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2022 NFL Draft Player Comparisons: Alabama's Brian Robinson Jr. checks all the boxes for an NFL running back

Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4) runs the ball against Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) during the third quarter of the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Comparing current NFL draft prospects to those of years past is standard procedure in draft evaluation, though most comparisons are built on the memory recall and subjective opinion of the particular evaluator.

In this series of articles, I will compare the 2022 draft prospects to prior years and pick out the most similar comps with a clearly delineated and quantifiable method.

PFF data scientist Eric Eager has done tremendous work building college-to-pro projections, which are built off the robust college data we’ve collected since 2014 and have been applied to exercises like building an “analytics” mock draft. In this analysis, I will use some of our advanced stats for comparison but primarily rely on traditional stats to go back further and compare the 2022 prospects to draft classes since 2006.

METHODOLOGY

The comps below were derived from a two-step process. First, I converted all the most statistically relevant stats and measurables to percentiles based on the thousands of prospects who have entered the NFL since 2006.

The matching features were transformed by principal component analysis (PCA). I found the closest statistically comparable players by the Euclidean distance between the players' principle components, listed in the top 10 below.

For draft position, I’m using an estimate based on the mock data collected at GrindingTheMocks.com. The college statistical metrics for PCA are best-season market share of team total yards, market share of team touchdowns, rushing attempts per game and market share of team receptions.

I also included the most important workout metrics for NFL and draft position for running backs: weight and 40-yard dash time. I’m taking the best number from either the prospects' NFL Scouting Combine or pro-day performances. If the 40-yard dash time is missing, I estimate it based on historical modeling with weight and available other workout metrics.

MOST COMPARABLE PLAYERS

According to recent mock drafts, Brian Robinson Jr.’s draft stock has fluctuated, but that could be more a function of his uncertain status as a Day 2 pick than real shifts in opinion.

Backs such as Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III have gotten most of the hype for their outstanding NFL Combine numbers, and Robinson running a strong 4.53-second 40-yard dash at 225 pounds has gone under the radar.

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