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Trent Richardson and 400 carries

Richardson powers through for three yards

Richardson powers through for three yards.

Trent Richardson has been a frequent topic of discussion at Football Perspective. In about 14 months, I’ve written the following articles:

  • How often does the first running back selected in the draft become the best running back from his class? The field is always a better bet than one player: Only about 40% of the highest-drafted backs led their class in rushing yards as a rookie, with that number dropping to about 33% on a career basis. On the other hand, that’s better than the production of the first-drafted wide receiver.
  • In 2012, the field won, as both Doug Martin and Alfred Morris rushed for more yards than Richardson. I then tried to project the number of yards for all three players for 2013 based on their draft status and rookie production; as it turns out, draft status remained extremely important, and Richardson projected to average the most yards per game in year two out of that group (a projection that doesn’t look very good right now).
  • In July, I continued to voice my disdain for the use of yards per carry as the main statistic for running backs, when I argued that Richardson’s 3.6 average last year was not important. More specifically, I said if you loved Richardson as a prospect, his 3.6 YPC average in 2012 was not a reason to downgrade him (of course, if you didn’t like Richardson, that’s a different story). Richardson still received a huge percentage of Cleveland carries and had a strong success rate, and I argued that his low YPC was simply a function of a lack of big plays. For a more in-depth breakdown of his rookie season, Brendan Leister compiled a good film-room breakdown of some of Richardson’s mistakes in 2012. Leister noted that Richardson had some mental mistakes, which isn’t atypical of a rookie, and still fawned over the former Alabama star’s physical potential.
  • After the trade to Indianapolis, I wrote that Richardson’s ability as a pass blocker was tough to analyze, and advised you to view some of the numbers thrown around in support of Richardson with skepticism. Believe it or not, I still have thoughts on that trade that I just haven’t gotten around to finishing, so look for my hot take on the Richardson deal to be published in say, March.

In 75 carries with the Colts, Richardson is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. Even though I find yards per carry overrated, there is a certain baseline level of production needed for every running back, and 3.0 falls well short of that number. For his career, Richardson now has 1,283 yards on 373 yards, a 3.44 YPC average. He’ll reach 400 career carries in a couple of weeks, so I thought it might be interesting to look at the YPC averages of all running backs after their first 400 carries.

We can’t measure that exactly through game logs, but what we can do is calculate the career YPC average of each running back after the game in which they hit 400 career carries. The table below shows that number for all running backs who entered the league in 1960 or later and is current through 2012. Let’s start with the top 50 running backs:

RkRunning BackFirst YrRshYdTDYPC
1Jamaal Charles20084182498105.98
2Mercury Morris19694122404205.83
3Chris Johnson20084212319175.51
4Paul Lowe19604032203225.47
5Napoleon Kaufman1995415226085.45
6Clinton Portis20024042190195.42
7Stump Mitchell19814022177205.42
8Bo Jackson19874022137135.32
9Frank Gore20054082150115.27
10Adrian Peterson20074142164185.23
11Gale Sayers19654022100225.22
12Abner Haynes19604022079245.17
13Leroy Kelly19644202163225.15
14Ahmad Bradshaw20074062088145.14
15Dick Bass19604092090125.11
16Michael Turner20044032051125.09
17Felix Jones2008405205885.08
18Barry Sanders19894012036215.08
19Delvin Williams19744012035135.07
20Lawrence McCutcheon1972406204845.04
21Larry Johnson20034182084264.99
22Tatum Bell20044222099134.97
23Maurice Jones-Drew20064102039274.97
24Keith Lincoln19614152058114.96
25Clem Daniels19604072017124.96
26Amos Marsh19614042001144.95
27Marv Hubbard19694062009104.95
28Rod Bernstine19874072007174.93
29Mike Garrett19664021982154.93
30LeSean McCoy20094192062154.92
31Tony Dorsett19774132027174.91
32Derrick Ward2004401196764.91
33Arian Foster20094212061204.9
34Greg Pruitt19734041976154.89
35Wendell Tyler19774011953164.87
36Ottis Anderson19794051971114.87
37Otis Armstrong19734021956124.87
38Clarence Davis19714071979154.86
39Jonathan Stewart20084051969204.86
40Hoyle Granger19664142010114.86
41Ray Rice2008413200374.85
42Terrell Davis19954152011134.85
43Ernie Green19624021930104.8
44Mike Anderson20004031929184.79
45Craig James1984423201764.77
46Brandon Jacobs20054011911234.77
47Leon Washington20064011909144.76
48Barry Foster1990402190894.75
49Ricky Watters19924031909184.74
50Eric Dickerson19834111946194.73

A lot of good names on that list, although there are some unimpressive runners on there, too. Richardson, of course, seems destined to fall into the group of bottom 50 runners:

