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Breakthrough: A New Running Back Stat

August 9th 2011 14:08
I have finally formulated a decent looking total efficiency statistic to evaluate running backs. There is a huge craze over quarterback stats, but I decided to come up with a simple, yet efficient running back stat. It isn't great, but I think it is better than what we've had. It isn't objective only because of the way I account for the run blocking variable.

Yards per carry is the single most important statistic for a running back, and it's efficiency in its simplest point. However, running backs who carry the rock more tend to have lower yards per carry totals. Also, backs with poor lines- in terms of run blocking- in front of them take hits in that department. YPC also doesn't take into account fumbles or touchdowns either. Although both of those factors aren't as important as once thought, they are necessary to come up with a running back stat that can actually work.

I started searching around the web to find a website with run blocking stats, but there weren't any out there that didn't involve yards per carry. See, I want to find people who can correctly evaluate the skills of a line without taking into account what the running back does. The obvious set in, and the only way to do this is to find a scouting site with subjective information that isn't stat-based.

The only place to find such information, in the reliable fashion of course, is the Pro Football Focus. I went through their offensive line rankings for the 2010 season, and I only took into account their run blocking rankings. If I didn't, I would be an idiot and this stat would have absolutely no practical value at all.

The rankings aren't made by JAGs who don't know about football. No, the guys at PFF track insurmountable amounts of data and view plays over and over again. They certainly got their rankings right, and I had absolutely no major disagreements with them. The Pro Football Focus's data is, what I call, objectively subjective.

We can all agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a terrible offensive line, and Rashard Mendenhall's YPC doesn't benefit from their ineptitude. It was part of my reason for making this stat, as well as boredom and the sheer will power to try to do something like this. It really didn't take that much effort though. All I needed to do was to come up with a formula that made some sense, get out a calculator, and plug it all in.

For the initial steps, I only included running backs with at least 200 carries. It's not because of sample size or anything, it's just because I wanted to get a small sample of this stat. More importantly, I want to hear what you guys think about it. If enough of you guys like it, I'll do some more RBs.

Formula: 1/100(Carries/Fum 1) 10(YPC) (Carries/100) (PFF Team Run Blocking Rank/10)

I didn't want to make fumbles a big part of the ranking, and they only serve as a simple modifier. It's basically a watered down form of carries per fumble, because Ray Rice would have been the best back in the league if I didn't modify anything. I added an extra fumble to everyone so I wouldn't have to deal with the undefined with guys like Rice.

Yards per carry is the bread-and-butter stat, so it obviously deserves the most attention. I helped out the workhose backs like Steven Jackson and Michael Turner, because the stat would have favored the guys with less carries. Most efficiency stats tend to do that unless if there is a modifier that rewards consistency. But I made the reward just a slight increase, because this is an efficiency stat in its essence.

As for the PFF run blocking part, I wanted it to have a significant effect without it changing too much. A 3.1 increase- for a Steelers run blocking ranking of 31- was a fair enough reward for Mendenhall's hard work. The rankings are grouped into tiers based on the overall rating of the player. These rankings do not reflect my opinions at all. This is just a stat that is solely based on the 2010 rankings and are not indicators of a player's talent level. They just describe how good the player was that year.

The 2010 Rankings (PFF Ranking in parenthesis like so)

MVP Caliber 60

1. Jamaal Charles 70 (7)

All-Pro 55-59

2. Darren McFadden 59.6 (18)
3. LeSean McCoy 59.3 (11)
4. Arian Foster 58.3 (3)
5. LeGarrette Blount 58.2 (28)
6. Adrian Peterson 57.2 (27)

Very Good Starter 50-55

7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis 54.5 (2)
8. Chris Johnson 53.7 (32)
9. Peyton Hillis 53 (22)
10. Ahmad Bradshaw 52.8 (17)
11. Matt Forte 52.6 (21)
12. Maurice Jones-Drew 50.6 (9)
13t. Michael Turner 50.4 (14)
13t. Rashard Mendenhall 50.4 (31)

Average Starter 48-50

14. Fred Jackson 49.6 (26)
15. Steven Jackson 48.7 (29)
16. Ray Rice 48.2 (4)

Below Average 44-48

17. LaDainian Tomlinson 47.5 (1)
18. Frank Gore 46.5 (6)
19. Marshawn Lynch 44.4 (30)

Terrible 40-44

20. Ronnie Brown 43.6 (16)
21. Thomas Jones 43.3 (7)
22. Cedric Benson 41.2 (8)

Any and all feedback is appreciated! Thank you! Note: All raw stats from Yahoo! Sports.

Terrific season

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16 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by nbageek

August 9th 2011 16:34
I love the stat. Nice finding something which could work for the running backs like that. Very in-depth write up. Charles as the top running back in the league, maybe. He had a great season last year, should continue as he and Cassel mature together. Good stuff.

