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Last weekend, we looked at the league-average ratios between receiving yards and touchdowns, and which players scored far more touchdowns than we would expect. Today, we do the same but for rushing yards.

For whatever reason, Jerome Bettis’ 2005 has become etched in the memories of many folks. That year, he rushed for 368 yards and 9 touchdowns. Back in ’05, the NFL average was 133.6 rushing yards per rushing touchdown. So we would expect Bettis, with 368 rushing yards, to rush for 2.8 touchdowns. That means Bettis actually rushed for 6.2 more touchdowns than we would “expect” given his rushing total. [click to continue…]

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On Tuesday, I looked at which receivers produced the most Adjusted Catch Yards over the baseline of worst starter. Yesterday, I used that data to help identify which receivers produced their numbers in the most pass-happy offenses. Today, instead of measuring wide receivers by how often their teams passed, I want to measure them by how well they passed.

Some teams are very efficient at passing because they have great wide receivers: to be clear, today’s post doesn’t prove anything about which way the causation arrow runs. But I do think it’s worth quantifying the reality that receivers produce their numbers in very disparte environments. Let’s use Joey Galloway as an example. Galloway, longtime readers will recall, was a favorite of an early iteration of Doug Drinen’s attempts at ranking wide receivers. For similar reasons, Galloway comes out “very good” in this system, if good means producing numbers while playing for bad passing offenses (a proxy, one could argue, for playing with bad quarterbacks).

Galloway produced 2,071 Adjusted Catch Yards above the baseline in his career, good for an unremarkable 84th place on Tuesday’s list. But let’s look at the 8 seasons that get Galloway there: [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, I looked at which receivers produced the most Adjusted Catch Yards over the baseline of the worst starter. Today, I want to use that data to help identify which receivers put up their numbers in the most pass-happy offenses.

Let’s use Calvin Johnson as an example. He’s been with the Lions for each season of his career, and Detroit has been very pass-happy throughout his career. Last year, Detroit averaged averaged 40.56 dropbacks (pass attempts plus sacks) per game, while the league average was 37.29 dropbacks per game. So Detroit passed 108.8% as often as the average team.

In 2013, Detroit’s ratio to the league average was 108.2%, but it was 129.8% in 2012. To measure pass-happiness as it pertains to Johnson, we can’t just take Detroit’s average grade from ’07 to ’14; instead, we need to assign more weight to Johnson’s best years. Johnson gained 1,358 ACY over the baseline in 2012, which represents 29% of his career value of 4,721 ACY over the baseline. As a result, Detroit’s 129.8% ratio in 2012 needs to count for 29% of Johnson’s career pass-happy grade.

If we do this for each of the players in yesterday’s top 100, here are the results. [click to continue…]

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Brown stuck the lanning.

Brown stuck the lanning.

Adjusted Catch Yards are simply receiving yards with a 5-yard bonus for each reception and a 20-yard bonus for each receiving touchdown. In 2014, Antonio Brown led the NFL with 2,603 Adjusted Catch Yards, the 5th highest total in NFL history. That was the result of a whopping 129 receptions for 1,698 receiving yards (both of which led the league) and 13 touchdowns.

Brown was dominant in 2014, and he led the NFL in more advanced systems, too. But today, I wanted to do something relatively simple. How do we compare Brown’s 2014 to say, three Packers greats from years past?

In 1992, Sterling Sharpe had 108 catches for 1,461 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those are pretty great numbers for 1992, although they don’t leap off the page the way Brown’s 2014 stat line does. If we go back farther, Billy Howton in 1956 had 55 receptions for 1,188 yards and 12 touchdowns. Like Brown, that was good enough to lead the NFL in two of the three major categories, and rank 2nd in the third. And 15 years earlier, Don Hutson caught 58 passes for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns. How do we compare that statline to Brown’s?

Here’s what I did.

1) Calculate each player’s Adjusted Catch Yards. For Brown, that’s 2,603. For Sharpe, Howton, and Hutson, it’s 2,261, 1,703, and 1,228, respectively.

2) Next, calculate the Adjusted Catch Yards for every other player in the NFL. Then, determine the baseline in each year, defined as the number of ACY by the Nth ranked player, where N equals the number of teams in the league. For Brown, that means using 1,398 Adjusted Catch Yards, the number produced by the 32nd-ranked player in ACY in 2014. For Sharpe, we use 1,078 ACY, the number gained by the 28th-ranked player in ’92. For Howton, it’s just 797, the number of ACY for the 12th-ranked player (keep in mind that ’56 was a very run-heavy year). And finally, for Huston, we use the 10th-ranked player from 1941, who gained only 413 Adjusted Catch Yards.

3) Next, we subtract the baseline from each player’s number of Adjusted Catch Yards. So Brown is credited with 1,205 ACY over the baseline, Sharpe gets 1,183 ACY over the baseline, Howton is 906 ACY over the baseline, and Hutson is 815 ACY over the baseline.

4) Finally, we must pro-rate for non-16 game seasons. For Brown and Sharpe, we don’t need to do anything, so Brown wins, 1,205 to 1,183. Howton played in a 12-game season, so we multiply his 906 by 16 and divide by 12, giving him 1,208 ACY, narrowly edging Brown. And in 1941, the NFL had an 11-game slate; multiply 815 by 16 and divide by 11, and Hutson is credited with 1,185 ACY.

As you can see, it wasn’t a coincidence I chose those three Packers seasons to compare to Brown. Those four seasons are the 19th-through-22nd best seasons of all time by this metric, and stand out as roughly equally dominant for their eras (both Sharpe and Hutson won the triple crown of receiving in their years).

This is not my preferred method of measuring wide receiver player, but it’s my favorite “simple” one. I put simple in quotes, of course, since there’s a lot of programming power behind generating these numbers. But at a high level, it’s simple: we combine the three main receiving stats into one, we adjust for era because the game has changed so much, and we pro-rate for years where the league didn’t play 16 games. Nothing more, nothing less. [click to continue…]

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Julius Thomas and Expected Touchdowns

In 2013, NFL players combined for 129,177 receiving yards and 804 receiving touchdowns. That means, on average, a touchdown was scored every 160.7 receiving yards. Denver tight end Julius Thomas gained 788 receiving yards that year, which means we might have “expected” him to catch 4.9 touchdowns. But Thomas was no average scorer: he finished with 12 touchdowns, or 7.1 more than expected.

In 2013, only Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis scored more receiving touchdowns relative to expectation than Thomas (Davis scored 13 times on just 850 receiving yards, or 7.7 more than expected, while Graham converted 1,215 receiving yards into 16 touchdowns, or 8.4 more than expected).

Well, as good as Thomas was in 2013, he was even crazier at scoring touchdowns last year. Despite gaining just 489 receiving yards, Thomas again scored 12 touchdowns, 8.9 more than expectation (the league average was 159.7 receiving yards per receiving touchdown). That was the most in the NFL, and only Dez Bryant (1,320/16/+7.7) was within shouting distance of him. [click to continue…]

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Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. There are few who have given as much thought to the history of quarterbacks and quarterback ranking systems as Brad has over the years. What follows are Brad’s thoughts on a stat-based quarterback ranking system.


I recently concluded an eight-part series on the greatest quarterbacks in the history of professional football. Those rankings were subjective, based on everything I know about the players: stats, awards and honors, coaching and teammates, team success and postseason performance, reputation, the eye test, and so forth.

But I also have a method for classifying quarterbacks statistically. I actually published the results of this formula three months ago, but without revealing the process that produced those results. A number of readers were curious about my methodology, and in this post, I’ll finally explain how the sausage gets made. The math is not complicated — you don’t need a stats background to understand this — but there’s a lot of it: you could calculate most of this with a pencil and paper, but by the end, you’re going to want a spreadsheet. [click to continue…]

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An alternate uniform for the greatest tight end ever

An alternate uniform for the greatest tight end ever

Over the last three days, we’ve looked at the most dominant fantasy quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Today, we look at tight ends, using the methodology described over the three previous days.

I am using the following scoring system throughout this series: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 4 points per passing TD, 6 points per rushing/receiving TD, 0.5 points per reception.

You probably expect to see Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 season grade as the best fantasy season by any tight end. But, as it turns out, an AFC West tight end had one season that was ever so slightly more dominant.

You might think I’m talking about Tony Gonzalez, who has an unreal eleven seasons in the top 200. Or Kellen Winslow, who has eight top-200 seasons, half of which rank in the top 25. And if not one of those two, then surely Antonio Gates, who has nine top-200 seasons, including two in the top twenty. Or Shannon Sharpe, of course, who also has nine top-200 seasons, with six of those being in the top 70.

In fact, AFC West teams1 have 14 of the top 25 seasons by a tight end in fantasy history, and and 19 of the top 35 years. No division has dominated this position like the AFC West, but the best tight end season in fantasy history came from someone else: Oakland’s Todd Christensen. [click to continue…]

  1. And we don’t even need to include Seattle, which has 0 entries in the top 200 []
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The fantasy GOAT

The fantasy GOAT

Yesterday, we looked at the most dominant quarterbacks in fantasy history. Today, the running backs, using the methodology described yesterday. Let’s look at the three best seasons in fantasy history, since all shed light on the formula here. Those three are LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006, which is easy to argue as the best year ever as Tomlinson shattered the record for fantasy points scored. But O.J. Simpson in 1975 (not ’73) was also dominant, and did so in a 14-game season and when the baseline was lower. The darkhorse candidate is Priest Holmes, 2002, who put up insane numbers but missed two games due to injury.

