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Jaylen Wright

Will high YPC translate into NFL success?

It will be interesting to see where Tennessee back Jaylen Wright goes in the draft. I've seen him ranked all over the map in different previews -- as early one of the top 2 or 3 players at the position, as late as barely in the top 10. Not much consensus.

Part of a committee backfield, he averaged just 142 carries the last two years, never really putting up huge numbers. But he stood out last year, turning his 137 attempts into 1,013 yards -- that's 7.4 yards per attempt. That was a lot better than the team's two other backs with 95-plus carries (both in the 5.0-5.7 area). He then went to the combine and ran a 4.38. I'm not certain that's enough to get him drafted on Day 2, with the way running backs aren't valued these days, but I think Round 3 is a possibility.

Regarding that 7.4 figure, I was curious as to whether backs with that kind of average in their final year of college, then drafted in the first three rounds, went on to be successful in the pros.

In the last 20 years, there have been 16 other running backs who averaged at least 7.0 yards per carry in their final year of college (minimum 100 rushing attempts), then went on to be selected in the first three rounds. The biggest hits were higher-valued prospects -- guys selected a lot earlier than Wright probably will be.

Table shows those 16 previous backs, with their final year of college rushing stats plus their best NFL season (including fantasy ranking in PPR leagues). The five guys who went on to post a top-10 season included four first-round picks and a second-rounder.

Of the third-rounders, which is where I anticipate Wright being drafted, there were a couple of top-30 seasons, but both players (Tevin Coleman and Darrell Henderson) would be considered disappointments. Indeed, virtually all of the second- and third-round guys to post that kind of rushing average in college haven't done much in the NFL.

RUNNING BACKS AVERAGING 7 YPC IN COLLEGE, 2003-2024
DraftRdPlayerAttRunYPCBestRunRecTDRk
20151Todd Gurley, St.L.1239117.420171305788191
20031Larry Johnson, K.C.27120877.720061789410193
20151Melvin Gordon, S.D.34325877.520171105476125
20061Reggie Bush, N.O.20017408.72013100650677
20142Carlos Hyde, S.F.20815217.3201793835088
20212Javonte Williams, Den.15711407.32021903316717
20153Tevin Coleman, Atl.27020367.52018800276918
20081Felix Jones, Dall.13311628.72010800450223
20193Darrell Henderson, LAR21419098.92021688176827
20181Sony Michel, N.E.15612277.92021845128531
20181Rashaad Penny, Sea.28922487.8202174948642
20232Zach Charbonnet, Sea.19513597.02023462209145
20113Alex Green, G.B.14611998.22012464125053
20052J.J. Arrington, Ariz.28920187.02005370139253
20213Trey Sermon, S.F.1168707.5202316013092
20122LaMichael James, S.F.24718057.32012125290116
2024?Jaylen Wright, ???13710137.4??????????

Wright's 4.38 is one of the faster times put up by those running backs. Former San Francisco second-rounder LaMichael James (4.35) was the only other guy in this group to run a sub-4.4 at the combine; most were in the 4.5-4.6 range. That's a plus.

That explosiveness when there's a hole shows up on his tape. (He was a track star in high school.) Doesn't look really powerful (he's 5-11, 210, so decent size) but seems to have good balance and ability to spin off tackles and keep going. Wasn't used a ton in the passing game (22 catches for 141 yards last year), but looks like he can do it.

I'm thinking 3rd-4th round pick and probably used as part of a tandem; ideally (for those who select him) in an offense like say the Lions. Maybe I'm underestimating him; another Tennessee back, Alvin Kamara, has held up pretty well as a starter. In general, I think landing spot will help how interested I am in selecting him. A few days from now, we'll find out.

--Andy Richardson

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