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ChrisThompson

Open Scene

 

Spot light on an old lonely man in a lonely bed in the middle of an otherwise bare stage.

 

A young man enters the room and looks down at the old man.

 

Son: Father, it’s almost time. Do you have any regrets?

 

Father: Yes. Only one. I’ve hidden it deep inside, all my life, ever since I was a young man. It’s haunted my dreams these many years.

 

Son: Father . . . what is it? Murder? Worse???

 

Father: Worse. Much worse. The year was 2013 . . . I passed on Chris Thompson in every single draft.

 

[Silence]

 

Son: I don’t know you. You’re not the man I thought you were. You’re not my father.

 

Father: No . . . wait . . . he was only 5’7” . . .

 

The son turns and leaves the room. The old man dies cold and alone.

 

End Scene

If the incomparable Shawn Siegele, Davis Mattek, and Coleman Kelly have anything to say about it, this might be my fate. They think Chris Thompson is a good pick at his ADP, that he compares to former first-round RBs, that he could beat out Helu for Washington’s third-down role, and that he may be a better rookie pick than Gio Bernard. I don’t. I hate small RBs. With all the mental energy I’ve expended thinking about this, I’m bound to be wrong in this no-win situation. If I’m correct, I get little glory in predicting that a short-and-small late-round RB recovering from a torn ACL didn’t become a fantasy asset. If I’m wrong . . . well, we’ve already seen that scene.

I’m going to do a three-part series comprising my final words on the subject, and then I’m done.

According to PFR, only one RB in the last 20 years has been a first-round pick while standing no taller than 68 inches. PFR tells us that guy is DeAngelo Williams, and yet his NFL Draft Scout profile says that Williams is actually 5’9”—so no RB shorter than 5’9” has been a first-round pick in the last 20 years. To me, this means that—even if he had first-round talent and were fully healthy—Thompson was never going to be a first-round RB. As such, I think comparisons to first-round RBs may be inaccurate.

I especially think this because of his weight, 192 lbs. Another PFR screener reveals that only 6 first-round RBs in the last 20 years have weighed no more than 202 and no less than 182 lbs. [I have removed Felix Jones since his NFL Draft Scout profile says that he was 207 lbs. when he entered the league, and the wondrous (5’9”) Warrick Dunn misses the cut at 180 lbs.]

Using NFL Draft Scout and the NFL Combine Player Profiles, I’ve put together this table.

 

Player Year Age Round Pick Ht Wt 40 Time Speed Score
Reggie Bush

2006

21

1

2

71

201

4.37

110.2301

C.J. Spiller

2010

23

1

9

71

196

4.37

107.4881

Napoleon Kaufman

1995

22

1

18

69

185

NA

NA
Chris Johnson

2008

23

1

24

71

197

4.24

121.9082

John Avery

1998

22

1

29

69

184

4.41

97.29566

Jahvid Best

2010

21

1

30

70

199

4.35

111.1542

Avg

NA

22

1

18.67

70.167

193.67

4.348

108.3744

Median

NA

22

1

21

70.5

196.5

4.37

110.2301

Chris Thompson

2013

23

5

154

67

192

4.42

100.6

Even if the large difference in height doesn’t bother you, note that the post-2000 guys all substantially outweigh and outrun Thompson (while towering over him). I’ll grant that a healthy Thompson could probably post a sub-4.40 40 time, but know also that his 40 time is from a pro day. The first-round guys, though, have electronic 40 times, most of them from the combine. In general, their stopwatch 40s are even faster. So these guys are taller, bigger, and (I’m being generous) at least as fast as Thompson. Even if Thompson didn’t have his injury history, you can see why—as athletes—these guys would be first-round picks and Thompson wouldn’t.

Here’s their collegiate rushing production:

Player Gms Att Yds TD Y/A A/G Yds/G TD/G TD%
Reggie Bush

39

433

3169

25

7.32

11.10

81.26

0.641

0.058

C.J. Spiller

52

606

3547

32

5.85

11.65

68.21

0.615

0.053

Napoleon Kaufman

44

710

4041

33

5.69

16.14

91.84

0.750

0.046

Chris Johnson

47

624

2982

32

4.78

13.28

63.45

0.681

0.051

John Avery

20

347

1650

12

4.76

17.35

82.50

0.600

0.035

Jahvid Best

31

364

2668

29

7.33

11.74

86.06

0.935

0.080

Avg

38.83

514

3009.5

27.17

5.86

13.24

77.50

0.700

0.053

Median

41.5

519.5

3075.5

30.5

5.92

12.52

74.11

0.735

0.059

Chris Thompson

35

275

1739

14

6.32

7.86

49.69

0.400

0.051

As you can see, all of the first-round guys proved that they could handle double-digit carries per game in college, and Thompson didn’t. While Thompson does have a higher rushing average, I would rather have players who can carry the ball more often per game (for more games) and score slightly more TDs per carry than a guy who has suffered two major injuries while averaging fewer than eight carries per contest.