I am using the following scoring system throughout this series: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 4 points per passing TD, 6 points per rushing/receiving TD, 0.5 points per reception.

In 2006, Tomlinson rushed for 1,815 yards with 28 TDs, caught 56 passes for 508 yards and 3 touchdowns, and even threw for 20 yards and two touchdowns. He totaled a still mind-boggling 455.3 fantasy points. On a per game basis, Tomlinson averaged 28.46 FP/G, while the baseline — which for these purposes is RB241 — was at 10.75 FP/G. Therefore, Tomlinson averaged 17.71 FP/G over the baseline, and he did it for 16 games, giving him a VBD of 283.3 fantasy points (17.71 x 16). [click to continue…]

  1. Baselines used in this series: From 1968 to 2014, RB24. In ’66 and ’67, RB20, and from ’61 to ’65, RB16. In the 1960 AFL, the baseline is RB6, while it is RB8 in the NFL. From 1950 to 1959, the baseline used is RB8. []
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What was the most dominant fantasy season of all time? You might think Peyton Manning 2013, but let me throw out another candidate: Steve Young, 1998.

I am using the following scoring system throughout this series: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 4 points per passing TD, 6 points per rushing/receiving TD, 0.5 points per reception.

In 2013, Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs with just 10 interceptions, while rushing for -31 yards but with one TD. That comes out to 486.75 fantasy points. In 1998, Young threw for 4,170 yards with 36 TDs and 12 INTs, but also ran for 454 yards and 6 TDs. That is equal to 421.90 fantasy points. So, advantage Manning.

But we measure fantasy dominance “not by the number of points he scores[, but] by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position.” Those are the words of Joe Bryant in his famous VBD article, and I’ll make an appendix to that for historical purposes: the key is how much a player outscores his peers at his particular position in that particular year.

When calculating VBD scores, the standard is to use the 12th-ranked quarterback. In 2013, the 12th=-ranked QB scored 309.2 fantasy points, which means Manning outscored him by 177.55 fantasy points (or we could say that Manning produced 178 points of VBD). In 1998, the 12th-ranked quarterback scored just 235.6 fantasy points, which means Young finished with 186.3 points of VBD. So, advantage, Young.

But there’s another piece of the puzzle that tips the scales even more towards the 49ers quarterback. In 1998, Young missed one game. For fantasy purposes, it’s more valuable to have a quarterback produced X points in 15 games than it is for him to produce X points in 16 games, because you can play someone else during that 16th game. [click to continue…]

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On Sunday, I calculated the average number of pass attempts (including sacks) per game for each season since 1950, and then looked at which were the highest era-adjusted passing games in football history. On Monday, I looked at the single seasons that were the most and least pass-happy, from the perspective of each quarterback and after adjusting for era. Today, career grades.

How much do you know about Frank Tripucka? Probably not that much. If you’re a younger fan, you might know him because Denver “unretired” his #18 when Peyton Manning came to town, or because his son Kelly played in the NBA.

If you’re a Football Perspective regular, you may recall that he was the first quarterback in pro football history to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.1 Well, after today, you’re never going to forget about Tripucka.

I looked at all quarterbacks who started at least 48 regular season games since 1950.2 As a reminder about the methodology, I then calculated the league average dropbacks per game (i.e., pass attempts + sacks) in each season. Then, I determined the number of dropbacks by each quarterback’s team in each game started by that quarterback.

Then, I compared that number to league average to determine the ratio. Do this for every game of a quarterback’s career, and viola, career ratings! Here’s how to read the table below. Tripucka started 50 games in his career since 1950. In those games, his teams averaged 38.5 dropbacks per game, while the league average was 31 dropbacks. As a result, Tripucka’s teams in games he started finished with 124% as many pass attempts as the average team, or 7.5 more attempts per game. That makes him the most pass-happy quarterback ever. The final column shows whether the quarterback is in, or very likely to wind up in, the Hall of Fame.3 [click to continue…]

  1. And by first, I mean that in the most literal sense: in 1960, Tripucka, playing in the AFL and a 14-game season, crossed the 3,000 yard mark in the final game of the season. For Denver, that happened to be a Saturday. The next day, another AFL quarterback, Jack Kemp, crossed the 3,000-yard threshold with the Chargers. The AFL opened with a 14-game schedule to get a jump on the NFL, which was still playing a 12-game schedule in 1960. The NFL’s regular season ended at the same time, and Johnny Unitas became the first NFL passer to hit 3,000 yards on the same day as Kemp. []
  2. For quarterbacks who played prior to 1950, like Tripucka, they are included, but only their post-1950 stats are counted. []
  3. Note that I have included Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, and Aaron Rodgers as HOF quarterbacks for these purposes. This is not based on my subjective opinion of those players, but based on my subjective opinion of their likelihoods of enshrinement. If one was to sort by the HOF category, I thought it would be more useful to have them as a “Yes” than as a “No.” Your mileage may vary. []
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Yesterday, we looked at which teams had the most pass attempts (including sacks) in individual games relative to league average. Today, we will analyze things on the season level.

Let’s use Tobin Rote as an example. As Brad Oremland noted, Rote was stuck playing for terrible Packers teams in the ’50s that were weak on defense and light at running back. In 1951, Green Bay ranked 12th in the 12-team NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, and 11th in points allowed and yards allowed. The Packers often went with just one running back in the backfield — a rarity in those days — which is a sign that the emphasis on the passing game wasn’t just a result of the team’s losing record. Green Bay also went with a quarterback-by-committee approach: Rote started 11 of 12 games, but he finished the year with 256 pass attempts, while backup Bobby Thomason had 221. Individually, neither had great numbers, but together, they helped Green Bay finish with 50 more pass attempts than any other team in football.

The method I used yesterday, and will be using throughout this series, is to give the starting quarterback credit for all team pass attempts in that game. The reason? If a quarterback gets injured and finishes a game with just 5 attempts, that will kill his average in a misleading way. That would do more harm, I think, than giving him credit for all attempts in the game. But that decision has its drawbacks, and in particular, it seems ill-suited for teams in the early ’50s that employed a QBBC approach. This is particularly relevant here, because “Rote’s” 1951 season checks in as the most pass-happy on our list.

So the Rote line for ’51 should really be thought of as Rote and Thomason. Rote’s 1956 season also makes the top ten, and there’s no fine print necessary there. Rote started 11 of 12 games and threw 308 passes, while Bart Starr started the remaining game and had just 44 attempts that season. The ’56 Packers were not very good, ranking last in both points and yards allowed, and last in rushing attempts, too.

The table below shows the top 300 seasons (minimum 7 games started) in terms of pass attempts relative to league average. You can use the search function to see that Rote’s season in 1954 with Green Bay also makes the cut. To explain what’s in the table below, let’s use season #15 on the list, Shane Matthews in 1999, as an example. That year, Matthews started 7 games, but in those games, the Bears averaged an incredible 47.1 dropbacks per game, the second highest rate ever. Matthews shared some snaps with rookie Cade McNown that year, so you wouldn’t know it just by looking at Matthews’ raw numbers, but the ’99 Bears were insanely pass-happy under Gary Crowton. The league average was 36.3 dropbacks per game, so the Bears in “Matthews games” were 10.8 attempts above average, and 129.8% above league average. [click to continue…]

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Let’s take a look at the league average dropbacks (pass attempts + sacks) per game for each year from 1950 to 2014.

dropback per game [click to continue…]

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You remember 1976, don’t you? Two teams — the Colts with Bert Jones and Roger Carr, and the Raiders with Ken Stabler and Cliff Branch — stood out from the pack when it came to pass efficiency that season. The Colts led the NFL in passing yards, ranked 2nd in passing touchdowns, and threw just 10 interceptions, tied for the fewest in the NFL. Oakland threw 33 touchdown passes — nine more than the Colts and 12 more than any other team in football — while ranking 3rd in passing yards. Both teams averaged 7.5 Net Yards per Pass Attempt, while every other team was below seven in that metric. Those two teams went a combined 24-4.

The next four best passing teams were St. Louis, Dallas, Minnesota and Los Angeles. Each of those teams went 10-4 or better. In fact, the linear relationship between pass efficiency and team record was quite strong that year. Take a look at the chart below, which plots Relative ANY/A — i.e., Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt relative to league average — on the X-Axis, and Winning Percentage on the Y-Axis: [click to continue…]

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On Saturday, we looked at the top passing performers against each franchise. Yesterday, we did the same thing but with rushing statistics. Today, we revive a post from two years ago and complete the series with a look at the top receiving producers against each franchise (all data beginning in 1960).

Let’s begin with receptions. In the past two seasons, Jason Witten has emerged as the number one franchise nemesis for both Washington and New York, eliminating Art Monk and Michael Irvin, respectively, from the tops of those record books. Witten was already the top guy against the Eagles, making him the career leader in receptions against each of the Cowboys three NFC East rivals.

