How Predictive Are Rookie Running Back Statistics?

Mike Clay examines recent running back data to see how well rookie-season statistics relate to long-term success.

| 3 years ago
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How Predictive Are Rookie Running Back Statistics?


On ESPN.com’s June 19th edition of Fantasy Focus Football Podcast, Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz were discussing the 2013 prospects of Giants’ lead back David Wilson. As part of his argument for Wilson, Berry noted a stat available in the Fantasy Statistics area of our Fantasy Gold package.

The stat: Wilson’s fantasy points-per-opportunity (carries + pass routes) was highest among all running backs with at least 70 carries during the 2013 season.

Ravitz was not completely sold on the stat, pointing out something oft overlooked in the world of statistics: perspective. If you’ve ever spent time discussing advanced statistics with someone not completely on board with the movement, you’ve surely heard the infamous “you can make stats say pretty much anything” one-liner.

And that person is right.

In fact, did you know that Chris Pressley led all backs on a per-opportunity basis last year? That’s right—Bengals’ fullback Chris Pressley. I mean, sure he only caught one of his three targets on the year. But that one catch happened to go for a one-yard touchdown, which left him with a position-best 1.01 PPO. If I was trolling around a forum, I might say something like “Hey Peterson28Fan, Chris Pressley is better than your boy AD!”

See what I did there. I took a 100 percent accurate advanced stat and manipulated it into a horribly inaccurate conclusion.

My example was probably a better example of sample size manipulation than distortion based on perspective, but both are issues that cause headaches for stat nerds like me.

Today, I’m going to help Matt and Nate out by offering some perspective on the David Wilson statistic. The key question – Can rookie-season numbers (specifically yards-per-carry)—regardless of how small or large the sample—provide us with useful information relative to the player’s future production?

To do this, I scanned over every rookie back who carried the ball at least once during the last 2008-to-2011 seasons. I charted and compared each player’s rookie-season, sophomore-season, and post-rookie production. I broke up the list of 87 backs into four tiers, which were split based on rookie-season yards-per-carry. From there, I simply examined the career path of each player to-date in order to determine how indicative of future success that first year was.

The Studs

      Rookie Yr Next Yr Post-rookie
Player Team Draft Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Grade
Chris D. Johnson TEN 2008-1 262 1300 5.0 358 2037 5.7 1212 5698 4.7 A
LeGarrette Blount TB 2010-U 201 1007 5.0 184 796 4.3 225 947 4.2 D
DeMarco Murray DAL 2011-3 164 897 5.5 161 663 4.1 161 663 4.1 B
Shonn Greene NYJ 2009-3 162 846 5.2 230 968 4.2 759 3085 4.1 C
Chris Ivory NO 2010-U 137 718 5.2 101 444 4.4 141 661 4.7 B
Tashard Choice DAL 2008-4 92 472 5.1 79 392 5.0 249 980 3.9 D
Stevan Ridley NE 2011-3 91 462 5.1 323 1415 4.4 323 1415 4.4 B
Peyton Hillis DEN 2008-7 68 343 5.0 13 54 4.2 529 2131 4.0 B
Jamaal Charles KC 2008-3 67 357 5.3 190 1120 5.9 727 4260 5.9 A
Evan Royster WAS 2011-6 56 328 5.9 23 88 3.8 23 88 3.8 C
Kahlil Bell CHI 2009-U 40 220 5.5 0 0 0.0 108 425 3.9 D
Rashad Jennings JAC 2009-7 39 202 5.2 84 459 5.5 185 742 4.0 D
Felix Jones DAL 2008-1 30 266 8.9 146 902 6.2 569 2679 4.7 C
Aaron Brown DET 2009-6 26 143 5.5 17 58 3.4 18 58 3.2 F
Lance Ball IND 2008-U 13 83 6.4 0 0 0.0 196 779 4.0 D
Tyrell Sutton CAR 2009-U 12 68 5.7 13 71 5.5 13 71 5.5 D
Javon Ringer TEN 2009-5 8 48 6.0 51 243 4.8 112 442 3.9 D
Clifton Smith TB 2008-U 8 40 5.0 3 7 2.3 3 7 2.3 F
Jalen Parmele BAL 2008-6 2 27 13.5 5 17 3.4 49 173 3.5 D
Kory Sheets MIA 2009-U 1 5 5.0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
TOTAL 1479 7832 5.3 1981 9734 4.9 5602 25304 4.5 1.7

Our first chart shows the 20 running backs who averaged at least 5.0 yards-per-carry during their rookie season—usually a number that will generate some hype. Interestingly, of the top-five backs in terms of carries, only one was selected in the first two rounds of the draft (Chris Johnson). DeMarco Murray and Shonn Greene were third rounders, while LeGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory went undrafted. All five players have had their ups and downs, but only Johnson has really panned out. Murray and Ivory are projected 2013 starters and there’s still a lot to like there. Greene will spell Johnson for the next few years and Blount has been a major disappointment.

