Inside The Combine: Speed Scores For RBs

The Combine has a lot of flash, but there is gold to be found in the measurements. We take a look at the speed scores in our attempt to identify finds in the draft at running back.

Look at that number! It's amazing! It's incredible! It's the fastest ever, at least until we get the official time that adds .15 seconds to it!

So, can we really get excited about any of these speed measurables that come out of the NFL Scouting Combine? I think the safe way to look at things are that the measurables should be tie-breakers or causing slight fluctuations based on assessment of game tape. If you have several, or even only a couple, of players grouped together, one should definitely lean towards the player who showed better overall athleticism. After all, this is a league where running faster, jumping higher and being stronger matter. A lot.

Over the past few seasons, we’ve been keeping up with Bill Barnwell's Speed Score metric. It basically weights a player's 40 time at the Combine against his actual weight. A player that is heavier doesn't need to run as fast as a lighter player to have similar game impact. Makes sense, right? Here's why Barnwell only uses Combine speeds to calculate "speed scores" instead of Pro Days or other clockings: Speed Score is a simple calculation: (Weight * 200)/(40 Time ^4). An average score for a running back is 100. A good score is 110 and a great score is 120. Through 2009, the only back that had posted under a 98.0 speed score to make a Pro Bowl was Brian Westbrook. The metric might be losing a bit of it's luster though, looking at the recent performances based on the scores over the last few seasons. At the very least, Alfred Morris joined that group in 2012 after posting a speed score of 92.

Here are the complete 2015 Combine measurables for Running Backs.

First NameLast NameCollegeSpeed ScoreHeightWeight40 time10 splitBenchVerticalBroadHands
KarlosWilliamsFlorida State114.196'0-3/4"2304.481.611633.59'9"9-3/4"
DavidJohnsonNorthern Iowa109.256'0-5/8"2244.51.582541.510'7"9-5/8"
JeremyLangfordMichigan State108.995'11-5/8"2084.421.56 34.59'10"8-3/4"
Javorius "Buck"AllenSouthen Cal104.966'0-1/2"2214.531.581135.510'1"9-3/8"
JayAjayiBoise State101.335'11-3/4"2214.571.6193910'1"10"
CameronArtis-PayneAuburn100.695'9-3/4"2124.531.62 36.59'10"8-7/8"
ZachZennerSouth Dakota State99.615'11-1/2"2234.61.64254110'1"9-5/8"
DukeJohnsonMiami97.455'9-1/8"2074.541.63 33.510'1"9-1/4"
MikeDavisSouth Carolina96.095'9-1/8"2174.611.5817349'8"9-3/8"
TreyWilliamsTexas A&M95.965'7-1/2"1954.491.611833.59'11"8-1/4"
JohnCrockettNorth Dakota State95.265'11-3/4"2174.621.61154010'5"9-3/4"
ThomasRawlsCentral Michigan91.975'9"2154.651.691535.59'8"9-1/2"
JoshRobinsonMississippi State88.945'7-7/8"2174.71.6621329'5"10-1/8"
GusJohnsonStephen F. Austin88.125'9-5/8"2154.71.632636.510'0"9-1/8"
B.J.CatalonTexas Christian85.295'7-3/8"1864.571.69 369'6"9"
KennyHilliardLouisiana State83.055'11-5/8"2264.831.72 279'3"9-1/4"
JahwanEdwardsBall State82.895'9-1/2"2204.81.751635.59'9"8-7/8"
DeeHartColorado State74.985'7-1/2"1994.81.73 339'5"9"

The Combine is, essentially, an SAT for football players. Everyone gets in the same sterile environment, does the same tests at the same time with the same notice under the same conditions, which yields a context that's the same for each player. That's very important. On the other hand, consider Pro Days. Players wear different outfits. They wear different shoes, often opting for running shoes dedicated to improve 40 time speed as opposed to cleats. Some schools have electronic scoring; others don't even provide a score. Some are run on tracks; others go on football fields, and some even run indoors. Those still outside can run in balmy, warm weather, or unseasonably cold March showers. It's a totally different universe for each player - Steph Stradley, Houston Chronicle 5/3/2010

But what about the other measurables? 40-yard dashes aren’t the only timed events at the Combine. Scott Carasik of Bleacher Report (@ScottCarasik on Twitter) has applied his own spin on the standard speed score to incorporate the other timed metrics that add agility to the equation; the Short Shuttle and the 3-cone drills.

(Weight * 125)/(40 time * 10 Split * Shuttle * 3-cone)

A score of 120 or better indicates a quality score for the running back position. Here’s Carasik's interpretation of what the combine tells us when we go beyond the game tape in searching for quality running backs.

First NameLast NameCollegeSPEEDHeightWeight40 time10 splitShuttle3-cone
DavidJohnsonNorthern Iowa135.236'0-5/8"2244.51.584.276.82
JayAjayiBoise State129.785'11-3/4"2214.571.64.17.1
Javorius "Buck"AllenSouthen Cal129.576'0-1/2"2214.531.584.286.96
MikeDavisSouth Carolina127.275'9-1/8"2174.611.584.187
ZachZennerSouth Dakota State126.065'11-1/2"2234.61.644.147.08
KarlosWilliamsFlorida State124.826'0-3/4"2304.481.614.467.16
JeremyLangfordMichigan State120.895'11-5/8"2084.421.564.327.22
JohnCrockettNorth Dakota State120.015'11-3/4"2174.621.614.257.15
GusJohnsonStephen F. Austin119.85'9-5/8"2154.71.634.137.09
TreyWilliamsTexas A&M119.655'7-1/2"1954.491.614.126.84
KennyHilliardLouisiana State107.795'11-5/8"2264.831.724.47.17
B.J.CatalonTexas Christian105.135'7-3/8"1864.571.694.156.9
JahwanEdwardsBall State95.355'9-1/2"2204.81.754.57.63
DeeHartColorado State94.995'7-1/2"1994.81.734.387.2

For comparison’s sake? Demarco Murray scored a 113 in the standard speed score and a 131.7 advanced speed score back in 2011. His combine numbers? 4.37 40, 1.52 10, with a 4.18 shuttle and 7.28 3-cone. It appears that Northern Iowa’s David Johnson might just be the most athletically gifted running back in the 2015 draft class. Johnson had an outstanding combine overall, finishing second at his position to Ameer Adbullah in the broad and vertical jumps. When we look at explosion numbers, we'd expect him to rank near the top there as well.

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