Other non-surprising news: Jerry Rice is the top man against the Falcons, Saints, and Rams, with his numbers against Atlanta being particularly mind-blowing. Tim Brown is number one against his old AFC West teams, and was also number one against the Seahawks until Larry Fitzgerald just passed him. Andre Reed takes the top spot against the Dolphins/Colts/Jets (Marvin Harrison is #1 against the Patriots), Hines Ward has more catches than anyone against the Browns/Bengals/Ravens, while Cris Carter is number one against all four of his old NFC Norris rivals. [click to continue…]

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A couple of years ago on the July 4th holiday, I looked at each team’s franchise nemesis in a number of statistics. Let’s revisit that, beginning today with passing yards and passing touchdowns.

You won’t be surprised to know that John Elway has thrown for more yards against the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, and Seahawks — his four division rivals — than any other player has gained against those four teams. Similarly, Dan Marino has thrown for more yards against the Bills, Jets, Patriots, and Colts than any other quarterback. Brett Favre threw for more yards than anyone else against the Lions, Bears, and Vikings (but not the Bucs), and Peyton Manning is the top nemesis for the Oilers/Titans franchise, the Jaguars, and the Texans.

Drew Brees is the big enemy of the Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons, while Ben Roethlisberger is the top passer against the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns. Perhaps more surprising is that Eli Manning has already thrown for more yards against Philadelphia, Washington, and Dallas than any other quarterback: that’s particularly surprising since he wasn’t #1 against any of those teams two years ago.

One that always kind of surprises me is seeing Johnny Unitas as number 1 against the 49ers, but it does make some sense. My guess is you could win quite a few bar bets with that one. Here’s the full list, which includes all passing yards thrown by each quarterback against each of the 32 teams (and includes playoff games): [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, I looked at the best defenses in football history in terms of (estimated) points allowed on an (estimated) per drive basis. Today, the reverse: the worst defenses in history, at least, without adjusting for era, in terms of points allowed per drive.

The 1981 Colts take the top spot, and that’s not going to be a surprise to any fan of NFL history. Those Colts teams were terrible, particularly on defense. In ’81, Baltimore beat New England 29-28 in week 1, beat New England 23-21 in the last game of the season, and lost every game in between. In ’82, Baltimore finished 0-8-1. In fact, beginning in December 1980, over the team’s next 31 games, the Colts went 3-1 against the Patriots and 0-26-1 against the rest of the NFL! And beginning in ’81, the Colts went 24 straight games without being favored.

The ’81 Colts finished last in just about every defensive category, including points, yards, turnovers, first downs, passing touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, and net yards per attempt. Baltimore’s defense ranked in the bottom three in both rushing yards and passing yards, too. Baltimore allowed 533 points, which remains the most in a single season in NFL history, undisturbed by the modern era. [click to continue…]

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The Purple People Eaters

The Purple People Eaters

The 1969 Minnesota Vikings were really good on defense. It began with the defensive line, as that Minnesota squad was the only team in NFL history to send all four defensive linemen to the Pro Bowl. Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, and Gary Larsen may have been the greatest combination of defensive linemen playing together in their primes in NFL history. The Vikings also had Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause playing in the prime of his career.

Minnesota was quarterback by Joe Kapp, but propped up by the defense: after the season, Kapp was traded to the Patriots, and proceeded to suffer the second worst decline in passer rating in NFL history. The Vikings went 12-2 that season, losing on opening day and in a meaningless game at the end of the year.

Minnesota allowed just 133 points, or 9.5 points per game, in 1969. That’s the 2nd fewest in a season since World War II, trailing only the Gritz Blitz 1977 Falcons. The Vikings allowed 16 touchdowns in 1969, but four came on returns (two on interceptions, one fumble, one interception)! Exclude those, and the Vikings allowed just 84 points on touchdowns and 21 points on field goals, for a total of 105 points allowed to the opposing offense. [click to continue…]

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Single-Season Cellar Dwellars in OPPED

On Sunday, I looked at the single-season leaders in estimated offensive points per estimated drive. Today, let’s look at the reverse: the teams since 1950 with the fewest points per estimated drive.

The 1977 Bucs ranked last in the NFL in points, yards, first downs, passing yards, passing touchdowns, net yards per attempt, rushing yards, and rushing yards per carry. The team ranked third from last in rushing touchdowns and interceptions. It was that kind of year for Tampa Bay, as the team was shut out 6 times in 14 games, and held to just a field goal in three others.

Tampa scored just 103 points, but the defense scored four touchdowns! As a result, the Bucs get credit for just 76 estimated offensive points (the offense does get credit for one missed extra point), the fewest of any team since 1950. [click to continue…]

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As regular readers know, PFR’s Approximate Value statistic uses Offensive Points Per Estimated Drive (OPPED) as its base statistic. Given the discussion yesterday regarding estimates drives and scoring, I thought it would be useful to provide a list of the single-season leaders since 1950 in this metric.

Let’s use the 2007 Patriots as an example. For modern teams, we have the data available on how many drives each team had, but for historical teams, it’s not so easy. There are two ways we can measure drives for all teams. One is to measure the end of drives. For example, the ’07 Patriots had:

  • 50 passing touchdowns;
  • 9 interceptions;
  • 17 rushing touchdowns;
  • 24 field goal attempts;
  • 45 punts;
  • 6 fumbles lost; and
  • 0 safeties (i.e., the offense was never sacked in the end zone)

That gives us a total of 151 estimated drives. What we’re missing here are drives that end when the clock runs out and turnovers on downs. Unfortunately, that data is simply not out there historically, although it’s probably not all that important (and, at least with respect to the former, those drives arguably should be excluded, anyway).

We can also measure the start of drives.  The ’07 Patriots:

  • Played 16 games, which means 16 times where the team received the ball at the start of each half;
  • Recorded 0 safeties recorded on defense (which would lead to a possession);
  • Allowed 23 passing touchdowns;
  • Forced 19 interceptions;
  • Allowed 7 rushing touchdowns;
  • Faced 14 opponent field goal attempts;
  • Forced 76 punts;
  • Forced and recovered 12 fumbles.
  • In addition, New England also had 3 pick sixes and returned 3 fumbles for touchdowns.  as a result, we need to subtract 6 from our total, since those turnovers did not lead to drives for the offense.

This method of estimating drives isn’t perfect, either, but if we average the two results, hopefully we get something pretty close.  New England’s offense had 161 estimated drives by this metric, giving them an averaged of 156 estimated offensive drives.1

What about estimated points? That one is relatively simple:

  • Award 7 points for each rushing touchdown or passing touchdown;
  • Award 3 points for each made field goal

There are flaws here, well, but this is probably the best we can do.  By this method, New England had 532 estimated offensive points, and 3.41 OPPED.  That is the most of any team since 1950.  The full list:

