Less Than Twenty-Four Days And Running Back Peak Year

There are less than twenty-four days to the Hall of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the 2019 season. I ran a little behind in these posts and hope to catch up. Today I look at running backs in the league that are in the supposed peak age year of 24. Here is just one of many articles that put the peak age for a running back at 24 years – socalledfantasyexperts.com. There are thirty-eight running backs under contract in the NFL that are or will be 24 years old for most of the 2019 season. Here is a blurb on each one. They are sorted by decreasing average salary as posted on spotrac.com.

Leonard Fournette (JAX) – If Fournette stays healthy he has the potential to justify the fourth overall pick. Over his first two seasons he has the ninth scrimmage yards per game. However his yards per carry and yards per touch are not special. His 3.69 yards per carry ranks 34th among backs that have rushed for 1000+ yards over those two seasons. His 4.3 yards per touch ranks 48th among backs that had 1000+ yards from scrimmage over those two seasons.

Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) – In his rookie year (2016) Elliott had the third highest rushing yards by a rookie running back ever and the third highest yards per game. His 5.09 average that rookie year was 12th best among all rookie running backs in nfl history for rookies that rushed for 1000+ yards. Over his three year career his 101 rushing yards per game is tops. Over that time period his 4.66 rushing yards per attempt is third best for backs that had 2000+ rushing yards.

Sony Michel (NWE) – In his rookie season Michel came on strong in the post season. He had the third best post season yards per carry (4.73) among backs with over 30 rushing yards. He scored the most rushing touchdowns (6) among running backs in the post season since 1999. His 336 rushing yards was the fourth most in the post season since 1999.

Dalvin Cook (MIN) – In his rookie year (2017) Cook tore his ACL in week 4 and was out for the season. In 2018 he missed five games due to a hamstring injury. When healthy over the two seasons Cook had the 11th best yards per rushing attempt (4.68) for backs with 800+ yards over the two seasons. He had 305 receiving yards in 2018. Cook had the 14th best yards per touch among backs that rushed for 800+ yards over the 2017-2018 seasons. Pro Football Focus reports that Cook has averaged 0.25 forced missed tackles per touch, a mark that leads all 85 NFL backs with 100 or more touches since 2017. He also ranks 18th among the same group of backs in yards after contact per touch (3.0). A fully healthy season could be a record setting one for Cook.

Kareem Hunt (CLE) – Kareem Hunt is currently suspended for the first eight games of 2019 due to violating the league’s personal conduct policy regarding a video that appears of him in a violent altercation with a woman in a hotel . Hunt was let go by the Chiefs after 11 games in 2018 due to the incident. A query of running backs that over the 2017-2018 season had 70+ rushing yards per game, 25+ receiving yards per game, 4.5+ yards per rush attempt and 8+ yards per reception yields just two backs. They are Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley.

Alvin Kamara (NOR) – A dual threat running back, Kamara is one of only thirteen backs ever to have 1500+ scrimmage yards in each of their first two years. He is the first one to do so since Adrian Peterson accomplished this in 2008.

James Connor (PIT) – A workhorse for the Steelers, Connor had the sixth highest snap count among running backs in 2018 despite missing three games due to injury.  Connor had the sixth highest attempts per game in the league.

Ito Smith (ATL) – In college (2014-2017) Smith was a dual threat workhorse. Over the five season period of 2013-2017 he was the only player to rush for 1000+ yards and have 300+ receiving yards for three seasons.  He lists as the 2nd back on non-official Falcon depth charts for 2019.

Samaje Perine (WAS) – Perine is a strong, athletic back. He placed first in the 2017 combine in the bench press (30) among running backs and was 10th and 11th in the short shuttle and 3-cone. He made Bruce Feldman’s annual list of “freaks” of college football in 2015. He has done 10 sets of 10 reps bench press of 225 lbs. In 2015 he lifted a Smart car so a lady could change the tire without a jack. Perine only had 11 touches in 2018 and displayed some concern for fumbles. He had strong competition to make a roster spot.

Tarik Cohen (CHI) – A dual threat back, Cohen had 1,169 yards from scrimmage in 2018.  At 179 lbs Tarik Cohen was the fourth lightest running back to come out if the combine (since 2000) and play in the NFL. The Bears play him to his strength which is receiving either as a wide receiver, slot or out of the backfield.  He is nicknamed the “Human Joystick” for his quick cuts. According to Pro Football Focus in 2017 Cohen was third among running backs in forced missed tackles.

