If you have read my articles, you know that Pro Football Reference is an incredible tool that I use to help me find most of my data. Their “Play Index” feature allows for some awesome comparables and really allows you to customize a search based on the specific criteria you are looking for.

I was curious about what would happen if I messed around on College Football Reference with their Play Index tool. One of my first instincts was to find which players were most likely to be fantasy RB1s in the NFL, simply based on their college production.

I dabbled with game stats and started with players who had 100+ rushing yards and 2+ receptions in the same game in college. The intention was to see how many RB1s hit that threshold knowing that most three-down backs are great in both the rushing and receiving game. I ended up finding some interesting results.

At first glance, I started to see lots of RB1s pop up near the top of the list. I noticed a lot more consistency when only including players who had achieved the feat at least five times in a season.

Here’s the list of all players to have five or more games in a single college season with 100 or more rushing yards and two or more receptions in the same game:

PlayerYearSchoolQualifying GamesDraft RoundRB1
Steven Jackson2003Oregon State91stY
Miquale Lewis2008Ball State9N/AN
DeAngelo Williams2003Memphis91stY
Jay Ajayi2014Boise State85thN
Anthony Alridge2007Houston8N/AN
Antonio Andrews2013Western Kentucky8N/AN
Tevin Coleman2014Indiana83rdN
Lance Dunbar2009North Texas8N/AN
Ezekiel Elliott2015Ohio State81stY
Royce Freeman2015Oregon83rdN
Quentin Griffin2002Oklahoma84thN
Ronnie Hillman2011San Diego State83rdN
I'Tavius Mathers2016Middle Tennessee State8N/AN
Christian McCaffrey2015Stanford81stY
Christian McCaffrey2016Stanford81stY
Willis McGahee2002Miami (FL)81stY
Robbie Rouse2012Fresno State8N/AN
Luke Staley2001Brigham Young8N/AN
James White2013Wisconsin84thY
Antonio Andrews2012Western Kentucky7N/AN
J.J. Arrington2004California72ndN
Devontae Booker2015Utah74thN
Brian Calhoun2005Wisconsin73rdN
Ka'Deem Carey2012Arizona74thN
Calvin Dawson2007Louisiana-Monroe7N/AN
Lance Dunbar2010North Texas7N/AN
Johnathan Franklin2012UCLA74thN
Chuba Hubbard2019Oklahoma State7N/A
Duke Johnson2014Miami (FL)73rdN
Derrick Knight2002Boston College7N/AN
Jeremy McNichols2016Boise State75thN
Mewelde Moore2001Tulane74thN
Branden Oliver2011Buffalo7N/AN
Branden Oliver2013Buffalo7N/AN
Chris Polk2011Washington7N/AN
Bobby Rainey2011Western Kentucky7N/AN
Jacquizz Rodgers2009Oregon State75thN
Dantrell Savage2007Oklahoma State7N/AN
Jerry Seymour2004Central Michigan7N/AN
Darius Walker2005Notre Dame7N/AN
Jonathan Ward2019Central Michigan7N/A
Kerwynn Williams2012Utah State77thN
Ameer Abdullah2013Nebraska62ndN
Cam Akers2019Florida State6N/A
Leon Allen2014Western Kentucky6N/AN
Alex Barnes2018Kansas State6N/AN
Eno Benjamin2018Arizona State6N/A
Giovani Bernard2011North Carolina62ndN
Yvenson Bernard2005Oregon State6N/AN
Devontae Booker2014Utah64thN
Cornell Brockington2004Connecticut6N/AN
Reggie Bush2005Southern California61stY
Ka'Deem Carey2013Arizona64thN
Jawon Chisholm2012Akron6N/AN
Dalvin Cook2016Florida State62ndY
Mike Davis2013South Carolina64thN
Matt Dayes2016North Carolina State6N/AN
J.K. Dobbins2019Ohio State6N/A
Damion Fletcher2007Southern Mississippi6N/AN
Matt Forte2007Tulane62ndY
William Green2001Boston College61stN
Jerome Harrison2005Washington State65thN
Darrell Henderson2018Memphis63rdN
Noah Herron2004Northwestern67thN
Kareem Hunt2016Toledo63rdY
Mark Ingram2009Alabama61stY
