demonstrated competence in the passing game, he could have remained in consideration for a first-round NFL draft pick. However, with this type of season, including some increased injury concerns, he'll need a strong end to the season paired with a good draft process to re-establish himself as the top RB in the class. The talent and athleticism are clear for Love and that alone should keep him in the first two days of the draft. For dynasty drafts, he's likely a first round pick, assuming he remains a top two round pick in the draft and if he lands in an ideal spot, he could be a top half of the first round pick.

 

Benny Snell, RB Kentucky

Week 10 - vs Georgia (11/3)

It's funny that this is my first time discussing Benny Snell because he's one of my favorite players in all of college football. One of the true workhorse RBs in college football, Snell is the primary offensive weapon for a team that is somewhat unexpectedly ranked in the top ten.

Benny Snell G Att Rush Yds Avg Rush TD Rec. Rec. Yds Avg
Rec. TD
2016 13 186 1091 5.9 13 2 39 20 0
2017 13 262 1333 5.1 19 10 72 7 0
2018 8 179 960 5.4 9 10 75 8 0
Career 627 3384.0 5.4 41 22 186 9 0

Snell's statistics aren't particularly exciting when compared to the prior seasons of Bryce Love or past NFL prospects, but his usage rates are the standout. Assuming a 13 games season, Snell is on pace for 291 carries and 16 receptions. Most notably, Snell's total combined yardage represents 35 percent of the total offense and his nine touchdowns (not including a passing touchdown against Murray State) is 36 percent of the team's total. In short, the offense runs through Snell. And when a coach leans heavily on one player, that's a positive sign.

At a glance, Snell appears to be a slightly less efficient Ronald Jones. Jones fell below the ideal six yards per carry during his heavy usage season, but, like Snell, was a major touchdown scorer. And both, while they demonstrated competence, were not heavily used in the passing game. Over the course of this season, Snell has begun to earn the reputation that he deserves, but he's still projected as a second tier RB prospect and, at best, a day two pick. From a dynasty perspective, this could be a positive if it drives his price down. Assuming that he performs above-average at the NFL combine, Snell has proven that he's capable of handling a big workload and if given the opportunity, he could be a useful NFL player. As of this moment, I'd expect Snell to be a mid-second round rookie draft pick, but that could rise easily with his draft stock. And the game this weekend will likely be one of the first things scouts point to during the evaluation process.

 

David Montgomery, RB Iowa State

Week 10 - at Kansas (11/3)

David Montgomery is the workhorse back that just constantly moves the chains for a plodding offense. He may be an explosive athlete, but his rushing lines are always somewhat capped by his overall efficiency.

David Montgomery G Att Rush Yds Avg Rush TD Rec. Rec. Yds Avg
Rec. TD
2016 12 109 563 5.2 2 13 129 9.9 0
2017 13 258 1146 4.4 11 36 296 8.2 0
2018 6 144 648 4.5 6 7 29 4.1 0
Career 511 2357 4.6 19 56 454 8 0

Montgomery lacks ideal rushing efficiency, but his 2017 usage jumps off the page. Nearly three receptions per game while maintaining over an eight-yard average goes beyond demonstrating competency and elevates him to being one of the better pass-catching backs in the college ranks. Along with 258 carries, Montgomery handled a large portion of the Iowa State offense.

And while I love a prospect that has proven an ability to handle a heavy workload, I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss his efficiency. An ideal rushing average for NFL prospects is above six yards per carry and Montgomery had yet to exceed 5.5 for any season, even with a smaller workload. Now, to be fair, some of that will fall of coaching and general offensive scheme, but if you're failing to be efficient against college athletes, why would you be expected to be better against NFL defenders?

Ideally, Montgomery would have improved upon his 2017 rushing efficiency, but the bigger concern is his limited usage in the passing game. Dropping all the way down to just over one reception per game with a sub-five average is concerning when that was considered to be one of his strengths. Per Bill Connelly's statistical profile, Montgomery has only been targeted nine times and has a 77 percent catch rate. With the lack of improvement in his efficiency, there's a chance that Montgomery returns for one more season, but I still expect him to declare. If he does declare and performs well in the draft lead up, he should get top three to four round consideration. Prior to the season, Montgomery was seen by some as the top RB in the class for dynasty purposes. With a somewhat lackluster 2018, to date, he looks more like an early second round pick than a top eight pick.

 

Devin Singletary, RB Florida Atlantic

Week 10 - at Florida International (11/3)

Coming off of a 32 rushing touchdown season, there were big expectations for Devin Singletary. So far, he's been very successful even though the team has taken a big step backward.

Devin Singletary G Att Rush Yds Avg Rush TD Rec. Rec. Yds Avg
Rec. TD
2016 12 152 1021 6.7 12 26 163 6 0
2017 14 301 1918 6.4 32 19 198 10.4 1
2018 8 166 837 5 15 5 31 6.2 0
Career 619 3776 6.1 59 50 392 8 1

It was never going to be easy to match his touchdown pace of 2017. And while he's just off of the pace, he's doing far better than most would have predicted. His 15 touchdowns represent 49 percent of the team's total for the season and his 868 yards is nearly one quarter of the total offensive yards. One moderately concerning trend is his reduced usage in the passing game each year. After starting with more than two receptions per game, he's fallen down to less than one per game. But with two seasons over one reception per game and a year with over 200 carries with over a six-yard average, Singletary is one of the more intriguing players in the class.

Singletary will be an interesting player to monitor when it's time for underclassmen to declare for the draft. With the building buzz about the 2020 RB class, he'd likely benefit from being compared to what's considered a weaker class. But if the team falls short of a bowl game, there's always the possibility that competitive drive pulls a player back to college. I still expect Singletary to be a part of the 2019 class and he projects as the top smaller school prospect in the class, but that's likely capped at a second-round pick following last year's draft.

More NCAA Football Analysis