We see quite a few players here who were labeled as breakout candidates or sleepers heading into their sophomore campaign. Tashard Choice, Stevan Ridley, Jamaal Charles, Rashad Jennings, Felix Jones, and Javon Ringer certainly fit that bill. Of those six names, it’s fair to say that two (Ridley, Charles) definitely panned out. Choice, Jennings, and Ringer aren’t very good. The jury remains out on Jones (4.7 career YPC…seriously), but he’s now buried on the Eagles’ depth chart after a poor 2012 season with Dallas.

You’ll notice that I included a career-to-date “grade” for each player. This is obviously very subjective, but this, in some ways, is a subjective conversation. I gave two of the 20 backs an ‘A’ and four backs a ‘B’. Everyone else was a ‘C’ or worse. What’s interesting to me is that, of the nine backs who carried the ball at least 65 times as a rookie, I gave six either a ‘B’ or ‘A’. There’s something to be said for that, especially when you consider that there is zero correlation between those grades and draft round. It appears that, regardless of draft round or situation, rookies who rack up a generous number of touches and manage a strong YPC tend to pan out.

Also interesting here is that, of the 11 backs with fewer than 60 rookie-season totes, I graded none above a ‘C’. In fact, only Jones and Evan Royster were above a ‘D’. This tells us that success on a small sample of rookie-season carries is not a good indicator of future success. In fact, if anything, it’s an ominous one. Of course, it’s worth noting that only Jones was selected earlier than the fifth round.

The Above Average

      Rookie Yr Next Yr Post-rookie
Player Team Draft Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Grade
Steve Slaton HOU 2008-3 268 1282 4.8 131 450 3.4 174 627 3.6 F
Kevin Smith DET 2008-3 238 976 4.1 217 747 3.4 366 1402 3.8 D
Beanie Wells ARI 2009-1 195 919 4.7 116 397 3.4 449 1680 3.7 D
Jonathan Stewart CAR 2008-1 187 851 4.6 221 1133 5.1 634 3014 4.8 B
LeSean McCoy PHI 2009-2 160 661 4.1 219 1126 5.1 692 3275 4.7 A
Ryan Mathews SD 2010-1 158 678 4.3 222 1091 4.9 406 1798 4.4 C
Roy Helu WAS 2011-4 151 640 4.2 2 2 1.0 2 2 1.0 D
Kendall Hunter SF 2011-4 122 519 4.3 72 371 5.2 72 371 5.2 C
Darren McFadden OAK 2008-1 113 499 4.4 104 363 3.5 655 2843 4.3 B
Ray Rice BAL 2008-2 108 437 4.0 289 1564 5.4 1299 5882 4.5 A
Toby Gerhart MIN 2010-2 81 322 4.0 109 531 4.9 159 700 4.4 C
Bernard Scott CIN 2009-6 74 325 4.4 61 299 4.9 187 733 3.9 D
Keiland Williams WAS 2010-U 65 261 4.0 58 195 3.4 60 198 3.3 D
Arian Foster HOU 2009-U 54 257 4.8 327 1616 4.9 1061 4779 4.5 A
Joe McKnight NYJ 2010-4 40 191 4.8 43 134 3.1 73 313 4.3 D
Deji Karim JAC 2010-6 35 160 4.6 63 130 2.1 63 130 2.1 F
Dion Lewis PHI 2011-5 23 102 4.4 13 69 5.3 13 69 5.3 D
Taiwan Jones OAK 2011-4 16 73 4.6 6 21 3.5 6 21 3.5 F
Ryan Torain DEN 2008-5 15 69 4.6 0 0 0.0 224 944 4.2 D
Chris Ogbonnaya STL 2009-7 11 50 4.5 0 0 0.0 84 370 4.4 D
DuJuan Harris JAC 2011-U 9 42 4.7 62 257 4.1 62 257 4.1 C
LaRod Stephens-Howling ARI 2009-7 9 37 4.1 23 113 4.9 176 636 3.6 C
Mike Hart IND 2008-6 2 9 4.5 35 88 2.5 78 273 3.5 F
TOTAL 2134 9360 4.4 2393 10697 4.5 6995 30317 4.3 1.6

Our next chart includes backs who were at or above average (4.0-to-4.9 YPC) as rookies.