RkTeamYrLgEst Drive (End)Est Drive (St)Est OptsOPPED
1New England Patriots2007NFL1511615323.41
2New Orleans Saints2011NFL1621675183.15
3Green Bay Packers2011NFL1621735133.06
4Minnesota Vikings1998NFL1681685113.04
5Indianapolis Colts2004NFL1581704872.97
6Denver Broncos2013NFL1901995722.94
7New England Patriots2010NFL1491684582.89
8St. Louis Rams2000NFL1701875132.87
9San Diego Chargers1982NFL991022862.85
10New England Patriots2012NFL1721815002.83
11Green Bay Packers2014NFL1521634452.83
12New England Patriots2011NFL1661764832.82
13Miami Dolphins1984NFL1651874962.82
14Indianapolis Colts2007NFL1511554262.78
15San Francisco 49ers1994NFL1601754652.78
16Indianapolis Colts2006NFL1441594142.73
17Kansas City Chiefs2004NFL1631764572.7
18San Francisco 49ers1993NFL1551684332.68
19St. Louis Rams2001NFL1731774682.67
20Indianapolis Colts2005NFL1461634122.67
21Dallas Cowboys2014NFL1661694462.66
22San Diego Chargers2009NFL1501644182.66
23Denver Broncos1998NFL1741874752.63
24San Francisco 49ers1992NFL1491644112.63
25San Diego Chargers2006NFL1711874702.63
26Dallas Cowboys1995NFL1541594102.62
27New Orleans Saints2008NFL1611794442.61
28New England Patriots2014NFL1641714342.59
29Green Bay Packers1962NFL1501563952.58
30San Diego Chargers2008NFL1531654102.58
31Kansas City Chiefs2002NFL1601844402.56
32Washington Redskins1983NFL1962055122.55
33Washington Redskins1991NFL1721814502.55
34Houston Oilers1961AFL1871974892.55
35San Diego Chargers2004NFL1651744312.54
36New Orleans Saints2009NFL1701854512.54
37Houston Oilers1990NFL1491613922.53
38San Francisco 49ers1984NFL1731814462.52
39St. Louis Rams1999NFL1741804452.51
40San Diego Chargers2010NFL1661664172.51
41Minnesota Vikings2009NFL1721864492.51
42Indianapolis Colts2003NFL1661754262.5
43Denver Broncos2014NFL1731934572.5
44New England Patriots2008NFL1531694022.5
45New England Patriots2004NFL1601624012.49
46Jacksonville Jaguars2007NFL1461643852.48
47New England Patriots2009NFL1571714072.48
48Dallas Cowboys2007NFL1681774282.48
49Cincinnati Bengals2005NFL1601744132.47
50San Francisco 49ers1989NFL1671814302.47
51New York Giants2012NFL1621684072.47
52Green Bay Packers2009NFL1721784312.46
53San Diego Chargers2011NFL1531603852.46
54Oakland Raiders2002NFL1581734072.46
55New Orleans Saints2013NFL1611774152.46
56Cincinnati Bengals1988NFL1671764212.45
57San Francisco 49ers1987NFL1721814332.45
58San Diego Chargers1981NFL1892014772.45
59Buffalo Bills1990NFL1561683962.44
60San Diego Chargers2013NFL1551643892.44
61Kansas City Chiefs2003NFL1761854402.44
62Atlanta Falcons2012NFL1631714072.44
63San Francisco 49ers1998NFL1872024742.44
64New York Giants2008NFL1581724022.44
65Buffalo Bills1991NFL1731884392.43
66Minnesota Vikings2004NFL1481673832.43
67Indianapolis Colts2009NFL1581703982.43
68San Francisco 49ers1953NFL1461563662.42
69Green Bay Packers1961NFL1471533632.42
70Miami Dolphins1986NFL1701834272.42
71Seattle Seahawks2005NFL1761824322.41
72Detroit Lions1995NFL1681864272.41
73Baltimore Colts1976NFL1641764102.41
74Los Angeles Rams1950NFL1801804342.41
75New Orleans Saints2014NFL1591734002.41
76Minnesota Vikings2000NFL1601683952.41
77San Francisco 49ers1995NFL1611683962.41
78Baltimore Colts1964NFL1641764082.4
79Indianapolis Colts2014NFL1831904472.4
80Kansas City Chiefs1966AFL1711774162.39
81New Orleans Saints2012NFL1741834252.38
82Oakland Raiders2000NFL1721874262.37
83Buffalo Bills1975NFL1651774052.37
84Miami Dolphins1972NFL1521633732.37
85Indianapolis Colts2008NFL1361523402.36
86Los Angeles Rams1951NFL1611573752.36
87Dallas Cowboys1966NFL1711754082.36
88Carolina Panthers2011NFL1641713952.36
89Cleveland Browns1966NFL1561703842.36
90Pittsburgh Steelers2014NFL1581723882.35
91Indianapolis Colts2010NFL1681734002.35
92Denver Broncos2000NFL1701894212.35
92Denver Broncos2012NFL1741854212.35
94Houston Texans2010NFL1551773892.34
95Green Bay Packers2012NFL1691784062.34
96Baltimore Colts1958NFL1481643652.34
97New York Giants1963NFL1731794112.34
98San Diego Chargers2005NFL1731754062.33
99Washington Redskins2012NFL1601783942.33
100San Francisco 49ers2001NFL1621733902.33
101Green Bay Packers1995NFL1641773962.32
102Detroit Lions1972NFL1361523332.31
103Chicago Bears2013NFL1671733932.31
104Cincinnati Bengals1982NFL91972172.31
105Baltimore Ravens2014NFL1571803882.3
106Seattle Seahawks2012NFL1541703732.3
106New York Giants1967NFL1561683732.3
108New York Jets1982NFL1001052362.3
109Indianapolis Colts2000NFL1691824042.3
110Cincinnati Bengals1985NFL1771964292.3
111New England Patriots2013NFL1821854222.3
112Cleveland Browns1960NFL1321433162.3
113Philadelphia Eagles2013NFL1811904262.3
114Carolina Panthers1999NFL1751834112.3
115Seattle Seahawks2014NFL1541713732.3
116Miami Dolphins1995NFL1681713892.29
117Denver Broncos1997NFL1651833992.29
118Cleveland Browns1964NFL1501643602.29
119Dallas Texans1962AFL1621803922.29
120Green Bay Packers2007NFL1681763942.29
121Dallas Cowboys2006NFL1631773892.29
122Denver Broncos2008NFL1511603552.28
123Denver Broncos1995NFL1631703802.28
124Baltimore Colts1959NFL1401583402.28
125Chicago Bears1995NFL1591723772.28
126Green Bay Packers2003NFL1791894192.28
127Baltimore Colts1968NFL1551633622.28
128Arizona Cardinals2008NFL1631803902.27
129Carolina Panthers2008NFL1711803992.27
129Dallas Cowboys2013NFL1721793992.27
131San Francisco 49ers1965NFL1691723872.27
132Minnesota Vikings2003NFL1601783832.27
132Cleveland Browns1968NFL1641743832.27
134Baltimore Colts1967NFL1541653612.26
135Miami Dolphins1975NFL1531603542.26
136Miami Dolphins1994NFL1671703802.26
137Miami Dolphins1985NFL1771924162.25
138San Diego Chargers1963AFL1721723872.25
138New Orleans Saints2010NFL1611673692.25
140Pittsburgh Steelers2007NFL1581713702.25
141Kansas City Chiefs2005NFL1641763822.25
142Green Bay Packers2013NFL1691813932.25
143Green Bay Packers2004NFL1681773872.24
144Atlanta Falcons2010NFL1651723782.24
145Green Bay Packers1996NFL1681883992.24
146Detroit Lions2011NFL1851924222.24
147Chicago Bears1965NFL1621743762.24
148San Francisco 49ers1991NFL1631753782.24
149Dallas Cowboys1968NFL1681723802.24
150New York Jets1998NFL1691813902.23
151San Francisco 49ers2000NFL1581783742.23
152Philadelphia Eagles2010NFL1821944182.22
153Indianapolis Colts1999NFL1691813892.22
154Cincinnati Bengals1981NFL1791894092.22
155Dallas Cowboys1980NFL1832004252.22
156Washington Redskins1999NFL1771924092.22
157St. Louis Rams2003NFL1831884112.22
158Atlanta Falcons2011NFL1651803822.21
159Los Angeles Rams1973NFL1581773702.21
160Atlanta Falcons2008NFL1561703602.21
161New York Jets2008NFL1611713662.2
162San Diego Chargers1985NFL2022094532.2
163Dallas Cowboys1993NFL1541693562.2
164New York Giants1962NFL1651793792.2
165New Orleans Saints1987NFL1771874002.2
166New Orleans Saints2006NFL1721843912.2
167Dallas Cowboys1971NFL1711783832.19
168Jacksonville Jaguars1997NFL1621783732.19
168Dallas Cowboys1992NFL1631773732.19
170Cincinnati Bengals1989NFL1671843852.19
170Denver Broncos1996NFL1711803852.19
172Oakland Raiders1972NFL1561653522.19
173Atlanta Falcons1998NFL1731843912.19
174Seattle Seahawks2013NFL1711823862.19
175San Francisco 49ers2012NFL1661703672.18
176Dallas Cowboys1994NFL1691803812.18
177Denver Broncos2002NFL1601813722.18
178New York Jets1972NFL1581673542.18
179Kansas City Chiefs1967AFL1691723712.18
180Denver Broncos2005NFL1641793732.17
181Tennessee Titans2003NFL1711833832.16
182Buffalo Bills1998NFL1711873862.16
183Miami Dolphins2014NFL1581763602.16
184Cleveland Browns1987NFL1631753642.15
185Chicago Bears1956NFL1421583232.15
186Cincinnati Bengals1986NFL1771903942.15
187San Francisco 49ers1983NFL1711863832.15
188Minnesota Vikings2002NFL1781803842.15
189Los Angeles Rams1989NFL1821964052.14
189New England Patriots2006NFL1681823752.14
189Green Bay Packers2010NFL1631733602.14
192Dallas Cowboys1973NFL1601753582.14
193New York Giants2009NFL1691823752.14
194Atlanta Falcons2002NFL1751843832.13
195Cleveland Browns1980NFL1661753632.13
196Pittsburgh Steelers2005NFL1631813662.13
197Philadelphia Eagles2004NFL1691843752.12
198Seattle Seahawks1987NFL1631753592.12
198Baltimore Colts1965NFL1641743592.12
200Atlanta Falcons2014NFL1621773602.12
  1. Note that the Patriots went 15/21 on 4th down attempts that year. FWIW, Football Outsiders has New England with 158 offensive drives. []
{ 14 comments }

The 1972 Detroit Lions Offense

There are lots of ways to measure a team’s offensive production.  But if a drive does not end in a punt or a turnover, it’s probably a pretty good drive.  Last year, the Packers had just 64 possessions end in a punt (51) or turnover (6 interceptions, 7 fumbles lost).  The Raiders led the way with 138 Bad Drives — defined as possessions that ended in a punt or turnover — so this metric passes the sniff test.

Here’s some more positive evidence for this statistic: Since 1970, the team with the fewest Bad Drives was the 2007 Patriots at 60.1  That New England team was followed by the ’14 Packers, the ’11 Saints (66), the ’06 Colts (67), the ’10 Patriots (68), the ’72 Lions (68), the ’11 Packers (69), and the ’09 Chargers (69. The Colts from ’04 to ’08 were extremely consistent and extremely strong in this metric, with 71 Bad Drives in ’04, 71 in ’05, ’67 in ’06, 71 in ’07, and 70 in ’08. [click to continue…]

  1. And excluding 1982. []
{ 16 comments }

In 2008, Jamaal Charles had 67 carries and averaged 5.33 yards per carry. Those 67 carries represent 5% of Charles’ career attempts to date (excluding playoffs). That season, the NFL league average was 4.20 yards per carry, which means Charles was 1.12 (after rounding) YPC above average in 2008, or 1.12 YPC above average on 5% of his career carries.

