The 2013 RotoViz Composite Rookie RB Rankings!
For about a month the RotoViz studisticians have been hard at work on a top-secret content project: The first annual (just go with me on this) 2013 RotoViz Composite Rookie Rankings! Leading up to the draft, rankings for one position will be released each day. Today, you can survey the composite rookie RB rankings in this piece.
On Tuesday (Apr. 23), Jon Moore will release the WR rankings. On Wednesday (Apr. 24) (EDIT: WR ranks are now posted at this link) , Davis Mattek will present the TE rankings. And on Thursday (Apr. 25), Shawn Siegele will finish the series with the QB rankings. Be sure to check out these great articles each day!
These rankings were created by six different RotoViz writers, with the intention that they be used to help fantasy players in dynasty leagues. These rankings can be thought of as the distillation of all the content we have been producing since January into a compact set of four simple lists. We each reviewed all of the articles on the site, separately examined our perspectives and those of our fellow contributors, changed and then re-changed our opinions, all for the sake of presenting to you what we believe is one of the most useful dynasty tools available to those with rookie drafts in the next few weeks.
Since we produced the rankings before the NFL Draft, certain assumptions accompany them, such as the rounds in which players are likely to be drafted, the roles they are likely to play in the NFL, etc. After the draft, some of us will likely put out some articles commenting on how a specific player’s draft status and team affect his value as a dynasty asset, but, in general, these are the rankings and we stand by them.
Given that we balanced considerations of talent, opportunity, and style of play, I think we did a pretty good job. As Frank put it in an email, “This is pretty cool, I would actually probably use the composites before I would even use my own ranks.” For the most part I concur, and I speak on behalf of all the RotoViz contributors when I say that we hope (and anticipate) that you will too.
Note that the composite rank for any given player is not the mere average of the six different ranks he received from the contributors. Rather, in order to avoid the skewed effects of an outlying ranking, we used a simple point system of Frank’s creating to derive the composite rank. In other words, when you see that Eddie Lacy is ranked 1.0, not 1.67, don’t worry—that’s intentional.
The six rankers were Frank DuPont, Jon Moore, Shawn Siegele, Davis Mattek, Ryan Rouillard, and Matt Freedman—or as we are “commonly” (not) known in some circles: The Fantasy Douche, The College Football Experiment, The Banana Stand, Hoodie, ADP—Yeah You Know Me!, and The Oracle. We are so NOT losers—and with, these rankings, you won’t be a loser either.
And now, without further ado, here they are—the 2013 Composite RotoViz Rookie RB Rankings!
Each of the top-10 composite RBs were ranked by all of the rankers, which suggests a strong degree of uniformity—but after that we diverged quite a bit. Here’s what we have to say about the players we ranked.
Eddie Lacy: Composite Rank, 1.0
One of the two rankers not to put Lacy #1, Shawn has written here and here about what he perceives to be the RB’s overratedness. (Expect a pseudo-rebuttal soon . . .) The other ranker not to love Lacy is Jon, who had this to say about why he ranked Lacy as high as he did: “This is purely because he’ll get snaps. Physical profile is underwhelming but production was so strong. Is he a ‘system RB’?” Ryan simply states the case for Lacy as the top back: “He will be drafted and used.” I agree, and as I implied here, I think he’s a likely pick for the Rams. But whatever team draft’s him, the consensus RotoViz opinion is that he’ll be used. The dissenters just think he won’t be all that good.
Giovani Bernard: Composite Rank, 2.0
Jon ranked Gio as his #1RB, saying that “the physical profile is solid enough, the production in high-end games was mindboggling.” And Shawn ranked Gio as his #2 RB, and I imagine that Gio’s good Agility Score played a role in that ranking. For the most part, the rest of the rankers gave Gio respect, even Frank, who had previously suggested here and here that Gio was overvalued . I alone gave Gio an obvious “let someone else draft him” rank, because I think that smaller RBs just don’t usually turn into strong dynasty assets. Overall, though, the RotoViz rankers think of Gio as the #2RB in the draft. As Ryan puts it, “his receiving production is impressive. That translates in today’s NFL.”