Jamaal Williams (GB) – Williams is a capable back in all phases of the game – rushing, receiving and blocking. He is one of only ten active backs that have had 450+ rushing yards and 200+ receiving yards in both of their first two seasons. In week sixteen against the Jets, Williams had 95 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown.  Williams is a downhill, physical runner. “We look for guys who are violent, one-cut guys,” backs coach Sirmans said, “which kind of fits what Jamaal is.”

Cullen Gillaspia (HOU) – This one is a feel good story in the tradition of Rudy. Fullback Cullen Gillaspia was drafted in the seventh round of the 2019 draft. Cullen served as the 12th Man every Texas A&M game in ‘16, ‘17 and ’18, a streak of 38 consecutive games. The 12th Man tradition is one where a walk-on special teams player wears the No. 12 jersey to represent the entire student body.  Gillaspia was named Special Teams Co-MVP honors in 2016 and won the Special Teams Most Impactful Award in 2018. Cullen was team captain for all 13 games in 2017. He switched to fullback from linebacker for the 2018 season as he would always play any role to get on the field. In his new role he caught five passes for 52 yards, rushed for 33 yards on 5 attempts and had one rushing touchdown. In his last game for the Aggies,the Gator Bowl win, Gillaspia scored on a 13 yard run for a touchdown. It was the first time a 12th man ever scored an offensive touchdown. Former teammate Trayveon Williams – “He broke about three tackles and he was determined to get in the end zone and he got in, and if you couldn’t see, this whole team, we erupted and we all ran to him, and that was a big moment for us and this university.” Gillaspia’s nfl.com draft profile states – “Plays like his hair is on fire at all times”.

Aaron Jones (GB) – Jones’ 5.47 yards per rush attempt was the third highest in the league for running backs with 64+ rushing attempts.  On that list Jones had the higher attempts, yards and rushing touchdowns than the two players above him. Jones had 22 runs of 10+ yards in 2018. Here is a clip of all of them.


Paul Perkins (NYG) – Perkins missed the 2018 season with a torn pectoral muscle. This is a critical pre-season for Perkins to make a roster spot. He has taken first-team reps during spring camp as the Giants rest Saquon Barkley. Perkins has shown explosiveness and good routes in spring training. If he keeps that up in preseason he could advance up the depth chart behind Barkley. In his college years (2013-2015) Perkins broke 73 tackles on 236 carries back in 2015. In his last two seasons in college Perkins had 2,915 rushing yards at 5.99 yards per carry. Perkins was 20th in the nation in rushing touchdowns in his last year of college and converted 29% of his red zone rushing attempts into touchdowns.

Jordan Howard (PHI) – After making the 2016 NFL All-Rookie Team with 1,313 rushing yards, a 5.2 yard per carry average, 752 yards after contact and 40 missed tackles his production has decreased each season. In 2018 Jordan had 935 rushing yards, a 3.7 yard per carry average and 23 missed tackles. One area Jordan did excel in 2018 was in the red zone. He had a total of 9 rushing touchdowns in 2018 and ran for a first down or touchdown on 44% of his red zone rushing attempts.

Dalyn Dawkins (TEN) – Dawkins signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL draft. In four years in college Dawkins converted 76% of his 17 third down and 1-3 yards-to-go rushing attempts. In his last year of college (2017) Dawkins was 14th in rushing yards or 10+ yards. His 6.2 yards per carry was 18th in the nation for backs with 1000+ rushing yards. Twenty-two percent of his 2017 plays from scrimmage went for 10+ yards. He was seventh in long plays from scrimmage.

 

Roc Thomas (MIN) – Thomas signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In his final year at Jacksonville State, Thomas rushed for 1,065 yards at 5.98 yards per attempt and had 13 rushing touchdowns. He scored 1-2 touchdowns in nine of his twelve games. In college Thomas displayed burst to takeoff, good lateral agility and ability to finish runs running thru contact. He also showed good hands receiving at the combine.

Trey Edmunds (PIT) – Trey Edmunds signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints following the 2017 draft. Edmunds had good Pro Day numbers meeting running back target goals in the forty, twenty and ten yard dash, as well as the 3-cone drill. Here is a screen pass that shows good contact balance.