Justin Jackson2017Northwestern67thN
Eugene Jarvis2007Kent State6N/AN
Gartrell Johnson III2008Colorado State6N/AN
Dion Lewis2009Pittsburgh65thN
Luke Lippincott2007Nevada6N/AN
Marshawn Lynch2006California61stY
Demarco McCleskey2002Cincinnati6N/AN
Jeremy McNichols2015Boise State65thN
Marcus Merriweather2002Ball State6N/AN
Zack Moss2019Utah6N/A
Isaiah Pead2011Cincinnati62ndN
Chris Perry2003Michigan61stN
Bobby Rainey2010Western Kentucky6N/AN
Joseph Randle2012Oklahoma State65thN
Tellis Redmon2000Minnesota6N/AN
Trent Richardson2011Alabama61stY
Jacquizz Rodgers2008Oregon State65thN
Larry Rose III2015New Mexico State6N/AN
Anthony Sherrell2003Eastern Michigan6N/AN
Steve Slaton2006West Virginia63rdY
Ito Smith2016Southern Mississippi64thN
Ito Smith2017Southern Mississippi64thN
Jonathan Stewart2007Oregon61stN
Rodney Stewart2010Colorado6N/AN
Tyrell Sutton2005Northwestern6N/AN
Jonathan Taylor2019Wisconsin6N/A
Stepfan Taylor2012Stanford65thN
Harvey Unga2007Brigham Young6N/AN
Trey Watts2013Tulsa6N/AN
Emmett White2000Utah State6N/AN
Emmett White2001Utah State6N/AN
Terrence Whitehead2004Oregon6N/AN
DeAngelo Williams2004Memphis61stY
Willie Alderson2000Idaho5N/AN
Chris Barclay2005Wake Forest5N/AN
Saquon Barkley2017Penn State51stY
Bryce Beall2008Houston5N/AN
Eno Benjamin2019Arizona State5N/A
Cedric Benson2004Texas51stN
Giovani Bernard2012North Carolina52ndN
Yvenson Bernard2007Oregon State5N/AN
Curtis Brown2005Brigham Young5N/AN
Donald Buckram2009Texas-El Paso5N/AN
Michael Bush2005Louisville54thN
Dalvin Cook2014Florida State52ndY
Dalyn Dawkins2017Colorado State5N/AN
J.K. Dobbins2017Ohio State5N/A
Clyde Edwards-Helaire2019Louisiana State5N/A
Tyler Ervin2015San Jose State54thN
Ciatrick Fason2004Florida54thN
David Fluellen2013Toledo5N/AN
Brock Forsey2002Boise State56thN
Kenny Gainwell2019Memphis5N/A
Quinton Ganther2005Utah57thN
Zach Gerstner2003Idaho5N/AN
Melvin Gordon2014Wisconsin51stY
Chad Hall2007Air Force57thN
Leonard Henry2001East Carolina5N/AN
Justice Hill2017Oklahoma State54thN
Nyheim Hines2017North Carolina State54thN
Kerryon Johnson2017Auburn52ndN
Larry Johnson2002Penn State51stY
Joshua Kelley2018UCLA5N/A
Dennis Kennedy2008Akron5N/AN
Keylon Kincade2002Southern Methodist5N/AN
Zach Line2011Southern Methodist5N/AN
Zach Line2012Southern Methodist5N/AN
Rafael Little2007Kentucky5N/AN
Derrick Locke2010Kentucky5N/AN
Marlon Lucky2007Nebraska5N/AN
Torrance Marable2019Coastal Carolina5N/A
Dexter McCluster2009Mississippi52ndN
LeSean McCoy2008Pittsburgh52ndY
Darren McFadden2007Arkansas51stY
Kalvin McRae2006Ohio55thN
Rashard Mendenhall2007Illinois51stY
Dicenzo Miller2000Mississippi State5N/AN
Dontrell Moore2005New Mexico5N/AN
Kevin Parks2013Virginia5N/AN
Rashaad Penny2017San Diego State51stN
Artose Pinner2002Kentucky54thN
Chris Polk2009Washington5N/AN
Bilal Powell2010Louisville54thN
Donnel Pumphrey2015San Diego State54thN
Kedrick Rhodes2011Florida International5N/AN
Ray Rice2007Rutgers52ndY
Demario Richard2015Arizona State5N/AN
Javon Ringer2007Michigan State55thN
Adam Robinson2010Iowa5N/AN
Cory Ross2004Nebraska5N/AN
Robbie Rouse2011Fresno State5N/AN
Kevin Smith2007Central Florida53rdN
Michael Smith2008Arkansas5N/AN
Curtis Steele2009Memphis5N/AN
Adonis Thomas2011Toledo5N/AN
Zurlon Tipton2012Central Michigan5N/AN
Michael Turner2003Northern Illinois55thY
Akrum Wadley2016Iowa5N/AN
Anthony Wales2016Western Kentucky5N/AN
Darius Walker2006Notre Dame5N/AN
Marteze Waller2014Fresno State5N/AN
Michael Warren II2018Cincinnati5N/AN
Marcus Whalen2002Brigham Young5N/AN
Pooka Williams2019Kansas5N/A
Garrett Wolfe2005Northern Illinois53rdN
Albert Young2005Iowa5N/AN

