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The 3 and Out: Rushing Success Rates

The 3 and Out uses several RotoViz Apps to uncover significant workload changes; league, team, and player-specific trends; and hidden but powerful statistics.

Welcome back to The 3 and Out! In this week’s edition, we’ll be looking at rushing success rate (RSR). While RSR doesn’t correlate with fantasy points or provide actionable fantasy insights, the results are always interesting.

A rushing play is considered successful if one of the below is achieved:

  • First Down – 40% of yards-to-go are gained
  • Second Down – 60% of yards-to-go are gained
  • Third/Fourth Down – 100% of yards-to-go are gained
  • The metric is maintained by our statistics provider, ArmchairAnalysis, and the formula slightly changes in the fourth quarter of close games. Simply put, RSR gives us an estimate of the percentage of plays in which a ball carrier is gaining a solid amount of yardage for the specific down in which the rushing attempt occurred. What percentage of a play, regardless of outcome, a rusher is responsible for is really hard to say. Naturally, offensive line play, play-calling, and a number of other factors will influence the result of a specific play.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll be focusing only on players that have recorded 50 or more rushing attempts this season.

Total RSR – All Rushing Attempts

Dalvin Cook leads the league in rushing attempts. Unsurprisingly, he ties for the second-highest successful rushes of all players — only Chris Carson has recorded more. additionally, the Seahawk has been successful on a higher percentage of plays.

PlayerTeamRush AttSuccessful% Succ
Aaron JonesGB135810.6
Latavius MurrayNO95560.59
Gus EdwardsBAL71410.58
Josh AllenBUF74420.57
Chris CarsonSEA2001120.56
Mark IngramBAL136760.56
Carlos HydeHOU158880.56
Alvin KamaraNO103570.55
Ezekiel ElliottDAL1941050.54
Lamar JacksonBAL115620.54
Jordan HowardPHI119630.53
Marlon MackIND1921010.53
Kyler MurrayARI67350.52
Kerryon JohnsonDET92480.52
LeSean McCoyKC79410.52
Josh JacobsOAK191990.52
Devin SingletaryBUF63320.51
Jamaal WilliamsGB65330.51
Phillip LindsayDEN134680.51
Todd GurleyLA129640.5
Deshaun WatsonHOU55270.49
Dalvin CookMIN2141050.49
Austin EkelerLAC95460.48
Christian McCaffreyCAR199940.47
Tony PollardDAL51240.47
Melvin GordonLAC100470.47
Ronald JonesTB107500.47
Frank GoreBUF122570.47
Derrick HenryTEN187870.47
Kenyan DrakeARI89410.46
Russell WilsonSEA50230.46
Miles SandersPHI87400.46
Adrian PetersonWAS124570.46
Damien WilliamsKC83380.46
Mark WaltonMIA53240.45
Joe MixonCIN146660.45
James ConnerPIT102460.45
Duke JohnsonHOU60270.45
Sony MichelNE154690.45
Raheem MostertSF67300.45
David MontgomeryCHI143640.45
Matt BreidaSF109480.44
Peyton BarberTB94410.44
Royce FreemanDEN101440.44
Le'Veon BellNYJ162700.43
David JohnsonARI82350.43
Devonta FreemanATL107450.42
Nick ChubbCLE200820.41
Chase EdmondsARI58230.4
Leonard FournetteJAC182720.4
Tevin ColemanSF104410.39
Saquon BarkleyNYG101390.39
Alexander MattisonMIN82290.35
Kalen BallageMIA64220.34
  • As you likely noticed, Ravens’ running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards both finish in the top-six on a per play basis.
    • This speaks to the strength of the Ravens’ rushing attack which is additionally buoyed by Lamar Jackson and his 10th-ranked percentage.
  • New Orleans is the only other team with multiple players in the top-10.
  • There are, however, a number of instances in which the efficiency of teammates has varied widely.
    • For example, Cook has been successful on 49% of rushing attempts, whereas his teammate Alexander Mattison’s success percentage is only 35%.
  • The Eagles have been reluctant to let Miles Sanders run away with the team’s rushing attempts, as evidenced by Boston Scott’s seven attempts against New England. Sanders rushed 11 times in this game.
    • When Jordan Howard is healthy, he controls a higher percentage of the team’s workload than Sanders. While this is frustrating for fantasy owners, the Eagles have been successful on a higher percentage of plays when utilizing Howard so it is understandable.