We do see somewhat of a correlation here between rookie-season carries and draft round. Of the top-11 names on the list (sorted by rookie-season carries), nine were drafted in the first three rounds, including four first-round picks. Of the bottom-12 backs, only Joe McKnight and Taiwan Jones (now a cornerback) were drafted prior to the fifth round.

What jumps out at me here is the lack of correlation between a large rookie-season workload and future success. Steve Slaton, Kevin Smith, and Beanie Wells lead this group of backs. None have panned out. The jury remains out on Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Mathews, and Darren McFadden, but so far, so underwhelming. LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, and Arian Foster obviously stand out in this crowd. All three are elite NFL backs, but only Foster really stood out as a runner during his rookie season. McCoy had an average YPC in a part-time role. Rice was similar and failed to score on 108 carries. Foster, meanwhile, caught our attention with a 4.8 YPC and three touchdowns on 54 late-season carries.

Now let’s focus on the “sophomore hype” guys. Slaton, Smith, Wells, Stewart, McCoy, Mathews, Helu, Hunter, McFadden, Rice, Scott, Foster, Gerhart, McKnight, Jones, and Torain should all be in the conversation. Some were first-round picks (Slaton), some were late-round upside targets (Scott), and others were high-upside handcuffs (Gerhart). Of the 16 backs listed, only five received a grade of ‘B’ or better. I gave ‘C’ grades to Mathews (was great early, but 2012 was bad) and a pair of effective handcuffs (Hunter/Gerhart). That all adds up to exactly half of our “hype” backs progressing into, at least, an average contributor.

On a more positive note (one that is key when evaluating a first-round pick like Wilson), four of the seven backs picked in the first two rounds earned a grade of ‘B’ or better. Wells received the only grade below a ‘D’.

The Below Average

      Rookie Yr Next Yr Post-rookie
Player Team Draft Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Grade
Matt Forte CHI 2008-2 316 1238 3.9 258 929 3.6 988 4242 4.3 A
Knowshon Moreno DEN 2009-1 247 947 3.8 182 779 4.3 367 1515 4.1 D
Tim Hightower ARI 2008-5 178 531 3.0 155 703 4.5 392 1782 4.5 C
Jahvid Best DET 2010-1 171 559 3.3 84 390 4.6 84 390 4.6 F
Daniel Thomas MIA 2011-2 165 581 3.5 91 325 3.6 91 325 3.6 D
Mark Ingram NO 2011-1 122 474 3.9 156 602 3.9 156 602 3.9 C
James Starks GB 2010-6 110 416 3.8 139 621 4.5 210 876 4.2 D
Delone Carter IND 2011-4 101 377 3.7 32 122 3.8 32 122 3.8 D
Donald Brown IND 2009-1 94 327 3.5 129 497 3.9 371 1559 4.2 D
C.J. Spiller BUF 2010-1 74 283 3.8 107 601 5.6 314 1845 5.9 B
BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE 2008-U 74 275 3.7 26 114 4.4 772 3129 4.1 B
Anthony Dixon SF 2010-6 70 244 3.5 32 90 2.8 55 174 3.2 D
Chris Jennings CLE 2008-U 63 220 3.5 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Jacquizz Rodgers ATL 2011-5 57 205 3.6 114 458 4.0 114 458 4.0 C
Phillip Tanner DAL 2011-U 22 76 3.5 25 61 2.4 25 61 2.4 D
Brandon Saine GB 2011-U 19 72 3.8 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Rashard Mendenhall PIT 2008-1 19 58 3.1 242 1108 4.6 906 3728 4.1 B
Jacob Hester SD 2008-3 17 58 3.4 21 74 3.5 100 316 3.2 D
Shane Vereen NE 2011-2 15 57 3.8 73 308 4.2 73 308 4.2 C
Mossis Madu TB 2011-U 15 55 3.7 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Dantrell Savage KC 2008-U 15 53 3.5 10 45 4.5 10 45 4.5 F
Armando Allen CHI 2011-U 15 48 3.2 27 124 4.6 27 124 4.6 D
Chad Simpson IND 2008-U 15 45 3.0 15 102 6.8 15 102 6.8 F
Gartrell Johnson NYG 2009-4 13 43 3.3 11 40 3.6 11 40 3.6 F
Johnny White BUF 2011-5 12 38 3.2 8 34 4.3 8 34 4.3 F
John Clay PIT 2011-U 11 42 3.8 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
James Johnson CIN 2008-U 9 29 3.2 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Jonathan Dwyer PIT 2010-6 9 28 3.1 16 123 7.7 172 746 4.3 D
Da’Rel Scott NYG 2011-7 5 16 3.2 6 9 1.5 6 9 1.5 D
Alex Green GB 2011-3 3 11 3.7 135 464 3.4 135 464 3.4 D
TOTAL 2056 7406 3.6 2094 8723 4.2 5434 22996 4.2 1.1