Johnathan Franklin: Composite Rank, 3.0
Shawn tricked all of us. Days after writing an article in which he said this about Franklin’s dynasty value—“Unclear. Which translates into overrated.”—Shawn ranked Franklin as his #1 RB. I don’t know how the other guys took it, but I felt like the fantasy football equivalent of Chazz Palminteri to Shawn’s Keyser Söze. A brilliant move of ranking misdirection. The inventor of the Agility Score picking as his top back a guy with a mediocre Agility Score? We never saw it coming. The other guys also liked Franklin. Davis said: “No clue why the larger community hasn’t caught on to him.” Ryan said: “I think he will be the #2 back off the board.” Even Jon, who ranked Franklin #9, still liked him: “Love the production & character. Dislike that he’ll be 24 in rookie season.” Again, I alone seem to dislike a guy everybody else loves. Why? For the same reason, I dislike Gio in dynasty: Size.
Le’Veon Bell: Composite Rank, 4.0
For the most part, we love us some Le’Veon. He gets so much love we should just call him “Lo’Ve On.” As Frank shows in his Agility Index Rankings, Le’Veon is an athletic dude. Here Frank suggests that Bell is one of the most undervalued backs in the draft. And Shawn boldly compares Bell to Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley in this article, claiming that “Bell is poised to be a steal in both reality and fantasy.” Even a relative hater such as Jon had this to say: “I bashed this guy all season but he’ll get reps, has unique measurables, and is the youngest RB in the draft.” So why, with all this love, is Bell ranked only #4? Because, for reasons unknown, Davis dislikes Le’Veon way more than anyone else does. As much as I dislike Gio and Franklin compared to the other rankers, Davis dislikes Le’Veon about two times more. That’s some loud non-love, and it showed up in the composite rank.
Christine Michael: Composite Rank, 5.0
The RotoViz uniformity on Michael is astounding. Four guys ranked him #5; the other two, #6. To all of us, his athleticism makes him one of the premier backs of the draft—if he can put it all together. In both Frank’s Agility Index and Explosion Index, Michael is the top performer. Shawn has compared him to Arian Foster and noted Michael’s strong comparables. Ryan thinks that Michael “could end up being the most productive back in this class.” Davis likes his “off the charts speed for such a physical back.” Jon likes, in addition to Michael’s “elite physical profile,” that he had “strong production when given lead back workload.” In the end, we all agree that his physical attributes are outstanding, and on the basis of his potential (not really his collegiate production) the RotoViz rankers strongly consider him a top-5 rookie back.
Marcus Lattimore: Composite Rank, 6.0
Out of all the guys who have been the subject of various RotoViz pieces, Lattimore never has been. Because of the little that we know about him, we have little to say. Even after two major knee injuries, he’s still a top-6 rookie back. That should tell you something. As Davis puts it, “when healthy, #1 back in the class, easy.” In fact, four of the six rankers had him higher than Michael. To us, he’s still a strong option. Jon said: “Can’t question the work ethic or production-when-healthy. He’s as good a bet as any after top 4.” Ryan said: “Can’t move him any higher or lower.” I think he could still have a career as good as Willis McGahee’s. Frank and Shawn, though, pushed Lattimore down their ranks, probably because of the likelihood that he misses 2013 and fails to regain his pre-injury form. Still, after the best RBs in the class are gone, the RotoViz guys seem to agree that Lattimore’s upside makes drafting him worth the risk.
Zac Stacy: Composite Rank, 7.0
The rankings indicate that this may be the favorite RotoViz RB sleeper. Even factoring in the possibility (or likelihood) that he won’t be drafted until after the fourth round, we collectively view Stacy as a strong RB. The lowest rank he received was #10 from Frank, who still clearly shows his enthusiasm for the Vanderbilt runner here and here. Shawn compares him to Ray Rice, closing his piece by saying that “you can probably already guess I think Stacy’s upside relative to cost is going to be significant,” which became a running theme in many RotoViz pieces, such as my piece comparing the SEC product to Arian Foster and Jon’s piece in which he suggests that Stacy is the best SEC runner in the 2013 class. As Davis said of Stacy, “vastly under-appreciated as a prospect. Would flourish with a starting job.” According to the rankings, the RotoViz guys apparently think Stacy will eventually become a starter.
