Drafting Running Backs: A Patriots Case Study

Stevan Ridley Patriots RB

When the Patriots drafted Stevan Ridley, what measurables were they looking for?

NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed

Bill Belichick may not draft running backs often, but when he does he knows what he’s looking for.

Since the Hoodie took over in 2000, the Patriots have drafted just seven running backs, which includes two last season.

As part of our continuing Patriots Case Study series, I am going to dissect exactly what those attributes are that the Patriots seem to be looking for.

The Patriots have taken running backs all over the draft board, taking one in the first round (Laurence Maroney), one in the second round (Shane Vereen), two in the third round (J.R. Redmond, Stevan Ridley), one in the fourth round (Cedric Cobbs), one in the sixth round (Justise Hairston) and one in the seventh round (Antwoine Womack). As you may have noticed, they haven’t been extremely successful with any of these picks. Other than Ridley and Vereen, who we don’t know about yet, Maroney was the most successful with 49 career games played and 17 starts. J.R. Redmond played in 50 games starting six and Cedric Cobbs appeared in five games. That’s it. Hairston and Womack never played in an NFL game.

There’s reason to be excited about both Ridley and Vereen though. Ridley started two games for the Patriots carrying the ball 87 times for 441 yards, one touchdown and a 5.1 average yards per carry. He flashed some issues holding onto the ball, but he definitely showed enough in his rookie year for the Patriots to allow BenJarvus Green-Ellis to walk.

Vereen didn’t get as many opportunities, but he showed some impressive burst in his limited action vs. KC and Philly.

Even after taking both Ridley and Vereen last year, the Patriots will likely be looking to take another RB in the draft, or signing one in free agency. Going into the season with two unproven 2nd year players and a third down back seems a bit risky for Belichick.

Even with their limited success, Belichick does seem to have a pattern he follows when looking to draft a RB. I’ll go through those now.

HEIGHT

Patriots RB draft picks range from 5’10 ¼” (Vereen) to 6’0 ¾” (Hairston). Four of the seven picks have been 5’11”. That’s the typical range for an NFL RB, and Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk have proved that Belichick is not opposed to having shorter RBs on his roster.

WEIGHT

Patriots RB draft picks range from 210 (Vereen, Hairston) to 225 (Ridley). Once again, not much of a range there. Three players (Redmond, Womack, Maroney) are right in the 215 range. Again, that’s the typical range for an NFL RB.

ARM/HAND SIZE

With limited measurements available, Vereen had the shortest arms at 30.7” and Ridley had the longest at 31.9. All of Pats RBs who had their hands measured were between 9” and 9.4”.

40 TIME

This is where we finally see a bit more of a range. Antoine Womack was the fastest with a 4.46 40, while Cedric Cobbs was the slowest at 4.75. The average is right around J.R. Redmond’s 4.50 flat. 40 time isn’t the most important when it comes to RBs. Game breaking plays are nice to have, but what you really want is a short burst at the line of scrimmage to get through holes.

10 YARD SPLIT

Here’s where things get very interesting, four players have had ten yard splits recorded, three (Cobbs, Hairston, Vereen) ran 1.56 while Stevan Ridley ran 1.60. That might be the biggest thing that Belichick, and many other decision makers, are looking for when drafting RBs. A sudden burst and fast acceleration.

20 yard splits show a pattern as well, but Cobbs sticks out with a 2.71 compared to 2.58, 2.65 and 2.66 from Vereen, Hairston and Ridley.

VERTICAL JUMP

J.R. Redmond had the worst vert with 32.5”, while Cedric Cobbs had the best at 40”. 36” seems to be the average. A 36” vertical is proabbly a little over the league average for a RB. Vertical jump is not only good for going up and getting passes, but it also shows explosion.

BROAD JUMP

Broad jumps range from 115 (9’7” Vereen) to 123” (10’3” Cobbs, Maroney). The average is right around 120 (10’0”). Once again, that’s above average for an NFL running back. Broad jump is another workout that measures explosion.

SHORT SHUTTLE

This is another workout with a small range in times. Four RBs were clocked and they range from 4.15 (Hairston) to 4.28 (Vereen). This is another drill that measures sudden burst.

3 CONE

Only Hairston, Ridley and Vereen were timed. The times range from 6.78 to 6.95. Those are all great times for the 3 cone, which measures change of direction.

BENCH

Only Maroney, Ridley and Vereen were tested. There’s a range of 18-31 reps. Upper body strength is fine, but the real important strength to have as an RB is in your legs.

CAREER STARTS

No Patriots RB draft pick has ever started more than nineteen games. That’s pretty significant. Half of the RBs that tested at the combine this year started over 19 games. Vereen tops out the list at 19 while Ridley only started nine games at LSU.

UNDERCLASSMEN

With other positions, Belichick seems to avoid underclassmen, such is not the case for RBs. Maroney, Ridley and Vereen were all juniors when they left their respective colleges. That at least partially explains the low career start totals.

CAREER CARRIES

Laurence Maroney had the most career carries with 660, Hairston had only 190 career carries at Central Connecticut. There’s not a major pattern as far as career carries goes, like there appears to be for career starts.