Our third group includes backs who underwhelmed in the YPC department during their rookie season. Grouped here are the 30 rookies with YPC marks between 3.0 and 3.9.

Matt Forte handled a massive rookie-season workload (highest carry total in our study) and was certainly applauded for his performance. He only averaged 3.9 YPC, however, which is below average. Including the other seven backs who handled at least 100 carries as a rookie, only Forte clearly panned out. Knowshon Moreno (not good), Jahvid Best (injuries), and Mark Ingram (underwhelming so far) were first round picks.

We see several other first-round picks on this list, including Rashard Mendenhall, Donald Brown, and C.J. Spiller. Of our six first-round backs, I’ve given only two grades of ‘B’ or better (Mendenhall, Spiller). Moreno, Brown, and Best haven’t lived up to expectations and while Ingram still has a shot to develop, he’s a ‘C’ at best.

Note that of the 19 backs in this group with no more than 70 carries, I graded only one above a ‘C’ (Mendenhall). Jacquizz Rodgers and Shane Vereen were the only two backs better than a ‘D’.

It’s pretty clear that underwhelming rookie-season production—regardless of draft round—is not a good sign for long-term success.

The Bad

      Rookie Yr Next Yr Post-rookie
Player Team Draft Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Grade
Glen Coffee SF 2009-3 83 226 2.7 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Javarris James IND 2010-U 46 112 2.4 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Dimitri Nance GB 2010-U 36 95 2.6 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Mike Goodson CAR 2009-4 22 49 2.2 103 439 4.3 138 660 4.8 C
Keith Toston STL 2010-U 19 54 2.8 0 0 0.0 17 74 4.4 F
Jamie Harper TEN 2011-4 17 46 2.7 19 30 1.6 19 30 1.6 D
Mike Tolbert SD 2008-U 13 37 2.8 25 148 5.9 381 1549 4.1 B
Bilal Powell NYJ 2011-4 13 21 1.6 110 437 4.0 110 437 4.0 C
James Davis CLE 2009-6 9 15 1.7 19 60 3.2 19 60 3.2 F
Javarris Williams KC 2009-7 6 6 1.0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 F
Xavier Omon BUF 2008-6 6 5 0.8 5 22 4.4 5 22 4.4 F
Chauncey Washington JAC 2008-7 4 9 2.3 0 0 0.0 1 -1 -1.0 F
Anthony Allen BAL 2011-7 3 8 2.7 16 61 3.8 16 61 3.8 D
Armond Smith CLE 2011-U 3 2 0.7 3 0 0.0 3 0 0.0 F
TOTAL 280 685 2.4 300 1197 3.99 709 2892 4.1 0.6

Our fourth group includes the 14 backs who couldn’t manage a 3.0 YPC mark during their rookie season.

None of the 14 backs were drafted before the third round, so it’s fair to say that expectations were low. Glen Coffee (the only third-rounder here) retired after one underwhelming season. Mike Goodson is dealing with some legal issues, but like his current teammate Bilal Powell, has been competent enough to earn a ‘C’. The only positive grade on this list belongs to Mike Tolbert, who has been an effective, versatile player thus far in his career.

Of the 14 players, I gave nine an ‘F’ grade. It’s safe to cut your losses on late round fliers who put up poor rookie-season YPC production.

The Early-Rounders

As mentioned earlier, David Wilson was a first-round pick, so it’s probably worth checking in on the success rate of early-round picks. Wilson was actually the last pick in the first round, so we’ll include both first and second round backs.