Brian Hill (ATL) – Hill had a monster final year in college in 2016 where he rushed for 1,860 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. That was good for 3rd and 4th in the nation respectively. In 2018 on the Falcons Hill rushed for 157 yards at a 7.9 yards per attempt average. Hill is a physical runner, lets his blockers lead him and picks a a lane and goes. Here is a clip showing these traits.


Wes Hills (ARI) -Hills signed as an undrafted free agent following a camp invite as a tryout after the 2019 draft. After transferring to Slippery Rock for the 2018 season Hills rushed for 1,714 yards at 6.97 yards per attempt and 17 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 180 yards per game with 13 touchdowns over last seven games. Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz – ““The biggest compliment I can give Wes Hills is that he came here one year, and this team voted him team captain, That’s because everything Wes does is with a relentless attitude and he has an intense work ethic. Wes can block and he’s great at catching the ball on third downs.

“The biggest compliment I can give Wes Hills is that he came here one year, and this team voted him team captain, That’s because everything Wes does is with a relentless attitude and he has an intense work ethic. Wes can block and he’s great at catching the ball on third downs. That’s what made him so attractive at the all-star games.

Anytime you’re out of football, and he was off for a year, you get rusty. By our sixth game, against nationally ranked Indiana of Pennsylvania, Wes singlehandedly broke tackles left and right. I can’t remember a time anyone tackled Wes behind the line of scrimmage. He just better and better from there.

Wes is a freak and he proved that in the NFLPA game. He’s never had a significant injury. Any NFL team who gets Wes, they’re going to get a worker who likes to punish people when he gets the ball. I love his violence when he has the ball. Also, they’re going to get someone who likes proving people wrong.” – Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz

Valentine Holmes (NYJ) – Holmes is a former professional rugby league footballer who played as a winger or fullback for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the National Rugby League.  He left rugby In November 2018 to pursue his dream to one day play in the NFL. In April of 2019, Holmes was signed by the New York Jets as part of the NFL’s international pathway program. Holmes was a superstar in the National Rugby League. He was signed at the age of 17, represented his country in the World Cup and set records with five tries (touchdowns) in the quarterfinals and six in the semifinals. He has speed and ran in the high 4.4s in the forty. Each team in the AFC East, which was chosen at random for this year’s program, has an overseas player on its roster. Holmes is eligible for a practice squad exemption though his goal is to make the 53 man roster.

Darrel Williams (KAN) – Williams was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In his senior year in college (2017) Williams was above average among running back draft prospects in

  1. receiving yards per game (25.5),
  2. Receiving attempts to total attempts (13.7%),
  3. rushing first downs to rush attempts (26.2%),
  4. long scrimmage plays to total attempts (17.3%),
  5. touchdowns to total attempts (5.4%),
  6. yards per carry (5.66) and
  7. yards per reception (14.4).

In 2018 he had 44 rushing yards at 3,4 yards per attempt.

Mike Boone (MIN) – Boone signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In 2018 he had 47 rushing yards at a 4.3 yard average. His best year in college was his sophomore year in 2015. He rushed for 721 yards at 7.2 yards per carry and had nine rushing touchdowns. His 7.2 average was 13th in the nation. In his later college years Boone struggled with injuries. At his Pro Day Boone met 7 of the 8 drill running back target goals.  His 4.44 in the forty would have been third best at the combine among running backs. Here we see Boone driving thru defenders to score.

Mike Boone Breaking Tackles

Gus Edwards (BAL) – In his 2018 rookie year Edwards was fifth in the league in yards per rush attempt with 5.2 yards average on 718 total yards. He was Baltimore’s leading rusher.  This is what head coach John Harbaugh had to say about their undrafted free agent rookie – ‘“He definitely has speed, He has good acceleration, he runs hard, he’s a north-south guy, and he’s 240-plus. Yes, he’s doing a good job, and he has that big-back-type build, which is a big plus.”

Justin Jackson (LAC) – In his 2018 rookie season Jackson rushed for 206 yards at 4.1 yards per carry. His 2018 draft profile on nfl.com speaks of his elusiveness and toughness. In college since 2000, Jackson is one of only five backs to have rushed for four seasons with an average of 4.5+ yards each season. He is the only one to do so with 160+ receiving yards each year.



