Athletic Aptitude Battery™ (A2B™) 2016 Running Backs

In this entry, we are going to take a look at the running back position. Based on prior draft classes, running backs fall into 4 Player Types.


All Around: This group is defined by RBs that are above average across all athletic domains (Adrian Peterson).
Slow Bruisers: This group had RBs that are big and explosive but severely lacking in speed. It is rare that a player falls in this group and there is not a single notable “Slow Bruiser” RB since 2000.
Low SEP Athletes: These RBs are excellent athletes with above average speed but tend to be smaller or have less explosion, which results in lower Size Explosion Power [SEP] scores (CJ Spiller).
Low Athleticism: These RBs have limited athletic ability. There are a few highly drafted RBs that fell in this group (Mark Ingram).

Historically, the “All Around” running backs have had the best NFL outcomes (by far), although there are some “Low SEP Athletes” that have performed well (especially as returners). The athletic profiles of “Slow Bruisers” and “Low Athleticism” have not translated well to the NFL.


  • The 2016 class of running backs consists of “All Around”, “Low SEP Athletes”, and “Low Athleticism” RBs.
  • There are no “Slow Bruisers” in the 2016 class.


Next, we will take a look at the top 5 RB prospects based on their A2B™ NFL Potential scores as running backs…


For comparison, here are some recent NFL RBs with high A2B™ NFL RB Potential scores.


We can also take a look at which prospects have athletic profiles well-suited to return kick or punts in the NFL.


Similar the RB potential, there are many successful NFL players that scored well on this A2B™ Returner metric.


Looking at the 2016 RB class, a few things pop out.

  1. The 2016 running back class has a fair number of players with good NFL potential based on their A2B™ athletic profiles.
    • Some of these RBs are highly ranked by experts such as Henry and Elliot.
    • Others RBs in our Top 5 list are not as highly ranked and may represent good value depending on their draft position.
  2. Running backs can have good NFL Potential for different reasons.
    • For example, Marshall is fast whereas Henry is a pretty rare combination of size and athleticism.
  3. Overall athleticism ≠ NFL RB potential.
    • Tyler Ervin had the best Overall Athleticism score in the 2016 class (99), but does not rank in the top 10 in terms of the A2B™ NFL RB Potential Metric. He does, however, show good NFL Potential as a returner.
  4. Running backs do not always fall neatly into A2B™ Player Types
    • For instance, Derrick Henry is listed as an “All Around” RB, but we are not very confident in this categorization (confidence score of 62). This is because Henry cannot be easily categorized due to his unique combination of size and athleticism. Clearly, his NFL RB Potential score shows he is a good prospect though.
  5. Marshal and Lasco are intriguing prospects because they rank highly as both running backs and returners. They are worth a closer look based on their athletic profiles, especially since they are not top-ranked backs.


Well, that’s it for running backs. Moving to the defensive end position next.