      Rookie Yr Next Yr Post-rookie
Player Team Draft Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Att Yds YPC Grade
Felix Jones DAL 2008-1 30 266 8.9 146 902 6.2 569 2679 4.7 C
Chris D. Johnson TEN 2008-1 262 1300 5.0 358 2037 5.7 1212 5698 4.7 A
Beanie Wells ARI 2009-1 195 919 4.7 116 397 3.4 449 1680 3.7 D
Jonathan Stewart CAR 2008-1 187 851 4.6 221 1133 5.1 634 3014 4.8 B
Darren McFadden OAK 2008-1 113 499 4.4 104 363 3.5 655 2843 4.3 B
Ryan Mathews SD 2010-1 158 678 4.3 222 1091 4.9 406 1798 4.4 C
LeSean McCoy PHI 2009-2 160 661 4.1 219 1126 5.1 692 3275 4.7 A
Ray Rice BAL 2008-2 108 437 4.0 289 1564 5.4 1299 5882 4.5 A
Toby Gerhart MIN 2010-2 81 322 4.0 109 531 4.9 159 700 4.4 C
Matt Forte CHI 2008-2 316 1238 3.9 258 929 3.6 988 4242 4.3 A
Mark Ingram NO 2011-1 122 474 3.9 156 602 3.9 156 602 3.9 C
Knowshon Moreno DEN 2009-1 247 947 3.8 182 779 4.3 367 1515 4.1 D
C.J. Spiller BUF 2010-1 74 283 3.8 107 601 5.6 314 1845 5.9 B
Shane Vereen NE 2011-2 15 57 3.8 73 308 4.2 73 308 4.2 C
Daniel Thomas MIA 2011-2 165 581 3.5 91 325 3.6 91 325 3.6 D
Donald Brown IND 2009-1 94 327 3.5 129 497 3.9 371 1559 4.2 D
Jahvid Best DET 2010-1 171 559 3.3 84 390 4.6 84 390 4.6 F
Rashard Mendenhall PIT 2008-1 19 58 3.1 242 1108 4.6 906 3728 4.1 B
TOTAL 2517 10457 4.2 3106 14683 4.7 9425 42083 4.5

Of the six ‘A’ grades I gave out today, four belong to players drafted in the first two rounds. Interestingly, three of the six belong to backs drafted in the second round. Of the 18 backs drafted in the first two rounds, we see four ‘B’ grades, five ‘C’ grades, four ‘D’ grades, and one ‘F’.

If we sort by rookie-season YPC, there is a slight correlation between early and long-term production. Of the top-10 backs in terms of YPC, six we can officially say panned out. Only Wells and Jones are clear busts. Of the other eight backs, only Spiller and Mendenhall have succeeded. There remains some optimism for Vereen and Ingram, but they haven’t shown a ton thus far.

You may also notice that, if we combined all 18 early-round backs, the carry total for the unit jumped by nearly 600 carries in year-two. Additionally, the unit’s sophomore-season YPC increased by a half yard and career YPC was boosted to a strong 4.5 mark. If we grouped every other rookie back in this study, we show a 4.3 rookie-season YPC, followed by a 4.3 mark in year-two, and a 4.2 post-rookie mark. Early-round rookies tend to improve over the following seasons, while mid-to-late round picks stay around the same YPC.

The 2012 Rookies

There were a barrage of impact rookie backs in 2012, but which ones should we feel better (or worse) about after our study?

      Rookie Yr
Player Team Draft Att Yds YPC
Cyrus Gray KC 2012-6 7 44 6.3
Isaiah Pead STL 2012-2 10 54 5.4
David Wilson NYG 2012-1 71 358 5.0
LaMichael James SF 2012-2 38 190 5.0
Travaris Cadet NO 2012-U 1 5 5.0
Bernard Pierce BAL 2012-3 147 734 5.0
Bryce Brown PHI 2012-7 115 564 4.9
Lamar Miller MIA 2012-4 51 250 4.9
Brandon Bolden NE 2012-U 56 274 4.9
Daryl Richardson STL 2012-7 98 475 4.8
Alfred Morris WAS 2012-6 351 1693 4.8
Doug Martin TB 2012-1 319 1454 4.6
Robert Turbin SEA 2012-4 92 394 4.3
Jeremy Stewart OAK 2012-U 25 101 4.0
Richard Murphy JAC 2011-U 23 92 4.0
Chris Rainey PIT 2012-5 26 102 3.9
Vick Ballard IND 2012-5 233 905 3.9
Ronnie Hillman DEN 2012-3 107 413 3.9
Lance Dunbar DAL 2012-U 21 75 3.6
Trent Richardson CLE 2012-1 267 950 3.6
Dan Herron CIN 2012-6 4 5 1.3

Earlier, I came to the conclusion that regardless of draft round or situation, rookies who rack up a generous number of touches and manage a very strong YPC tend to pan out.

