What to Expect From the Running Backs at the 2017 Combine

Every year the combine can make or break a prospect. Many don’t like to admit it, but a ton of guys are moved up or down on overall draft boards based on their combine performance. Personally, I like to use Combine results as a measuring stick, and it helps put what I was watching on tape into perspective. If the numbers are off and are not quite what I thought they would be it leads me to go back and look at a prospect to see what I was either missing or what I originally thought a prospects speed, change of direction, or strength on tape was wrong. I will try to provide baselines and records for running backs at the NFL Combine since 2010 and try to identify who the combine winners and losers will be this year.

40 Yard Dash

We can see a player’s explosiveness and breakaway speed based on their 40 times. Since 2010, there have been a number of RB prospects who have run 4.60+ 40’s and have still been very successful. Le’Veon Bell was one of them. For me, a 40 time of 4.55 seconds is a tipping point for a running back depending on scheme and running style. The Combine record 40 time for all positions was set by Chris Johnson with a 4.24 40 in 2008. Since 2010, the top two performers have been Dri Archer (4.26) in 2014 and Keith Marshall (4.31) in 2016. Some more notable names are Lamar Miller who ran a 4.40 in 2012 and Demarco Murray with a 4.41 in 2011.

3-Cone Drill and 20 Yard Short Shuttle (SS)

The 3-Cone Drill and 20 Yard Short Shuttle are both good measuring sticks for a player’s agility and quickness. When I look for top Combine performers, I like to start at the 7.00-second mark. Of course, players who have a 3-Cone Drill time above 7.00 seconds can still have good careers, but I use that time as a threshold. The top performer since 2010 is Chris Rainey (6.50) in 2012 which is absolutely insane, and the next closest is more than a full tenth of a second behind him. Some more notable names in the top 15 since 2010 are Le’Veon Bell (6.75) in 2013 and David Johnson (6.82) in 2015.

For the 20-Yard Short Shuttle, a good benchmark is 4.30 seconds. The top performer since 2010 is Bobby Rainey at 3.93 seconds. He dominated the agility drills, as you can see, but it does not always shout production at the next level. The second best performer was Ameer Abdullah (3.95) in 2015, and another notable name was Melvin Gordon (4.07) in 2015.

Vertical and Broad Jump

The Vertical and Broad Jump drills help gauge a player’s explosiveness and athletic ability. I think anything over 35” for the vertical jump is a good baseline for a prospect. Since 2010, the top two performers were Christine Michael (43”) in 2013 and Ameer Abdullah (42.5”) in 2014 is a close second. When it comes to the Broad Jump, there have been several good backs who have not surpassed the 9’8” mark, but I like to use that as a baseline for top Combine performers. Since 2010, the top performer was Daniel Lasco (11’3”) in 2016 and Lache Seastrunk (11’2”) in 2014.

Bench Press (225lbs)

The bench press obviously measures a player’s upper body strength and power. I do not put a ton of stock into the bench press for running backs, but anything less than 15 reps is cause for concern. Some of the more notable names who performed well were Jerrick McKinnon (32) in 2014 and Doug Martin (28) in 2012. Just to give you an idea of how some bigger running backs performed, LeGarrette Blount completed 18 reps in 2010, and Todd Gurley had one less (17) in 2015. So, in reality, the Bench Press is one of the minor indicators of future projection at the running back position.

Now that we have an idea of what certain drills entail and a baseline for each let’s get into my 2017 NFL combine predictions.

Dalvin Cook, FSU

5’10” 210

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad Bench
4.45 6.88 4.07 35.5” 9’9”

21

Cook looks like an explosive athlete on tape, and I expect him to test well in a number of areas. He is a shifty runner, and I think he tests above average in the agility drills. He looks to have breakaway speed and a 4.45-second 40 time would look very nice on paper for him. Cook has insane balance, but one thing he might lack is elite lower body strength, so that is why I project him to have lower numbers in the vertical and broad jump.

Leonard Fournette, LSU

6’0” 240

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad Bench
4.51 7.12 4.27 34” 9’9”

23

Fournette was touted as a physical freak by a multitude of scouts including myself. Even though his tape suggests that he is very fast and powerful for his size, I had to take a step back and take him for what he is worth. Fournette is big and possesses a ton of speed, but that is where all athleticism ends in my opinion. He looks very stiff on film, so I think that translates into slower 3-Cone and SS times. Although he does look to have powerful legs, I do not believe his vertical will be up to standards based on how much he weighs. That power, however, will translate well to the broad jump and bench press, and I think he puts up average to above average numbers in those areas.

Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

6’1” 226

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad Bench
4.48 6.98 4.13 36” 10’2”

19

Mixon did not receive an invite to the combine, but I included him anyway. He is a bigger back by some standards and moves very well. I think he will break the 4.4’s in the 40 based on the explosive runs he had in college. For his size, he should test fairly well in the agility drills. He makes precise cuts and changes direction very well, and it should show up while testing. He does seem explosive, and although he is not jumping out of the building, he looks to be middle of the pack in the vertical and broad jumps. He has shown power, but it was more so the leverage he would get when blocking or shedding tacklers so I am not too sure his bench press numbers will be very high but that is perfectly fine.

Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

5’10” 214

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad Bench
4.42 6.84 4.07 40.5” 10’6”

18

Kamara looks the part to steal the show at the Combine. When watching Kamara, his burst is on display a ton. He is the type of player who can erase angles for opposing defenders. He likely has an excellent 40 time, and it will show at the combine. He is able to bounce runs outside or make a quick move to slide into a hole at the line of scrimmage. He is an elusive runner, and I think he tests well in agility drills. Kamara’s lower half is on the thinner side, but he still has strong leg drive and explosion, so that bodes well for his vertical and broad jump given the fact he is not a very heavy back. His bench press results are just a wild guess at this point, and like I said it does not play into future production too much for me plus it is very hard to gauge.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

5’11” 202

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.53

6.99 4.19 34.5” 9’9”

23

McCaffrey is very elusive and consistently sheds tacklers. I am not too sure he will test with an amazing 40 time, but it would not surprise me at this point. He can run away from defenders, but it is nothing too extreme, so I project him in the 4.5 range. He has very quick feet and even though he does not have excellent hips or fluidity he should have good numbers in the agility drills. McCaffrey looks to be rocked up and very strong, so that is why I have his bench numbers right there with Fournette’s. McCaffrey’s strong lower half should help him in the Vertical and Broad Jumps. Overall, I think he will test very well and impress scouts at the combine.

D’Onta Foreman, Texas

6’0” 233

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.52

7.15 4.29 35.5” 10’2”

28

Foreman might end up being the big winner at the combine. Based on his height and weight listings he might surprise scouts with his athleticism. He has shown the ability to outrun defenders on his way to the end zone, and I think his 40 time will really stand out. He moves very well for his size, and his balance is a plus. I am not sure if he will come in at his listed weight of 249 lbs but if he does his agility drills might suffer a little. His build would lead you to believe that he is a powerful back but the leg drive just isn’t there. I am not sure what the case is with that but I still think he has a strong lower half, he just hasn’t showcased it. Foreman slides well in pass protection and shields off defenders better than anyone in the draft. I think he will be the top performer in the Bench Press among the upper echelon group of runnings backs.

Kareem Hunt, Toledo

5’10” 216

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.47

6.98 4.13 37.5” 10’3”

20

I have seen Hunt make a lot of long runs. Sometimes he is caught from behind, and other times he makes it to the end zone. Hunt has a very good initial burst and paired with his ability to outrun defenders he should have a great 40 time. I really like Hunt’s short area quickness and vision when running. He makes impressive cuts and seems to make quick decisions. He does show a lot of leg drive and power with his running style. Hunt is able to rack up those extra yards needed that are so crucial throughout the game. That said, I think his jump testing will be the highlight of his combine.

Jamaal Williams, BYU

6’0” 212

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.59

7.13 4.22 35” 10’1”

22

Williams does not look the part of an overly-athletic running back, but he is just a solid all-around back with plenty power. I expect him to run his 40 in the high 4.5 range and that is okay. Plenty of running backs have had successful careers after running in that range and 40 times can be overblown. He moves well side to side to find the right hole, and he makes people miss, but I do not see him necessarily display elite agility. He does seem to have powerful legs, though, and I get the feeling he tests well in both the Vertical and Broad jumps. One thing he will do is run someone over and drive through defenders and scouts love that type of mentality if the prospect is built for it. I think Williams will have a decent outing at the combine but nothing to write home about.

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

5’11” 233

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.55

7.11 4.27 34” 9’11”

27

Perine is a powerful back with good overall movement. Because he is technically a bigger back some might be surprised with how well he tests. I think he does have above average agility for his size and he has shown he is more than a straight line runner. I really like Perine as a prospect, and if he tests in this range, I can see GM’s liking him too. Perine is very jacked and you can tell he possesses a ton of power so he should do well in the vertical and broad jumps.

Wayne Gallman, Clemson

6’0” 215

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.54

7.08 4.20 34” 9’10”

20

Gallman has improved tremendously as an athlete during his time at Clemson even though my predictions for him would suggest otherwise. He will likely end up in the middle of the pack when all is said and done at the Combine. I do not see Gallman being elite in any one area of testing but more so a solid all around tester. He does have good burst and change of direction on the field, but it is nothing out of the ordinary.

Elijah Hood, North Carolina

6’0” 232

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

4.42 6.97 4.17 38” 10’8”

25

Hood is another guy who will take the combine by storm. He has nice lateral movement and a ton of burst to his game. I can see him having some of the better agility numbers, and I think he will post a very nice 40 time. His lower body strength is underrated as well as his overall functional strength, and I think it will show at the combine with his Vertical, Broad Jump, and Bench Press reps.

I only covered a handful of prospects here, and the numbers are all predictions. There will be plenty of players who underwhelm at the combine and several who will impress with their numbers. Some will come out of nowhere and surprise scouts. A name I did not mention is Marlon Mack whom I think will have a very good combine. Other names like Jeremy McNichols and Joe Williams come to mind, but I went a more traditional route for whose numbers I decided to predict. I think the big riser will be Elijah Hood. He possesses a ton of athleticism and once you pair that with the tape he has it is a good indicator that scouts will like him. Hood is an overlooked power back and should test very well. I think Jamaal Williams might not test as well as most think so I can see him as a player that might suffer a little bit of a drop off from the combine. He too is a power back and has shown very good vision with his running style. I really like him as a runner, but he seems to be limited athletically. I look forward to the combine every year, but this one is a little different with the amount of talent at the RB position. Now let’s take a look at the Combine winners and everyone can tell me how right or wrong I was with my predictions on Friday.

Combine Winners

40

3 cone 20 yard SS Vertical Broad

Bench

Joe Williams

4.39

Alvin Kamara

6.84

Dalvin Cook

4.07

Alvin Kamara

40.5”

Elijah Hood

10’8”

D’Onta Foreman

28

lawrence_chaney

North West born and raised. Sports are everything to me. Took up scouting a few years back and fell in Love with it. Try my best to use the knowledge I have to contribute to the Devy section for DFF.

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