At first glance, we see that 22 different players hit this threshold in college and became an RB1 since 2000.

If we take out duplicate player seasons we get left with 150 unique college players to hit that number.

22 of 150 players who had at least five games in a season in college with 100+ rushing yards and 2+ receptions became an RB1 in the NFL (15%).

Knowing that a two-year or less sample size is likely hard to judge if a player is really an RB1, what happens if we exclude the 2018-2020 RB classes or players who are still in college?

We get 21 of 125 players who had at least five games in a season in college with 100+ rushing yards and 2+ receptions became an RB1 in the NFL (17%).

How are these odds when we compare it to every NFL player?

There have been 88 different RBs to have an RB1 season since 2001 out of 684 RBs total running backs to see five or more rushing attempts in a season (13%).

Simply knowing if a player hit those marks in college, we can get a ~30% better odds at hitting an RB1 season.

Knowing that it’s totally possible that some of these college RBs didn’t even take a snap in the NFL, let’s start to filter this down even more and take out some of the noise.

Accounting for Draft Capital

What happens now when we account for draft capital? Let’s include only players drafted in the first three rounds.

PlayerYearSchoolQualifying GamesDraft RoundRB1
Christian McCaffrey2016Stanford81stY
Kareem Hunt2016Toledo63rdY
Dalvin Cook2016Florida State62ndY
Ezekiel Elliott2015Ohio State81stY
Christian McCaffrey2015Stanford81stY
Tevin Coleman2014Indiana83rdN
Duke Johnson2014Miami (FL)73rdN
Melvin Gordon2014Wisconsin51stY
Dalvin Cook2014Florida State52ndY
Ameer Abdullah2013Nebraska62ndN
Giovani Bernard2012North Carolina52ndN
Ronnie Hillman2011San Diego State83rdN
Trent Richardson2011Alabama61stY
Isaiah Pead2011Cincinnati62ndN
Giovani Bernard2011North Carolina62ndN
Mark Ingram2009Alabama61stY
Dexter McCluster2009Mississippi52ndN
LeSean McCoy2008Pittsburgh52ndY
Matt Forte2007Tulane62ndY
Jonathan Stewart2007Oregon61stN
Ray Rice2007Rutgers52ndY
Rashard Mendenhall2007Illinois51stY
Kevin Smith2007Central Florida53rdN
Darren McFadden2007Arkansas51stY
Steve Slaton2006West Virginia63rdY
Marshawn Lynch2006California61stY
Brian Calhoun2005Wisconsin73rdN
Reggie Bush2005Southern California61stY
Garrett Wolfe2005Northern Illinois53rdN
J.J. Arrington2004California72ndN
DeAngelo Williams2004Memphis61stY
Cedric Benson2004Texas51stN
Steven Jackson2003Oregon State91stY
DeAngelo Williams2003Memphis91stY
Chris Perry2003Michigan61stN
Willis McGahee2002Miami (FL)81stY
Larry Johnson2002Penn State51stY
William Green2001Boston College61stN

Since their sample size is small, we’re only including running backs who played at least three NFL seasons.

With the remaining players, 19 of the 34 running backs hit at least one RB1 season (56%)!

When we compare that to all RBs drafted in the top three rounds in which 30% of all RBs drafted in that range become a RB1, this exercise almost doubles our chances of hitting an RB1 season!

When we change the definition of an RB1 season from 230+ fantasy points to only 200+ fantasy points, we see a much higher success rate. 24 of the 34 players had at least one season of 200+ fantasy points. (71%). Tevin Coleman is worthy of a mention here – he just narrowly missed the threshold as he had two seasons within 10 points of hitting 200 PPR points.

What happens when we narrow it down even further and add a variable like weight?