In ’09, Charles had 190 carries, representing 15% of his career YPC. He averaged 5.89 YPC, and the league average was 4.24, which means Charles was 1.65 YPC above average for 15% of his career carries.

In 2010, those numbers were 230, 18%, 6.38, and 4.21, so Charles was 2.17 YPC above league average on 18% of his career carries.

I performed that analysis for every season of Charles’ career — and every other player in NFL history — to determine each player’s career YPC average relative to league average. The table below shows the 200 running backs (by default, only the top 10 are shown) in pro football history with the most carries. The table is sorted by YPC over league average. Here’s how to read it. Jamaal Charles ranks 1st in YPC over league average. His first year was 2008 and his last year (so far) was 2014. For his career, Charles has 1,249 career rush attempts, which ranks 118th in pro football history. He has 6,856 yards, giving him a 5.49 career YPC average. His “expected” career yards per carry average — based on the league average YPC in each season of his career, weighted by his number of carries — is 4.21. Therefore, Charles has averaged 1.28 YPC above league average for his career, the highest rate in football history. [click to continue…]

{ 28 comments }

Three years ago on Father’s Day, I posted a trivia question about the first quarterback to get to 100 losses. I won’t spoil that for new readers, and older readers have bad memories so you can try your hand at that trivia question again.

Today, a different trivia question: Who was the first quarterback to get to 100 wins?

Trivia hint 1 Show


Trivia hint 2 Show


Trivia hint 3 Show


Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

Unitas was the career record holder for about nine years. Then, on October 1st, 1978, Fran Tarkenton and the Vikings beat the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. That marked the 119th victory of Tarkenton’s career, breaking the tie with Unitas set one week earlier. Tarkenton would win five more games in ’78, his final season in the NFL.

Tarkenton was the NFL’s winningest quarterback for 18 years. On December 1st, 1996, John Elway and the Broncos crushed the Seahawks, 34-7. In the process, Elway picked up his 125th career victory. When he set the record, Elway held only a narrow lead in the wins department over Dan Marino. But the ’97 and ’98 seasons were good to him, and Elway retired with 148 career wins. Marino played for one more year, but retired one shy, with 147 career wins.

Elway held the record for just over ten years. That was until Brett Favre, in a 35-13 win over the Giants, won his 149th career game.

Favre retired with 186 wins. And right now, Peyton Manning enters the 2015 season with 178 wins. It would be a surprise if Manning doesn’t edge out Favre this season, which would make Favre — at 8 years — the man who held the title of ‘winningest quarterback’ for the shortest amount of time. How long will Manning hold the record? That will depend on Tom Brady, who has 160 wins. Will Brady play long enough to eclipse Manning? Whichever of the two winds up on top will hold the record for the foreseeable future, especially if they extend it out to 200 wins.

{ 4 comments }

The 2014 Cowboys had a lot of continuity on offense. Each of the team’s 11 main starters on offense started at least 11 games. Quarterback Tony Romo started 15 games, while running back DeMarco Murray, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, and tight end Jason Witten each started 16 games. The sixth non-lineman starter was usually James Hanna who started 12 games, but even that sells the team short. Hanna played in all 16 games, but started only 12; in four other games, Dallas instead started off with either slot receiver Cole Beasley, third-string tight end Gavin Escobar, or fullback Tyler Clutts on the field over a healthy Hanna.

On the offensive line, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin each started 16 games and made the Pro Bowl; left guard Ronald Leary started 15 games, with the most major injury hitting right tackle Doug Free, who missed three games in the middle of the year with a foot injury, and the final two games (and both playoff games) with an ankle injury.

Things were only slightly hairier on defense. In the secondary, safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox started every game, while cornerback Brandon Carr also played the full slate. Orlando Scandrick started the final 14 games of the year at corner after being suspended for the first two games of the year.

On the defensive line, Jeremy Mincey and Nick Hayden started 16 games, Tyrone Crawford started 15, and George Selvie started 13 games (but played in all 16). The most serious injuries came at linebacker: Rolando McClain started 12 games, Anthony Hitchens started 11, and Bruce Carter started 8 games. Of course, Sean Lee also missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in May.

If you sort the Cowboys roster by number of starts, the top 22 players started 318 games, or 14.5 games per play. That, as you might have guessed, was the most of any team last season:

RkTmAvg of Top 22
1DAL14.5
2GNB14.4
3MIA14.3
4CIN14
5DEN13.9
6BAL13.8
8PHI13.7
8HOU13.7
8DET13.7
10KAN13.6
11IND13.6
12ATL13.5
13SEA13.5
14.5NYJ13.4
14.5BUF13.4
17SFO13.3
17STL13.3
17PIT13.3
19SDG13.3
20OAK13.2
21WAS13.1
22CHI13
23.5MIN12.9
23.5ARI12.9
25NOR12.8
26NYG12.7
27.5NWE12.6
27.5CAR12.6
29CLE12.6
30TAM12.5
31JAX12.4
32TEN12.3

While Dallas looks pretty good in this analysis, it’s far from exceptional historically.1 Since 1978, 185 teams have had their top 22 starters average at least 14.5 starts.

The table below lists the top 56 teams (a 9-way tie at 48 enlarged a top-50 list) by this metric since 1978. I’ve also displayed each team’s winning percentage in Year N and in Year N+1, with Year N being the initial year in question.

RkTmAvg of Top 22YearWin %N+1 Win %
1GNB15.819780.5310.313
2CIN15.519880.750.5
3TAM15.520000.6250.563
4PHI15.519800.750.625
5.5KAN15.420030.8130.438
5.5MIN15.419940.6250.5
7NYJ15.420020.5630.375
8DEN15.319960.8130.75
10DAL15.319940.750.75
10RAI15.319830.750.688
10BUF15.319800.6880.625
13SFO15.220010.750.625
13RAI15.219900.750.563
13HOU15.219900.5630.688
15.5SDG15.219940.6880.563
15.5RAI15.219930.6250.563
19NYJ15.120010.6250.563
19HOU15.119910.6880.625
19HOU15.119880.6250.563
19CLE15.119860.750.667
19HOU15.119790.6880.688
24.5PHO15.119900.3130.25
24.5HOU15.119850.3130.313
24.5DAL15.119830.750.563
24.5DAL15.119800.750.75
24.5CLE15.119800.6880.313
24.5ATL15.119780.5630.375
28.5DEN1519980.8750.375
28.5PHO1519880.4380.313
33TAM1520010.5630.75
33WAS1519990.6250.5
33STL1519990.8130.625
33ATL1519810.4380.556
33BUF1519790.4380.688
33ATL1519790.3750.75
33DAL1519780.750.688
41.5ATL1519980.8750.313
41.5TEN1519970.50.5
41.5DET1519950.6250.313
41.5RAI1519910.5630.438
41.5MIA1519900.750.5
41.5CIN1519850.4380.625
41.5WAS1519830.8750.688
41.5SFO1519810.8130.333
41.5CHI1519800.4380.375
41.5NWE1519780.6880.563
51CAR14.920050.6880.5
51IND14.920000.6250.375
51GNB14.919890.6250.375
51NYG14.919860.8750.4
51PHI14.919850.4380.344
51NOR14.919830.50.438
51DET14.919810.50.444
51RAM14.919780.750.563
51MIN14.919780.5310.438

As you might suspect, these teams tended to fare better in Year N than they did the following year. While some regression to the mean is expected, these 56 teams had an average winning percentage of 0.640 in Year N, and then 0.519 in Year N+1. This is too general a study from which to conclude much, if anything, about the 2015 Cowboys. It should go without saying that “starts” are not a perfect proxy for “team health” and even if it were, “team health” is not a good proxy for “amount by which a team was helped/harmed by injuries.” But I did find today’s results interesting enough to share.

  1. This, at least in part, is due to more specialization in today’s games, and teams being more likely to change the starting lineup (going with three receivers or a fullback instead of two tight ends, starting in nickel rather than a traditional base defense, etc. []
{ 11 comments }
A key cog, but not the only one, in the GSOT

A key reason, but not the only one, for the GSOT’s success

In 1999, Marshall Faulk set the NFL record for yards from scrimmage in a season with 2,429. That mark still stands as the 2nd best in NFL history, and Faulk was truly dominant that season.

But while Faulk may have been the key cog in the St. Louis machine, he wasn’t the whole machine. St. Louis led the NFL in total yards, and had the most talented offense in the NFL. Faulk accounted for 36.6% of the Rams total offensive output that year,1 a huge number — but not a historically incredible one.

Consider what Maurice Jones-Drew did in 2011. The Jaguars were 5-11, and finished last by a mile in terms of total yards. Yet, somehow, Jones-Drew led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards, and ranked 2nd with 1,980 yards from scrimmage. No other Jaguar came within 1500 yards of Jones-Drew that year! The Jacksonville star was responsible for an incredible 44.2% of the team’s offensive output that season, the 2nd most in NFL history.