Boston Scott (PHI) – Scott was drafted by the Saints in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. In his senior year of college Scott had 19% of this total attempts account for long scrimmage plays. That was 14th among running back draft prospects. Related to that he had 29% of his rushing attempts convert to a first down. That was good for seventh among running back draft prospects. Scott put up great numbers at his Pro Day meeting running back drill targets in seven of the eight drills. His forty (4.4) would have been tie for second at the combine. vertical jump (4th), short shuttle (3rd) and three-cone (1st).  He was rated in November 2017 by Pro Football Focus as the 4th most elusive running back in the draft. Scott had the 3rd highest yards after contact (3.90) per attempt among draft eligible backs in 2017.

Quinton Flowers (CIN) – Flowers signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. Flowers was a dual threat quarterback in college.  after being named the starting quarterback to start his sophomore season Flowers rushed for 3,599 yards over three seasons, averaged 6.15 yards per carry and had 41 rushing touchdowns. His combine score of 6.81 in the three-cone was tie for second among running backs. Flowers has seen his share of tragedy in his life.  His father was shot and killed by a stray bullet outside his home when Flowers was 7. His mother died of cancer when he was in high school. In November of 2014, the week Quinton was named USF’s starter for the first time, his older stepbrother was shot and killed while playing football with kids. When asked what helped him though all his adversity Flowers said ““My team helps me. Especially when you’re away from home, away from your family. Every time I take the field they bring a smile to my face. When I take the field each game I take the field for them.”

Justin Davis (LAR) – Davis signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 draft. At his Pro Day Davis’ three-cone drill time of 6.75 would have been second best at the combine among running backs that year. His short shuttle tine of 4.30 would have been sixth. Davis is a former high school sprinter and long-jumper. His draft profile on nfl.com speaks of nimble feet. Quick to gather and cut downhill as zone runner and has the agility to stop on a dime and shake traffic in the backfield to keep runs moving. Good open field vision and elusiveness. Consistent and reliable.

Corey Clement (PHI) – Clement had a very good rookie year in 2017. He is one of only eleven undrafted running backs in NFL history to have 300+ rushing yards, 100+ receiving yards, 4+ rushing touchdowns and 4+ yards per rushing attempt in their rookie year. His post season played a contributing role in the Eagles trip to a Super Bowl victory. In the Super Bowl he had 4 receptions on 5 targets for 100 yards and a touchdown in their 41-33 win over the Patriots. He also had a kickoff return for 25 yards. His second year took a downturn. He only played in eleven games and had 259 rushing yards at 3.81 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He did have 22 receptions for 192 yards and 8.7 yards per reception.

Matt Breida (SFO) – In his two seasons playing in the NFL Brieda has made the top ten in rushing yards per attempt in 2017 (4.4 yards) and 2018 (5.3 yards). In 2018 he was fourth in the league. In 2018 Breida had 27 receptions on 31 targets for an 87.1% catch percent. That percent was second best among backs that rushed for 300+ yards and had 100+ receiving yards. His numbers in 2018 were 814 rushing yards at 5.3 a carry and 261 receiving yards at 9.7 yards per catch. He also had 5 total touchdowns. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the NFL’s fastest play of 2018 was Breida’s 33-yard run in Week 12, when the former undrafted free agent hit a top speed of 22.09 miles per hour:

Austin Ekeler (LAC) – There were only 17 running backs in 2018 that had 300+ rushing yards and 300+ receiving yards. Ekeler was first on that list in rushing yards per attempt and third for receiving yards per target (7.62). He was the only undrafted free agent on the list. His 5.2 yards per rush attempt was fifth in the league. Ekeler had 958 yards from scrimmage in 2018. According to head coach Anthony Lynn, Ekeler is the strongest player in the Chargers’ locker room. As reported by Pro Football Focus thru November of 2018 Ekeler ranked tied for second in forced missed tackles per touch (0.25) and second in yards after contact per touch (4.01) among the 44 NFL running backs with 100-plus touches on the year.

