2015 NFL Draft: Running Back Speed Scores

The 2015 NFL draft-eligible crop of running back is one of the best in years. With the draft still being 9 months away, and the combine slowly creeping up at 6 months, it’s hard to gauge what could change to these prospects draft stocks in that time. A formula, though — one created by FootballOutsiders.com — tells us how a running back’s height and weight can help decipher how impressive his 40-yard dash/speed actually is. This is called the Speed Score. These scores typically fall for an average tailback around 100, and the elite go up into the 110’s.

Here is the formula for the Speed Score, via Football Outsiders: (Weight x 200)/(40 time^4).

With the previously mentioned combine not happening yet, I had to dig around to find some prospect’s official 40 times from either practices or events. I stumbled upon NFLDraftScout.com — which is a great site, by the way, for draft nerds — which has each prospect’s best and worst 40 time, which are divided to find the average. For the 2015 class, these averages are the numbers that were used for my Speed Score calculations.

Below, I created a bar graph for my top seven prospects’ Speed Scores. Those players are, in alphabetical order, as follows: Tevin Coleman (Indiana, JR), Mike Davis (South Carolina, JR), Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin, RS JR), Todd Gurley (Georgia, JR), Duke Johnson (Miami, JR), Karlos Williams (Florida State, SR) and T.J. Yeldon (Alabama, JR).


Williams, a key component of the defending national champion Seminoles’ roster, comes in first with a blazing Speed Score of 116.9. This would have topped last year’s Speed Score leader, Damien Williams of Oklahoma, who only had a total of 113.2. For a 219 pound back to run a 4.42 40 shows how truly elite Williams’ (Florida State) speed is.

Two other runners that scored well are T.J. Yeldon (110.2) and Todd Gurley (109.2), who are the bell cow backs of the dominant SEC conference. Both backs have the tendency to shed tons of tackles per game, and adding in their speed into the equation should make both first round picks come May. (It would be the first time two running backs were taken in the first round since 2012, where there were three selected.)

One name that disappointed big-time in the Speed Score category is Tevin Coleman. His averaged 40 time of 4.62 was significantly lower than the six others put through the formula. Coleman, who led the NCAA in 40+ yard runs with 8, is known as being one of the most explosive backs in the country. Also, Coleman led the NCAA in highlight yards, too, with 12.0 yards per opportunity — which was described by Bill Connelly in SB Nation’s team preview series. I’m interested to see how Coleman carries his momentum into this season, even with a surprisingly low Speed Score.

The Speed Score is a big determining factor with how successful a college running back should translate his success to the pros. Adding on to this football-related metric, I will be debuting a new formula similar to this one later on in the week on not only tailbacks, but wide receivers as well.

About Evan Sidery

Evan Sidery is the Editor of Analytics Game and an intern for 1260 WNDE. Evan has previously written on platforms such as SB Nation, Sheridan Hoops, and multiple USA TODAY partners.