Draft Capital fills out the final piece of the Rookie Prospect Model. After combining data from the Combine Score, Production Score and Draft Capital, we arrive at a final Post-Draft Score. The Full Prospect Database is fully sortable and available for use here (desktop is best).
The Post-Draft Score sits with a stellar 0.663 correlation to NFL PPG (age 27u), and the names at the top of the model are compelling. You have to go 26 players down the list to find a guy who did not have an RB2 season (the first is Rashaad Penny). Only two RBs from 2020 Class finds themselves in this elite company.
The Post-Draft Model can be separated into 3 different tiers of relevant running backs:
Tier 1: Elite prospects with >90% probability of an RB2 season
Tier 2: Solid rookies with >50% probability of an RB2 season
Tier 3: Players that will need to work their way up, <50% probability of an RB2 season
Important: The model is not my ranking. It fills in the profile side of a player's value, but his on-field talent and landing spot are obviously critically important. An athlete is more than his profile in the same way that a person is more than their resume. But you'll still read that resume.
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (Tier 1)
Everything that Taylor has done since setting foot on Wisconsin's campus has been phenomenal. He dominated out of the gate as a true Height-Weight-Speed (HWS) freak in the mold of previous Big 10 heroes like Ahman Green and Ezekiel Elliott. His 99th percentile Combine Score and 98th percentile Production Score had him with the 2nd highest Pre-Draft Score since 2003, behind only Saquon Barkley. After falling to pick 44 in the draft, Taylor settles in as the 11th best RB prospect in the model.
Jonathan Taylor is going to be an absolute monster in Indianapolis. The Colts' talented GM, Chris Ballard, wisely discerned the effect of inserting a workhorse of Taylor's caliber behind Quenton Nelson and the Indy Offensive Line. Taylor gives the team a trump card that could not be passed up. They can bludgeon anyone in the league for 4 quarters without putting too much pressure on Philip Rivers to win games (see 2019 5-11 Chargers).
The questions around Taylor have to do with passing game upside. While it is likely that HC Frank Reich will deploy Nyheim Hines as the passing down option, there's no doubt Taylor will be the star. Taylor is a more natural receiver than Leonard Fournette (100 targets in 2019), so his utility in the passing game has to do with design, more than personal limitation. Taylor has the ability to be an Adrian Peterson type of player, a stud who carries an NFL franchise and your fantasy team for the next decade.
RB2: JK Dobbins (Tier 1)
The second highest-rated rookie in the Post-Draft Model did not have Combine Score data, but his statistical dominance was so potent that he ended up fitting into the tail end of this elite crop.
JK Dobbins' career at Ohio State was also fantastic from the get-go, as he stepped in and led the backfield with 1538 total yards with only 216 touches (7.1 yards per play). He was an excellent dual-threat weapon and the engine for the Buckeyes as they dominated the Big 10. A former Nike Combine all-star, Dobbins' on-field product told us everything we needed to know about his athletic ability.
Dobbin's fit in Baltimore should have fantasy owners drooling. Dobbins has some of the best lateral agility of any prospect I have seen and pairing his elusiveness with Lamar Jackson will put defenses in lose-lose scenarios every single play. You're not going to be able to touch anyone in the Raven's backfield.
Mark Ingram presents a short-term volume concern, but Dobbins will be able to beat the 30 year old for touches sooner than anticipated. He's a better prospect out of the box and will have seized the backfield by 2021. Although I don't think it is a necessary move, Baltimore can cut Ingram in 2021 and save $6M at no cost to them. Capitalize on your opponents' doubts about Dobbins' volume and snag a key piece to one of the great backfield tandems of this generation.
RB3: AJ Dillon (Tier 2)
AJ Dillon's presence this high in the model illustrates an important distinction. Analytical models are a lens. A tool to help provide context and sort biases. They don't necessarily indicate hard and fast rankings. With that in mind, Dillon checks every single box - 71st percentile Production, 93rd percentile Combine, 2nd Round Draft Capital - on the way to finishing with an 88th percentile Post-Draft Score.