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 9th 2011 17:03
Thanks for the praise man! Charles isn't the best running back in the league, AP is, but he was certainly the best back last year. He had one of the greatest seasons a running back has ever had in history, but it was just that Thomas Jones got too many carries for some reason. Nicely done Todd and Charlie. But yeah, Charles could have easily had 2,000 rushing yards if he got sufficient carries. Maybe the Chiefs were scared of a Larry Johnson thing happening, but Charles should have been given 50-75 more carries. The fact that Thomas Jones had more rushes is just downright embarrassing on the Chiefs' part. I'm glad you like the stat man, thanks again for commenting!

Comment by justindama

August 10th 2011 06:45
I think the Chiefs were definitely afraid of running Charles into the ground. Like Larry Johnson, but don't forget Priest Holmes, too.
It's nice to see someone thinking outside the box. I like this.

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 10th 2011 07:30
Thanks for commenting man! I'm glad you like the stat, and I miss the days when guys like Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, and LaDainian Tomlinson ruled the league. (Just to name a few.) Thanks again for commenting guys!

Comment by Max33

August 10th 2011 07:40
This new stat is amazing. It's a great way to measure the real value of RB's. If this gets around it could become a stat used in the NFL.

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 10th 2011 07:46
That's high praise Max. I think the stat is a decent way to evaluate backs- it's certainly better than what we have right now- and I honestly do hope it gets around. I doubt it becomes an official statistic because it is slightly subjective, but I honestly think it does a better job of evaluating running backs than what Total QBR does for quarterbacks. Thanks for commenting though Max, I really do appreciate it. The only way for a blog to be successful is for there to be guys willing to comment on it. It's the reason why I love to comment on other people's blogs. It's not just because I have a big mouth, but it's also because I feel that active commenting greatly increases a blog's- and a writer's- value. Thanks again guys, and I hope to get out a QB and WR efficiency statistic within the next month. I'll probably finish the finally running back rankings by the end of the week.

Comment by Anonymous

August 10th 2011 13:27
Nice job Joe. No matter how much research you did it still takes some effort to come up with this. A lot actually. As a Steelers fan I will say their line isn't very good, but the two games against the Ravens every year definitely works against them statistically. However, the proof is how many times I've seen them unable to run it in inside the opponent's 5 yard line. I think the guys who nominated Floyd Little for the hall of fame used something similar to this in their argument.

Comment by matt-a sports life

August 10th 2011 14:11
Joe, nice work on put a lot of effort in and even addressed what others may question in it...fumbles...good, well-written story too.

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 10th 2011 15:22
Thanks for the comments guys. TouchdownTim, your comment has given me an idea to refine this stat. I am going to add Strength of Schedule to it. It will be based on how many yards per carry a team defense has given up in a season, and it will be averaged up and added. But I actually don't think it makes that big of a difference. I will probably do it anyway though to add another variable. Interestingly enough, the Ravens' yards per carry allowed is equal to Mendenhall's yards per carry average of 3.9. Sports Life, fumbles for running backs are like interceptions for quarterbacks; it's just that INTs get more press. There are also less fumbles than picks, and fumbles were the stat that had the lowest impact. I'll have the final stat by Friday with the SOS factor implemented.

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 10th 2011 15:48
Through five sample players, I have seen that SOS doesn't make much of a difference. Turner, Jackson, Foster, and Mendenhall all have YPC's around the league average of 4.2. Turner and Mendenhall have 4.2, while Foster and Jackson have 4.3. The averages are the average yards per carry allowed by the defenses they faced throughout the 2010 season. Benson, however, was the only difference. He faced defenses that gave up only 4 yards per carry. That's actually a pretty big sized gap. I will use SOS, but I don't expect it to be that big of a factor. What do you guys think?

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 10th 2011 16:20
I've decided not to do Strength of Schedule because it doesn't make much of a difference. Not only that, but not everyone has an equal amount of carries against every team; and this skews the stat. I could certainly adjust for that, but it would be a waste of time. There is really no major difference at all. When I plugged in everything for Benson, nothing changed.

Comment by TimmyH6

August 10th 2011 19:07
I agree Joe. Strength of schedule is hard to figure anyway, because records are deceiving. The weak teams play other weak teams while the strong play the strong for parity sake which skews everything. And like I said the Steelers struggle inside the opponents five no matter who they play. That line hasn't been the same since Russ Grimm left.

Comment by Rick Gillispie

August 11th 2011 10:45
Great Job Joe. This stat could be very fun to play with during the year.

Comment by Matt-Sports Life

August 14th 2011 02:53
congrats on all those votes...I'll make sure to add mine if I haven't already!

Comment by Joe Soriano

August 14th 2011 06:07
Thanks man! But, you already have voted. You either click on the button, or you comment. I always make sure to comment on other people's posts. It used to be easier to get votes though. On my old website, I have a handful of posts that have over 200 votes!

Comment by jack001

December 3rd 2011 09:52
this garbage isnt even a breakthrough or a legit stat its stupid. just some dumb geek adding up useless numbers, just bunch of random stats bunched together that we can all look up even worse tha nqb rating. crap, just crap. pff is garbage, objectively subjective haha idiot, this is just dumb and then you want votes adn comments. one of the worse blogs out there for sure, ur an idiot joe blow

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