Adios Redzone Carries, Hello Running Back ‘oTD’

Mike Clay continues his series on opportunity-adjusted touchdowns with an examination of the running back position.

| 3 years ago
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Adios Redzone Carries, Hello Running Back ‘oTD’


A few days ago, I introduced opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (oTD).

In case you missed it, “oTD” is a replacement for oft-referred-to, but flawed redzone statistics. By weighting the distance the player has to travel to score a touchdown, we can determine an opportunity-based touchdown number for said player. Although “oTD” aligns near-perfectly with touchdowns, it’s important to remember that it’s a completely opportunity-based statistic. Player talent, offensive line skill, etc. are completely irrelevant. It’s the touchdown total a player would be expected to have with the same number of carries, but under league-average circumstances otherwise.

The focus in the first article was receiving touchdowns. Today, I’ll be flipping over to the running game.

My first step here was to determine how often touchdowns are scored on carries from each yard line. Note that this project is focused only on carries by running backs lined up in the backfield. All quarterback runs are eliminated so as to not inflate or deflate our numbers. End-arounds are also eliminated.

DEZAttTDTD%
1114960752.8%
251219838.7%
343014333.3%
443911526.2%
54796613.8%
64467015.7%
74335913.6%
84244510.6%
9426358.2%
10451357.8%
11478245.0%
12451235.1%
13455337.3%
14498193.8%
15488193.9%
16461173.7%
17472214.4%
18461112.4%
19461102.2%
20564101.8%
2147891.9%
22474143.0%
23527101.9%
2452391.7%
2557581.4%
2651781.5%
2754281.5%
2849981.6%
29583101.7%
30609122.0%
3152761.1%
32564101.8%
33580111.9%
3458530.5%
3565291.4%
3663050.8%
3760250.8%
3858840.7%
3967181.2%
4073450.7%
4161640.6%
4263840.6%
4367030.4%
4469220.3%
4572071.0%
4669060.9%
4766960.9%
4867930.4%
4974830.4%
5077040.5%
5171130.4%
5274720.3%
5374210.1%
5470930.4%
5590510.1%
5672981.1%
5779120.3%
5877220.3%
5983730.4%
6097230.3%
6184530.4%
6287820.2%
6385000.0%
6486750.6%
6599020.2%
6696040.4%
6791350.5%
6890830.3%
6994320.2%
7096840.4%
71105130.3%
7288010.1%
7383820.2%
7489530.3%
75104000.0%
7686730.3%
7780530.4%
7880800.0%
7976220.3%
80299690.3%
8161720.3%
8255130.5%
8352820.4%
8451600.0%
8553710.2%
8649210.2%
8745500.0%
8838010.3%
8939510.3%
9050100.0%
9139930.8%
9233800.0%
9325000.0%
9425910.4%
9522800.0%
9622000.0%
9721400.0%
9817700.0%
9913200.0%

Our first chart shows each of the 99 yard markers and shows the touchdown rates when a run play begins at each.

A quick glance down the chart should make it clear why simply referring to redzone carries is silly. We see that players carrying the ball inside the five-yard line have a major advantage. In fact, over half of carries from the one-yard line result in a score and over one quarter of carries from the four-yard line put six points on the scoreboard.

Outside of four yards, however, we see a significant drop in touchdowns. We see a range of 5.0 percent to 15.7 percent on carries between five and 13 yards out of the endzone. From 14 yards out, no yard marker has a TD rate higher than 4.4 percent and the overall scoring rate is 0.7 percent.

Needless to say, counting a carry from the 14-yard line (3.8 percent success) and one-yard line (52.8 percent) exactly the same—which is exactly what the “redzone carry” stat does—makes no sense.

The next step in our process is to weight each carry from the last five NFL seasons. From there, we can determine our “oTD” for each player. The next chart includes six columns. The first includes each player who saw at least one carry during the 2012 regular season. The next is the total number of carries for each player. The third column is “rADEZ,” which is the average distance from the endzone the player was on his 2012 carries. Note that rADEZ is here only for informational purposes and has zero impact on the final three columns. The final three columns will be our main focus. We have actual touchdowns, “oTD,” and the difference between the two.