Now, what’s more impressive: being responsible for 44.2% of a bad offense, or 36.6% of a dominant one? That’s up to each reader to decide, but today, I wanted to look at workhorse yardage producers. The table below, which is fully sortable and searchable, shows the top 400 players in the statistic “percentage of team’s total yards from scrimmage”: [click to continue…]

  1. Receiving Yards + Rushing Yards, or Net Passing Yards + Sack Yards Lost + Rushing Yards. []
{ 22 comments }

In 2014, Julio Jones led the NFL with 31 catches of at least 20+ yards. He also was tied for 3rd with 25 receptions on either 3rd or 4th down that picked up a first down for his team. Those are two pretty different skill sets, but Jones fared well in both areas.

I thought it would be fun to try to see which wide receivers were big outliers in one of those two metrics relative to the other.1 There were 56 players with at least 10 receptions of at least 20+ yards last season. I ran a simple linear regression using “20+ Yard Receptions” as my input and “1st down receptions on 3rd/4th down” as my output. The best-fit formula was:

1st down receptions on 3rd/4th down = 6.77 + 0.63 * 20+ Yard receptions

Let’s use Jones as an example. With 31 big play catches, he’d be “expected” to pull in 26.3 first downs on either 3rd or 4th down; as noted above, he came pretty close to hitting that exact number.

Then there are players like Washington’s DeSean Jackson. He had 16 “big play catches” last year, which means we’d “project” him to have about 16.8 first down grabs on 3rd/4th down. In reality, he had just five, falling 11.8 catches short of expectation. As it turns out, that’s the most extreme player in that direction from the 2014 season. The narrative meets the numbers: Jackson is a great deep threat, but not a move-the-chains receiver (or, at least, he’s not being used like one).

In the other corner, we have Anquan Boldin. The crafty veteran had 14 receptions of at least 20+ yards, which means we’d expect him to have recorded about 15.6 first down catches on 3rd or 4th down. In reality, he had 27, giving him 11.4 more than expected. That makes him the most extreme “possession receiver” by this methodology.

The full list, below: [click to continue…]

  1. The original inspiration for this post came from this Mike Tanier article. []
{ 8 comments }

Yesterday, we looked at the career leaders in yards from scrimmage over “worst starter.” Today, let’s look at the single-season list.

Chris Johnson set the single-season record for yards from scrimmage in 2009, when he totaled an incredible 2,509 yards. But that’s not the record for YFS in a season on a per-game basis. That ranks only third in NFL history, behind O.J. Simpson in 1975 (not his more famous ’73 season) and Priest Holmes in 2002.

Holmes missed two games due to injury that season, while Simpson set his during a 14-game schedule. As it turns out, Simpson — who set the record for rushing yards over “worst starter” in 1973 — is your single-season yards from scrimmage over “worst starter” king based on his work in 1975.

In ’75, the 26th-ranked player in YFS gained 890 yards, while Simpson rushed for 1,817 yards and gained another 426 yards through the air. With a total of 2,243 yards from scrimmage, Simpson therefore gained 1,353 more yards than the “worst starter” or 1,546 more yards once we pro-rate to a 16-game season.

