What if we do the same thing but with receiving yards generated by “running backs”? The peak year was 2002, when there were a lot of players who both were their team’s workhorse back and were great receivers. Priest Holmes rushed for 1,615 yards and had 672 receiving yards, Charlie Garner was at 962/941, Tiki Barber had 1387/597, and LaDainian Tomlinson was at 1683/489. On average, the league “running backs” produced an average 292 receiving yards. That may not mean much in the abstract, but think of it this way: if each team gave all of its rushing yards to one player, that player would have averaged 292 receiving yards, too. Using the methodology from yesterday, here are the results if we replace passing yards with rushing yards, and rushing yards with receiving yards:

An example of a down year would be the 2012 season. The top seven leaders in rushing were Adrian Peterson (217 receiving yards), Alfred Morris (77), Marshawn Lynch (196), Jamaal Charles (236), Doug Martin (472), Arian Foster (217), and Stevan Ridley (51).

I don’t really know what this tells us, but I was curious to run the numbers. I’m a little surprised there isn’t a wider variation across years, or any trend in any direction. At its core, this tells us how much the best rushers gain receiving yards, and that’s pretty stable across NFL history.

]]>How does that compare historically? Two years ago, in one of my favorite posts/methodologies, I looked at how to measure quarterback rushing yards. Here’s what I did.

1) Calculate the percentage of league-wide passing yards by each player in each season. For example, Tyrod Taylor was responsible for 2.3% of all passing yards in 2016.

2) Calculate the weighted average league-wide rushing yards for each season. So we take the result in step 1 and multiply that by each player’s number of rushing yards. For Taylor, this means multiplying 2.3% by 580 for a result of 13.4 rushing yards. Perform this calculation for each player in each season and sum the results to obtain a league-wide total. For 2016, this total was 150.9 rushing yards (obviously Taylor was the biggest contributor among quarterbacks).

3) For non-16 game seasons, pro-rate to 16 games.

Perform this calculation for each season since 1950, and you get the following results:

We are currently in an era for rushing quarterbacks, but it’s not a big outlier, either. The early ’50s, ’55 and ’56, 1972, 1990, and the early ’00s were also notable for rushing quarterbacks. The current trend started a few years ago: in 2009, the average was 93 rushing yards; that jumped to 118 in 2010, 133 in 2011, and 157 in 2012, and was at 159 or 160 in 2013, 2014, and 2015 before dropping slightly last year.

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