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How To Draft an NFL Running Back: Part Three

We left off yesterday with the following knowledge:

The 40 Yard Dash is actually a positive indicator for a running back's NFL success

The Broad Jump is another solid indicator

Three Cone is important if the running back is a shifty back (ie: Ray Rice)

Knowing these three facts, we were able to narrow down our list of intriguing prospects:

DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

Jordan Todman, Connecticutt

Derrick Locke, Kentucky

Roy Helu Jr., Nebraska

Mario Fannin, Auburn

Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

Da'Rel Scott, Maryland

Brandon Saine, Ohio State

And the bolded prospects have already been in contact with the Patriots. Keep in mind that these players meet the physical requirements of a successful NFL running back. They have the explosion and burst to get through the hole and past/through defenders [Broad Jump] and the speed to run away in the open field [40 Yard Dash]. However, players need more than just the physical qualities to be a successful running back. As a result, we must look to their college production.

Read about it after the jump!

We understand that all players come from different teams with different quality offensive lines in front of them and different talent surrounding the offense. We also understand that talent is talent and talent will prevail. There is not a top running back in the league, who premiered since 2005, who did not have a 1000 yard from scrimmage season in college. That's a solid bench mark to think about- a player must have a 1000 yard from scrimmage season in college. Think about it- if they can't do it in college against weaker defenses, why would they do it in the NFL? Now we still expect players to improve, but if they can't reach that mark in college, they have a very low chance of doing it in the NFL.

Now the question is: does it matter when the 1000 yard season takes place? After examining the top players in the NFL, we come to find that it's not imperative that the 1000 yard season takes place in their final year. In fact, most of the late round steals are players who reached the bench mark the year prior to their final season and saw a drop in production in their final year. Of course, it is preferred that a player continue to play at a high level until they graduate, but if an injury or some other factor outside their control slows them for part of a season, there's no need to worry- in fact, the player might be hiding some extra value as they drop in the draft.

There are a couple types of players:

Ryan Grant - This player has great success early in their career, but for some reason, their production drops for their last seasons at college. They showed the talent early on, but their lack of production drops their value. These players can be found in the later rounds and in free agency.

Compares to: Ryan Williams, Da'Rel Scott

Chris Johnson - This player plods along as the back-up early in their career, but when they're the starter they explode for one tremendous season before leaving for the draft. These players are usually found in the middle rounds of the draft.

Compares to: Mikel Leshoure

Adrian Peterson - This player is a star their entire college career. They put up big numbers each year and it seems  that defenses can't stop them. These players are usually found in the beginning rounds of the draft.

Compares to: No one in this draft, but sort of Jordan Todman, Kendall Hunter

And when I say "compares to", I don't mean anything more than their college production is similar. Is there a best kind of player to draft? All three are successful. It's just a matter of how much risk you're willing to take on with your prospect. The Peterson type players come with low risk of bust at a high cost, while the Grant players have high risk of bust, but at a low cost. It's a matter of preference- I believe that the Patriots are willing to try the low cost players because that's how they've had success in the past couple seasons.

No matter the category, however, a few statistical facts hold true:

A player should have at least one 1000 yard season while in college.

A player should accomplish that 1000 yard season at a 5.0+ yards/carry pace.

Now there are some exceptions to the rule, but if the prospect meets these two qualities, they have an astronomically higher chance of success in the NFL.

We'll make our picks in Part 4, later today!