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Running back Personality Types, part two

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 1, 2009

Yesterday, I explained exactly what the heck running back personality types were. Today I'm going to take a look at the top RBs in all 16 personality types.

For each group, I'm listing the running backs from most extreme (i.e., most representative of the group) to least extreme. Recall that the four categories are:

Exciting/Plodder: Was this running back's YPC average better or worse than most good running backs?

Vulture/Yardage: Was this running back better at gaining rushing yards or scoring rushing touchdowns? Remember that this is all relative to each runner. A guy can be an all-time great at rushing and a scoring, but he has to still be either a vulture or a yardage eater.

Catcher/Runner: Compared to the other top running backs, how valuable was this guy in the receiving game?

Big/Small: Was this guy heavier or lighter than average?

After each running back's name, I've also listed his rank in each of the categories. Suppose RB X is an E-V-C-B, and his rank is 1-4-66-25. That would mean that he was the best ever at yards per carry and had the 4th highest rushing TD/rushing yards ratio. Remember there are 134 RBs in the study, so 67 running backs are in each group. If this guy was a 66 in catching, that means he was essentially neutral, i.e., he was the 66th best pass-catching running back. Note that you can't have a 68 -- at that point, you'd become a 67 in the other category. If a guy that was a 63 in the big category was 10 slots lower (i.e., a little lighter), he'd be a 63 in the small category. So RB X being a 25 in size means he is heavier (for his era) than over 100 other backs, but only a little bit heavier on average than a typical RB in the big category.

Let's go to the results.

E-V-C-B: The Aspirational type

This guy does it all. A high yards per carry average by a big back who scores touchdowns and has soft hands. You can only dream of getting this type of player on your team one day. Very few backs meet this description, and all four made multiple Pro Bowls in their careers. All were elite talents: three were first round picks and the 4th would have been if he wasn't going to play in another league. LaDainian Tomlinson is the ideal E-V-C-B back.

Chuck Muncie (50-7-59-21)
LaDainian Tomlinson (52-4-47-64)
Calvin Hill (59-61-28-25)
Herschel Walker (55-62-20-38)

P-Y-R-S: The vision and heart backs

The opposite of the group above. To be a good RB despite not being electric, not scoring touchdowns, not having above average hands and not being big, you better have vision and heart. Curtis Martin is the standard bearer here.

Eddie Price (41-32-10-34)
Adrian Murrell (14-8-58-41)
Travis Henry (20-40-19-49)
Curtis Martin (25-47-53-30)
Don Perkins (62-44-28-38)

E-V-R-B: The elite power back

Think Jim Brown. These guys are just like the Aspirational protoype but they're runners, not catchers. They're big, they're fast, and they run for touchdowns.

Dan Towler (1-2-9-6)
Jim Brown (3-42-29-9)
Larry Csonka (38-35-7-7)
Michael Turner (16-67-1-17)
Earl Campbell (47-55-4-11)
Jim Nance (65-29-14-10)
Jim Taylor (32-22-25-55)
Cookie Gilchrist (57-43-45-2)
George Rogers (63-63-2-23)
Shaun Alexander (62-5-35-53)
Larry Johnson (41-14-66-41)
Franco Harris (66-49-38-14)
Corey Dillon (61-60-26-54)

P-Y-C-S: Jack-of-all-trades, master of none
The opposite of the group above. These guys can catch, but they aren't big and they're not big play guys, either. They pile up the yards but generally aren't exciting. At their best, these guys can be like Redskins great Larry Brown or a post-ACL version of Edgerrin James.

Joe Washington (56-1-7-3)
Lydell Mitchell (19-9-13-44)
Warrick Dunn (54-6-39-1)
Edgar Bennett (3-25-21-64)
Larry Brown (36-42-33-14)
Joe Cribbs (58-14-52-5)
Billy Cannon (35-41-6-62)
Earnest Byner (26-57-26-65)
Edgerrin James (30-54-66-45)

P-Y-R-B: Grind it out power backs

Which two guys better represent "three yards and a cloud of dust"/power football than Jerome Bettis and Eddie George? These guys don't catch the ball and they don't make big plays. They just chew up rushing yard after rushing yard, in short, powerful increments.

Jerome Bettis (33-58-6-4)
Earnest Jackson (16-16-16-65)
Eddie George (2-51-44-27)
Jamal Lewis (61-28-37-15)
John Brockington (24-35-65-28)
Mark van Eeghen (48-27-51-30)
Thomas Jones (13-34-59-67)
Mike Pruitt (44-56-49-35)
Ricky Williams (29-43-63-51)
Matt Snell (67-24-67-49)

E-V-C-S: Flash and Dash
The opposite of the group above. They're small and electric, providing big plays both in the passing game and in the scoring column. If Jerome Bettis is on one end of the spectrum, you know Marshall Faulk will be on the other.

