Backs & Fronts – Week 1

Scott Spratt introduces FAYE, a measure of running back effectiveness relative to defensive fronts faced, and identifies some backs to target and avoid in 2014.

| 3 years ago
Knowshon Moreno

Backs & Fronts – Week 1

Knowshon MorenoKnowshon Moreno was the No. 5 running back in 2013. Lamar Miller was the No. 37 back. But Miller is just ahead of Moreno in the preseason ADP, and neither player is in the top 30 at the position there.

Last season, Moreno had a comfortable edge over Miller in carries (241 to 177), yards (1,038 to 709), touchdowns (10 to 2), and yards per carry (4.3 to 4.0), but now that they share a backfield and the team has not yet announced a starter, public opinion sides with Miller.

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Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt

  • ian

    I think you’re on to something here but believe you’ve failed to account for one of the most important variables – how many offensive players were “in the box”. running against a 7 man front from an offensive set that includes a tight end and a fullback is very different from running against a 7 man front from a 4 receiver set.

    in other words, i would suggest that what’s most important is not the absolute number of defensive players in the box (who will generally be stronger run defenders more focused on playing the run) as your stat indicates but instead the number of defensive players in the box relative to the number of offensive players in the box (who will similarly generally be stronger run blockers in a better position to execute run blocks).

    taking a look at your 2013 results, it’s not surprising then that it skews favorably towards backs on teams that are more run-oriented. what i mean by that is that the leaders are generally from “power-running” offenses that typically have bigger personnel on the field and that some of the trailers, notably the ones that it is a little surprising to see on any list of trailers (ie. Eddie Lacy and Reggie Bush), are from more “spread” type offenses that go with smaller personnel.

    i’d be interested to see how these stats shake out if you were to consider offensive personnel.

    as an aside, and to address a possible counterargument to the above, i think the league effectiveness table you included that shows decreased run success against higher personnel fronts can be partially explained by the fact defenses will have more guys in the box in obvious running situations (therefore harder to run, lower average) and less guys in the box in passing situations where they can afford to give up rushing yards (like 3rd and long situations).

  • butch

    I find it interesting that despite Eagles’ heavy run/pass ratio, they still face such a high% of <7 man fronts. I get John Q Public ignorantly thinking Chip Kelly's offense is a pass offense, but I would think Defensive Coordinators would be smarter. Unless the Eagles' are dictating these fronts via their offensive personnel…