Montee Ball: Composite Rank, 8.0
Here is where the wheels came off the RotoViz wagon. We ranked him #8, but I doubt he will end up on any of our dynasty teams. Our enthusiasm for Ball—despite his impressive college production—was tepid. In considering whether Ball was over- or undervalued according to his draft stock, Frank had this elegant tidbit to say: “Whatevs.” Exactly. In ranking Ball, Jon provided this comment: “Yawn.” Shawn compares him to Evan Royster, as well as Vick Ballard and Kevin Smith, and those comparables seem like his upside. His downside? To quote Davis: “Worse than Shonn Greene.” Ryan’s statement basically encompasses everything: “Measurables meh, mileage scary, but produces like a mofo.” I really like what Ball did in college, but he sadly strikes me as the RB-equivalent of Tim Tebow: An ubur-productive college player who will be drafted higher than he should be for a player likely to be a backup. I just wish he were faster or bigger. A 235-lb rusher I can appreciate, but the NFL already has too many 214-lb RBs. Considering what all the rankers have to say about him, that Ball was ranked in the top-10 at all is amazing—and perhaps it speaks to the relative weakness in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class.
Knile Davis: Composite Rank, 9.0
After writing this article, I couldn’t rank Knile lower than #2 could I?—especially when I think he’ll be drafted as a future workhorse. Yes, he’s had fumbling problems, but so have Peterson and Tiki—and they turned out OK. In ranking Davis, Jon said this: “Elite physical profile with a great season under his belt. Can NFL coaching bring out potential?” I think so. Guys this talented who have dominated the SEC for a season tend to have solid NFL production. And he is physically gifted. The list of Davis comparables Frank created is impressive (I think), and he also performs well in Frank’s Agility and Explosion Indices. With Davis, the question is whether he can be the runner that he was in 2010. I think he can be, and I see him as having the most upside of any RB in this draft. My peers are less enthusiastic, consistently so, as four of them rank Davis anywhere from #7 to #11. The lone dissenter? Davis (Mattek), of course, who ranks (Knile) Davis #19. Maybe this ranking shows that Davis dislikes big RBs as much as I dislike small ones. Or maybe it merely reveals the extent to which Davis subconsciously dislikes his ability as a ranker. Either way, Davis and I are both the outliers when it comes to Knile—and we’re probably both wrong.
Latavius Murray: Composite Rank, 10.0
While Lacy was busy working himself back into game shape . . . during his pro day, Murray utterly destroyed his. As a back who weighs over 220 lbs and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, Murray is basically the non-SEC Knile Davis who ended his college career on a good note. Placing 2nd in Frank’s Agility Index and 3rd in the Explosion Index, Murray is an exceptional athlete whom Frank has dubbed The Can’t-Go-Wrong Running Back Prospect. Although Murray seems unlikely to hear his name called before the fourth or fifth rounds, the RotoViz rankers uniformly agree on his potential. Five of us have him ranked between #11 and #14. The sixth (me) has him ranked #7. What is the logic behind this high ranking? I’ve found that under-drafted big-bodied FBS-producing RBs (regardless of physical abilities) have about a 50% chance of recording top-30 seasons within their first three NFL years. You know who else has a success rate around 50% across the same timeframe? All second-round RBs. And when Murray’s freakish athleticism is considered—yeah, I think he’ll perform like a guy drafted in the second round, maybe Matt Forte. The other guys aren’t that high on him, but collectively we’ve ranked him as a top-ten rookie RB.
Andre Ellington: Composite Rank, 11.0
Ellington is the first runner not to be ranked by all six rankers—because I didn’t rank him—because I don’t like small RBs. If you want a small FBS-producing RB unlikely to do anything in the NFL, just wait till your rookie draft is over and pick up Robbie Rouse on waivers. You know who disagrees? Davis, who gave Ellington his highest rank at #7. And even though Frank pointed out the problem with Ellington in this article the Fantasy Douche still ranked him #9. The other rankers, though, were less enthusiastic about the rusher from Clemson. As Ryan put it, “he didn’t look special to me on tape and his measurables confirmed it.”
Kerwynn Williams: Composite Rank, 12.0
I guess Davis doesn’t like all small RBs. He was the only ranker not to give Williams a score. While Ellington received a higher composite ranking, four of the rankers actually gave Williams a higher score. Indeed, Frank gestures toward Williams’ upside in his arbitrage article on Williams and Bernard. Despite his size, Williams has some upside, and later in the draft seems like a good time to start taking a chance on a smaller RB. As Jon said, “Catching, Running, Special Teams—Kerwynn is lightning in a bottle and will find the field.”
