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NFL Draft Stats to Know – Running Back Prospects

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Anthony Amico February 20, 2019 2:24PM EDT

What NFL Draft Statistics Matter Most for Running Back Prospects?

In the first article in this series, I went through some key statistics for wide receiver prospects. The series continues here, as I dive into the running back position.

I’ve done a bunch of regression-tree analysis on draft prospects. Using statistical software, we can see where key thresholds lie for relevant statistics, and what probabilities for success look like based on those thresholds.

I took a look at 303 RBs since the 2003 NFL Draft who appeared in an NFL game and over 50 different statistics. Here is how well they project the likelihood of a player being a hit, which I defined as a 200 point PPR season within the first three years of said player’s career. The overall sample hit rate was 15.2 percent.

Contained in the table below is:

Statistic: the data point in question

Threshold: The key splitting point of the data with direction. For example >=12 rushing touchdowns would mean running backs with at least 12 touchdowns gave us the sample of greatest success.

Percent of Sample: The percentage of the overall sample meeting the threshold. In some cases (like final season kick return yards) there are so few players in-sample that there should be less confidence about the quality of the statistic or threshold.

Comments: Statistic explanation and/or formula if it is something you may not easily recognize.

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StatisticThresholdProbability of SuccessPercent of SampleComments
NFL Draft Scout Rank<30.78.9%
Rush Attempts Per Game - Final Season>=280.622.6%
Receiving Yards - Final Season>=4670.544.3%
Rushing Attempts - Final Season>=3410.55.3%
Kick Returns - Final Season>=230.52.6%
Scrimmage Yards Per Game - Final Season>=1500.4914.9%(rushing yards + receiving yards)/games
Receiving Yards Per Game - Final Season>=360.445.3%
Kick Return Yards - Final Season>=6060.432.3%
Punt Return Yards - Final Season>=1430.432.3%
Market Share of Receiving Touchdowns - Career>=0.120.426.3%receiving touchdowns/team receiving touchdowns
Rushing Yards Per Game - Final Season>=1270.4217.5%
Receiving Touchdowns - Final Season>=40.415.6%
Rushing Yards - Final Season>=16420.415.5%
Adjusted All-Purpose Yards Per Game - Final Season>=1540.420.5%(rushing yards + receiving yards + kick return yards + 5*punt return yards)/games
Scrimmage Yards Per Game - Career>=1140.3916.8%
Market Share of Rushing Yards - Career>=0.620.3910.2%rushing yards/team rushing yards
Rushing Yards Per Game - Career>=980.3817.2%
Punt Return Touchdowns - Career>=20.382.6%
Market Share of Scrimmage Touchdowns - Final Season>=0.430.3715.2%(rushing touchdowns + receiving touchdowns)/(team rushing touchdowns + team receiving touchdowns)
Rushing Touchdowns - Final Season>=150.3625.7%
Adjusted All-Purpose Yards Per Game - Career>=1200.3523.4%
Receiving Touchdowns Per Game - Final Season>=0.280.356.6%
Receiving Touchdowns Per Game - Career>=0.140.3312.9%
Rushing Touchdowns Per Game - Career>=0.880.3227.1%
Speed Score>=1090.331.0%(Weight*200)/(Forty Time)^4
Kick Return Touchdowns - Career>=10.315.5%
Punt Return Touchdowns - Final Season>=10.33.3%
Breakout Age<210.2930.7%Age a player hits 130 adjusted all purpose yards per game. If a player never hits that mark, final age is used
Receiving Yards Per Game - Career>=190.2915.8%
Punt Return Yards - Career>=4310.292.3%
Yards Per Carry - Final Season>=5.60.2934.0%
Kick Return Touchdowns - Final Season>=10.294.6%
Market Share of Scrimmage Yards - Career>=0.250.2831.7%(receiving + rushing yards)/(team receiving + rushing yards)
Yards Per Carry - Career>=5.60.2736.0%
Forty Yard Dash Time<4.50.2628.7%
Receiving Touchdowns - Career>=40.2628.1%
Market Share of Scrimmage Yards - Final Season>=0.290.2643.6%
Rushing Yards - Career>=27330.2541.6%
Rushing Touchdowns - Career>=250.2546.9%
Kick Return Yards - Career>=7150.2515.8%
Punt Returns - Final Season>=20.257.9%
Market Share of Rushing Yards - Final Season>=0.570.2539.3%
Kick Returns - Career>=360.2412.2%
Market Share of Scrimmage Touchdowns - Career>=0.210.2450.5%(receiving + rushing touchdowns)/(team receiving + rushing touchdowns)
Market Share of Rushing Attempts - Final Season>=0.440.2351.5%rushing attempts/team rushing attempts
Receptions - Career>=650.2228.1%
Receiving Yards - Career>=5220.2236.6%
Weight>=2140.2151.2%
Rushing Attempts - Career>=4900.2147.9%
Rushing Attempts Per Game - Career>=140.2149.5%
Market Share of Rushing Attempts - Career>=0.360.2149.5%
Market Share of Receiving Touchdowns - Final Season>=0.0610.2138.6%
Rushing Touchdowns Per Game - Final Season>=0.450.242.9%
Receptions Per Game - Career>=1.20.1958.1%
Receptions - Final Season>=100.1882.5%
Market Share of Receiving Yards - Final Season>=0.0270.1882.8%receiving yards/team receiving yards
Market Share of Receiving Yards - Career>=0.0290.1783.2%
Receptions Per Game - Final Season>=0.640.1788.1%
Punt Returns - Career<40.1689.1%

Key Takeaways

Much like at WR, what the scouts think about RBs matters a great deal. A whopping 70 percent of RBs in the sample ranked first or second by NFL Draft Scout became hits for fantasy.

Elite production in the return game appears to be predictive of success, though it is worth noting that very few players fit the listed criteria.

Scrimmage yards per game seems to offer the best combination of sample size and success rate, with roughly half of RBs reaching 150 scrimmage yards per game in their final seasons going on to be fantasy football hits.

The best measurable for RBs was Speed Score, which takes weight and forty time and creates a single number indicating weight-adjusted speed.

Age was less predictive for RBs than WRs, but still fairly important. Reaching 130 adjusted all-purpose yards before age 21 almost doubled the rate of success for RBs.

Stay tuned for stat breakdowns on the other major offensive positions for fantasy!

Featured image credit goes to Rick Scuteri of the Associated Press

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