Hi guys, I’m still totally swamped (shocker, I know), so I’m breaking my predictions into three parts. This first section is for the studied RBs in the season opener (plus a bonus entry). The next part will contain the other studied players from around the league. And the third part will contain my Broncos analyses, with special emphasis on the QBs. Parts two and three will go up before Sunday’s games start, so that all predictions are posted before the relevant players have begun their seasons.
Season Opener RBs
Rex Burkhead is looking very likely to be NE’s featured back. His lumbar efficiency (particularly anterior) appears notably higher than any of NE’s other backs. In addition, Burkhead shows soft hands, and extremely high situational awareness (generally a high priority for NE coaches). Mike Gillislee shows greater posterior lumbar efficiency (stronger leg drive) than Burkhead, but Gillislee’s hands and awareness appear far less reliable than Burkhead’s (and his overall lumbar efficiency falls short of Burkhead’s). I expect Gillislee to be the goal-line/ short yardage back, but Burkhead appears likely to otherwise be featured.
One red flag for Burkhead is his apparent borrowing from lateral towards medial lumbar/ thoracic areas. While this helps his balance and center-core strength, it puts additional tension on his lateral mechanical pathways (ACL etc).
Kareem Hunt shows excellent medial posterior lumbar efficiency- his straight-ahead burst and leg-drive are impressive, and he shows good hands. However, his anterior lumbar efficiency appears somewhat compromised (despite his quick feet), and his overall lateral efficiency appears somewhat lacking. His sideways agility appears mediocre, which affects his cutting ability.
His sub-par anterior lumbar efficiency translates in his seeming inability to avoid taking big hits, and in a general lack of suddenness (despite good overall speed). His pass-blocking is also affected by this lack of anterior efficiency, and his pass-blocking appears to need improvement. He is a commonly-listed breakout candidate, and on volume alone he will likely accrue meaningful stats this season (given his listed strengths). But I question his long-term effectiveness/ health given his apparent propensity for taking big hits, and his inability to consistently mis-direct defenders.
Alvin Kamara may actually be the most talented RB in a very talented class of rookie RBs. His lumbar efficiency appears extremely high (both posterior and anterior), which is evident in his incredible quickness, tremendous top speed, and surprising leg drive (for someone his size). He also shows reliable hands.
Kamara appears set to reprise the “joker” role in NO’s offense (the role previously held by Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush), and he may actually be more talented than either of the backs who preceded him. Given Kamara’s apparent talent, NO may be planning on rotating Ingram and Peterson on early/ short yardage downs, with Kamara otherwise featured.