By now you’ll be familiar with ‘SPARQ’. If not, here’s the info.
The Seahawks have a way of judging athletes and it’s probable they have their own version of SPARQ. Extreme athleticism is more important at certain positions than others — but running back appears to be an area where they value explosive traits.
That’s not to say it’s the be-all and end-all. Marshawn Lynch was characterised by his toughness and not his ability to run away from people. Spencer Ware had a similar running style and wasn’t known for great speed or lateral mobility.
Yet they’ve also been quite consistent with the running backs they’ve drafted.
Robert Turbin, Spencer Ware, Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise (all drafted between 2012-2016) are similar in size. Turbin, Ware and Michael are 5-10, Prosise is 6-0.
Prosise and Michael were listed at 220lbs at the combine. Turbin is 222lbs and Ware 228lbs.
Ware didn’t compete at the combine but the other three excelled in the following workouts:
Forty yard dash
Robert Turbin: 4.50
Christine Michael: 4.54
C.J. Prosise: 4.48
Robert Turbin: 122 inches
Christine Michael: 125 inches
C.J. Prosise: 121 inches
Robert Turbin: 36 inches
Christine Michael: 43 inches
C.J. Prosise: 35.5 inches
Robert Turbin: 4.31
Christine Michael: 4.02
C.J. Prosise: DNP
Robert Turbin: 28 reps
Christine Michael: 27 reps
C.J. Prosise: DNP
As you can see all three players share a very similar physical profile. The chances are unless the Seahawks just find another incredible specimen (basically another Lynch) they’re going to stick to these ideals. The profile of a Seattle running back is about 5-10, 220lbs with a good forty, strength and is capable of jumping through the roof.
It is possible to predict how college prospects will perform at the combine courtesy of the Nike SPARQ Combines that take place nationwide every year. Some of the top prospects participate and they go through some of the combine drills (forty, vertical, shuttle etc).
For example, Derrick Henry when he attended Yulee High School took part in the 2012 Orlando Nike Combine. He ran a 4.58 at 240lbs and recorded a 40.3 inch vertical and a 4.15 in the short shuttle.
At the 2016 NFL Combine, Henry ran a 4.54 at 247lbs, had a 37 inch vertical and a 4.38 short shuttle. The faster sprint at a greater size is probably indicative of the training he did to run the headline-grabbing forty. The slightly poorer (but still exceptional) vertical and short shuttle is probably indicative of the extra bulk.
Essentially, Henry’s excellent combine wasn’t a surprise. We could’ve forecasted it based on what happened in 2012. Not all prospects will retain or improve their athletic profile as they mature and attend an elite college but at the very least we can use it as a benchmark.
Some of the 2017 class of running backs took part in the 2013 Nike Combine series. The results are fascinating.
Florida State’s Dalvin Cook looks like a supreme athlete on the field with a great burst and the ability to be a home run hitter. Leonard Fournette is a monster and looks like a generational talent. Neither lit up the Nike workouts:
Vertical: 30.9 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.18
Vertical: 29.9 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.30
Cook’s forty time is good but at a light 196lbs (he’s listed by Florida State at 213lbs). If he’s now 17lbs heavier (debatable) how will that impact his time? A vertical of just under 31 inches is disappointing and while his short shuttle is good, will the extra size have an impact?
Fournette chose not to run a forty but only managed a vertical jump under 30 inches. His short shuttle of 4.30 is similar to Robert Turbin’s at his pro-combine and they’re a similar weight too. He’s a long way off Christine Michael’s sensational 4.02.
You can look for certain prospects using this link here. Interestingly LSU receiver Malachi Dupre had a 42.4 inch vertical (!!!). USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster on the other hand had a disappointing performance with a 4.71 forty and a 32.7 inch vertical.
Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon performed only OK. He had a 4.53 forty at 6-1 and 209lbs. His 31.3 inch vertical was disappointing but he did manage a 4.19 short shuttle. You’d expect better.
North Carolina RB Elijah Hood might be someone to monitor. He’s 6-0 and 221lbs which is right in Seattle’s ball park. He ran a 4.48 (same as Prosise) with a 4.20 short shuttle and a 36.3 inch vertical. Hood isn’t Christine Michael explosive but he has a skill set that could warrant a third or fourth round grade like Prosise.
Oregon’s Royce Freeman also did fairly well. At 5-11 and 227lbs he ran a 4.58 and managed a 33.6 inch vertical. They aren’t great numbers but his 4.07 in the short shuttle is exceptional.
I want to feature a different prospect today though.
At the 2013 Nike Combine, Georgia’s Nick Chubb put in a performance which blows away Cook and Fournette and even tops Elijah Hood’s impressive effort.
Vertical: 40.8 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.12
Chubb’s SPARQ score is an incredible 143.91. Anything over 130 is considered exceptional. He was faster than Christine Michael at a similar height/weight, as explosive in the vertical jump and had a similar shuttle time.
This isn’t just a good performance. It’s a phenomenal performance.
Nick Chubb is a rare athletic freak.
He’s currently listed at 228lbs by Georgia so he’s added weight and for that reason his numbers might suffer. There is every chance he will slim down to 220lbs for the combine in order to max out his workout.
The injury factor has to be considered. Chubb suffered a horrific knee injury a year ago and it’s unclear how this has impacted him overall. He might be incapable of the numbers he posted three years ago. We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s pretty clear though that he’s a rare beast. His SEC production and athletic profile probably would’ve led to a top-20 grade without the injury. If it causes him to fall into round two or three that will only benefit a team like the Seahawks searching for value. He might still go in round one.
Chubb ticks every box based on what the Seahawks have looked for in the past:
— Tough running style
— Size ideals (height/weight)
— Athletic profile
— Overcame adversity (injury)
The Seahawks adding another running back in 2017 isn’t unlikely. It’s looking like a decent class and they’ve done a good job over the years identifying where the value is. Michael is a free agent in 2017 and Thomas Rawls has so far been unable to stay healthy. Alex Collins had two really nice plays against Atlanta but hasn’t had much of a role despite the injuries to Rawls and Prosise.
Even if it’s just a case of needing to replace Michael, they could be in the market for a new runner.
If there’s one back they might be more likely to target than the rest in this class, keep an eye on Nick Chubb. Health permitting of course.