Running Backs – Quad Score – Finding Value in Combine & Pro Day Results

Here we are just under two weeks from the 2016 NFL Draft and we have just about all of the data and information what we are going to have about all of the prospects.  Between the combine, pro days, college production, interviews, wonderlics…how do we sift through all of this information to understand what it is telling us?  First, you have to understand what the information can’t tell us.  Especially when you’re looking at combine and pro day information.  At the combine and pro days we measure prospects athleticism and intelligence.  We focus on 40-times, 3 cone drills, vertical jumps and so forth, but that is only part of the story.  Athleticism doesn’t translate to the field when it’s not combined with football intelligence, field vision and spacial awareness on the part of said prospect.  It also won’t translate when you don’t have scheme fit, coaching fit and an available starting spot on the depth chart.

With all of that being said, the athleticism that we see on display at the combine and pro-days does help us understand what kind of player the prospect is, how he may fit into a scheme and what potential he may be able to reach.  Where it could help the most is to find diamonds in the rough, players that may not have had great production in college due to injury or other great players at their position on the team.  That’s what I will attempt to do in this series of articles, “Finding Value in Combine & Pro Day Results”.  I’m going to take a look at athletic results from a series of critical positions for dynasty football owners, including IDP positions, to determine where there may be value to be found in lower rounds of the draft.  This series will straddle the draft itself so the articles, like this one, that fall before the draft will be revisited once we have a better understanding of the scheme fit, coaching fit and depth chart for each prospect.  To start we go to the most difficult position to find value in, the running back.

Methodology

In order to analyze data from the combine and pro days you have to have a method and that method should make sense in relation to historical data too.  The combine and pro days typically rates 8 different metrics; height, weight, 40-yard dash time, bench press, vertical leap, broad jump, shuttle run and 3 cone drill.  Of course, for a variety of reasons not everyone does each drill, so my method is to always take the metric from the combine unless it is not available, then I go to the pro-day metric.  If a drill was not performed by a prospect that portion of the Quad Score is made to zero, so it has no impact on the prospects results.

Once I have scores for all 8 metrics, I find the z-score for each metric by position.  Z-score is a statistical measurement of a score’s relationship to the mean in a group of scores.  You can learn more about z-score here if you’d like.  What this means is that each score is normalized so that a positive score is greater than the mean and a negative score is less than the mean.  So, when we compare across measures by z-score, the higher the number, the better the score and vice versa.

When the z-score for each metric is created I do one more thing, I calculate the speed score for each player and create the z-score for speed score.  Speed score helps put 40-time into perspective by incorporating weight into the equation.  Once we have all of these speed scores and z-scores calculated I pull them together in what I like to call the Quad Score.  The Quad Score is four combinations of z-scores that add up to a sum total score and measure what parts of that sum score are deficient vs. proficient.  The four combinations are:

Speed = z-score of the speed score (which again, also incorporates weight)
Agility = z-score between the shuttle run and 3 cone drill
Leg Power = z-score between the vertical leap and broad jump
Arm Strength = z-score of the bench press

The Quad Score does not incorporate height, which is the only metric it does not include.  Once I calculate all of these, I add them up for a total Quad score.  The higher the total score, the more athletic the prospect of course, though that does not tell the whole story.  by segmenting the metrics into four distinct types we’re able to see what each prospect excels at and what may be a weakness.  Looking at running backs, let’s take a look and what the quad score tells us…

Running Backs

YearNameSpeedAgilityLeg PowerArm StrengthAQ ScoreMissing
2016Dan Vitale0.700.321.152.364.54
2016Daniel Lasco0.59(0.38)2.720.763.69
2016Keith Marshall2.670.24(0.56)1.223.56Br
2016Derrick Henry1.63(0.72)1.500.532.95
2016Tyler Ervin0.19(0.18)1.85(0.61)1.25
2016DeAndre Washington0.080.28(0.15)0.991.20
2016Tre Madden0.35(0.45)0.030.990.91
2016Brandon Wilds0.39(0.27)0.370.310.80
2016Ezekiel Elliott1.28(0.27)(0.32)0.030.73BP, Sh, 3C
2016Andy Janovich(1.04)(0.72)0.032.360.63
2016C.J. Prosise0.94(0.83)0.460.030.61BP
2016Kenneth Dixon(0.01)0.160.80(0.38)0.58
2016Devontae Booker0.18(0.27)0.100.530.5540, V, Br, Sh, 3C, SS
2016Soma Vainuku0.29(0.27)(1.28)1.450.19Sh, 3c
2016Josh Ferguson(0.12)(0.27)0.200.310.11Sh, 3c
2016Tra Carson(0.16)(0.12)0.19(0.15)(0.23)
2016Wendell Smallwood0.450.500.03(1.29)(0.31)
2016Paul Perkins(0.16)(0.27)0.12(0.15)(0.46)Sh, 3c
2016Jordan Howard0.40(0.44)0.29(0.84)(0.60)
2016Peyton Barber(0.12)0.32(0.93)0.08(0.65)
2016Kenyan Drake0.730.220.46(2.21)(0.79)
2016Jonathan Williams(0.37)0.130.10(0.84)(0.98)V, Br
2016Devon Johnson0.57(1.17)(0.67)0.03(1.25)BP
2016Glenn Gronkowski(0.24)(0.71)(0.06)(0.61)(1.61)
2016Alex Collins(0.17)(0.27)(1.45)(0.38)(2.27)Sh, 3c
2016Marshaun Coprich0.40(1.52)(0.59)(0.61)(2.31)
2016Shadrach Thornton(1.40)0.68(0.75)(1.75)(3.22)
2016Kelvin Taylor(0.69)(1.38)(0.84)(1.06)(3.98)