RkPlayerYearTmLgRush YdRec YdYFSTmsBaselineDiffLgGmPro-Rated
1O.J. Simpson1975BUFNFL18174262243268901353141546
2Walter Payton1977CHINFL18522692121288541267141448
3Chris Johnson2009TENNFL200650325093211571352161352
4Jim Brown1963CLENFL18632682131149671164141330
5O.J. Simpson1973BUFNFL2003702073269471126141287
6Marshall Faulk1999STLNFL1381104824293111471282161282
7LaDainian Tomlinson2003SDGNFL164572523703211081262161262
8Tiki Barber2005NYGNFL186053023903211461244161244
9Barry Sanders1997DETNFL205330523583011211237161237
10DeMarco Murray2014DALNFL184541622613210771184161184
11Otis Armstrong1974DENNFL14074051812267841028141175
12Eric Dickerson1984RAMNFL210513922442810701174161174
13Jamal Lewis2003BALNFL206620522713211081163161163
14Adrian Peterson2012MINNFL209721723143211541160161160
15James Wilder1984TAMNFL154468522292810701159161159
16Thurman Thomas1992BUFNFL14876262113289661147161147
17Marcus Allen1985RAINFL175955523142811691145161145
18Ahman Green2003GNBNFL188336722503211081142161142
19Le'Veon Bell2014PITNFL136185422153210771138161138
20Jim Brown1958CLENFL1527138166512817848121131
21Steven Jackson2006STLNFL152880623343212091125161125
22Harry Clarke1943CHINFL55653510911052956281124
23LaDainian Tomlinson2006SDGNFL181550823233212091114161114
24Arian Foster2010HOUNFL161660422203211091111161111
25Jim Brown1965CLENFL1544328187214909963141101
26Marshall Faulk1998INDNFL131990822273011301097161097
27Terrell Davis1998DENNFL200821722253011301095161095
28Emmitt Smith1992DALNFL17133352048289661082161082
29Barry Foster1992PITNFL16903442034289661068161068
30Lydell Mitchell1977BALNFL1159620177928854925141057
31Deuce McAllister2003NORNFL164151621573211081049161049
32Barry Sanders1994DETNFL188328321662811271039161039
33Jamal Anderson1998ATLNFL184631921653011301035161035
34Eric Dickerson1983RAMNFL180840422122811921020161020
35Beattie Feathers1934CHINFL100417411781148369510.91019
36Don Hutson1942GNBNFL41211121510515700111018
37Thurman Thomas1991BUFNFL140763120382810201018161018
38Priest Holmes2001KANNFL155561421693111601009161009
39Priest Holmes2003KANNFL142069021103211081002161002
40Chuck Foreman1975MINNFL107069117612689087114995
41Edgerrin James1999INDNFL1553586213931114799216992
42Priest Holmes2002KANNFL1615672228732129699116991
43Larry Johnson2006KANNFL1789410219932120999016990
44Marshall Faulk2001STLNFL1382765214731116098716987
45Jim Brown1964CLENFL144634017861492386314986
46Edgerrin James2000INDNFL1709594230331131798616986
47William Andrews1983ATLNFL1567609217628119298416984
48Walter Payton1984CHINFL1684368205228107098216982
49Charley Hennigan1961HOUAFL017461746888885814981
50Garrison Hearst1998SFONFL1570535210530113097516975
51Frank Gore2006SFONFL1695485218032120997116971
52Lydell Mitchell1975BALNFL119354417372689084714968
53Earl Campbell1980HOUNFL193447198128101896316963
54Elroy Hirsch1951RAMNFL3149514981277772112961
55Lenny Moore1958BALNFL59893815361281771912959
56O.J. Simpson1976BUFNFL150325917622893183114950
57LeSean McCoy2013PHINFL1607539214632119794916949
58Larry Johnson2005KANNFL1750343209332114694716947
59Lydell Mitchell1976BALNFL120055517552893182414942
60Wilbert Montgomery1979PHINFL1512494200628106993716937
61Eric Dickerson1988INDNFL1659377203628110293416934
62Roger Craig1988SFONFL1502534203628110293416934
63Brian Westbrook2007PHINFL1333771210432117293216932
64Jim Brown1961CLENFL1408459186714105381414930
65Eric Dickerson1986RAMNFL1821205202628110092616926
66Emmitt Smith1995DALNFL1773375214830122492416924
67Ricky Williams2002MIANFL1853363221632129692016920
68Tiki Barber2006NYGNFL1662465212732120991816918
69Herschel Walker1988DALNFL1514505201928110291716917
70Terrell Davis1997DENNFL1750287203730112191616916
71Chet Mutryn1948BUFAAFC8237941617882379414907
72Billy Sims1980DETNFL1303621192428101890616906
73Chuck Foreman1976MINNFL115556717222893179114904
74Lorenzo White1992HOUNFL122664118672896690116901
75Ray Rice2011BALNFL1364704206832117189716897
76Roger Craig1985SFONFL10501016206628116989716897
77Emmitt Smith1993DALNFL1486414190028100689416894
78Tiki Barber2004NYGNFL1518578209632120689016890
79William Andrews1981ATLNFL1301735203628114788916889
80Ray Rice2009BALNFL1339702204132115788416884
81Larry Brown1972WASNFL121647316892691877114881
82Walter Payton1978CHINFL139548018752899887716877
83LaDainian Tomlinson2002SDGNFL1683489217232129687616876
84Marshall Faulk2000STLNFL1359830218931131787216872
85John David Crow1960STLNFL107146215331388365012867
86Gene Roberts1949NYGNFL63471113451069664912865
87Walter Payton1985CHINFL1551483203428116986516865
88Marcus Allen1984RAINFL1168758192628107085616856
89Frank Gifford1956NYGNFL81960314221278064212856
90Walter Payton1979CHINFL1610313192328106985416854
91Ottis Anderson1979STLNFL1605308191328106984416844
92Jim Benton1945RAMNFL0106710671054352410838
93Lawrence McCutcheon1974RAMNFL110940815172678473314838
94Walter Payton1983CHINFL1421607202828119283616836
95Barry Sanders1991DETNFL1548307185528102083516835
96Fred Taylor2003JAXNFL1572370194232110883416834
97Don Woods1974SDGNFL116234915112678472714831
98Jamaal Charles2010KANNFL1467468193532110982616826
99Edgerrin James2004INDNFL1548483203132120682516825
100Tony Dorsett1981DALNFL1646325197128114782416824
101Ahman Green2001GNBNFL1387594198131116082116821
102Ron Johnson1972NYGNFL118245116332691871514817
103Gerald Riggs1985ATLNFL1719267198628116981716817
104Marcus Allen1982RAINFL6974011098286394599816
105Shaun Alexander2005SEANFL188078195832114681216812
106Calvin Johnson2012DETNFL01964196432115481016810
107Maurice Jones-Drew2011JAXNFL1606374198032117180916809
108Walter Payton1980CHINFL1460367182728101880916809
109Thurman Thomas1990BUFNFL1297532182928102180816808
110Greg Pruitt1977CLENFL108647115572885470314803
111Emmitt Smith1991DALNFL1563258182128102080116801
112Clinton Portis2003DENNFL1591314190532110879716797
113Gale Sayers1966CHINFL123144716781598469414793
114Thurman Thomas1989BUFNFL1244669191328112478916789
115Don Hutson1944GNBNFL87866953115054489.1788
116Jamaal Charles2013KANNFL1287693198032119778316783
117Clem Daniels1963OAKAFL109968517848110168314781
118LaDainian Tomlinson2007SDGNFL1474475194932117277716777
119William Andrews1982ATLNFL5735031076286394379777
120Wilbert Montgomery1981PHINFL1402521192328114777616776
121Herschel Walker1987DALNFL89171516062888172515773
122Doug Martin2012TAMNFL1454472192632115477216772
123Jim Brown1960CLENFL125720414611388357812771
124Jim Brown1959CLENFL132919015191294257712769
125Matt Forte2014CHINFL1038808184632107776916769
126Barry Sanders1990DETNFL1304480178428102176316763
127Adrian Peterson2008MINNFL1760125188532112576016760
128Wes Chandler1982SDGNFL3210321064286394259756
129Ricky Watters1996PHINFL1411444185530110075516755
130Lawrence McCutcheon1977RAMNFL123827415122885465814752
131Billy Hillenbrand1948BCLAAFC5109701480882365714751
132Terrell Davis1996DENNFL1538310184830110074816748
133William Andrews1980ATLNFL1308456176428101874616746
134Chris Warren1994SEANFL1545323186828112774116741
135Billy Sims1981DETNFL1437451188828114774116741
136Bill Brown1964MINNFL86670315691492364614738
137Charley Taylor1964WASNFL75581415691492364614738
138Billy Cannon1961HOUAFL9485861534888864614738
139Matt Forte2013CHINFL1339594193332119773616736
140Curtis Martin2004NYJNFL1697245194232120673616736
141Rick Casares1956CHINFL112620313291278054912732
142Timmy Brown1965PHINFL86168215431490963414725
143Curt Warner1986SEANFL1481342182328110072316723
144Earl Campbell1979HOUNFL169794179128106972216722
145Ron Johnson1970NYGNFL102748715142688363114721
146Steve Van Buren1949PHINFL11468812341069653812717
147Ottis Anderson1984STLNFL1174611178528107071516715
148Terry Allen1992MINNFL120147816792896671316713
149Andy Farkas1939WASNFL5474379841049648811710
150Brian Westbrook2006PHINFL1217699191632120970716707
151Tony Dorsett1978DALNFL132537817032899870516705
152Abner Haynes1962DTXAFL104957316228100961314701
153Jim Benton1946RAMNFL09819811050148011698
154Emmitt Smith1994DALNFL1484341182528112769816698
155Edgerrin James2005INDNFL1506337184332114669716697
156Thurman Thomas1993BUFNFL1315387170228100669616696
157Walter Payton1976CHINFL139014915392893160814695
158Gerald Riggs1984ATLNFL1486277176328107069316693
159Tiki Barber2002NYGNFL1387597198432129668816688
160LaDainian Tomlinson2005SDGNFL1462370183232114668616686
161Jim Taylor1964GNBNFL116935415231492360014686
162Dorsey Levens1997GNBNFL1435370180530112168416684
163Cliff Battles1933BOSNFL7371859221043548711.4684
164Marshall Faulk1994INDNFL1282522180428112767716677
165Barry Sanders1995DETNFL1500398189830122467416674
166Curtis Martin2001NYJNFL1513320183331116067316673
167James Brooks1986CINNFL1087686177328110067316673
168Arian Foster2011HOUNFL1224617184132117167016670
169Leroy Kelly1968CLENFL123929715361695258414667
170Ray Rice2010BALNFL1220556177632110966716667
171Jerome Bettis1993RAMNFL1429244167328100666716667
172Larry Brown1970WASNFL112534114662688358314666
173Adrian Peterson2009MINNFL1383436181932115766216662
174Chuck Foreman1974MINNFL77758613632678457914662
175Cliff Battles1937WASNFL874819551050145411660
176Shaun Alexander2004SEANFL1696170186632120666016660
177Jerry Rice1995SFONFL361848188430122466016660
178Johnny Strzykalski1948SFOAAFC9154851400882357714659
179Steve Van Buren1945PHINFL8321239551054341210659
180Charles White1987RAMNFL137412114952888161415655
181Jerome Bettis1997PITNFL1665110177530112165416654
182George Rogers1981NORNFL1674126180028114765316653
183Jim Nance1966BOSAFL14581031561999057114653
184Dalton Hilliard1989NORNFL1262514177628112465216652
185Franco Harris1975PITNFL124621414602689057014651
186Barry Sanders1998DETNFL1491289178030113065016650
187Joe Morris1986NYGNFL1516233174928110064916649
188Chuck Foreman1977MINNFL111230814202885456614647
189Eddie George2000TENNFL1509453196231131764516645
190Ottis Anderson1980STLNFL1352308166028101864216642
191Jim Musick1933BOSNFL809788871043545211.4634
192Delvin Williams1976SFONFL120328314862893155514634
193Antonio Brown2014PITNFL131698171132107763416634
194Mark van Eeghen1977OAKNFL127313514082885455414633
195Marshawn Lynch2012SEANFL1590196178632115463216632
196Barry Sanders1989DETNFL1470282175228112462816628
197Shaun Alexander2003SEANFL1435295173032110862216622
198Lawrence McCutcheon1976RAMNFL116830514732893154214619
199Charlie Garner1999SFONFL1229535176431114761716617
200Eric Dickerson19872TMNFL128817114592888157815617
201Ottis Anderson1981STLNFL1376387176328114761616616
202Spec Sanders1947NYYAAFC1432131445890653914616
203Michael Turner2008ATLNFL169941174032112561516615
204Ricky Williams2003MIANFL1372351172332110861516615
205Eddie George1999TENNFL1304458176231114761516615
206Walter Payton1986CHINFL1333382171528110061516615
207Barry Sanders1992DETNFL135222515772896661116611
208Otis Armstrong1976DENNFL100845714652893153414610
209Ted Brown1981MINNFL1063694175728114761016610
210Maurice Jones-Drew2009JAXNFL1391374176532115760816608
211Billy Sims1982DETNFL639342981286393429608
212Charlie Garner2002OAKNFL962941190332129660716607
213Sam Cunningham1977NWENFL101537013852885453114607
214O.J. Simpson1972BUFNFL125119814492691853114607
215Jim Taylor1962GNBNFL1474106158014104953114607
216O.J. Simpson1974BUFNFL112518913142678453014606
217Barry Sanders1996DETNFL1553147170030110060016600
218Leroy Kelly1966CLENFL114136615071598452314598
219Mike Pruitt1979CLENFL1294372166628106959716597
220Marshawn Lynch2014SEANFL1306367167332107759616596
221Ricky Williams2001NORNFL1245511175631116059616596
222Billy Howton1952GNBNFL0123112311278444712596
223Freeman McNeil1982NYJNFL786187973286393349594
224Torry Holt2003STLNFL51696170132110859316593
225Jamaal Charles2012KANNFL1509236174532115459116591
226Lydell Mitchell1974BALNFL75754413012678451714591
227Matt Forte2008CHINFL1238477171532112559016590
228Freeman McNeil1985NYJNFL1331427175828116958916589
229Joe Perry1954SFONFL104920312521281144112588
230Mack Herron1974NWENFL82447412982678451414587
231Tony Dorsett1985DALNFL1307449175628116958716587
232Clinton Portis2005WASNFL1516216173232114658616586
233Mike Thomas1975WASNFL91948314022689051214585
234Neal Anderson1989CHINFL1275434170928112458516585
235Abner Haynes1961DTXAFL8415581399888851114584
236Curt Warner1983SEANFL1449325177428119258216582
237Joe Cribbs1980BUFNFL1185415160028101858216582
238Steven Jackson2009STLNFL1416322173832115758116581
239Clinton Portis2008WASNFL1487218170532112558016580
240Hoyle Granger1967HOUAFL11943001494998750714579
241Tony Dorsett1984DALNFL1189459164828107057816578
242Clinton Portis2002DENNFL1508364187232129657616576
243Curtis Martin1999NYJNFL1464259172331114757616576
244Napoleon Kaufman1997OAKNFL1294403169730112157616576
245Tom Tracy1958PITNFL71453512491281743212576
246Don Hutson1943GNBNFL41776817105292888576
247Isaac Bruce1995STLNFL171781179830122457416574
248Floyd Little1971DENNFL113325513882688650214574
249Steve Owens1971DETNFL103535013852688649914570
250LaDainian Tomlinson2004SDGNFL1335441177632120657016570
251Domanick Williams2004HOUNFL1188588177632120657016570
252Lenny Moore1960BALNFL37493613101388342712569
253Tiki Barber2003NYGNFL1216461167732110856916569
254Jerry Rice1993SFONFL691503157228100656616566
255Joe Washington1979BALNFL884750163428106956516565
256Bobby Mitchell1963WASNFL24143614601496749314563
257LeSean McCoy2010PHINFL1080592167232110956316563
258Don Hutson1945GNBNFL608348941054335110562
259Leroy Kelly1967CLENFL120528214871699649114561
260Lenny Moore1957BALNFL48868711751275741812557
261Bob Margarita1945CHINFL4973948911054334810557
262Darren McFadden2010OAKNFL1157507166432110955516555
263Calvin Hill1973DALNFL114229014322694748514554
264Raymond Berry1960BALNFL0129812981388341512553
265Joe Cribbs1981BUFNFL1097603170028114755316553
266Robert Smith2000MINNFL1521348186931131755216552
267Calvin Hill1972DALNFL103636414002691848214551
268Lance Alworth1965SDGAFL-12160215908110848214551
269C.J. Spiller2012BUFNFL1244459170332115454916549
270Don Hutson1939GNBNFL268468721049637611547
271Steve Van Buren1947PHINFL10087910871067741012547
272John Riggins1975NYJNFL100536313682689047814546
273Peyton Hillis2010CLENFL1177477165432110954516545
274Greg Pruitt1975CLENFL106729913662689047614544
275Billy Howton1956GNBNFL0118811881278040812544
276Demaryius Thomas2014DENNFL01619161932107754216542
277Randy Moss2003MINNFL181632165032110854216542
278Jerry Rice1986SFONFL721570164228110054216542
279Neal Anderson1990CHINFL1078484156228102154116541
280Ricky Watters2000SEANFL1242613185531131753816538
281Tony Reed1978KANNFL105348315362899853816538
282Tom Matte1969BALNFL90951314221695247014537
283Josh Gordon2013CLENFL881646173432119753716537
284Ottis Anderson1983STLNFL1270459172928119253716537
285Alfred Morris2012WASNFL161377169032115453616536
286Bob Boyd1954RAMNFL0121212121281140112535
287Steve Slaton2008HOUNFL1282377165932112553416534
288Wendell Tyler1982RAMNFL564375939286393009533
289Maurice Jones-Drew2010JAXNFL1324317164132110953216532
290Corey Dillon2004NWENFL1635103173832120653216532
291Art Malone1972ATLNFL79858513832691846514531
292Gale Sayers1965CHINFL86750713741490946514531
293Don Maynard1967NYJAFL1814341452998746514531
294Jim Brown1962CLENFL996517151314104946414530
295Adrian Peterson2010MINNFL1298341163932110953016530
296Clem Daniels1966OAKAFL8016521453999046314529
297Mike Thomas1976WASNFL110129013912893146014526
298MacArthur Lane1970STLNFL97736513422688345914525
299Curtis Martin1995NWENFL1487261174830122452416524
300Curtis Martin1998NYJNFL1287365165230113052216522
  • Walter Payton and Barry Sanders lead the way with 9 seasons apiece in the top 300, although as you learned yesterday, Payton still has a big edge over Sanders. That’s because of the top 10 seasons by the duo (all in the top 125), 7 came from Payton.
  • O.J. Simpson has two top-5 seasons; no one else has two in the top 15. Jim Brown has three top-25 seasons; no one else has three in the top 40, and Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk are the only others with three top-50 seasons. Brown is the only player with 4 top-50 seasons; and Eric Dickerson is the only other player with four top-75 seasons. Brown has five top-65 seasons; Payton is the only other player with five top-100 seasons (next is Emmitt Smith, whose fifth best season is all the way down at 154). But that’s when Brown passes the baton to Payton: the Bears legend has six top-100 seasons, which nobody else can match (Brown’s 6th best year was #123).
  • The Texans have four seasons in the top 300, which puts the following in some perspective. The Bengals have just one season — James Brooks, 1986 — in the top 300. Brooks ranked 3rd in yards from scrimmage that season, the only time any Bengal has ever ranked in the top 3 in that category. The Dolphins have just two top-300 seasons: Ricky Williams in ’02 and ’03. In fact, the single-season YFS leaders for Miami is just a really weird-looking list. Tampa Bay also has just two top-300 seasons, and only two times when a player gained 1,650 or more yards from scrimmage.
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Last week, we looked at the career leaders in rushing yards over worst starter; today, we use the same methodology but with yards from scrimmage. Let’s use Walter Payton’s 1977 season as an example.