PlayerYearSchoolQualifying GamesDraft RoundRB1200+ PPR SeasonWeight
Steven Jackson2003Oregon State91stYY240
Jonathan Stewart2007Oregon61stNY240
Willis McGahee2002Miami (FL)81stYY235
Larry Johnson2002Penn State51stYY235
Trent Richardson2011Alabama61stYY228
Ezekiel Elliott2015Ohio State81stYY228
Cedric Benson2004Texas51stNY227
Chris Perry2003Michigan61stNN224
Matt Forte2007Tulane62ndYY221
Kareem Hunt2016Toledo63rdYY216
Melvin Gordon2014Wisconsin51stYY215
Marshawn Lynch2006California61stYY215
Mark Ingram2009Alabama61stYY215
William Green2001Boston College61stNN214
J.J. Arrington2004California72ndNN212
Tevin Coleman2014Indiana83rdNN210
Rashard Mendenhall2007Illinois51stYY210
LeSean McCoy2008Pittsburgh52ndYY210
Kevin Smith2007Central Florida53rdNY210
Duke Johnson2014Miami (FL)73rdNY210
Darren McFadden2007Arkansas51stYY210
Dalvin Cook2016Florida State62ndYY210
Dalvin Cook2014Florida State52ndYY210
DeAngelo Williams2003Memphis91stYY207
DeAngelo Williams2004Memphis61stYY207
Reggie Bush2005Southern California61stYY205
Giovani Bernard2011North Carolina62ndNY205
Giovani Bernard2012North Carolina52ndNY205
Christian McCaffrey2016Stanford81stYY205
Christian McCaffrey2015Stanford81stYY205
Ameer Abdullah2013Nebraska62ndNN203
Brian Calhoun2005Wisconsin73rdNN202
Ronnie Hillman2011San Diego State83rdNN200
Isaiah Pead2011Cincinnati62ndNN197
Steve Slaton2006West Virginia63rdYY195
Ray Rice2007Rutgers52ndYY195
Garrett Wolfe2005Northern Illinois53rdNN171
Dexter McCluster2009Mississippi52ndNN165

22 of the 26 players who weighed 205 or more lbs. had at least one season over 200+ fantasy points (85%)!

15 of those 26 players went on to have multiple seasons with 200+ fantasy points (58%).

It’s important to note that five separate players came within 15 fantasy points of having multiple seasons of 200+ fantasy points.

If we change the threshold to multiple seasons of 185+ PPR points we get a much better hit rate as 20 of the 26 players were able to have multiple seasons above 185 PPR points (77%).

Note that Dalvin Cook is included as a miss in this threshold and seems likely to become a hit.

We obviously knew that draft capital is important for RBs as 62 of 143 RBs drafted in the first three rounds since 2001 had at least one season of 200+ PPR points (43%).

All players over 205 lbs. and had top-three round draft capital, 56 of 123 RBs had at least one season of 200+ PPR points (46%).

Now when we add RBs who had at least 5 games in a college season with 100+ rushing yards and 2+ receptions, weighed 205 or more lbs., and had top-three round draft capital, we get 22 of the 26 players who have at least one season of 200+ PPR points (85%).

Who Fits the Criteria?

Now let’s look at the running backs who fit this criterion in the 2018 and 2019 RB classes:

PlayerYearSchoolQualifying GamesDraft RoundRB1200+ PPR SeasonWeightMultiple 200+ PPR seasons
Royce Freeman2015Oregon83rdNN238N
Saquon Barkley2017Penn State51stYY233Y
Rashaad Penny2017San Diego State51stNN220N
Kerryon Johnson2017Auburn52ndNN211N
Darrell Henderson2018Memphis63rdNN208N

Saquon Barkley

Through two seasons Saquon has already hit, as he has finished as an RB1 in both of the seasons in which he has played. He remains one of the best running backs in the game.

Royce Freeman

Freeman entered the NFL as an excellent prospect but was unfortunately paired with electric rookie Phillip Lindsay. With Lindsay taking the league by storm as a rookie, Freeman took a backseat. Last year we saw Freeman’s role increase in the passing game as he caught 43 receptions.

Clearly, Freeman’s value takes a hit with Melvin Gordon signing with Denver, but this should make Freeman super cheap in dynasty leagues. If we look at all RBs who weighed over 205 lbs. and rushed for over 400 yards and caught 40 balls within their 1st two seasons of their career, we see Royce Freeman’s name amongst a plethora of RB1s and superstar RBs.