Donnel Pumphrey (PHI) – Pumphrey was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He was injured and missed the entire 2017 season. In 2018 he spent a brief period on the Lions practice squad and then was signed to the Eagles practice squad in October. he has yet to play a down in the regular season. In college he was in the top ten in the nation in rushing yards each of his last three years including being number one in his senior year. At the 2017 combine Pumphrey was the lightest running back at 176 lbs. He is still listed at 176 lbs on the Eagles roster.  He ran a 4.48 forty at the combine which was tie for fourth among backs. His nfl.com draft profile speaks of his speed, vision and razor-sharp cutbacks.

Jordan Chunn (DAL) – Chunn was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. He spent his rookie year on the practice squad. In his senior year in college Chunn converted 43% of his 21 red zone rushing attempts into touchdowns. For his college career the number was 33% for a total of 44 red-zone rushing touchdowns. Chunn also displayed good receiving skills out of the backfield and had 28 and 30 receptions his last two years for over 200 yards receiving each year. He showed good hands and the ability to adjust to bad throws. In college Chunn was a physical runner who broke tackles and was hard to bring down.

Mark Thompson (DET) – Thompson signed as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore following the 2018 draft. In 2018 he was on the practice squads of the Ravens and the Jets.  In his senior year Thompson only got 58 attempts but he averaged 5.1 yards per attempt and get three rushing touchdowns.  In college Thompson was tough to bring down, caught the ball well and showed good vision. Here we see him fighting for significant yards after contact.

Thompson is tough to bring down

Dontrell Hilliard (CLE) – signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft.  In 2018 he had 9 receptions for 105 yards and a 90% catch percent.  Hilliard is a solid all-around back. He converted 75% of his 12 third -down-and 1-3 to go attempts in his senior year in college. He made 67% for his college career and his percentage increased each year.  He made a list of 30 college backs in 2017 that had 1000+ rushing yards, 5+ yards per attempt and 100+ receiving yards. Sort the list by receiving yards per reception and Hilliard is fourth (14.4). Sorted by rushing touchdowns he is 13th (12).  Sorted by receiving touchdowns he is tied for 5th (2).  Sorted by receiving yards he does fall to 29th (115). However he doubled that receiving yardage each of his first two years for a career 740 receiving yards.

Jeff Wilson (SFO) – Wilson was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In his 2017 season in college Wilson was above average among draft prospects in

  1. receptions to total attempts (11.3 %),
  2. rushing conversions on 3rd down and 1-3 to go (65%),
  3. touchdowns on red zone rushing attempts (31.6%),
  4. 1st downs to total rush attempts (31.4%),
  5. long scrimmage plays to total attempts (21.7%), and
  6. total touchdowns to total attempts (7.5%).

In addition he averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 1,215 yards. In his 2018 NFL rookie year he had 266 rushing yards at 4.0 yards per carry and 98 receiving yards with an 80% catch rate. Wilson did have fumble issues in college that have carried over into the NFL  with three fumbles in 2018.

Ralph Webb (PIT) – Webb signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. He spent 2018 on the practice squads of the Patriots, Buccaneers, and Steelers.  Webb met all running back target goals in the eight drills at his Pro Day. His Pro Day results would have been in the top 8 for all drills except the 3-cone which would have been 11th. He is a smaller back that runs low, is a downhill tough, hard runner. Twenty-seven percent of his 2017 red zone rushing attempts converted to a touchdown. In the 2018 preseason with the Patriots Webb had two rushing touchdowns against the Redskins and a pair of two point conversions. This comment from Bill Belichick after the game

“I think that’s pretty much what we’ve seen from Ralph all the way through, That’s what he was like at Vanderbilt. He ran hard. He was tough. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got good strength for his size and he runs hard. He got hit a lot down there. He showed us that in the spring and in training camp. He’s a tough kid that runs with good pad level, he’s got good speed, he catches the ball well.”

De’Lance Turner (BAL) – Turner signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In 2018 he rushed for 4 yards and had two receptions. He got a hamstring injury in October and was placed on injured reserve. He rushed for 1,357 yards in 2017 at Alcorn State which was the second-most in the FCS. Turner also finished second in the country in yards per carry (7.54) and sixth in all-purpose yards per game (146.67). Turner shows speed and quick cuts in his runs. Here is a clip from the 2018 preseason.

 


There you have the twenty-four year old backs for the 2019 season. I will check back and update the article when the 53-man rosters are set.

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