Lenny Moore (6-3-1-12)
Abner Haynes (21-16-9-7)
Marshall Faulk (36-30-14-33)
Timmy Brown (30-54-5-24)
Priest Holmes (26-6-49-39)
Frank Gifford (56-25-2-37)
Leroy Kelly (34-8-63-29)
Mel Farr (54-21-34-60)
Billy Sims (25-44-57-66)

E-V-R-S: The natural and tough runners

If you're small and don't have good hands, how do you end up being a great scorer and a high yards per carry guy? By being a natural running back, a guy who was born to play the position. Four of these six guys have solid HOF cases, and two have backers who believe they're the greatest runners of all-time. Terrell Davis carried Denver to two Super Bowls with his great running style.

Terrell Davis (18-37-20-27)
Gale Sayers (2-52-47-19)
Emmitt Smith (64-17-23-35)
Wendell Tyler (15-53-64-26)
Clinton Portis (46-50-50-21)
J.D. Smith (60-45-42-54)

P-Y-C-B: The Ultrabacks
The opposite of the group above. Big enough to grind the clock and move the chains, but versatile enough to be a third down back and to not be relegated to short-yardage duty. These guys are just like the Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, except they're big. P-Y-C-B running backs are centerpieces of the offense -- this category has two 400-carry backs and Roger Craig, one of only two 1000/1000 players.

Duce Staley (34-4-35-12)
John L. Williams (59-2-3-24)
James Wilder (5-31-22-32)
MacArthur Lane (50-59-8-40)
Roger Craig (66-53-18-44)
Jamal Anderson (53-49-64-20)
Steven Jackson (63-61-36-37)
Lorenzo White (51-64-48-52)

E-Y-R-B: The Big Play Power Backs

Jim Brown was a E-V-R-B (Elite Power Back) and Eddie George was a grind it out power back (P-Y-R-B). This is a combination of those two. A big runner like the other two, but this one has a high yards per carry average without a lot of scores. Some guys became E-Y-R-B backs because they played on terrible offenses (O.J. Simpson), some because they gained so many yards they couldn't be labeled a vulture (Eric Dickerson), and some because they just weren't good goal-line rushers (Fred Taylor after his first few seasons). But all the time, these guys were big, fast, and hard to tackle.

Fred Taylor (27-23-48-29)
Eric Dickerson (33-50-13-48)
O.J. Simpson (12-26-43-63)
Barry Foster (45-63-31-50)
Chris Warren (42-62-52-39)
John Henry Johnson (53-60-34-62)

P-V-C-S: A poor man's Flash and Dash

The opposite of the group above. Marshall Faulk led the Flash and Dash crowd -- the E-V-C-S personality type -- and this group is a poor man's version of those runners. You're generally not a star if you're a flash-and-dash type with a low yards per carry average, and you can see that in the list below. Marcus Allen's the star of this group, although at his best, he was a high YPC guy (the '85 season, the '83 playoffs). Reggie Bush, if he made the cut-off, would appear here. He'd be the top catcher in the study, and would be a clear plodder/small guy. He's on the border, but is closer to being a vulture than a yardage guy.

Ron A. Johnson (4-12-23-43)
Chuck Foreman (18-15-10-67)
Joseph Addai (38-18-40-36)
Ted Brown (42-27-16-48)
Floyd Little (28-59-42-16)
Marcus Allen (45-9-41-52)
Domanick Williams (27-64-32-55)
Neal Anderson (65-38-38-50)
Ricky Watters (60-51-51-61)

E-Y-C-B: The "What Happened?" group

Our aspirational personality was E-V-C-B, which means these guys should just be yardage guys instead of TD guys -- not a big difference. They're big, they're fast, they catch the ball and they gain lots of yards. So, uh, what happened? AFL star Clem Daniels is the best guy from this small group.

Keith Lincoln (19-19-12-59)
Clem Daniels (29-22-19-45)
Hoyle Granger (14-18-56-31)
Freeman McNeil (31-7-60-58)

Only four backs met this type, and none of them were elite. Why? Our aspirational group is the all-star, so what does it mean if you're a yardage guy and not a TD guy? There's a good chance you were just a role player, albeit one who was fast, big and versatile. Lincoln split time with Paul Lowe, McNeil teamed with Johnny Hector, and Granger wore down after a few seasons of being the main guy. Daniels was a star, albeit in the middle years of the AFL. Much like its opposite below, the "What Happened" group is out of stock: there haven't been any of these guys in awhile, because if they're that good and capable of taking the pounding, they'll get the goal line scores, too. Note that none of these guys were even close to being E-V-C-B, as all were strong yardage guys.

P-V-R-S: Right mindset, Wrong Body

The opposite of the group above. While the "what happened?" group sounds ideal, this group sounds silly. Why become a plodding, goal-line, two-down back if you're small? Three of these four guys were stars in the mid-'80s, but the modern game doesn't permit runners like Joe Morris anymore. In this specialized era, these guys would shed some weight to become change of pace backs or pack on the weight in the hopes of handling a large workload.

Joe Morris (32-26-15-13)
Terry Allen (49-24-27-25)
Curt Warner (40-47-39-40)
Greg Bell (55-11-54-58)

E-Y-C-S: The Change of Pace stars

This group is like the Flash and Dash group (E-V-C-S) except these guys are yardage eaters and not vulturers. That usually means they resemble change of pace or third down backs, and that's how Tiki Barber, Charlie Garner and Brian Westbrook started off their careers. These guys are yards from scrimmage beasts, and difficult to gameplan against.