That season, the NFL had 28 teams, and the 28th-ranked player in yards from scrimmage gained 854 yards.  But Payton, in his best season as a pro, rushed for 1,852 yards and picked up another 269 yards through the air, for a total of 2,121 yards from scrimmage.  That gave him 1,267 yards above the baseline of “worst starter.”  But remember, in ’77, the NFL had a 14-game schedule; pro-rate that to 16 games, and Peyton is credited with 1,448 yards over the baseline.  That’s the 2nd best season ever by this formula.

While 1977 was by far Payton’s best year, he dominated in this metric for most of his career, posting the 48th, 82nd, 87th, 90th, 94th, 108th, and 157th best seasons. And while Emmitt Smith finally edged past Payton on the career yards from scrimmage last in the final games of his career, Payton has a big edge in this metric because we are removing “junk” seasons. In fact, Payton has a big edge over just about everyone. Nobody forgets about Walter Payton, of course, but I wonder if sometimes his dominance in this metric is overlooked: he led the NFL in YFS in ’77 and ’78, then finished 2nd in the category in ’79. He ranked 3rd in YFS in ’80 and in ’83, ’84, and ’85. Add in a 4th-place finish in ’76 and a 5th-place in ’86, and that gives Payton a whopping 9 finishes in the top 5 in yards from scrimmage.

If we use the methodology described above for every season of a player’s career, we get what I think is a better version of the career yards from scrimmage leaders (at least for running backs) because we are removing junk seasons. Below are the career grades for the top 200 players (note that by default, the table only displays the top 25). I have also listed for each back his career yards from scrimmage and his rank in that category. [click to continue…]

{ 37 comments }

On Friday, I looked at the career rushing leaders in “yards over worst starter.” Today, let’s look at the single-season list.

In 1963, Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards in a 14-team NFL. The baseline that year was 541 yards, which represents the 14th highest individual rushing total that year. So Brown exceeded that number by a whopping 1,322 rushing yards. Given that 1963 was a 14-game NFL season, that translates to a pro-rated value of 1,511 yards, the third best ever. The table below shows the top 300 single seasons. [click to continue…]

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Last year, DeMarco Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards. The 32nd-ranked rusher last season rushed for 570 yards, which means Murray rushed for 1,275 yards more than the Nth-ranked rusher, with N representing the number of teams in the NFL. That’s obviously excellent, although not quite the best of all time.

That honor, as regular readers could have guessed, belongs to O.J. Simpson. In 1973, Simpson rushed for an incredible 2,003 yards, while the 26th-ranked rusher in the 26-team NFL rushed for 655 yards. As a result, Simpson is credited with 1,348 yards over the Nth-ranked rusher. Then again, remember that this was a 14-game NFL season; we need to pro-rate that number to 16 games to make for a fairer comparison. That brings Simpson’s season up to +1,540, slightly edging out Adrian Peterson‘s 2012 season (2,097, 564, +1533).

What if we use that methodology for every player during every season of his career? That, to me, is an improvement on just a list of the career rushing leaders, since we don’t give players any benefit for junk seasons. That may be the only thing this list is an improvement on — after all, it is still based on only one statistic — but hey, it’s Friday. Below are the career grades for the top 150 running backs (note that by default, the table only displays the top 25). I have also listed for each back his career rushing yards and his rank in that category. [click to continue…]

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Quarterback Rushing Data Since 1950

The 2007 season was the ultimate fantasy of the immobile quarterback lover. No quarterback rushed for 400 yards, after at least one quarterback did so in each of the ten prior seasons. Just as importantly, the top quarterbacks were all pocket passers: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo (only 129 rushing yards that season), Brett Favre, Jon Kitna, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the top 12 leaders in passing yards. As a group, those dozen quarterbacks rushed for just 67 yards, led by Cutler’s staggering 205 rushing yards.

But it was only seven years earlier that the mobile quarterback wave was taking the NFL by storm. Six quarterbacks hit the 400-yard rushing mark: Donovan McNabb (629), Rich Gannon (529), Daunte Culpepper (470), Kordell Stewart (436), Jeff Garcia (414), and Steve McNair (403). Of the top ten leaders in passing yards, only Vinny Testaverde and Kerry Collins failed to rush for at least 100 yards, and the top 12 leaders in passing yards rushed for an average of 236 yards.

Since 2012, the mobile quarterback has re-emerged. So how do we test how much each quarterback has run since 1950? Here’s what I did. [click to continue…]

{ 5 comments }
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