Mike Gillislee: Composite Rank, 13.0
Basically, what I learned through examining the composite ranks is that Davis and I are exact opposites. [Insert Seinfeld joke here.] While two guys ranked Gillislee #13, and two ranked him #17, Davis ranked him #4—and I didn’t rank him at all, because I think his prospects don’t warrant even a third-round rookie selection. Given that each of us ranked only 20 RBs, the four intermediary guys seem closer to my rank than to Davis’. Jon had this to say about the Florida rusher: “Solid production but limited physical attributes.” Exactly. As a staff, we were so interested in Gillislee during the last few months that we wrote ZERO articles about him. Based on his athleticism and production, Gillislee seems to be a lesser Montee Ball, and that didn’t excite five of the six rankers. Davis, however, either sees something the rest of us don’t or he’s transformed himself into a Seinfeldian Steinbrenner: “Hire this man!”
Kenjon Barner: Composite Rank, 13.0
Lady and Gentlemen (because I think we have only one female reader—my wife), I present you with our first tie! Five of us ranked Barner between #9 and #15. Davis didn’t rank him at all. What I say about Gillislee through my ranking, Davis says about Barner through his: Under no circumstances that presently seem likely does Davis think that Barner is worthy of a pick in a rookie draft. In all truthfulness, most of us aren’t that hot on him either. As Jon put it: “Turns 24 on draft weekend. Great production, strong attributes, minimal upside.” Shawn, though, sees potential for Barner, giving him a high ranking of #9, and I can see his perspective, as Barner compares nicely to Darren Sproles. Overall, though, the RotoViz rankers decided that the likelihood of his becoming the next Sproles was outweighed by the likelihood of his becoming the next guy on the long list of some mute inglorious Miltons. If you don’t get it, that’s OK. I don’t get it either.
Joseph Randle: Composite Rank, 15.0
Intriguingly, Randle is the only RB outside of our composite top ten to receive full rankings—ironic, since none of us put him in our top-10 RBs. He received rankings between #11 and #18. What does it mean that all of us ranked him, even though, by and large, the RotoViz guys think Randle is overrated? I think it means that we all agree that he should be drafted or rostered in all dynasty leagues—just not by us. Rousing endorsement indeed. The dirty work’s got to be done, but let someone else do it.
Cierre Wood: Composite Rank, 16.0
Even though we seem to dislike Randle, he’s the last guy about whom we have any consensus. In a way he is—excuse my nerdiness—the Last Homely House in comparison to the prospects who follow. After Randle, no more than three rankers score any one RB. As the first RB to follow Randle, Wood is basically the beginning of the untamed wild that lies to the east of Rivendell. Cierre Wood? Nope, more like Mirkwood. (Can you tell that I wrote this with The Hobbit playing in the background late on a Saturday night? I am so cool.) Granted, Wood does have a solid Explosion Z-Score, but what does that really mean for his NFL prospects? In general, Wood is the first of the RBs from whom we should probably expect very little—according to the RotoViz composite rankings. He is the first of the RBs to be unranked by at least half of the rankers. That should tell you almost all you need to know.
Stepfan Taylor: Composite Rank, 17.0
It turns out Davis and I are not exact opposites, after all. We are the only rankers to give Stanford’s Taylor a score. While he may be potentially overrated, and while he also strikes me as being very similar to Gillislee, his three seasons of strong productivity separate him in my eyes from the Florida rusher and other similar midsized plodders. I don’t expect big NFL production from Taylor, but his two 1500-1175 seasons catch my eye, and if he were a little bit bigger I would target him as a sleeper—but he’s not bigger, not yet. Still, I could see Jeff Fisher drafting him in the third or fourth round and turning him into a low-end starting RB2 in his second and third seasons. It could happen. That’s what my ranking signifies. Based on their decision not to score him, four of the other RotoViz rankers don’t see something like that happening.
Chris Thompson: Composite Rank, 17.0
This ranking was 100% Mattek. He was the only guy to rank Thompson—and he ranked him #8! That’s more than going out on a limb—that’s what Tolkien might call an unexpected journey. And it makes sense: Thompson is roughly the size of a halfling. OK, jokes aside, here’s what Davis had to say about the small RB from Florida State: “Easily the most underrated back in this draft. Going to have an NFL impact.” The other rankers apparently disagreed. Either Davis again sees something that the rest of us have failed to see—or his love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed his mind. Maybe both. But if Thompson indeed turns into Darren Sproles, then Davis will be able to say loudly that he was the guy who called it. Bold move.
