NFL News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Notre Dame's Audric Estime is the ultimate sleeper in the 2024 NFL Draft

2RW3D7N Notre Dame's Audric Estime (7) celebrates as he scores during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Central Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

Notre Dame RB prospect Audric Estime has an ideal frame and production profile, but he’s often left outside of the top-five running back rankings: Despite a well-rounded skillset and a proven track record at a major college program, analysts have concern regarding Estime’s long-speed.

• Those speed concerns were only reinforced with a disappointing 4.71-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine: Even despite the poor performance in the 40-yard dash, Estime performed well in other athletic testing metrics like the vertical and broad jumps. Are analysts overrating the importance of the 40? 

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One of the most popular pre-draft tropes this offseason has been that the 2024 NFL Draft is not a strong one for running backs. On the one hand, it’s a fair assessment. Broadly speaking, the prospects in this running back class don’t have the complete package. The best athletes don’t always have the best production profiles to match. The analytics don’t always love the most productive running backs. The most productive running backs didn’t always test well. While it might be frustrating to evaluate these prospects at face value, some of the prospects certainly have the opportunity to break out. 

That brings me to Notre Dame running back Audric Estime – one of the most productive running backs in the Power Five who somehow isn’t being ranked inside the top five of most fantasy analysts’ rankings… but who just so happens to rank as the RB3 for both myself and fellow PFF analyst Jon Macri.

So, what gives? Why are Jon and I so high on Estime in comparison to consensus dynasty rookie draft rankings, where he sits as the RB7 overall? I’ll spill the beans. Here’s some insight as to why Notre Dame running back Audric Estime is the most undervalued fantasy football asset in this draft class before he’s even drafted.

Audric Estime checks most of the boxes in terms of size, production and stable rushing metrics

Coming out of Notre Dame, Estime checks just about every box in terms of size — he’s the perfect build for an NFL running back. Coming in at just over 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds, Estime’s got a thick frame with plenty of length with 32 ⅜-inch arms and monstrous 10 ¼-inch hands. He’s led Notre Dame’s backfield in rushing in each of the past two seasons, punctuated with a 1,341-rushing yard and 18-rushing touchdown campaign in 2023. 

Year over year, Estime improved on his overall PFF rushing grade before posting a career-high 94.0 this past year, ranked second among FBS running backs (min. 200 carries) with 4.27 yards after contact per attempt and eighth in that cohort with a 30% missed forced tackle rate. 

Though he never popped off the page as a receiver, Estime proved to be a reliable outlet when called upon, catching every single one of the targets (26) while at Notre Dame. His 1.16 yards per route run ranked 91st among 229 qualifying running backs over the past two seasons. This will be an area where he can improve at the next level, though it’s not a true weakness per se, and his ability in pass protection could get him on the field sooner rather than later.

All things considered, Estime’s prototypical size for the position comes with more than just ideal play strength, demonstrated in his overall contact balance and ability to break tackles. It comes with solid vision and patience, as his ability to maneuver behind the line of scrimmage helps make up for his general lack of long speed. 

His biggest knock? The 40-yard dash time.

Unfortunately for his draft stock, Estime will live in infamy as the slowest running back in the 2024 NFL Draft class to run at the combine. He posted a 4.71-second 40-yard dash, which ranks in the 10th percentile for the position historically. Not great. That’s not to say that there aren’t any productive NFL rushers to post a slow 40 time — it’s just not as common, given that the 40-yard dash is largely indicative of play speed, and if you play slow, you’re probably not going to be all that successful at the next level. 

Carlos Hyde ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at 6 feet, 230 pounds and went on to have a productive career. Four-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro running back Arian Foster ran a 4.68 (12th percentile) and ranks inside the top 80 all-time with 6,527 career regular-season rushing yards. Current Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash and is coming off a career-high 88.4 PFF rushing grade that ranked seventh among running backs in the 2023 season, despite running behind a bottom-10 offensive line. Not all “slow” 40s look the same. After all, Estime’s 9% breakaway run rate over the past two seasons ranked in the 82nd percentile over the past two seasons – just two percent shy from DeVon Achane’s 11% breakaway run rate over the span of his collegiate career. 

Now, for the good news: though Estime’s 40-yard dash speed was disappointing, his 10-yard split (1.58s) actually ranked in the 53rd percentile for the position. The 10-yard split is a good indication of a player’s initial burst and is generally more representative of what kind of speed you should expect on most NFL plays. After all, just 55 of 15,710 rush attempts leaguewide went for 40 or more yards. 10-yard speed is much more indicative of what you’re likely to see on an every-down basis. 

All of that is to say… Estime is the real deal.

Currently sitting as the consensus RB7 in dynasty rookie running back rankings, Estime could prove to be a diamond in the rough… as long as you can politely ignore his 40-yard dash time. Speed was never the primary contributor to Estime’s ability to generate breakaway runs, anyway. The way Estime wins is through strength, power and the ability to run through contact – three traits that make him among the most intriguing prospects heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. Don’t sleep.


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