RkRunning BackFirst YrRshYdTDYPC
445Michael Haddix1983401118932.97
444Mark Smolinski1961400128783.22
443Keith Byars1986404130673.23
442Zack Crockett19954101330353.24
441Willard Harrell1975400132283.31
440Jim Kiick19684181386143.32
439Derek Loville19904011333143.32
438Tucker Frederickson1965403134583.34
437Altie Taylor1969400133533.34
436Bob Gresham19714041352123.35
435Curtis Enis1998413139233.37
434Charley Taylor19644051381113.41
433Dick Hoak19614061387103.42
432Karim Abdul-Jabbar19964051389143.43
431Larry Centers19904051395103.44
430Edgar Bennett19924081408143.45
429Clint Jones19674001381133.45
428Darrell Thompson1990404139753.46
427Leroy Thompson1991401138763.46
426Don Shy1967407140893.46
425Leonard Russell1991412143063.47
424Eric Metcalf1989401139593.48
423Cannonball Butler1965413143773.48
422Lawrence Phillips19964081421133.48
421Rashaan Salaam19954021404113.49
420Sammie Smith19894261490143.5
419Errict Rhett19944011405113.5
418Jerry Eckwood1979408143153.51
417Charles Alexander1979409143953.52
416Elijah Pitts19614061431263.52
415Dan Doornink19784021418133.53
414Butch Woolfolk1982410144873.53
413Tommy Vardell19924021422183.54
412Charlie Harraway19664031427113.54
411Ricky Bell19774031428113.54
410Boobie Clark19734101454153.55
409Barty Smith19744061443133.55
408Reggie Cobb19904161480113.56
407Terrell Fletcher1995402143373.56
406Ron Dayne20004081460123.58
405Reggie Bush20064021440123.58
404Merril Hoge19874021442113.59
403Garry James19864021445113.59
402Roosevelt Leaks19754041453163.6
401John Cappelletti19744041455103.6
400Haskel Stanback19744001443113.61
399Gene Foster1965401144843.61
398Arthur Whittington19784051465123.62
397Fred Willis1971417151193.62

Currently, Richardson’s 3.44 YPC average would put him between Karim Abdul-Jabbar and Edgar Bennett. Even to Richardson supporters, that’s a pretty ugly list.

Finally, let me close with a look at the top 75 running backs in terms of career VBD (through 2012) who entered the league in 1978 or later. Perhaps the real question we want to answer is how many running backs who ended up being very valuable (at least in fantasy football) had slow starts to their career. The table shows the number of rush attempts, yards, and YPC through two seasons for each running back. It is sorted by yards per carry in ascending order:

Running BackFirst YrRshYdYPCVBD
Chris Warren199017241.41316
Dorsey Levens1994411353.29259
Eric Metcalf19892678813.3226
Thomas Jones20002247533.36280
Keith Byars198629310033.42195
Lorenzo White19881354643.44204
Edgar Bennett19922207643.47204
Tiki Barber19971886773.6754
James Wilder19811906943.65365
Ricky Williams199950118843.76479
Matt Forte200857421673.78333
Dalton Hilliard19862449333.82249
Garrison Hearst19931134333.83255
Curtis Martin199568426393.86921
Joe Morris1982501933.86262
Jamal Anderson1994411603.9335
Marshall Faulk199460323603.911338
Rudi Johnson200117673.94222
Eddie George199669227674561
Jerome Bettis199361324544375
Marcus Allen198242617114.02977
Travis Henry200153821674.03183
Joe Cribbs198056322824.05297
Marshawn Lynch200753021514.06277
Greg Bell198448519834.09314
LaDainian Tomlinson200171129194.111446
Domanick Williams200354022194.11216
Emmitt Smith199060625004.131377
Duce Staley199726510944.13228
Gerald Riggs19821787364.13304
Rodney Hampton199036515144.15277
Roger Craig198333113744.15671
Ted Brown197934914634.19227
Thurman Thomas198850521254.21916
Warrick Dunn199746920044.27298
John L. Williams198624210384.29267
Stephen Davis19961647064.3316
Edgerrin James199975632624.31796
Curt Warner198334514894.32395
Priest Holmes199723310084.33739
Deuce McAllister200134114794.34319
Shaun Alexander200037316314.37761
Jamal Lewis200030913644.41362
George Rogers198150022094.42183
Joseph Addai200648721534.42193
Steven Jackson200438817194.43553
Neal Anderson19861647324.46509
Robert Smith19931135054.47213
Billy Sims198060927404.5421
Earnest Byner198431614284.52407
Herschel Walker198636016284.52689
Charlie Garner19942179874.55360
Terrell Davis199558226554.56620
Corey Dillon199749522594.56451
Terry Allen199138617644.57436
Fred Taylor199842319554.62449
William Andrews197950423314.63540
Ottis Anderson197963229574.68611
Ricky Watters199241419634.74900
Larry Johnson20031406664.76372
James Brooks19811969554.87425
Freeman McNeil198128814094.89265
Brian Westbrook20021638064.94515
Ray Rice200836117934.97517
Eric Dickerson198376939135.09860
Maurice Jones-Drew200633317095.13532
Adrian Peterson200760131015.16675
Barry Sanders198953527745.191251
Barry Foster19901326915.23185
Frank Gore200543923035.25465
Chris Johnson200860932345.31481
Ahman Green1998613295.39618
Clinton Portis200256330995.5602
Michael Turner2004774395.7286
Jamaal Charles200825714775.75249

The lowest YPC averages of any player on the list with 300+ carries are held by Ricky Williams and Matt Forte.

  • Richie

    I always love when new names come across these lists. Today’s new name is Hoyle Granger.

    • Richie

      I mean, new names that I’ve never come across before.

      • Chase Stuart

        Yes, Hoyle is a pretty rarely-discussed one. I wish I had more time to really go through the list, but I’m glad you are enjoying the data dumps.

  • Leroy

    As a Browns fan, this is looking like a great trade. Watching Richardson makes me think if he wasn’t a 3rd pick he would have been released by now. How many more carries would you give to Richardson when other backs have had better performance?

  • Tim Truemper

    I guess the low YPC list group has some less than stellar performers but there are a fair # of good players there too. Perhaps they had not quite “hit their stride” yet.

  • Chase Stuart

    Richardson hit his 400th carry in week 12 against the Rams. After 400 carries, he has 1,342 rushing yards, a 3.36 YPC average. That is not good.