Running BackAttrADEZTDoTDDiff
Arian Foster35048.91515.70.7
Stevan Ridley28947.31212.30.3
Michael Turner22248.91011.51.5
Shonn Greene27352.9810.52.5
Doug Martin31953.21110.4-0.6
Adrian L. Peterson34853.51210.4-1.6
Alfred Morris33551.3139.3-3.7
BenJarvus Green-Ellis27750.459.34.3
Trent Richardson26753.4118.3-2.7
Frank Gore25850.187.7-0.3
Marshawn Lynch31553.6117.3-3.7
Ahmad Bradshaw22047.567.01.0
Ray Rice25752.297.0-2.0
Mikel Leshoure21553.695.7-3.3
Andre Brown7343.385.7-2.3
Steven Jackson25857.345.31.3
Willis McGahee16752.445.31.3
LeSean McCoy20053.225.33.3
Darren McFadden21657.424.82.8
Michael Bush11447.454.8-0.2
Matt Forte24857.054.7-0.3
Daniel Thomas9148.744.70.7
Jackie Battle9552.234.41.4
Mike Tolbert5451.474.4-2.6
Chris D. Johnson27658.364.4-1.6
Vick Ballard21152.724.22.2
LaRod Stephens-Howling11053.144.00.0
Danny Woodhead7642.343.8-0.2
Brandon Bolden5640.123.71.7
DeMarco Murray16156.343.7-0.3
Knowshon Moreno13852.243.6-0.4
Jonathan Dwyer15653.223.61.6
Fred Jackson11455.033.60.6
Reggie Bush22755.663.6-2.4
Mark Ingram15656.153.4-1.6
DeAngelo Williams16652.053.3-1.7
Beanie Wells8856.653.1-1.9
Jamaal Charles28558.753.0-2.0
Peyton Hillis8551.212.71.7
Bryce Brown11051.242.7-1.3
Isaac Redman11052.822.70.7
Shane Vereen6243.832.7-0.3
Ben Tate6549.822.60.6
Bilal Powell10846.642.5-1.5
Rashad Jennings10151.222.50.5
LeGarrette Blount4144.522.40.4
Delone Carter3246.532.4-0.6
Lance Ball4240.412.31.3
Felix Jones11156.232.3-0.7
Montario Hardesty6553.812.31.3
Joique Bell8249.132.3-0.7
C.J. Spiller20358.062.2-3.8
Jacquizz Rodgers9448.912.11.1
Kendall Hunter7250.622.10.1
Ryan Mathews18458.011.80.8
David Wilson7144.141.8-2.2
Alex Green13554.801.81.8
Jamie Harper1939.631.8-1.2
Anthony Dixon2129.921.7-0.3
Pierre Thomas10555.211.60.6
Daryl Richardson9858.201.61.6
Ryan Williams5854.001.51.5
Jonathan Stewart9361.711.50.5
Phillip Tanner2530.601.51.5
Jalen Parmele4053.601.51.5
Kevin Smith3746.511.30.3
Bernard Pierce10860.911.30.3
Tashard Choice4451.911.30.3
Evan Royster2349.421.3-0.7
Donald Brown10856.111.30.3
Baron Batch2542.811.30.3
Jacob Hester1750.521.2-0.8
Jorvorskie Lane1338.821.2-0.8
Ronnie Hillman8546.511.10.1
Curtis Brinkley3943.801.11.1
Shaun Draughn5949.921.1-0.9
Cedric Benson7157.511.00.0
Jason Snelling1839.400.90.9
Mewelde Moore1340.100.90.9
Maurice Jones-Drew8661.210.9-0.1
Anthony Allen1637.710.9-0.1
Robert Turbin8051.300.90.9
Marcel Reece5962.100.90.9
Percy Harvin1739.810.8-0.2
Toby Gerhart5044.910.8-0.2
DuJuan Harris3442.720.7-1.3
Armando Allen2745.210.7-0.3
Darren Sproles4756.010.7-0.3
Chris Rainey2653.720.7-1.3
Montell Owens4153.510.7-0.3
Ronnie Brown4648.100.70.7
Cedric Peerman3445.310.7-0.3
Justin Forsett6351.110.6-0.4
Greg Jones II524.000.60.6
Stanley Havili637.510.6-0.4
James Starks7154.010.6-0.4
Ryan Grant3245.620.6-1.4
Kahlil Bell2946.200.50.5
Joe McKnight2350.300.50.5
Bernard Scott834.600.50.5
John Kuhn2255.710.5-0.5
LaMichael James2750.000.50.5
Leon Washington2352.710.5-0.5
Brian Leonard3350.500.40.4
Richard Murphy2347.000.40.4
William Powell6057.700.40.4
Darrel Young1437.600.40.4
Rashard Mendenhall5159.300.30.3
Da'Rel Scott619.000.30.3
Chris Ivory4057.920.3-1.7
Lamar Miller5160.710.3-0.7
Mike Goodson3452.400.30.3
Dion Lewis1336.310.2-0.8
Isaiah Pead1046.900.20.2
Lance Dunbar2147.900.20.2
Jeremy Stewart2562.200.20.2
Vonta Leach962.910.2-0.8
Bruce Miller555.600.10.1
Keith Toston1658.000.10.1
Darius Reynaud1645.800.10.1
Le'Ron McClain1467.300.10.1
Kregg Lumpkin951.600.10.1
Dwayne Allen350.000.10.1
Lex Hilliard947.400.10.1
Keiland Williams220.500.10.1
Cyrus Gray745.400.10.1
Dexter McCluster437.300.10.1
Brandon Jacobs546.400.10.1
Brandon Banks545.000.10.1
Chris Ogbonnaya868.500.10.1
Brandon Jackson844.000.10.1
Dan Herron440.000.10.1
Danny Ware1059.600.10.1
Kyle Williams111.000.10.1
Collin Mooney543.800.00.0
Nate Eachus540.600.00.0
Jordan Todman340.000.00.0
Michael Robinson1157.600.00.0
Randall Cobb962.300.00.0
Henry Hynoski553.400.00.0
Owen Schmitt233.500.00.0
Lawrence Vickers340.300.00.0
Johnny White866.400.00.0
Mohamed Sanu549.400.00.0
Taiwan Jones658.000.00.0
Damaris Johnson231.500.00.0
Matt Asiata363.700.00.0
Greg Little118.000.00.0
Jonathan Grimes239.000.00.0
Armond Smith341.300.00.0
Dezmon Briscoe128.000.00.0
Quinn Johnson469.300.00.0
Niles Paul126.000.00.0
Julio Jones126.000.00.0
Roy Helu240.000.00.0
Aaron Hernandez135.000.00.0
Stefan Logan356.300.00.0
Andrew Hawkins256.500.00.0
Javon Ringer264.500.00.0
Kealoha Pilares173.500.00.0
Mike Thomas140.000.00.0
Early Doucet269.500.00.0
Jeremy Kerley150.000.00.0
Will Johnson272.500.00.0
Josh Morgan143.000.00.0
Leonard Hankerson148.000.00.0
Harry Douglas159.000.00.0
Robert Hughes171.000.00.0
Nate Burleson179.000.00.0
James Casey158.000.00.0

