Punch Drunk Wonderland

Christian McCaffrey Is the Top Running Back in This Year’s NFL Draft

Via our friends at numberFire.

NFL draft analysts have been calling this year’s running back class “loaded” for a while now, so being the best within the group is no easy task.

Congratulations, Christian McCaffrey, for being that guy.

Or, maybe I should say, congratulations, Christian McCaffrey, for looking like that guy.

Look, determining how well a particular college football player will translate to the pros is somewhat of a crapshoot. We all know this. That’s what makes the draft nearly impossible to beat. But that shouldn’t stop any of us from analyzing and trying to figure out who the best players are in the draft.

You know, like Christian McCaffrey-type players.

Top-Notch Production Profile

Top NFL running backs are almost always good at the college level.

Mind. Blown.

I dug into this about a month and a half ago, showing that the college production profiles of “successful” NFL running backs is really, really strong. For instance, the number of rushing yards the successful running back cohort rushed for during their final season in college was 1,330.62 yards. The percentage of rushing attempts these backs saw in their respective backfields (attempt market share) was 47.28%. The average number of rushing touchdowns among the group during their final collegiate year was 13.68.

The list goes on and on.

After using these baseline numbers for successful running backs, I was able to find eight rushers from the incoming class that matched the successful running back criteria. Unsurprisingly, Christian McCaffrey made the cut.

Player Year School Att. MS Ru. Yds MS Rec. MS Rec. Yds MS
Leonard Fournette 2015 Louisiana State 59.41% 63.37% 12.75% 11.69%
Donnel Pumphrey 2016 San Diego State 54.96% 57.95% 17.42% 11.42%
Aaron Jones 2016 Texas-El Paso 56.27% 79.47% 14.36% 10.42%
Matt Dayes 2016 NC State 49.40% 57.44% 12.17% 7.89%
Dalvin Cook 2016 Florida State 55.60% 67.11% 13.52% 14.21%
Jeremy McNichols 2016 Boise State 63.69% 75.35% 14.62% 12.22%
Christian McCaffrey 2016 Stanford 48.47% 59.02% 20.67% 15.08%
Kareem Hunt 2016 Toledo 51.17% 58.19% 14.09% 9.60%

That’s the first good sign.

Strong Combine Numbers

Probably one of the biggest knocks on McCaffrey is his size, as he weighed in at just 202 pounds at the NFL combine earlier in the month. He ended up running a 4.48 40-yard dash, though, giving him an above-average Speed Score for the class, which adjusts 40 times for weight.

Outside of the 40, McCaffrey crushed his vertical jump (37.5 inches), 3-cone (6.57 seconds), and 20-yard shuttle (4.22 seconds). And that placed him as the fourth-best athlete at running back, according to Zach Whitman’s SPARQ rankings.

Our comparables model doesn’t give him a ton of strong matches, especially when you filter to only first- or second-round running backs. Neither does MockDraftable.com’s. And the reason for that could simply be that he’s not really like many backs we see coming into the league, let alone highly-productive and highly-touted ones.

But don’t be fooled: the man is athletic.

Receiving Matters

For the most part, McCaffrey wins the measurables and production game. Other backs may have a more attractive overall profile, especially if you’re looking for an early-down bruiser. In that case, maybe Leonard Fournette is who you’d rank first, or possibly even D’Onta Foreman.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)


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