So, despite having loads upon loads of scouting/reserach/organizing to do for the draft and for our scouting service, I got lost in stats and research for a little while around the a decision that actually surprised myself quite a bit.
Coming off a banner year, impressive in both statisics, impact in games, and overall scouting to me, Montee Ball of Wisconsin is considering staying for his senior season.
In this draft class, Ball likely would not have been drafted in the first round. He was a fringe 2nd round guy too. But he looked like a no later than 3rd rounder, himself. While that's not too appealing, for a running back, it's about being as fresh and NFL ready as possible and work for that second NFL contract.
Without bogging you down with paragraphs and stats combined, here are a few notable stats from my research (all based on data from last 5 drafts):
-Out of the 48 running backs drafted in the Top 3 Rounds, only 15 were seniors.
-Only two seniors (Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams) were drafted in round one. Johnson after running fastest NFL combine 40 yard dash in the Combine's history. Williams after breaking career all-purpose yards record in NCAA history and ending 4th all-time on the rushing list with 6,026 yards.
-Right now, Montee Ball is at 568 carries. Only 17 of those 48 RBs drafts in the Top 3 rounds had more
-Ball has averaged 190 yards a season in his career. If he gets his average in 2012, he'll be at 758 for his career. Only EIGHT running backs had more than that.
-Ball had 307 carries in 2011. If he matches that in 2012, he'll be at 875 carries. Only THREE running backs had more than that out of 48 drafted in Top 3 rounds.
-Those THREE RBs are Kevin Smith (cut from Detroit Lions before returning for part of this season), DeAngelo Williams (injured for 20% of his career, out-carried by Jonathan Stewart over last 3 seasons), and Ray Rice (outstanding production, little injury concerns over career)
It seems like a long-shot Ball will be drafted in round one, based on his carry totals and size, only Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens has truly had NFL success that is similar to Ball.
If he hopes to win a Heisman trophy, he'll have tough odds battling Matt Barkley of USC, Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, and Landry Jones of Oklahoma, as well as maintain his carry total against fellow Badger running back talent James White.
If he hopes to win a national title, he'll have to lead his team with his quarterback, team's best receiver, three on his offensive line, his fullback , and five more on defense. Not to mention Michigan just won the Sugar Bowl, Michigan State and Wisconsin are still young, Ohio State has Urban Meyer, and Nebraska should be good in 2012.
If he hopes to be a Top 50 pick, Montee Ball will be fighting against Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, Michael Dyer of Auburn, Cierre Wood of Notre Dame, LaMichael James of Oregon, and Joseph Randle of Oklahoma State for draft position.
I don't like to question decisions on prospects staying for their senior year because I support getting an education and knowing when the "time is right.". But for a running back with NFL skills and an NFL dream, you need to get to the NFL as soon as possible before you "shelf life" comes to an end.