Last year around this time, Chase Stuart did a post on the excellent Football Perspective to attempt to explain why Trent Richardson’s lackluster 3.6 YPC didn’t matter. While the T-Rich debate rages on, a point that Stuart makes in the post is a really good one: why don’t we look at first down yards per carry? It’s an obvious rushing situation, the defenses are ready for it and it eliminates a lot of noise from running backs who are consistently getting the ball, i.e bellcows. In the case of the few bell cow RB’s who are left, they are getting approximately a 3rd of their carries on first and 10. It’s a simple way to strip out some of the noise that is inherent with YPC and see how RB’s are doing in comparison to one another. As a caveat, these tables are going to have some of the usual small sample problems that come with any football analysis but I still find them valuable.
I’ve split the PFR generated table up into 2 groups: RB’s with more than 100 carries in that situation, and then those with less total carries but who are going to matter for fantasy football in 2014 and are worth analyzing.
- No surprises at the top. Jamaal Charles, Demarco Murray, Lesean McCoy… all of these guys are among the uber-elite at their position and will be going in the first round of drafts this upcoming season.
- Adrian Peterson was essentially tied with Frank Gore in the middle of the pack. Those hoping that Jerrick McKinnon may get the call sooner rather than later are starting to gain little bits of evidence for their case.
- The 2 red flags I see on this list are Zac Stacy and Le’Veon Bell. Both were volume dependent runners and if that volume starts to dissipated, especially in Stacy’s case, there could be trouble. I’m not at all worried about Le’Veon Bell (in fact he is one of the few runners I would break my Zero RB rule for) but it is worth noting. Again, small sample caveat, but with a similar # of carries in the exact same down and distance, they were both well below their peers.
- Adios, Ray Rice. Won’t miss you.
- A VERY small sample size, but it looks like Zero RB Savior Toby Gerhart functioned pretty well in obvious rushing scenarios for the Vikings last season.
- In fact, these are all pretty small sample sizes (as I purposely looked at players who hadn’t gotten the ball too much) and I’m not sure exactly what we are able to glean from them as a result, but the low YPC for Ben Tate is something to think about. Tate is slated to be the lead back for what is going to be a more explosive Cleveland offense with my #7 dynasty QB, Johnny Manziel. However, Cleveland invested in 2 talent runners during the draft in Terrance West and Isiah Crowell. They have alternatives if Tate is unable to get the job done.
- Yeesh, Trent Richardson.
- There is very little chance for a rebound from Steven Jackson, in the humble opinion of this not so humble writer. He was bad in every single facet of the game for the Falcons… when he wasn’t hurt. While I don’t have a very high opinion of Devonta Freeman, that has never stopped an NFL team from giving a middling running back a chance to prove himself.
If you have any observations on these tables, or think that they mean absolutely nothing, feel free to contact me on twitter @davismattek with any questions or comments.