Football Outsiders
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ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Auburn's big back Mario Fannin sets a new Speed Score record at this year's combine. Plus: Speed Score smiles on DeMarco Murray and frowns on Mark Ingram.

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18 comments, Last at 16 Mar 2011, 10:15am

1 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

just to be a troll, and because I don't have insider and can't see if this stuff is discussed there, I found it interesting the number and extent to which the commentators on the NFL network during the combine were convinced that mark ingram's 10 and 20 yard times on his 40 were much more important than his 40 yard time. Is this data available? was it part of the analysis that created speed score? i remember a lot of variables being tested and rejected.

2 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Well, I would imagine the comments on Ingram are based on the fact that (according to what I've read) nobody expects him to be a home-run speed guy--they expect him to be a Curtis Martin or Jerome Bettis-type--by which I mean lots of productive 4-7 yd runs, nothing fancy, just keep the chains & pile going forward. Sure, even "slow" RB's have a breakaway once in a while, but nobody expects them to take an outside pitch 60 yds to the house. With Ingram, I think the commentators value his quickness to and through the hole instead of his ability to outrun the secondary after getting through the hole. Whether or not this translates to success in the NFL remains to be seen.

15 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

It's not saying they were slow backs, it's saying they weren't Jamal Charles, Chris Johnson, CJ Spiller types who regularly rip off huge gains. His argument is that like Bettis and Martin, Ingram is NOT slow, he's just not a home-run hitter. He cited Bettis and Martin as examples of players who have good burst and acceleration, the ability to stop, start, and change directions efficiently, which makes them excellent running backs.

3 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Speed score just uses 40 yard dash and weight. It's actually a pretty simple equation. I believe it is weight in pounds times 200 divided by 40 time to the 4th power.

Here is the explanation.

4 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

The initial Speed Score article (in PFP 2008) found that 10 yard times were almost as good as 40 yard times at predicting NFL success. 40 yard times had correlations of .34, .35, and .35 with DYAR, yards, and carries; 10 yard times had correlations of .33, .29, and .28. So I'd give Ingram a little boost for his 10 yard split, but I wouldn't say that it's more important than his 40 time.

Speed Score's correlations were .37, .46, and .46.

17 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

I don't know if that data is available because I don't know if it was measured. But the NFL Network showed all of the runningbacks running the 40 overlapped on one another, and Ingram's burst off the line and point to the 10 and 20 mark were much faster, in terms of actual distance from Ingram to next closest, than the others. What is remarkable is that for someone who ran a 4.62 that day would be ahead in the first 10 and 20 yards. I terms of importance, I would say that his 40 speed is not as important has his burst of the line. There are not many times in a game that a running back gets into a 40 yd foot race with other players. A running backs vision and burst is much more important than high-end speed. One must remember that RBs are patient to the hole and burst through the hole. It isn't until that happens that a RB can get into a foot race. Also, remember that the majority of the time the RB has the ball he isn't running full speed, but trying to set up blocks. The majority of the time a RB shows his speed is in the acceleration to the edge, burst through the line, and (the much less important because less frequently used) top-end speed to run away from players in the open field. Emmitt Smith was never the fastest player on the field but he is the all-time NFL leading rusher.

7 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

It might be worthwhile to note that some teams seem to choose running backs with relatively low speed scores who have done well with them. As for the Philadelphia Eagles, their two best recent backs, Westbrook and McCoy had low speed scores. Maybe it is something about that offense. On the other hand, Tony Hunt did not do so hot.

9 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

FO specifically states that Speed Score doesn't do as well with multi-purpose backs who provide a lot of their value via receiving or pass-blocking; it's pretty much something that can value a back as a runner alone. Being that Philly uses their backs heavily as receivers, it makes sense that Speed Score wouldn't be as predictive for the backs they take.

12 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Now we just need to see this combined with the POE and Highlight numbers they did last year for the +-3 system.

13 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

One of the things I've heard Mayock talk about Ingram is his performance in the 4th quarter. If I remember right, that was a trademark of Curtis Martin. I'll bet that is true of many of the great rushing backs. Their performance improved in the fourth quarter. The question then becomes 'how does the back's speed change as their number of carries increases.'

14 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Simple - the defense should be tired in the 4th quarter, so even a relatively slow back can break away some runs by then.

16 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Citing FO's very recent article on 'tiring out' defenses, shouldn't the offense be equally tired by the 4th quarter? It's not a matter of it being easier to break off big plays in the 4th quarter. It's a matter of that being the case IF the running back in question has better relative endurance than the opposing defense.

18 Re: ESPN: Speed Score 2011

Unfortunately that article didn't do any research on how fatigue effects a defense throughout a single game, so it's not much help here.