CAREER RECEPTIONS

This one I found very interesting. Shane Vereen is the only Pats RB pick to have more than 26 career college receptions. Vereen had almost three times as many at 74. I figured Belichick would always look for players who could catch the ball out of the backfield, but that’s not the case.

Of course, when we’re only talking about seven total picks, these are all small samples. But when we see the same numbers repeating, it is telling.

I’ll have my response to this column later in the week showing which RB prospects the Patriots may be interested in.

Tags: 40 time, NFL Combine, running backs, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley

19 Responses to “Drafting Running Backs: A Patriots Case Study”

  1. PageEller says:

    Interesting stuff Doug..thanks. 2 things that jumped out for me were Vereen’s 31 reps on the bench, and Maroney’s Wonderlic score of…30 !!??

    Recall this choice Maroney nugget..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAY0ISAWMW4&feature=related

  2. Dan says:

    NFL Network yesterday mentioned that Shea McClellin has had 3 concussions. I would say that will easily keep him out of the first round, and probably the first half of the 2nd. He’s already a marginal athlete being discussed in the 1st (and I love the player), but if he has this issue he’s going to slip….especially a linebacker with head issues.
    I wouldn’t touch him till the mid rounds (if this is real info).

  3. Sco508 says:

    Um, No!
    They won’t draft another running back in this years draft. Value! BB Is Value !!! BB is going best bang for his buck as is the “Patriot Way” Don’t be surprised if we walk away with a Top Rated OL wich undoubtly will drop or i could see a WR like Kendel Wright being the pick . Unless Poe is 2nd coming of H.Nagta i can’t see BB drafting RB unless he drops down wich he undoubtly will unless we can move up and get Cox who IMO is the only D-lineman in the draft that’s Grades out as #1 pick and it’s real close he plays like a cannon ball and can Flail his way to far up feild but is a heck of a hitter and can contain as well as get up field. Poe is a Major Bust Waiting to Happen !!!.Work out worriers very rarely make it in NFL upper body streagth is only 1/2 seeing Punch/DB- is Hand forarm Lower body is Key to Burst ! he spends 3/4 of football on gropund wich is to much for me Tip for Poe to be 1st round Prospect for NFL Keep Head /Helmet up!

  4. Mark says:

    I say give Brockers the ball. Let’s invent the first 300 pound running back. Shea can be his fullback. Hey the Giants had Jacobs and look how awesome he turned…oh wait…

  5. Nuf Ced says:

    Welcome to New England Doug Martin

    Height (in) | Weight (lbs) | 40 Yard | Bench Press
    69 223 4.55 28

    Vert Leap (in) | Broad Jump (in) | Shuttle | 3Cone
    36.0 120 4.16 6.79

  6. Nuf Ced says:

    I want a flyer on this guy / Granted not great measurables but this is one of those gut feelings

    Tauren Poole / Tennessee
    Height: 5-10
    Weight: 205
    Arm: 29 3/4
    Hand: 8

    40 Yard Dash: 4.54 seconds
    20 Yard Dash: N/A seconds
    10 Yard Dash: N/A seconds
    Bench Press: 24 reps (225 lb)
    Vertical Leap: 34.0 inches
    Broad Jump: 118 inches
    Shuttle: 4.19
    Three Cone: 7.36

    • Ken W says:

      Im with you. high character guy too. 4-5 round, why not?

      Runs hard, good combo of speed and power.

  7. Dan says:

    I’m hoping if he does pick a running back he does better than he has in the past. Ridley looks like a player and I am a believer in Vereen. So, maybe he’s on a streak of some kind.
    The problem with drafting a rookie is they will have a backfield with two 2nd year players, one who will essentially be a rookie in Vereen, and Woodhead. So, you would think they would want some veteran talent to round things out…add some depth.

    • Mark says:

      Maroney was doing okay until he got his first major injury. After that he was always skittish at hard contact. Even in some of his interviews when he was healing up, he mentions that his priority is to avoid injury.

      • Dan says:

        That worked out well for him & us (The Pats & Pats fans)…good strategy for a running back, avoid any contact and get cut from the league…brilliant!
        Didn’t he want to be an actor? I’m sure he’ll be on the red carpet soon.

        • Mark says:

          BB was patient, I would have cut him much sooner. I was wondering if anyone else noticed a difference – not that he was a star coming out of gate.

  8. TD says:

    Bernard Pierce, from Temple U, 3rd Round

  9. Bill says:

    I wouldn’t mind drafting a 220+ lb down hill runner to move the chains. Those younger guys are fast and powerful. And that always seems like an art that doesn’t always improve with experience

  10. Jim R says:

    Compared to other needs I find it hard to believe the Pats will draft a RB. UFA is the way to go for a RB this year

  11. Andrew says:

    The Patriots were prepared to draft RB Steven Jackson in 2004, but Wilfork fell to them at #21 overall. (War Room)

    Jackson is a big RB (6’2″, 240 lbs), so I don’t think it would be out of the question for Belichick to draft a bigger running back.

    • Doug Kyed says:

      He was 6’1 1/2″ 231 coming out, so he’s not that far off from the measurements.

      • Ryan says:

        Dough-
        Where was Ridley over all rated last year by NEPD? Was he taken a few rounds early?

        Would it be conceivable to take a bigger back in this draft?






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