We have roughly a month until the 2017 NFL draft, when we will learn where our favorite (or not so favorite) prospects will land this coming season. While draft position and landing spot are huge factors for forecasting the success of any running back prospect, I’ve found that we can accurately predict whether a running back will be successful largely based on his production profile and athletic measurables.
We know that collegiate production isn’t everything for wide receivers, it’s the only thing. For running backs, the situation is wholly different. Production matters, but size-adjusted speed is king for determining which running backs will be successful in the NFL.
You can define success many ways, but I’m choosing to use a top-12 fantasy point season (PPR) for running backs. The model’s dependent variable for early NFL success is whether or not a player had such a season within his first three years in the NFL.
We used age, production, and combine measurables to train and test the updated 2017 running back model. The model used 350 running back prospects that entered in the NFL from 2000-2014, splitting the data roughly 2-to-1 into training and testing sets.
After plugging dozens of different production and combine statistics into the model and slowly taking away, one-by-one the least statistically significant, we were left with four (two combine, two production) that provide the most explanatory and predictive power (listed in order of statistical significance): (more…)