This couldn’t possibly be right. How could a running back that you have never heard of actually compare to a group of NFL studs and proven monster producers at the college level? I’ll tell you how: Analytics.


While researching RBs on PFF (https://www.pff.com/college) last summer, I noticed a pattern over the last few years. Guys that had a BreakAway Percentage (BAY%) over 42% combined with 3.0 or more Yards After Contact/Attempt (YCO/A) correlated well to success the following season. This research was focused on RBs that had between 100 and 150 carries to ensure a large enough sample size but small enough that a breakout opportunity still existed. Diving a little deeper led me down a path to find, to a lesser degree, that a Missed Tackles Forced Rate (MTF Rate) over .30 and a positive Yards Per Carry Over Teammates (YPC/O) was also often a strong indicator of future success when combined with our other two previously mentioned data points.


The thought process behind these results is that an uber-efficient and explosive season on limited touches would result in gained trust from the staff and increased volume the following season. A few prime examples of this – Tyjae Spears and De’Von Achane in 2021, and then Jawhar Jordan and Blake Watson in 2022. You were rewarded handsomely if you invested draft capital in these guys the following year. All saw huge breakout seasons with a massive uptick in volume and fantasy production. Now, they can’t all be winners. There have been some duds a year after they met the metrics (Nathaniel Peat and Kaleb Johnson), but strong evidence remains.


So, without further ado, let’s discuss the name that brought you here. I present you Rice senior RB- Dean Connors. That’s right, folks. Dean Connors! Listed at 6’0″ and 205 lbs, Connors came to Rice in 2022 after spending a year in Junior College.

Image courtesy of Rice University Athletics

The extremely lazy man’s comp is Max Borghi. He is white. However, that’s nothing more than a stereotype because Connors’ 2023 analytics blows away any season from Borghi. Let’s take a look at some of his closest analytical comps over the last few seasons:

Pretty saucy group, right? Now, Bucky Irving doesn’t technically meet the qualifications due to his breakaway percentage being below 42%, but he’s included here because of his similarity to Connors in the receiving game. Oh yeah…did I mention yet that Connors has also been one of the best-receiving RBs in the country over the last few years? No? Well, he is.

There are only a handful of RBs over the last three seasons that had over 100 carries and 45+ targets and took close to 20% or more of their snaps either in the slot or out wide, thus demonstrating their receiving chops and versatility. Below are these backs that also meet our previously mentioned rushing criteria of 42% BAY% and 3.0 YCO/A:

So what do we make of Mr. Connors for fantasy purposes? He’s no “Volume Pig”, at least not yet. The receiving volume was pretty consistent all year, but just 121 carries in 13 games leaves a lot of pork on the rib for rushing production, no matter how efficient and explosive a player can be.

The good news is the staff appears to already be gaining confidence in Connors. He averaged 7.3 carries/game through the first ten games and 16 carries/game over his last three games. He averaged 16.8 PPG in PPR leagues for 2023 and is more suited for best ball formats given his volatile production profile (three games with 28+ points and four games with less than 8 points) with inconsistent touches.

Image courtesy of Hero Sports

Here is hoping the strong finish in 2023, staff retention, and an incredibly soft 2024 schedule will lead to a hoot (Rice Owls…see what I did there?) of a breakout season.

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