This chart is sorted by “oTD.” Remember, “oTD” is an adjusted touchdown number based on two items: total carries and the line of scrimmage on each carry. There is no differentiating an elite and a poor player. There’s no factor for a great offensive line or a bad one. Remember, we’re focusing on a replacement for redzone carry data, which also takes neither of those items into account. This stat is completely related to carry volume and scoring opportunity based on the distance from the endzone. That’s it.

Arian Foster led all backs in rushing touchdowns last season. He also tops our oTD chart. In fact, the numbers say he had an opportunity to score even more than he did (+0.7). Foster scored six of his touchdowns from one yard out (on 11 tries) and another five from within four yards of the endzone. Interestingly, his longest scores were each from a similar range: 13, 13, and 14 yards out. Foster was inside the five-yard line on a whopping 26 of his carries last season.

It may surprise you to know that Stevan Ridley was on the field for fewer than half of New England’s offensive snaps last season. That didn’t stop him from handling a majority of the team’s goal line carries, however. Ridley scored 12 touchdowns and had an opportunity for a bit more (12.3). Of those 12 scores, only three came from one yard out (on 10 tries). Ridley scored one third of his touchdowns from the six-to-14-yard range.

Michael Turner didn’t lead his team in snaps out of the backfield (Jacquizz Rodgers had that honor), but he was the lead goal line back. Turner scored 10 times, but the numbers say he left one or two on the table. Seven of Turner’s 10 scores came from within three yards of the endzone. He scored on four of 11 tries from the one-yard line.

Looking over some historical TD vs. oTD data, it appears that the difference between the two tends to correlate pretty well with talent level. The best players tend to score more than expected and vice versa. Our next two charts show the top players with the biggest gaps between their actual and expected touchdown numbers.

Overachievers

Running Back

Att

rADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

C.J. Spiller

203

58.0

6

2.2

-3.8

Marshawn Lynch

315

53.6

11

7.3

-3.7

Alfred Morris

335

51.3

13

9.3

-3.7

Mikel Leshoure

215

53.6

9

5.7

-3.3

Trent Richardson

267

53.4

11

8.3

-2.7

Mike Tolbert

54

51.4

7

4.4

-2.6

Reggie Bush

227

55.6

6

3.6

-2.4

Andre Brown

73

43.3

8

5.7

-2.3

David Wilson

71

44.1

4

1.8

-2.2

Ray Rice

257

52.2

9

7.0

-2.0

There are some big-time players on this list. In fact, if we extended it another spot, Jamaal Charles would’ve made it. If we showed the top 16, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson would’ve shown up.

