Before you start reading this article, please think about who you believe the top five running backs in the NFL are. What if I told you that I have a formula that has predicted that Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren McFadden, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and Reshard Mendenhall all had the tools to be great players?


The NFL Combine is one of the most intriguing events in the NFL off season and it brings together all of the best NFL Draft prospects to showcase themselves to the world. Every prospect at the combine will get their chance to be interviewed by teams, and every prospect will get to show their athletic abilities, but the most talked about thing that comes from the combine is the 40 yard dash time. The 40-time can make or break your draft stock and can mean millions of dollars. Guys like Chris Johnson and  Darrius Heyward-Bey became first rounders after their 40-times while others have seen their stock plummet.

While the 40-time is a good example of speed and player quality it often is very misleading. For some positions there are segments of the 40-time like the 10-yard split that matter the most because while Mark Ingram didn't have the best 40-time this year, he had the best 10-yard dash which means he is the quickest in the draft to go ten yards.

There are other variables as well. A guy that runs a 4.34 time is not actually faster than one that runs a 4.41, but some over react like they do. Also, a guy that runs a 4.30 who is only 5'7 and 195 pounds isn't as speedy as someone who is 6'1 and 210 pounds who runs a 4.39 time.

When I started to follow the draft years ago I developed a formula to utilize the 40-time of a running back as only a piece of the puzzle on whether or not they will become a top notch player. While it is not a perfect technique, it has been more efficient than just looking at a single time. The formula (which we will just call the Draft Maven Score) is the multiple of the players height (in inches) and weight divided by the square of the 40-time. What that basically means for you non-math nerds is that I take the players weight and height into comparison with the 40-time.

You may ask yourself why any of this matters. It matters because often times the 40-time is given too much value and the player's size has no factor in the conversation. Teams have been over-valuing that run fast instead of looking at the player size. CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best both ran under 4.40 seconds last year in the combine but neither of them are over 6 feet tall, nor weigh 200 pounds. Maybe both of them will become future hall of fame runners, but my formula wouldn't say so.

I took the DM Scores for the three first rounders of last season as well as a certain Packer running back that shined in the post season. As you can see on the chart, the best of the four in 2010 was James Starks who arguably had the most promising rookie season despite showing up late to the party because of injury.

There weren't many great runners that have come out in 2009 (A few first rounders but few that you could say have been overly good), but in 2008 there were a ton of great players. I did only a few of the big name runners and five of the best in the league had a score over 750. Adrian Peterson in 2007 had an 818 and to go back into the history books LaDainian Tomlinson had an 803. If you break down players with the formula, often times the best ones are built strong, are very fast for their size and have some height.

Unfortunately there are some flaws to the formula. I haven't found many short or small players that have come in with a high score. Even Chris Johnson was only a 770 which is very good, but his weight threw his score down a little bit. To his credit he runs like a 210 pounder, but the score doesn't tell everything. It is also unfair to some players like those that are 1st round players because of experience, program and other aspects. Even with the formula being nearly 800 for James Starks I wouldn't have picked him in the first four rounds of the draft because of injury, program he played for and because his upside looked to be minimal to be an early pick.

Some will say that Darren McFadden and Matt Forte aren't even top-5 runners in the league but they are players with bad offensive lines, with some injury problems, and players that have shown flashes of brilliance.

Finally I have taken the DM Score for eleven guys that are in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. As you can see Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams and Shane Vereen are in the middle of the rankings. Ingram's number would be much higher if I could find and incorporate the 10-yard split numbers, but his 40-time was not enough to put him high. Shane Vereen ironically had the same 736 score that his former teammate Jahvid Best had in 2010, but from experience I think that Best overcompensated while Vereen is good and balanced.

The bottom of the list of guys is made up with very short, light runners who didn't run an overwhelming 40-time, and traditionally there aren't many short, light, averaged speed rushers in the league. Finally the top of the list is made up of four men that all become sleepers in my eyes. Delone Carter and Da'Rel Scott bother were mid-to-late sleepers in my eyes because of some things they have shown in the past, but they are not great prospects to take early. Mikel Leshoure is the best of the big name prospects and he arguably is the best overall prospect in the draft. Finally DeMarco Murray is technically the best of the bunch by being just a hair (if he gained a pound it would push him over) under 800 points which legitimizes him in my eyes as a solid overall day two pick. He has great speed for his size and at times has shown that he could be an every down back. He does however have some injury issues and he might need to add some bulk to withstand hits. I like him as a big day two sleeper though.