RSR – First Down Only

PlayerTeamRush AttSuccessful% Succ
Alvin KamaraNO63370.59
Josh AllenBUF27160.59
Jordan HowardPHI74430.58
Deshaun WatsonHOU24140.58
Aaron JonesGB84460.55
Gus EdwardsBAL31170.55
Kyler MurrayARI33180.55
Chris CarsonSEA111600.54
Christian McCaffreyCAR119630.53
Carlos HydeHOU108570.53
Mark IngramBAL83440.53
Lamar JacksonBAL53280.53
Latavius MurrayNO58310.53
Damien WilliamsKC51270.53
Raheem MostertSF34180.53
Josh JacobsOAK128660.52
Jamaal WilliamsGB39200.51
Devin SingletaryBUF37190.51
Ezekiel ElliottDAL125620.5
Duke JohnsonHOU36180.5
Derrick HenryTEN124590.48
Phillip LindsayDEN81390.48
James ConnerPIT65310.48
Royce FreemanDEN61290.48
Miles SandersPHI46220.48
LeSean McCoyKC48230.48
Russell WilsonSEA21100.48
Adrian PetersonWAS85400.47
Peyton BarberTB60280.47
Kerryon JohnsonDET57270.47
Tony PollardDAL30140.47
Dalvin CookMIN112510.46
Todd GurleyLA81370.46
Matt BreidaSF69320.46
Le'Veon BellNYJ92410.45
Joe MixonCIN89400.45
Frank GoreBUF69310.45
Ronald JonesTB76340.45
Melvin GordonLAC62280.45
Marlon MackIND97430.44
Austin EkelerLAC57250.44
Nick ChubbCLE124530.43
Sony MichelNE96410.43
Kenyan DrakeARI47200.43
Tevin ColemanSF62260.42
Alexander MattisonMIN45190.42
David JohnsonARI50210.42
Chase EdmondsARI33140.42
David MontgomeryCHI86340.4
Mark WaltonMIA33130.39
Saquon BarkleyNYG63230.37
Devonta FreemanATL73260.36
Leonard FournetteJAC102340.33
Kalen BallageMIA36110.31
  • Overall, the names at the top of both lists are pretty similar.
    • If you didn’t review it in its entirety, one of the most surprising results is Saquon Barkley.
      • Barkley had the fourth-worst rate of players on all downs and has been similarly flummoxed on first-down.
        • To be clear, I assume that this is an indictment of the Giants as a whole more so than it is of Barkley.
  • When reviewing the results of first down in isolation, the case for Philadelphia’s preference for using Howard remains compelling.
  • Of all players, Marlon Mack experienced the largest difference in success rate percentage.
    • He’s been successful on 53% of all rushing attempts but just 44% of those on first-down.

RSR – Second Down Only

PlayerTeamRush AttSuccessful% Succ
Aaron JonesGB47330.7
Latavius MurrayNO31210.68
Gus EdwardsBAL28180.64
Marlon MackIND78480.62
Carlos HydeHOU39240.62
Mark IngramBAL47290.62
Ezekiel ElliottDAL54330.61
Todd GurleyLA33200.61
Chris CarsonSEA68400.59
Kerryon JohnsonDET27160.59
LeSean McCoyKC26150.58
Phillip LindsayDEN44250.57
Devin SingletaryBUF23130.57
Frank GoreBUF39220.56
Mark WaltonMIA1690.56
Tony PollardDAL18100.56
David MontgomeryCHI44240.55
Devonta FreemanATL29160.55
Alvin KamaraNO29160.55
Jamaal WilliamsGB20110.55
Kenyan DrakeARI30160.53
Dalvin CookMIN83430.52
Josh JacobsOAK50260.52
Ronald JonesTB26130.5
Lamar JacksonBAL33160.48
Melvin GordonLAC31150.48
Austin EkelerLAC27130.48
Sony MichelNE43200.47
Leonard FournetteJAC63290.46
Josh AllenBUF26120.46
Adrian PetersonWAS33150.45
Jordan HowardPHI40180.45
James ConnerPIT31140.45
Kyler MurrayARI22100.45
Russell WilsonSEA22100.45
Christian McCaffreyCAR64280.44
Le'Veon BellNYJ48210.44
Miles SandersPHI36160.44
Derrick HenryTEN57240.42
Saquon BarkleyNYG34140.41
Nick ChubbCLE62250.4
Raheem MostertSF2080.4
Duke JohnsonHOU1870.39
Royce FreemanDEN34130.38
David JohnsonARI26100.38
Matt BreidaSF38140.37
Tevin ColemanSF28100.36
Chase EdmondsARI2070.35
Joe MixonCIN44150.34
Kalen BallageMIA1860.33
Peyton BarberTB2780.3
Damien WilliamsKC2470.29
Alexander MattisonMIN2980.28
Deshaun WatsonHOU1850.28
  • In comparison to other downs, quarterbacks are less successful when rushing on second.
    • Jackson, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Deshaun Watson all ranked in the top-15 in the other lists we’ve looked at but rank 29 or lower in the above.
  • It might be surprising to see that the most successful rushers record their greatest success on second down.
    • For example, Aaron Jones’ success rate increases by 27% when comparing first and second down.
      • Similarly, Carlos Hyde jumps from a success rate of 53% to 62%.
  • Throughout the season, I’ve been puzzling over Denver’s usage of its RBs. The team has been more inclined to use Phillip Lindsay as a rusher than Royce Freeman and in many games, Freeman has seen higher utilization as a receiver.
    • This relationship, from a rushing perspective at least, may have to do with the results produced by each back.
      • For example, Lindsay has been successful on 57% of second-down attempts. In contrast, Freeman has been successful on just 38%.