Greg Pruitt (10-15-15-8)
Tiki Barber (20-17-24-10)
Charlie Garner (17-21-29-4)
James Brooks (11-29-37-2)
Brian Westbrook (39-39-4-11)
William Andrews (24-12-45-47)
Hugh McElhenny (7-66-31-32)
Otis Armstrong (28-30-58-22)
Frank Gore (23-13-46-57)
Dick Bass (22-33-67-20)
Thurman Thomas (58-20-53-15)
Mike Garrett (51-45-44-6)
Lawrence McCutcheon (37-5-61-51)
Wilbert Montgomery (35-48-55-17)
Ahman Green (44-52-54-56)

P-V-R-B: The short-yardage stars

Quite obviously, the short-yardage stars are the opposite of the change-of-pace backs. This group is just like Jerome Bettis and the grind-it-out power backs, except they're touchdown guys and not yardage guys. They're punishing, short-yardage runners but are not necessarily every down backs. Don't the names Natrone Means, Christian Okoye and Marion Butts just jump off the page with that description?

Natrone Means (10-19-8-8)
Pete Johnson (9-1-46-1)
Marion Butts (23-32-5-5)
Christian Okoye (37-46-3-3)
John Riggins (17-20-41-16)
Alan Ameche (47-13-21-33)
Rudi Johnson (8-34-11-66)
Rick Casares (31-31-55-13)
Gerald Riggs (57-39-18-19)
Willis McGahee (6-66-40-42)
Rodney Hampton (12-65-22-57)
Stephen Davis (64-36-33-43)
Ottis Anderson (43-56-60-46)

E-Y-R-S: The natural and flashy runners

Recall that the E-V-R-S group had Emmitt, TD and Sayers, and were the natural and tough runners. How else could they excel despite being small guys without great hands? Well, this group is just like those guys, but they're better at gaining yards than scoring touchdowns. They're not big, they're not touchdown guys, and they don't have good hands: but man can they run. Watching guys like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Tony Dorsett and Adrian Peterson slice through the defense must be what it was like for art fans to watch Picasso paint.

Robert Smith (9-11-36-42)
Barry Sanders (4-46-30-23)
Willie Parker (67-10-17-31)
Joe Perry (13-37-24-59)
Adrian Peterson (8-65-12-63)
Paul Lowe (5-67-32-46)
Tony Dorsett (49-36-61-9)
Garrison Hearst (48-3-57-53)
Delvin Williams (43-38-62-18)
Walter Payton (40-55-56-28)

P-V-C-B: The Ultra-committee guys

This group is the opposite of the group above. Remember Roger Craig and the Ultrabacks? This group is just like them, except they're touchdown vultures instead of yardage eaters. What that usually means is that they're more part-time guys.

On the surface it's not easy to see why. This group isn't very far off from our aspirational group (E-V-C-B); the only difference being these guys are more plodders than gamebreakers. But despite being big and having the ability to catch and convert in short-yardage, these move the chain types haven't produced many stars. That's probably because if you're that good and that big, you get lots of carries (and yards) as well. All of these guys spent time in committees, and it seems like their teams never wanted to build around them. The best of the bunch was probably Deuce McAllister, but he was also the most explosive of the group (and therefore not a strong P-V-C-B guy). Generally, these guys have the physical tools but unlike their opposites, lacked the speed to be the guy a team would build around.

Bill Brown (1-23-25-26)
Alex Webster (11-33-27-18)
Tom Matte (21-10-17-61)
Jim Kiick (7-41-11-60)
Sam Cunningham (39-40-43-22)
Ken Willard (15-57-50-47)
Dorsey Levens (46-58-30-36)
James Stewart (22-28-65-56)
Deuce McAllister (52-48-62-34)

Let's end this with a quick recap:

E-V-C-B: The Aspirational type: LaDainian Tomlinson
P-Y-R-S: The vision and heart backs: Curtis Martin
E-V-R-B: The elite power back: Jim Brown
P-Y-C-S: Jack-of-all-trades, master of none: Larry Brown; Edgerrin James
P-Y-R-B: Grind it out power backs: Jerome Bettis; Eddie George
E-V-C-S: Flash and Dash: Marshall Faulk
E-V-R-S: The natural and tough runners: Terrell Davis
P-Y-C-B: The Ultrabacks: Roger Craig
E-Y-R-B: The Big Play Power Backs: O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Fred Taylor
P-V-C-S: A poor man's Flash and Dash: Marcus Allen
E-Y-C-B: The "What Happened?" group: Clem Daniels
P-V-R-S: Right mindset, Wrong Body: Joe Morris
E-Y-C-S: The Change of Pace stars: Tiki Barber; Charlie Garner; Brian Westbrook
P-V-R-B: The short-yardage stars: Natrone Means; Christian Okoye; Marion Butts
E-Y-R-S: The natural and flashy runners: Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Tony Dorsett
P-V-C-B: The Ultra-committee guys: Deuce McAllister