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:
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.
While the Bills were horrible against the run, the Bengals shut down just about every running back they faced. Adrian Peterson's 26-97-2 stat line against Cincinnati got a grade of 65, the best performance against them last season. The Bengals were the only team last year to not allow any running back to get at least 70 adjusted yards over 2.0 yards per carry.
Once we grade each running back performance, it's easy to see how they ranked against that opponent relative to all other running backs. For example, Chris Johnson had the best game among all running backs last season against four different teams: the Jaguars (24-228-2), Texans (16-197-2), Cardinals (18-154-1) and 49ers (25-135-2). The table below shows how many times each running back had the best, 2nd best, 3rd best, ... and 10th best games against a team last season. The final column is a sum of those ranks, where each RB gets 10 points for a 1st place finish, 9 points for a 2nd place finish, and so on.
By just about any metric you can think of, Chris Johnson was the best running back in the NFL last season. It's no surprise that he tops the above list. One guy that stands out to me is Cedric Benson, who put up one of the three biggest performances against nearly half of the teams he faced in 2009. Another is DeAngelo Williams, who had top-five games against eight teams in only 13 games last season. Some have expressed doubts about Jamaal Charles since he was putting up huge numbers against bad defenses last season. But even though Charles was pitted against some weak defenses, he was still running through them like almost no other running back did. In the last four weeks of the season, he put up the #1 game against the Broncos, the #2 rushing performance against the Browns and the third best agame against the Bengals and Bills. Michael Turner suffered a high ankle sprain in Atlanta's 9th game of the season, and his end of the year numbers were less than impressive. But in those first nine weeks, he put up one of the best four performances by any running back against five opponents; that's one of the reasons I'm high on his fantasy football prospects this season.
I'll close with a list of the top rushing performances, measured by GRADE, against each defense last season:
This entry was posted on Friday, August 20th, 2010 at 7:56 am and is filed under Running Backs, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.