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2022 NFL Draft Player Comparisons: South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong Jr. profiles as an efficient runner and receiver out of the backfield

South Dakota State's Pierre Strong, Jr. slips out of the grasp of North Dakota State's James Kaczor during the Dakota Marker rivalry game on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at the Fargodome in Fargo. Dakota Marker 005

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

Pierre Strong Jr. wasn’t commonly a part of “fan” mock drafts until after his breakout performance at the 2022 NFL Combine, where he posted a class-best 4.37-second 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical and a 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump.

The South Dakota State product also posted a 6.95-second three-cone drill at his Pro Day. He currently has the 14th-ranked expected NFL draft position among running backs and has been mocked by experts as early as the fourth round.

At 207 pounds, Strong doesn’t have ideal workhorse size but is plenty big enough to fill a substantial receiving role with upside as a runner. He's an older prospect leaving school after his redshirt senior season, but he was highly productive early in his college career, compiling nearly 2,500 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns during his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons.

After a shortened 2020 season due to COVID, Strong returned last year with his best year, rushing for nearly 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns at an outstanding efficiency rate of 7.0 yards per carry.

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