RSR – Third and Fourth Down Only

PlayerTeamRush AttSuccessful% Succ
Matt BreidaSF221
Joe MixonCIN13110.85
Austin EkelerLAC1180.73
Peyton BarberTB750.71
Ezekiel ElliottDAL15100.67
Derrick HenryTEN640.67
Latavius MurrayNO640.67
David JohnsonARI640.67
Josh AllenBUF21140.67
Carlos HydeHOU1170.64
Kerryon JohnsonDET850.63
Lamar JacksonBAL29180.62
Deshaun WatsonHOU1380.62
Ronald JonesTB530.6
Devonta FreemanATL530.6
LeSean McCoyKC530.6
Marlon MackIND17100.59
Dalvin CookMIN19110.58
Kyler MurrayARI1270.58
Chris CarsonSEA21120.57
Melvin GordonLAC740.57
Josh JacobsOAK1370.54
Leonard FournetteJAC1790.53
Sony MichelNE1580.53
Mark IngramBAL630.5
Aaron JonesGB420.5
Saquon BarkleyNYG420.5
Damien WilliamsKC840.5
Gus EdwardsBAL1260.5
Kalen BallageMIA1050.5
Mark WaltonMIA420.5
Todd GurleyLA1570.47
David MontgomeryCHI1360.46
Phillip LindsayDEN940.44
Russell WilsonSEA730.43
Kenyan DrakeARI1250.42
Jordan HowardPHI520.4
Miles SandersPHI520.4
Chase EdmondsARI520.4
Le'Veon BellNYJ2280.36
Tevin ColemanSF1450.36
Alvin KamaraNO1140.36
Adrian PetersonWAS620.33
Royce FreemanDEN620.33
Jamaal WilliamsGB620.33
Duke JohnsonHOU620.33
Raheem MostertSF1340.31
Nick ChubbCLE1440.29
Frank GoreBUF1440.29
Alexander MattisonMIN820.25
Christian McCaffreyCAR1630.19
James ConnerPIT610.17
Devin SingletaryBUF300
Tony PollardDAL300
  • Interestingly, Aaron Jones’ rate plummets to 50% on third and fourth down.
    • Perhaps, given his success on the earlier downs, defenses are more likely to protect against the run.
      • Given that Green Bay did rush on these plays, it’s fair to assume that the majority were “rushing situations”.
        • Jamaal Williams’ rate also sees a significant drop.
          • For example, he was successful on 51% of first downs, but only a third of those on third or fourth.
  • In contrast, Joe Mixon saw success on just 45% of first-down attempts, but 85% of third and fourth down attempts.
  • Christian McCaffrey has been mediocre from an RSR perspective, struggling on third and fourth down with a success rate of just 19%.
    • This is really interesting as it goes against what might be a common intuition — “Since McCaffrey is such a good receiver, defenses will be playing against the pass in these situations and less equipped to defend against rushing plays.”
  Image Credit: Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Aaron Jones.

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