Rashaad Penny

Penny was another great running back prospect who checked nearly all of the boxes in terms of athleticism, college production, and first-round draft capital. Frustratingly Penny was paired with Chris Carson, who has turned out to be an excellent player in his own right.

From an efficiency standpoint, here are some running backs that Penny comps to after two seasons in the league.

Clearly his production lacks behind everybody, but he was also the highest-drafted running back on the list. Penny is currently recovering from an ACL injury in which could hinder the start of his season next year, but Penny remains an intriguing RB that we should be looking to acquire cheap in dynasty leagues.

 

His 13th round ADP makes his upside worth the cost of acquisition at this point and even if he doesn’t come to full form in Year 3, he could potentially be a Year 4 breakout. We’re seen Year 4 breakouts in the past from highly drafted RBs like Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram.

Kerryon Johnson

Kerryon’s first two years in the league are complete opposites. As a rookie, he was wildly efficient in the rushing game and caught a lot of balls in his limited time playing before his season ended due to injury.

Last year his rushing efficiency went down to way below league average, but his receiving efficiency jumped in limited opportunities. Obviously, injuries have played a major factor in Kerryon’s career so far as he has yet to play more than 10 games in a season, but what he has done through his first two seasons in the league at his young age shouldn’t be discounted.

Kerryon has some very enticing comparables after two years in the league. He is the least productive in both the rushing and passing game among this list, but from an efficiency standpoint, he compares closest to Christian McCaffrey and LeSean McCoy.

Kerryon’s young age of only 23 at the start of next season makes him an attractive dynasty target as his upside is tremendous.

While the dynasty community is still holding onto the promise of his upside, his ADP is reasonable given his injury history and the chance that Detroit adds more competition during the rest of free agency or in the draft.

Darrell Henderson

Henderson didn’t do much as a rookie as he saw both Malcolm Brown and Todd Gurley take snaps ahead of him. His efficiency numbers weren’t as promising as we would like, but it was a small sample size. With Gurley gone, Henderson should step into a role in which he will be receiving many more touches.

While his dynasty ADP hasn’t corrected yet for the release of Gurley, we should soon see him become a top 100 dynasty asset and there are plenty of reasons why you should buy him.

2020 Class 

PlayerYearSchoolQualifying GamesWeight
Jonathan Taylor2019Wisconsin6226
Michael Warren II2018Cincinnati5224
Zack Moss2019Utah6223
Cam Akers2019Florida State6217
Joshua Kelley2018UCLA5212
J.K. Dobbins2019Ohio State6209
J.K. Dobbins2017Ohio State5209
Eno Benjamin2018Arizona State6207
Eno Benjamin2019Arizona State5207
Clyde Edwards-Helaire2019Louisiana State5207
Jonathan Ward2019Central Michigan7206
Dalyn Dawkins2017Colorado State5183

As we can see, this class has lots of playmakers at the running back position. If we sort by weight, we see that 9/10 fit the threshold for weight. Out of those nine, it seems like Jonathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins, and Cam Akers are near locks to be drafted inside the top 3 rounds. Guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Zack Moss, and Eno Benjamin seem like probable day two picks.

This just cements that not only are Taylor, Dobbins, and Akers premier talents, but one could argue that these are the top three backs in this draft class. Keep these players in mind during the NFL draft as their likelihood to become an RB1 skyrockets if they get drafted within the first three rounds.

Note that both Eno Benjamin and J.K. Dobbins hit the threshold two times. Only four other players were able to do this and all four had multiple seasons over 185 PPR points. Benjamin has been sliding under the radar due to these top backs, but he certainly presents a profile that can become an RB1. He should become a nice value in rookie drafts if you’re looking for an RB to draft in the 2nd round.

This is a fun and unique way to look at RB prospects from a statistical perspective. Clearly, the data shows that these players have a much higher probability of success in the NFL if they hit these thresholds. This obviously doesn’t mean that players who don’t hit these marks won’t become successful, but rather that we should focus our attention and target these players in rookie drafts granted that they receive the necessary draft capital we are targeting.

Big shoutout to College Football Reference for the data that makes this all possible.

If you aren’t already, make sure to follow me on twitter at @DaltonGuruFF where you won’t want to miss daily content about these upcoming prospects and much more. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps with your process in your rookie drafts!