Dennis Johnson: Composite Rank, 19.0
Shawn and Davis were the only rankers to score Johnson—and, at #20, he barely made Shawn’s list. Davis, though, gave the Arkansas pintsized runner who’s basically as small as Chris Thompson a score of #10. It bears repeating: Davis really seems to like his RBs short, compact, and shifty. And what do the other RotoViz guys think of Johnson? In all of the site’s pre-draft coverage, Johnson is mentioned in only one article—Jon’s piece about Zac Stacy. Like Théoden King, Davis stands alone. Well, not exactly alone, but whatever.
Montel Harris: Composite Rank, 19.0
Zac Stacy may be our favorite sleeper, but Montel Harris may be our favorite deep sleeper. I’m talking coma deep. Ranked by Shawn, Ryan, and me, the medical-redshirt senior who transferred from Boston College to Temple finished his college career with four seasons of over 1000 scrimmage yards. That’s impressive. Neither fast nor extraordinarily agile, the 5’8” rusher still packs a punch at 208 lbs. He’s not likely to have great NFL success, but when you’re picking guys up off of waivers you could do a lot worse than snagging a rusher who produced consistently at the FBS level. In fact, I’d rather have Montel off of waivers than Montee with a second-round pick. He seems to have the same upside as Ball at a fraction of the cost. To me, he’s a straight-up Montee Ball ADP arbitrage play. As Shawn said in an email before we submitted our rankings, “the next running back article I have coming out is Montee Ball, and Harris’ comps are actually a little stronger.” I’ll say it again, when you’re picking guys up off of waivers, you could do a lot worse than Montel Harris.
Spencer Ware: Composite Rank, 19.0
If Harris isn’t our favorite deep sleeper, then Ware (or the next guy) probably is. Three rankers scored him, all between #16 and #18. He isn’t likely to be drafted highly, he didn’t have huge college production, he didn’t even workout at the combine or a pro day—and he seems as slow as syrup—but he’s over 225 lbs. and from the SEC, and guys who fit that description often have NFL success. But, man, I’d really like to know for sure that he can outrun Ryan Mallett. For the most part, this composite ranking seems to be based not on how he played in college but on the potential a back of his size placed on the right team has for NFL production. If you’re into betting on big bruising RBs available on waivers, Ware is probably your guy.
Rex Burkhead: Composite Rank, 22.0
OK, so if not Harris or Ware, then this guy is our favorite deep sleeper. Three rankers gave him scores between #15 and #20. As slooowww as he was running the 40-yard dash, that’s how fast he was when doing the three-cone and short-shuttle drills, and he was also pretty good in the vertical and broad jumps, which means that he scored well in Frank’s Agility and Explosion Indices—better in both than Johnathan Franklin, Kenjon Barner, Zac Stacy, and a host of others. Really, despite his disappointing 40 time, this guy’s an athlete. And that’s not all. He produced while at Nebraska, submitting two seasons with over 1000 scrimmage yards, one of which was a 1500-1175 season. And at 214 lbs., Burkhead is by no means a small back, scoring 15 rushing TDs in 2011. If you want a midsized, versatile RB who played well in college and showed athleticism at the combine, and you don’t really want to spend a pick on Barner or Randle, and if Bernard and Franklin are just too small for you, and if Ball and Taylor are too unathletic—then Burkhead is your guy, most likely available off of waivers. In effect, he’s a stellar ADP arbitrage play on half of the top-15 RBs, and if Burkhead ended up being one of the most productive backs in this draft no one at RotoViz would be surprised.
George Winn: Composite Rank, 22.0
Almost all of us had at least one guy who was ours alone—and for Jon that guy is George Winn. I admit, because of my love for big guys, I thought a lot about Winn (I bet others did too), since he is 218 lbs and had a great senior year. And yet I just couldn’t rank him because, for his size, he wasn’t quite fast enough or productive enough for my taste. If I’m going to roster a guy who barely makes an NFL team and who has, in addition to only one year of college production, suspect speed, then I want that guy to be huge—like LaGarrette Blount—and Winn isn’t huge. He’s merely big. Jon, though, sees the potential in Winn, as this article makes clear. Jon said this about Winn: “Interesting physical profile with propensity for ripping off big runs. Nine separate games with 18+ yard runs is same as Eddie Lacy.” He’s big and had Lacy-esque production—I see Jon’s point. You could do a lot worse than grabbing Winn off of waivers.