But maybe Thompson’s rushing production doesn’t matter, since his true NFL worth is likely to lie in his receiving skills, right? Let’s look at these guys as receivers.

Player Gms Rec Yds TD Y/R Rec/G Yds/G TD/G TD%
Reggie Bush

39

95

1301

13

13.69

2.44

33.36

0.333

0.137

C.J. Spiller

52

123

1420

11

11.54

2.37

27.31

0.212

0.089

Napoleon Kaufman

44

65

424

0

6.52

1.48

9.64

0.000

0.000

Chris Johnson

47

125

1296

10

10.37

2.66

27.57

0.213

0.080

John Avery

20

35

212

0

6.06

1.75

10.60

0.000

0.000

Jahvid Best

31

62

533

6

8.60

2.00

17.19

0.194

0.097

Avg

38.83

84.17

864.33

6.67

10.27

2.17

22.26

0.172

0.079

Median

41.5

80

914.5

8

11.43

1.93

22.04

0.193

0.100

Chris Thompson

35

45

430

1

9.56

1.29

12.29

0.029

0.022

Well, he catches fewer passes per game for fewer yards and far fewer touchdowns. He might be the next Darren Sproles (a short-and-small fourth-round pick who didn’t bust out till he was 28), but as a receiver Thompson’s definitely not the productive equal of these first-round RBs.

In sum, Thompson just doesn’t have the college production (on a per-game basis) to warrant a true comparison to these first-round players. They’ve proven they can be substantial rushers, and they’re much better receivers.

Why wasn’t Thompson as productive in college as these guys? I hypothesize that it’s the combination of his height and weight. We’ve seen that a guy who weighs less than 200 lbs. can be a lead back in the NFL if he’s at least 5’9”: Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, and Warrick Dunn. And we’ve seen guys no taller than 5’8” be lead backs if they’re at least 200 lbs: Bryan Westbrook and Maurice Jones-Drew.

But a sub-200 lb. lead back who is no taller than 5’8”—we’re yet to see that in the NFL, and it might be a lot to expect the first of this breed to be a late-round RB with limited collegiate production coming off of two major injuries buried on a depth chart behind three RBs with workhorse builds on a team run by a head coach who hasn’t proven especially faithful to any RB in his history. According to PFR, Darren Sproles is the only one out of 36 such short-and-small guys since 1993 to be a top-30 RB. (Note that PFR doesn’t count Woodhead in this list, since he’s listed at 5’9” and 200 lbs. It also doesn’t list Jeff Demps, since PFR isn’t perfect.) If we add Woodhead, since his NFL Draft Scout profile says that he was 5’8” and 197 when entering the league, we have two guys with top-30 finishes out of (at least) 37 players.

I’ll just say that those odds aren’t great, and the Sproles-Woodhead upside to me doesn’t warrant rostering a player whose profile suggests a high likelihood of failure. And here’s what all of this is really about, why I care enough to write a fracking treatise about why you should avoid guys like Thompson—I believe that other guys, bigger RBs with more lead-back upside and better chances of reaching that upside, are the runners you should want on your rosters, not guys who might become “only” the next Darren Sproles. Are guys like that available around Thompson’s dynasty ADP? I believe so, and in Part 3 of this series I’m going to talk about two of them.

In general, the guys who support Thompson say 2 things:

1) “He could be the next Sproles.” I admit that he very well could be. I’m not crazy about his odds of success or the upside, but I’ll look at this more in Part 2. If Thompson does turn into Sproles (or Woodhead), he certainly will have done well for himself. And honestly I’ll be happy for him. But even if he does turn into Sproles, that fact still doesn’t mean you should roster him.

2) “He’s an elite and rare talent who has the upside of CJ2K or C.J. Spiller.” I hope I’ve addressed this. Regardless of Thompson’s height and injury history, his college production doesn’t compare to that of the first-round RBs with comparable (albeit greater) weights. He doesn’t really compare to guys of that elite caliber. And I also don’t think guys like Thompson are all that rare. I believe that mid- to late-round short-and-smallish RBs with comparable collegiate production and good speed come around quite often. In fact, two such guys can be found in the 2013 class and either of them might actually be better prospects than Thompson. In Part 3, I’ll look at these players, as well as the two other (bigger) rookie RBs I think should be rostered before Thompson.

And after Part 3 I hope never to write about Chris Thompson again—unless it’s to say that I was insanely wrong.

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