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Archive for the 'Running Backs' Category

Will Chris Johnson’s salary demands prohibit Tennessee from winning the Super Bowl?

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 18, 2011

Tennessee running back Chris Johnson is currently holding out of training camp because he wants more money. A lot more money. Some think that isn't a prudent decision for the Titans. As a running back, Johnson might wear down in a year or two and will therefore be overpaid over the life of his contract. I'll resist the urge to go on another rant on rookie salaries -- owners and GMs argue that rookies don't deserve big bucks because they're unproven and that veterans don't deserve big bucks because their future potential is limited -- and instead look at a question posed by Ryan Wilson at Cbssports.

Look, there's no disputing that Johnson and Adrian Peterson are the two best running backs in the NFL. But the difference between them and the NFL's 32nd-best back is negligible when compared to the differences between, say, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning and whoever your candidate is for the league's worst starting quarterback. The same holds for wide receivers, left tackles, cornerbacks, safeties -- basically every position but running back.

So why is that?

15 Comments | Posted in Running Backs

2011 Hall of Fame Polls: Jerome Bettis

Posted by Neil Paine on January 28, 2011

Yesterday's poll on Marshall Faulk was truly a no-brainer, with 98.6% of PFR readers considering him HoF-worthy. So let's challenge the voters with a more interesting question: is Jerome Bettis a Hall of Famer?

The facts on Bettis' career:

NumYrs Players whose career was of similar quality and shape
3 Robert Holmes, Don Bosseler, Marion Barber, Kevan Barlow, Howie Ferguson, Floyd Little*, Gary W. Anderson, Napoleon Kaufman, Travis Henry, Marshawn Lynch
4 Ted Brown, Lynn Chandnois, Reggie Bush, Brian Westbrook, John Riggins*, Greg Pruitt, Floyd Little*, Dickie Post, Kevin Mack, Alex Webster
5 Brian Westbrook, Frank Gore, Sam Cunningham, Neal Anderson, Delvin Williams, John Brockington, John Riggins*, Larry Csonka*, Jim Taylor*, Sherman Smith
6 John Brockington, Sherman Smith, Sam Cunningham, John Riggins*, Jim Taylor*, Neal Anderson, Delvin Williams, Chuck Muncie, Don Perkins, Larry Csonka*
7 Sam Cunningham, Don Perkins, Tony Nathan, Neal Anderson, Delvin Williams, John Riggins*, Floyd Little*, Mark van Eeghen, Earnest Byner, Larry Csonka*
8 Floyd Little*, Corey Dillon, Don Perkins, Neal Anderson, Earnest Byner, John Riggins*, Earl Campbell*, Greg Pruitt, Jim Taylor*, Ollie Matson*
9 Corey Dillon, Floyd Little*, Earnest Byner, John Riggins*, Jim Taylor*, Ollie Matson*, Ken Willard, Greg Pruitt, Don Perkins, Chuck Muncie
10 Corey Dillon, Floyd Little*, Freeman McNeil, Jim Taylor*, Earnest Byner, Ollie Matson*, Leroy Kelly*, John Riggins*, Ken Willard, John L. Williams
11 Corey Dillon, Freeman McNeil, John Riggins*, Earnest Byner, Floyd Little*, James Brooks, Jim Taylor*, Ollie Matson*, Greg Pruitt, Leroy Kelly*
12 Corey Dillon, John Riggins*, Earnest Byner, Freeman McNeil, Larry Csonka*, James Brooks, Ollie Matson*, Floyd Little*, Herschel Walker, Jim Taylor*
13 Corey Dillon, Earnest Byner, John Riggins*, Ollie Matson*, Freeman McNeil, Larry Csonka*, James Brooks, Floyd Little*, Herschel Walker, Jim Taylor*
Career Corey Dillon, Earnest Byner, Ollie Matson*, Freeman McNeil, Larry Csonka*, James Brooks, Floyd Little*, Herschel Walker, Jim Taylor*, John L. Williams
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2011.

So what do you think about Bettis?

49 Comments | Posted in Great Historical Players, HOF, PI Finds, Running Backs

LaDainian Tomlinson: Not Toast

Posted by Neil Paine on October 4, 2010

Sometimes you just gotta admit that you were wrong.

First of all, I was wrong to doubt the Jets before the season. In fact, after Sunday's 38-14 shellacking of Buffalo (admittedly not the greatest opponent, but one which at least played New England and Miami relatively close), I'm beginning to think New York is at worst the 2nd-best team in the NFL -- perhaps even the best if Ben Roethlisberger shows rust upon his return to Pittsburgh's lineup. Here are our Simple Ratings through week 4 (adjusted for a home-field advantage of 2.5 points, and obviously excluding Pats-Fins):

Rank Team Games Rating Rank Team Games Rating
1 PIT 4 13.72 17 HTX 4 -0.13
2 NYJ 4 12.60 18 CHI 4 -0.65
3 RAV 4 10.64 19 MIN 3 -1.07
4 KAN 3 9.45 20 SEA 4 -1.13
5 SDG 4 7.29 21 WAS 4 -1.21
6 OTI 4 5.85 22 RAM 4 -1.50
7 GNB 4 5.27 23 TAM 3 -2.61
8 ATL 4 4.99 24 DET 4 -3.29
9 CLT 4 4.27 25 NOR 4 -4.02
10 NWE 3 3.44 26 NYG 4 -6.08
11 CLE 4 2.75 27 JAX 4 -7.57
12 CIN 4 2.51 28 SFO 4 -9.18
13 PHI 4 2.30 29 RAI 4 -10.09
14 MIA 3 1.58 30 BUF 4 -10.28
15 DEN 4 0.85 31 CAR 4 -12.80
16 DAL 3 0.50 32 CRD 4 -13.58

In a year where it's looking like parity rules, the Jets are one of only a handful of teams that have separated themselves from the pack at all.

