Draftable RB Profiles, Johnathan Franklin, and Shane Vereen

Johnathan Franklin

In a draft with no clear cut stars, Johnathan Franklin is pretty interesting. He exploded for a tremendous senior season at UCLA, averaging over 6.0 yards per carry and notching more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Evan Silva has him as the No. 2 back in the draft, and it’s not difficult to see why.

Unfortunately, Franklin didn’t really build on his momentum at the NFL Combine. Running a 4.49 at 205 pounds, his size/speed ratio is middle of the road. Moreover, his times in the short shuttle and 3-cone didn’t show explosive lateral burst.

I’ve been focusing on Agility Scores in projecting NFL prospects, but it’s important to note that there are multiple RB profiles with significant draft value.

Profile One: Elite early down and goal line backs.

This group tends to have a very high Speed Score, usually over 110. Many of these backs are too big to post elite Agility Scores and this lack of lateral explosiveness shows up in terms of yards before contact and receiving ability. Because most scouts and NFL teams seem to revere the “run to contact” type runner and blame poor pre-contact numbers on the offensive line, the contributions of these backs are often mildly overrated. The highest profile members of this group include Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Michael Turner.

Profile Two: Three-down backs who are occasionally replaced in goal line and short yardage.

This group tends to have a solid Speed Score, usually over 103, and strong Agility Scores (sub-11.1). These backs are often considered boom-or-bust backs because their ability to make people miss is occasionally cast as a weakness. The highest profile members of this group are Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, and Doug Martin.

Profile Three: Passing-down or in-space backs.

This group tends to weigh 200 pounds or less and record ridiculous Agility Scores (sub-11.0). Darren Sproles is the poster child for this undervalued group. Jahvid Best would have been the unparalleled superstar of this category if not for having his career destroyed by concussions. Dante Hall was a running back in college who transitioned to wide receiver at the pro level but probably would have had more value in Sproles-like role.

It’s always possible that players who don’t fit into any of these profiles can emerge as strong NFL starters, but using an early pick on such players is a big risk in both reality and fantasy. Mark Ingram and Jacquizz Rodgers are two obvious examples of players whose athletic measurables did not match their collegiate resumes. Both sported speed and quickness red flags that so far seem prescient.

Johnathan Franklin Reality Prospects

If Franklin’s strong showing on tape is more indicative of his NFL potential than his weak Combine, we should see evidence of similar past players who turned in unspectacular times and then emerged as solid No. 1s at the next level.

Following the approach that I’ve taken with Le’Veon Bell, Zac Stacy, Christine Michael, Giovani Bernard, Kenjon Barner, and Montee Ball, I’m going to be generating comps for Franklin that employ the Agility Score along with more traditional measures.

Agility Score between 11.1 and 11.3, Yards per carry above 5.0, 40 time between 4.40 and 4.60, Weight between 190 and 220.

Name College College Yards College YPC College TD College Rec Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Agility Score
Johnathan Franklin UCLA 4403 5.6 31 58 205 4.49 100.9 11.2
Name College College Yards College YPC College TD College Rec Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Agility Score
Ryan Williams Virginia Tech 2132 5.3 30 26 212 4.59 95.5 11.14
Wendell Mathis Fresno State (CA) 2358 5.7 27 23 210 4.51 101.5 11.19
David Wilson Virginia Tech 2662 5.8 18 37 206 4.49 101.4 11.21
Vernand Morency Oklahoma State 2661 5.9 23 11 212 4.51 102.5 11.22
Kevin Smith Central Florida 4679 5.2 45 55 217 4.53 103.1 11.23
Shane Vereen California 2834 5.1 29 74 210 4.49 103.3 11.23
Isaiah Pead Cincinnati 3288 6 27 87 197 4.47 98.7 11.27
Kerwynn Williams Utah State 2515 6.6 22 64 196 4.48 97.3 11.3


Unlike our previous forays into Agility Score-generated comps, examining players similar to Franklin leaves us in a gray area. Strangely, the guys who have the most in common – David Wilson, Ryan Williams, Shane Vereen, Isaiah Pead – are all backs we’re still waiting on to define themselves as pros.

Frank also pointed out another big red flag yesterday in his article on the Explosion Index. Franklin owns a very weak 31 inch vertical. That drops him a notch below backs like Williams and Wilson who recorded leaps of 41 and 40 inches respectively. If you’re a Franklin fan and are looking for consolation on his sub-par explosive ability, consider that Jamaal Charles leapt only 30.5 inches. Of course, Charles is quicker and much faster than Franklin.

You’ll also notice fellow 2013 prospect Kerwynn Williams on the comparable list. Recently, Frank suggested Williams as an arbitrage candidate to take the place of Gio Bernard. Although Williams falls at the outside edge of the parameters in terms of both size and quickness, he’s a potential late round replacement for Franklin as well.

Johnathan Franklin Dynasty Value

Unclear. Which translates into overrated.

It’s always possible Franklin will emerge as an NFL star, but enough red flags exist to encourage skepticism. He lacks the explosive athletic upside of most clear cut starters and fails to fit into one of the draftable profiles. Franklin is more of a 4th round reality talent, but he’s not as big or as fast as last year’s 4th round super sleeper (Lamar Miller). The lack of clarity on Franklin is another reason those with early 2013 rookie picks should attempt to trade down.

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By Shawn Siegele | @ff_contrarian | Archive

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