Spiller is a borderline top-five overall fantasy football pick this year. This study provides optimism that he’s able to score touchdowns regardless of his role inside the five. Spiller scored from lengths of five, 10, 14, 17, 44, and 56 yards last year. In fact, Spiller only handled one carry inside the five-yard line during all of 2012. In order to reach his fantasy ceiling, he’ll need to get more work near the goal line going forward.

Marshawn Lynch overachieved by 3.7 touchdowns last season. Amazingly, he only carried the ball once from within two yards of the endzone, scoring on the solo one-yard attempt. In total, five of his 11 scores came from inside the five. An impressive six came from 13-plus yards out, including four that were 20-plus-yard dashes to the endzone.

Mikel Leshoure is an interesting name to see in the top five. The big man from Detroit scored on each of his six attempts from within two yards of the endzone last year. His other three scores were from lengths of six, seven, and eight yards out.

Speaking of Leshoure, he’ll be joined in Detroit this season by Reggie Bush. Bush scored only one of his five touchdowns from within 13 yards of the endzone last season (a one-yarder). The others were from 13, 18, 21, 23, and 65 yards out. Bush enjoyed only three carries inside the five, scoring only that once.

Interestingly, both Andre Brown and David Wilson of the Giants pop up in the top 10. Brown racked up 11 carries inside the five, scoring on eight. He was five-for-five on attempts from the one-yard line. Wilson only had one carry inside the five-yard line. His four touchdowns came from distances of six, 14, 40, and 52 yards out.

Underachievers

Running Back

Att

rADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

277

50.4

5

9.3

4.3

LeSean McCoy

200

53.2

2

5.3

3.3

Darren McFadden

216

57.4

2

4.8

2.8

Shonn Greene

273

52.9

8

10.5

2.5

Vick Ballard

211

52.7

2

4.2

2.2

Alex Green

135

54.8

0

1.8

1.8

Peyton Hillis

85

51.2

1

2.7

1.7

Brandon Bolden

56

40.1

2

3.7

1.7

Jonathan Dwyer

156

53.2

2

3.6

1.6

Daryl Richardson

98

58.2

0

1.6

1.6

Our next list includes players that scored fewer touchdowns than they should’ve given their opportunity.

Having scored only five touchdowns despite an opportunity to score 9.3, the underwhelming BenJarvus Green-Ellis paces this list. He converted only three of nine tries from the one-yard line and four of 12 attempts from inside three yards. His only other score was from six yards out.

In a list of underachieving and/or underwhelming backs, it’s probably a bit shocking to see LeSean McCoy’s name. McCoy, as you may recall, easily led the running back position with 17 touchdowns in 2011. He had two in 2012. McCoy carried the ball within four yards of the endzone 18 times in 2011 (converting nine), but that mark fell to seven in 2012 (converting two). McCoy had six rushing scores of 10 yards or longer in 2011.

McFadden’s pair of touchdowns came from distances of two and 64 yards. He converted only one of six attempts inside five yards.

As shown earlier, Shonn Greene should’ve finished in the top five in rushing touchdowns last year. He did manage to find paydirt on eight occasions, but he left two or three on the field. Greene scored on five of his nine tries from the one-yard line. He converted seven of 16 inside the five. His only touchdown of longer than four yards was a 10-yard scamper in Week 6.

To further “prove” my theory that top running back talents tend to score more TD than oTD and vice versa, I wanted to quickly take a look at a five-year window of the data. Included is data from the 85 weeks covering the 2008 through 2012 regular seasons. For good measure, I included 15 players on each list this time.

Five-Year Overachievers

Running Back

Att

rADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

DeAngelo Williams

867

54.4

38

19.7

-18.3

Adrian L. Peterson

1511

52.2

64

50.9

-13.1

Chris D. Johnson

1462

55.7

44

31.3

-12.7

Jamaal Charles

776

57.3

17

10.6

-6.4

Marshawn Lynch

1167

52.3

39

33.3

-5.7

Ahmad Bradshaw

897

50.5

31

25.3

-5.7

Pierre Thomas

573

50.1

23

17.5

-5.5

Ryan Mathews

564

54.8

14

8.7

-5.3

Beanie Wells

624

54.4

24

18.9

-5.1

LeSean McCoy

822

50.6

29

24.0

-5.0

C.J. Spiller

383

56.0

10

5.2

-4.8

Willis McGahee

795

52.1

32

27.3

-4.7

Arian Foster

1008

48.7

44

39.6

-4.4

Reggie Bush

644

55.3

16

11.7

-4.3

Brian Westbrook

363

52.1

14

10.0

-4.0

This is a pretty impressive list. The likes of Peterson, Johnson, Charles, Lynch, McCoy, Foster, and Westbrook are far from surprises. They are some of the top talents at the position over the last half decade. We also see a few names consistently referred to as underrated (and rightfully so). Williams, Bradshaw, and Thomas fit that bill. Mathews (hey, he was very good before 2012) and Wells are probably a bit surprising. Bush is a polarizing player, but he’s clearly made the most of his scoring opportunities.