Miguel Maysonet: Composite Rank, 24.0
I knew my ranking of Maysonet was on the higher side, but I totally didn’t expect to be the only ranker to give him a score. I mean, the guy was a finalist for the FCS’s Walter Payton Award, and one of the last two RBs to win that award was Brian Westbrook. After dominating in 2010 and 2011, the Stony Brook lead back in 2012—in a timeshare with Marcus Coker—rushed for 1964 yards and 21 TDs in 13 games. Who is Marcus Coker? He’s the 230-lb. RB who, as a sophomore at Iowa, rumbled through the Big Ten for 1384 rushing yards and 15 TDs in 12 games. Think about that—imagine Montee Ball or Le’Veon Bell transferring to an FCS school and not becoming the starter because the guy in place was better. And Coker did fine in his first year at Stony Brook, rushing for 1018 yards and 9 TDs—but Maysonet averaged 7.4 yards per carry, and Coker averaged only 4.8. In this article, I note that since 2000 an average of 2.15 non-FBS RBs record top-30 NFL finishes each year and that these guys on average weigh over 220 lbs. entering the league and in their final college seasons put up numbers that look pretty similar (and actually not as good as) Maysonet’s. Reportedly weighing anywhere from 209 to 212 lbs., Maysonet is not small. For the most part, he fits the non-FBS top-30 profile. Here’s what I’m saying—if you’re going to bet on a non-FBS guy from the 2013 class being one of the successful non-FBS NFL rushers in the future, Miguel is probably the guy.
Jawan Jamison: Composite Rank, 25.0
Again, Davis is the only ranker to score a short, sturdy, shifty RB. While slow and incredibly not agile for a guy of his size (based on his reported times from the combine and his pro day), Jamison has shown a strong ability to endure lots of carries and to catch the ball out of the backfield. If you are looking for a small yet pseudo-workhorse back but don’t want to spend a draft pick on him—if you want an ADP arbitrage play on Gio Bernard—I suppose that Jamison is an option. Here’s my only question: Why Jamison over Montel Harris? If the answer is something like, “Jamison is younger and doesn’t have the injury history,” that makes a lot of sense. If the answer is something like, “Comparatively, Jamison is the better runner” . . . well, just keep your eyes out for the article . . .
C.J. Anderson: Composite Rank, 26.0
This one was the second of Jon’s “I walk alone” rankings, and as a guy who prefers big RBs I totally get it. Standing at only 5’8” but weighing a monstrous 224 lbs., Anderson is basically as thick as RBs come. And he’s not unathletic. According to Frank’s Agility Index, Anderson has the same Z-score as Burkhead, but Anderson is 10 lbs. heavier. Explaining his ranking, Jon said this about Anderson: “A bowling ball of a runner like Zac Stacy, CJ averaged 6.6 YPC when playing lead-back role in Pac-12 games.” That’s a nifty statistic. My only question would be why did he manage double-digit carries in only half his 2012 games. He could be a future NFL workhorse, but he wasn’t consistently one in college. Still, when you’re digging this deep, you may as well grab a guy who’s big enough to carry the mail and who did it well when he was given the chance.
Denard Robinson: Composite Rank, 27.0
Although only two guys ranked Robinson as a runner, the other four of us ranked him as a receiver—and, I believe, precisely as the #27 WR. Odd. I suppose this means that all of us think he should be speculatively rostered in dynasty leagues, even though his exact NFL position is up in the air. Talented, Robinson is undoubtedly a project. Even if drafted as a smaller RB, he will probably need some time to work his way into a rotation. Indeed, as a college QB he put up solid workhorse rushing numbers for the last three seasons, and by Frank’s Explosion Index (but not his Agility Index) Robison is certainly an explosive player. Jon had this to say: “Wouldn’t touch as a WR, but running production outstanding. Nerve damage worries me though.” And Ryan said this: “Needs to end the WR charade. Has great vision.” I agree with Jon and Ryan—Denard is a great runner—but ask yourself this question: Is Robinson ever going to be a lead back in the NFL? I think not—and so, even if he becomes a regular rotational back, he’s unlikely ever to have actual fantasy value as a runner. But, if he becomes a WR and a team is patient with him, couldn’t you see him becoming a decent slot receiver after a couple of years? And, as I’ve said here and here, a guy’s rushing production in college can transfer to receiving production in the NFL. If he becomes a fantasy asset, I think Robinson will do it as a receiver, not a runner. Regardless, we all ranked him and seem to agree that, whatever his designated position on draft day, he should be rostered.