That being the case, there should be quite a bit of optimism surrounding David Wilson and Bernard Pierce. Both saw at least 70 carries as rookies and both were at or above 5.0 YPC.

What does Lamar Miller have in common with Choice, Helu, Hunter, McKnight, Jones, Carter, Johnson, Goodson, Harper, Powell, and Turbin? That’s the list of backs drafted in the fourth round since 2008. Sure, Miller had a strong 4.9 YPC as a rookie, but Choice (5.1) and McKnight (4.8) were good, as well. Additionally, we saw in our second chart that decent, but not elite rookie-season production does not necessarily correlate with long-term success.

Cyrus Gray, LaMichael James, and most notably Isaiah Pead were very strong on a small sample of rookie-season carries. We learned earlier, however, that there is no correlation between that success and long-term outlook. In fact, as you may recall, no player in that category has panned out over the last five years.

This study also shows that we should be pessimistic about Trent Richardson’s chances of developing into a stud. Of all backs selected in the first two rounds since 2008, none with a sub 3.9 rookie-season YPC have exploded into an elite player. In fact, many have struggled. Richardson is in a category with Ingram, Moreno, Spiller, Vereen, Thomas, Brown, Best, and Mendenhall. Fellow 2013 rookies Vick Ballard and Ronnie Hillman also fit the bill.

Doug Martin is in good company. Among seven other first or second round backs who handled 100 or more rookie-season carries and managed a YPC above 4.0, three have been in the elite conversation (Johnson, McCoy, Rice), three have been decent or better (McFadden, Stewart, Mathews), and only one has really failed (Wells). This study offers optimism about Martin’s future.

What about late-round picks Bryce Brown (seventh), Daryl Richardson (seventh), and Alfred Morris (sixth)? Each of the four backs was in the 4.8 to 4.9 YPC range and eclipsed the 95-carry mark. Of the 87 players in our study, only eight managed a YPC above 4.5 on at least 95 carries. Of those eight, three were first round picks (Johnson, Wells, Stewart), three were third round picks (Murray, Greene, Slaton), and two went undrafted (Ivory, Blount). Obviously, there’s not much of a comparison to be made here, but the odds of all three guys panning out is slim. Morris, of course, appears to be the real deal.

Conclusion

That turned out to be a fairly lengthy study, but we generated some useful information. We now know that a small sample of rookie data is not much of an indicator of future success. In fact, rookies who don’t see much of a workload tend struggle to progress into a strong players. On the other hand, strong production on a decent to large workload has meant good production over time. If anything, you should come away from this study feeling better about David Wilson and Doug Martin and a bit more wary of spending a pick on Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller.

  • Reason

    The grading system you utilized to draw your conclusions is extremely subjective. For example, Felix Jones and Darrin McFadden were drafted same year. Felix has a higher YPC and McFadden only has 164 more yds than Felix. Why is Felix a C, McFadden a B? Another is Peyton Hillis – he has fewer carries, yards, and YPC than Felix, yet Hillis is a B also. Another is Shonn Greene. He has essentially the same stats as Green-Ellis yet law firm is a B and Greene is a C.

    I could go on and point out more, but I think you’ll see my point here. My guess is that the grades are subjectively assigned by the writer. If they were, then some bias towards certain players may exist. Another way to assign grades may be to allow a person unfamiliar with sports in general to assign the grade. That way any ill will towards certain players would be removed.

    I appreciate the recognition that much analysis does not consider the whole picture (which the article points out in the beginning). Therefore, I was hoping to observe something that could capture the entirety of this article’s pursuit, but it would appear that the subjective grading system is really not a good way to draw the conclusions.

  • CoryC

    This is a fantastic article and one of the best from this site.

    I think it also would be interesting to review these statistics based on the running back’s age during their rookie season. McCoy, Mendenhall and Richardson were freshly turned 21 for their poor ypc rookie seasons. Most, if not all, of the rbs listed in the Studs section were at least 22 as rookies. Considering the high ypc put up by Wilson and Miller at such a young age, perhaps they should be given bonus consideration as break out candidates, while Trent could be given a pass for his poor season.