By spending big on Jordan Love and AJ Dillon, Packers HC Matt LaFleur made it very clear that he is ready to move on from the Aaron Rodgers-centric attack that led them to the NFC Championship Game last season. You simply can't invest 1st and 2nd round picks without having every intention of making them centerpieces for the future. Aaron Jones is a special talent, an underrated versatile weapon, and a better fantasy asset, but Dillon forces a nightmare scenario. Although Dillon may sit behind Aaron Jones for a bit, he can find a workhorse role as soon as 2021, when both Jones and Jamaal Williams are free agents. Dillon's rookie draft cost in the second round is a decent risk/reward value considering where LaFleur is planning to take Green Bay.
RB4: Cam Akers (Tier 2)
Cam Akers production profile left something to be desired and kept him out of the top tier. The former high school QB made an immediate on-field impact at Florida State, stepping into Dalvin Cook's shoes with ease. The team rapidly deteriorated around him however and his overall numbers put him in a slightly above average range (64th percentile Production Score). This blame is often placed on an offensive line with an average rank of 93 (Football Outsiders), but even when considering OL performance and competition level, his overall productivity was good, not great.
As a tenacious, physical back, Akers will have the opportunity to compete for the Todd Gurley role in Rams HC Sean McVay's offense. He can be the thunder to Darrell Henderson's lightning and is talented enough in the pass game to stay on the field all 3 downs. The question is workload. After seeing his superstar tailback flame out early, McVay may move to a more conservative committee split. With Kyle Shanahan running all over the NFL by riding the hot hand, I be surprised to see McVay waste last year's 2nd round pick in favor of this year's 2nd round pick. Henderson (and Malcolm Brown) will be heavily involved in a mixed ground attack.
RB5: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Tier 2)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire's 49th percentile Production Score and 10th percentile Combine Score land him in the 75 percentile Post-Draft range despite being the first running back selected. From a production standpoint, his final season was superb. While a dominant SEC performance during his final season floated his status a good amount, the model heavily weights early college contributors, and prospects like Clyde will slide.
But Clyde's ability to slide is what landed him in THE dream scenario in Kansas City HC Andy Reid's offense. Playing alongside Pat Mahomes will net him so many touchdown opportunities that many are ready to overlook the plethora of analytical question marks he presents. He's small. He's slow. He sat behind Nick Brossette. And he's a fantastic football player. As with Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, it is best to avoid overthinking the Draft Capital. Clyde's tape shows a man whose compact frame presents an untackleable target for defensive backs and his intelligence behind the line is best in class. Like many of the other backs in this class, he may carry a smaller load in his rookie season, but soon it will be "all systems go" for a player whose versatility had Mahomes pounding the table.
RB6: D'Andre Swift (Tier 2)
After a promising rookie season where D'Andre Swift flashed highlights as the third option behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Swift churned out some solid seasons. The lack of volume (no season over 200 carries) and fairly average receiving stats placed him in an above average Production group (60th percentile), but his efficiency indicates further upside.
The trouble with Swift relates to his utility in Detroit's committee blender. Although they spent big on him at pick 35, the presence of Kerryon Johnson, a talented back in his own right, caps Swift's upside. Unlike battling with Damien Williams, Aaron Jones or Marlon Mack, Kerryon is locked in as backfield competition for two more seasons. Swift may not get the volume as quickly as his talent level indicates.
Tier 3 Running Backs
The remaining backs fall into the sub 50% hit rate tier. Many good players can be found in this range, just like the real NFL draft, but expectations should be modified. Below is each of the remaining Tier 3 players, their Post-Draft Score, the nearest bust and the nearest stud found in their cohort:
7. BUF Zack Moss (61st percentile)
Miss: Samaje Perine
Hit: Lamar Miller
8. TB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (53rd percentile)
Miss: Joseph Randle
Hit: Zac Stacy
9. LAC Joshua Kelley (49th percentile)
Miss: Ka'Deem Carey
Hit: Frank Gore
10. TEN Darrynton Evans (44th percentile)
Miss: Denard Robinson
Hit: Alex Collins