First thing to note here is the “missing” column to the right tells you what if any metric was not found for that prospect so that you know where missing data is located.  Br means broad jump, V means vertical leap and so forth.  Another note is that Devontae Booker didn’t participate due to injury so his score really isn’t relevant due to too many missing scores.  Ezekiel Elliot missed 3 metrics though that is not going to prevent him from being the top fantasy rookie in 2016.  Also note that there are no “elite” running backs from an athletic standpoint in this draft class. The top 5 RBs in the total Quad score drafted since 1999 averaged 6.33 and included Jerick McKinnon, Ben Tate and Christine Michael.  In the table above, Dan Vitale is at 4.54 though he’s really not even a RB, he’s more of a FB/TE supper athletic hybrid. There are no true RBs in this class above 3.69 in total Quad Score.  At the top of the list and finishing with a Quad Score greater than 2 are Daniel Lasko, Keith Marshall and Derrick Henry.  Henry has a negative agility score though that would be expected from a guy that is built more like Von Miller than Ray Rice.  Lasko and Marshall show athleticism that represents value from where they are currently being drafted in mock rookie drafts, which is 3rd round or below.  Neither may be studs, but both have just below elite athleticism and if given the right opportunity and time to grow, could be great picks at that level.

On the downside, Alex Collins, Marshaun Coprich (a trendy sleeper) and Kelvin Taylor all finished with negative scores below -2.  While this by no means is a kiss of death, I’d be hard pressed to recommend these guys even as sleepers as they all have a lack of athleticism vs. their peers that borders on awful.  In Alex Collins’ defense, he did not perform the shuttle and 3 cone drill and we included averages for him, though is low speed score and lack of leg power and arm strength are still noteworthy in a negative way.

How to utilize Quad Score to the Max

The benefit of the Quad Score is the ability to not only compare RBs historically but understand their strengths and weaknesses.  Look at the table below and what stands out about these RBs?

YearNameSpeedAgilityLeg PowerArm StrengthAQ Score
2012Robert Turbin1.63(0.39)0.631.903.78
2016Derrick Henry1.63(0.72)1.500.532.95
2009Andre Brown2.27(0.92)0.190.992.53
2010Lonyae Miller1.48(1.24)0.541.452.23
2011Jamie Harper1.08(0.66)0.540.991.96
2006Joseph Addai1.43(0.81)1.33(0.38)1.57
2005Brandon Jacobs2.33(1.90)0.46(0.15)0.74

I’ve sorted to include speed >1, agility < -0.3, leg power >0 and Quad > 0.5.  The result?  Seven big backs, all weigh more than 215 pounds and several like Henry and Jacobs weigh greater than 240 pounds.  This sort tells me that Derrick Henry can make it in this league.  Doubters about his size and people that have concern for his lack of agility are not considering his great speed (for his size), leg power and arm strength.  Because they both came from Alabama he is compared to Trent Richardson which is bringing his value down.   Notice, Trent Richardson is not on this list!  If I had the second pick in my draft, I’d take Henry before any WR in this class and only after Ezekiel Elliott.

Looking for Value

Tre Madden

YearNameSpeedAgilityLeg PowerArm StrengthAQ Score
2011Da'Rel Scott1.27(0.01)(0.15)(0.15)0.96
2016Tre Madden0.35(0.45)0.030.990.91
2014Charles Sims0.65(0.36)1.15(0.61)0.83
2012Davin Meggett0.33(0.38)0.110.760.82
2005Ryan Moats0.640.120.20(0.15)0.80

Tre Madden has some interesting historical comparables including Ryan Moats, Da’Rel Scott and Charles Sims.  With an above zero but less than one Quad Score, he’s better than average but not much from an athletic standpoint.  Much like his peers above he’s fast but not that agile though he is fairly strong, being one of only two in the above comparison that have positive leg power and arm strength.  He didn’t play that much at USC due to injuries and better players at his position though in rookie drafts he certainly can be had for cheap and has the size and tools to develop if given time and the right situation.

Josh Ferguson

YearNameSpeedAgilityLeg PowerArm StrengthAQ Score
2009Kory Sheets1.21(0.70)0.72(1.06)0.16
2004Clarence Farmer(0.32)(0.96)0.201.220.14
2016Josh Ferguson(0.12)(0.27)0.200.310.11
2000Thomas Hamner(0.34)0.850.20(0.61)0.11
2005Darren Sproles(0.57)1.23(1.37)0.760.05
2000Phillip Rogers(0.28)(0.52)0.98(0.15)0.04
2009Shonn Greene0.01(0.54)0.72(0.15)0.03
2007Kolby Smith0.75(0.64)0.28(0.38)0.02

Going a bit further down on the scale we find Josh Ferguson with a 0.11 Quad score.  He’s slower and less agile than the average running back but has better than average leg power and arm strength.  Interesting comparisons here are with Darren Sproles and Shonn Greene.  Although both of these RBs have similar TAS scores they are obviously very different backs with Sproles having massive agility compared to the rest in this comparison and Greene eking by in speed but showing great leg power.  Ferguson will find it hard to find a niche in the NFL save for maybe a short yardage, goal line back.  That said, Sproles had a great career with a similar score, so it’s not out of the realm of thought that Ferguson finds a good situation and makes some hay.

Final Thoughts

This is the first in what I expect to be many posts using the Quad Score methodology.  While it won’t guarantee fantasy relevant prospects, it will provide insights into NFL quality athleticism and may find some values to grab in lower rounds of dynasty drafts as well as confirm some guys who are just must have’s or in the case of Derrick Henry, it may dispel some myths.

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