Michael Ford: Composite Rank, 28.0
This one was Frank’s “stand alone” ranking, and I get it. A midsized SEC runner with a respectable 40 time and a good rushing average, Ford is #6 in Frank’s Agility Index and #2 in his Explosion Index. When speculating in RBs, why not speculate on an athletic and efficient runner from a powerhouse conference?
D.J. Harper: Composite Rank, 28.0
Even after two major knee injuries, Harper still has decent athleticism for a midsized back. Scored by Frank and Ryan, Harper was the Boise State starter until he got injured and Doug Martin took the job. Finally productive in his last (and sixth!) college season, Harper has talent—but he is older, has a history of injuries, and typically played against weak opponents. None of this means that he can’t be successful in the NFL, but it does explain why four of us didn’t rank him.
Mike James: Composite Rank, 30.0
A big back from The U, Mike James often flashed his potential but never turned it into consistent collegiate production. Nevertheless, he did enough in college for Frank and Jon both to rank him #19. And, if you’re looking for a big back available on waivers, I guess you could take a guy who at least played in the ACC against decent competition.
Stefphon Jefferson: Composite Rank, 30.0
Shawn and I both ranked Jefferson #19, and so he makes an intriguing counterpoint to Mike James. Neither quite as large nor as athletic as James, Jefferson had a final collegiate season as productive as any player’s in 2012. Granted, he is a midsized back who played in Chris Ault’s pistol offense against weak competition, but he nevertheless tore it up—even when he played against teams from BCS conferences, averaging in those three games 4.71 yards per carry on 32.67 rushes for 154 yards and 1.67 TDs. He may never become a fantasy contributor, but he’s a guy available on waivers who did a great Montee Ball impersonation in 2012. And he’ll just be turning twenty-two in August. Not a bad speculative addition at all.
Theo Riddick: Composite Rank, 32.0
Have I mentioned that Davis likes smaller backs? Once again, this ranking was 100% Mattek. The Notre Dame Percy, in his first full season as the lead back in a timeshare with Cierre “Mirk” Wood, Theo managed in 2012 almost a hundred scrimmage yards and a little over half a TD per contest. Yet, with unexceptional athleticism for a player of his size, one has to wonder if Riddick will be able to . . . chronicle (cough, cough) . . . any type of success in the NFL. But I bet he’ll be a better player than I am punster. Who wouldn’t take that bet?
Jordan Roberts: Composite Rank, 33.0
Jon’s pet RB actually received one other score (from Frank)—which is one better than mine. In this article on Jordan Roberts, Jon presents his case for why the small school RB is just as physically gifted as the best RBs from the 2011 and 2012 classes and why he deserves an NFL shot. Based on the article, I think Jon is right—but I couldn’t rank him and not rank the next guy, and that was the decision with which I was faced. In the end, I chose to rank my pet RB instead of Jon’s. Still, I think Jon’s choice is pretty good. As Jon himself said, “the man is physically rare and can be used anywhere on the field. Can imagine a Woodhead-like breakthrough and subsequent cult following.”
Zach Line: Composite Rank, 34.0
He’s the most undervalued RB in the 2013 Draft. Don’t believe me? Wait a second . . . ring, ring . . . hello? It’s Mike Alstott. He wants me to tell you that 1996 is calling and it wants its cell phone back. He also says that Zach Line is awesome. I know that (according to Frank’s Agility and Explosion Indices) the SMU “fullback” is an unathletic plodder. I don’t care. He’s big (232 lbs.), and he produced prolifically and consistently as a workhorse for three straight years. You can say that he played against weak competition, but when he played against the same opponents as Doug Martin, Ronnie Hillman, Johnathan Franklin, Joseph Randle, Stepfan Taylor, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Terrance Ganaway, he did better on a yards per carry basis—and we know he’s big enough to run the rock all game and score TDs near the goal line. He’ll be available on waivers, he’s huge, and rooting for huge bulldozing RBs is fun. As I’ve said before, “He’s the real Tim Riggins, only if Riggins had actual NFL potential and size, never dropped out of college, went to SMU instead of the fictional San Antonio State, and wasn’t played by an actor from Canada. Don’t you want to have a fantasy reason to root for Tim Riggins? Texas Forever.”
Thanks for reading, and be sure to catch all the other composite rankings coming out later this week!