Williams is worth a long look since (a) he’s easily No. 1 on this list despite being stuck in a timeshare for several years and (b) he’s not even top two on the Panthers’ goal line depth chart!

Williams has scored 38 rushing touchdowns over the last five years. The average distance of those scores is an impressive 22.4 yards. He’s converted six of seven carries from the one-yard line and seven of 10 from inside three yards. Williams totalled 20 carries inside the five during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He had zero in 2010, two in 2011, and three in 2012. What’s really impressive is Williams’ ability to score from long distances. Of his 38 touchdowns, 12 were runs of 30-plus yards, including seven of distances higher than 53 yards. Only 10 came from within four yards of the endzone.

Charles is notable because he’s fourth on our list despite only scoring 17 times on the ground since 2008. What’s amazing about Charles is his attempts from the one-yard line during that span: one (and he didn’t convert). Charles has carried the ball only 10 times from inside the five, scoring on half. Of his 17 scores, nine are from distances of at least 37 yards. That includes four touchdown runs longer than 75 yards.

Likely the biggest surprise on our list is currently unemployed Beanie Wells. Wells has tried 12 carries from the one-yard line over the last five years, scoring on an impressive nine. He has a strong 15-of-27 conversion rate on carries inside the five. Of Wells’ 24 scores, six have come from distances of 10 or more yards. His longest trek to the endzone is 31 yards.

Five-Year Underachievers

Running Back

Att

rADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

Matt Forte

1256

54.0

26

35.6

9.6

Jamal Lewis

422

54.3

4

13.2

9.2

Cedric Benson

1179

52.1

22

29.9

7.9

Jason Snelling

302

43.7

6

13.0

7.0

Larry Johnson

369

51.1

5

11.5

6.5

Daniel Thomas

256

49.1

4

9.5

5.5

Marion Barber III

679

48.5

24

28.2

4.2

Justin Fargas

346

58.4

4

8.0

4.0

Chester Taylor

326

44.5

9

12.9

3.9

Knowshon Moreno

594

52.7

16

19.8

3.8

Tashard Choice

302

48.8

9

12.6

3.6

Jackie Battle

271

53.8

6

9.6

3.6

Shonn Greene

809

52.9

17

20.5

3.5

Isaac Redman

272

49.3

5

8.2

3.2

Steve Slaton

442

45.7

13

16.0

3.0

Next we have a list of players who failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities over the last five years. With one major exception (maybe two), this is clearly a very underwhelming list.

The obvious major exception here is Matt Forte. Although he’s a dynamic all-around player, Forte has had major trouble scoring the football. Consider that of 23 attempts from the opponent’s one-yard line, Forte has converted only six (26 percent). That’s plain awful. Of 48 tries inside the five, Forte has scored only 10 times. Of his 26 rushing scores, 12 are from distances of 10 yards or longer and three were dashes of 45-plus yards.

Daniel Thomas is the next most notable active back. Thomas has converted only four of 16 tries inside the five during his young career. The total yardage of his four career rushing touchdowns is eight (one, one, three, three).

Finally, we have Knowshon Moreno. Moreno has converted an acceptable 8-of-15 tries from the one-yard line since 2008. He’s only converted four of his 13 other inside-the-five carries, however. What’s most troubling about Moreno is his inability to make big plays. Of his 16 scores, only one was a run of longer than seven yards (18-yarder in 2009).

Conclusion

Like our initial study of pass-catchers, today’s study shows that oTD is superior to redzone carries when evaluating a backs scoring opportunity. Unlike our initial study of receivers*, however, I feel that the comparison of actual rushing touchdowns to oTD is a fine way to analyze the ability of running backs to create touchdowns.

*In order to try to accomplish the latter for pass-catchers, a future study will examine actual TD vs. oTD based on receptions instead of targets. This way we can see which players are able to make the most of their receptions after the catch.

 

Have thoughts on oTD or ADEZ? Hit Mike Clay up in the comments section or on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

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