2017 NFL Scouting Combine: RB Athleticism Analysis

This was a pretty strong group of running back athletes this year. But for the purposes of this post I will focus on the big three Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette. And I will highlight a few surprises in the group this year in Jeremy McNichols and Aaron Jones. But let’s start with Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had one elite athletic trait in flexibility. which is measured by the SS/3C. Backs that are similar to McCaffrey’s athletic profile are LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw. He wins with speed, but the biggest athletic attribute is being extremely flexible in his hips and ankles. There is still a bit of concern with McCaffrey’s arm length that I highlighted in a previous post. However, McCaffrey tested elite in the athleticism traits we see on tape and that’s a win.

Dalvin Cook is a bit different in that he put up the profile of a starting speed back. But not a consistently elite back. He’s essentially a Benjarvus Green-Ellis/Jeremy Hill/Jeremy Langford type of athlete. He’s a faster version of those types. However, the high end version of Cook is Demarco Murray, but Cook doesn’t quite have elite speed for his size like Murray did.

My ultimate stance on Cook is he put up the athletic profile of a very good starting speed back. He’s proven in college he can put up elite production in college. And if Cook is 85% of what Demarco Murray was, that’s still a very good running back at the next level. It’s just not someone who will be wearing a yellow jacket when their career is over. This would knock Cook down to a different tier of running back prospect than McCaffrey and Fournette, but I would not be hasty to put thousands of backs over Cook due to this performance.

Leonard Fournette on the other hand is potentially the 100% of version of Demarco Murray. And that’s assuming Fournette’s agility times weren’t performed at the Combine due to being poor. Fournette has elite speed, but if that short shuttle and 3-Cone come back average to below. He’s only in a less leaky boat than Cook from a All-Pro potential standpoint. NFL teams may not care about the vertical apparently, but that’s what separates a back like Adrian Peterson from Fournette athletically speaking.

Now onto the surprises, Aaron Jones had a very strong combine as a zone blocking back. He had good explosiveness and flexibility testing. Which is similar to backs like Alfred Morris and Justin Forsett. The ability to hit the hole quickly and the flexibility to break tackles in the open field is a major asset to a ZBS scheme. So don’t be surprised if Jones becomes that back we supposedly can find everyone in Day 3.

And lastly Jeremy McNichols. The fumbles bother me a lot on film with McNichols. However, he had very good speed and flexibility for his size. He’s a supped up version of Devonta Freeman. McNichols proved he can be a lead back at Boise State, but the fumbles are worrisome.

The biggest takeaway is both Jones and McNichols are backs I would highly recommend you watch more film on. Because they have the athleticism traits to surprise many at the next level. This concludes my general thoughts on the RB testing. I will post a chart below with the complete athletic results and general notes. My complete thoughts on each back with every variable will be released after the Combine.

So stay on the look out for that. And I will post more as the agility drills leak at QB/WR/TE.




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