But the main purpose of this post isn't so much a mea culpa about the Jets in general, but rather one about a specific New York player... Back in April, I scoffed at NY's acquisition of LaDainian Tomlinson, calling him (among other things) "toast" and "completely washed up". I cited the fact that when a running back over age 30 posts a sub-3.5 YPC average, it almost universally means he's finished as a productive NFL player; in fact, among the 11 backs who had worse age-29 + 30 YPC averages than LDT did in 2008-09, all but Bill Brown & Dorsey Levens were totally out of the league by age 32. Simply put, 31-year-old RBs who play as badly as Tomlinson did in 2009 don't tend to play pro football much longer, much less contribute high YPC averages again.

15 Comments | Posted in Rant, Running Backs, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

A different look at 2009 running back performance

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 20, 2010

Ronnie Brown rushed 20 times for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Bills last October; that sounds like a great game, until you realize that there were five better rushing performances by individuals against Buffalo in 2009. Below are the stat lines for all running backs who had at least 10 carries against the Bills last year:

RB Rsh Ryd RTD GRADE Rank
Thomas Jones 22 210 1 176 1
Pierre Thomas 14 126 2 118 2
Jamaal Charles 20 143 1 113 3
Ryan Moats 23 126 3 110 4
Chris Johnson 26 132 2 100 5
Ronnie Brown 20 115 2 95 6
Ricky Williams 27 115 1 71 7
Leon Washington 15 99 0 69 8
DeAngelo Williams 16 89 1 67 9
Thomas Jones 23 109 0 63 10
Ricky Williams 16 85 1 63 11
Jamal Lewis 31 117 0 55 12
Laurence Maroney 23 81 1 45 13
Jason Snelling 15 68 0 38 14
Reggie Bush 13 64 0 38 15
Shonn Greene 11 59 0 37 16
Jerious Norwood 13 52 0 26 18
Maurice Jones-Drew 25 66 1 26 19
Mike Hart 10 28 1 18 21
Laurence Maroney 10 32 0 12 27

Most of the chart is self-explanatory; allow me to explain the Grade column, by which the table is sorted. To rank running back performance against a team, I wanted to combine rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns into one metric. The simple, back-of-the-envelope formula I used was rushing yards over two yards per carry plus ten yards for each touchdown. So 30 carries for 100 yards would get you a grade of 40; if you scored two touchdowns, that would bump the grade up to 60. Similarly, a grade of 60 could be earned by rushing 15 times for 80 yards and one score. I'm not arguing that this is a perfect measure of running back performance, but it was relatively simple and should provide reasonable results in most cases -- i.e., Jones had the best performance against the Bills last year.

6 Comments | Posted in Running Backs, Statgeekery

2009 RB rankings and Chris Johnson

Posted by Chase Stuart on March 23, 2010

Last off-season, I started grading the most dominant running back seasons in NFL history. I ended up writing five posts, which are available here:

Methodology
Most Dominant single seasons
Most Dominant careers
Most Dominant post-seasons
Most Dominant overall

While I'll certainly tweak the formula later this off-season or next year, I was curious to see how Chris Johnson's incredible 2009 performance would rate. Johnson not only rushed for 2,000 yards last season, but he also set the single season record for yards from scrimmage. So how great did Johnson's season end up being? And which RB was #2 in 2009?

Here's a review of the formula, at least for seasons since 2002. We break each player's stats down into three categories: rushing, receiving and scoring.

Step 1: Calculate the player's rushing score by taking his total rushing yards, subtracting 25 yards for all fumbles and adding 25 yards for all fumbles recovered. Divide that result -- the player's adjusted rushing yards -- by his number of games played.

Step 2: Start with the player's total receiving yards, add 1.5 adjusted receiving yards for each reception, and divide by games played.

Step 3: Add up the player's rushing and receiving touchdowns and divide by his number of games played.

17 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, Running Backs

Why rush attempts matter, and receptions do not

Posted by Jason Lisk on September 22, 2009

This one is my theory on "Why rushes matter and receptions do not" in measuring running back workload and future injury risk.

I often see people complain that measuring workload by excluding receptions is inappropriate. I think this is up for debate, because it is not an apples to apples comparison. Rush attempts are far more likely to result in tackles (rather than runs out of bounds), tackles involving multiple tacklers, and tackles involving really big defenders.

But setting that aside, I think there is a far more significant reason why rush attempts matter, and receptions do not, when measuring workload. Take a look at these real games turned in by NFL running backs.

Running Back A: 29 rush attempts, 102 rushing yards, 0 receptions, 0 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
Running Back B: 23 rush attempts, 117 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 52 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns

Now picture those games in your head, based only on the running back statistics. What type of backs are they? And more importantly, how did the game proceed?

19 Comments | Posted in Running Backs