JVM: Halfbacks & Fullbacks

The running backs get their turn as Cole Schultz shows the top and bottom of who made good on their 2013 paychecks.

| 3 years ago

JVM: Halfbacks & Fullbacks


In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is exploring the value of players. To us it’s a ‘Jahnke Value Model’ number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2013. You can read about the work we’ve done to create it HERE, but in short:

• It’s solely about what a player did on the field in 2013
• Players are grouped by positions so their play essentially earns them a portion of the positional salary pool
• It’s all about cap hits (these values are approximate)

Here are 2013′s most undervalued and overvalued Running Backs:

(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)

Half Backs — Undervalued

1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

One of only two halfbacks in the Top 10 who’s getting paid legitimate starting money, McCoy’s nearly $5 million cap hit makes his first place finish all the more impressive. The +27.5 rushing grade he earned is nearly double the next closest tailback, and it’s well earned, as McCoy won the rushing title with nearly 300 yards to spare. The only knock on the 25-year-old back is his rather poor pass blocking, but when you can do the things that McCoy can with the ball in his hands, it’s easy to turn a blind eye toward his blocking. Chip Kelly has got to be happy that Philadelphia’s new offense looks to be set at running back for a number of years.

2013 Cap Hit: $5.0m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $14.2m
Value Differential: +9.3m

2. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Lacy’s name so high on this list. Winning Offensive Rookie of the Year despite being selected late in the second round, Lacy made his impact felt with a violent running style Green Bay had been sorely missing. Although he missed roughly two full games, Lacy still managed to force 56 missed tackles (fourth most), 11 touchdowns (third most), and 647 yards after contact (sixth most) on the ground. Those gaudy stats are no doubt impressive, but his quarterback has to be most impressed with this one: Lacy surrendered just three pressures on 110 pass blocking snaps, good for the third best Pass Blocking Efficiency among his peers.

2013 Cap Hit: $600k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $7.9m
Value Differential: +7.3m

3. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers

Renowned primarily for his receiving prowess when he signed on last year as a free agent from New England, Woodhead trailed only former Charger Darren Sproles with his +14.1 receiving grade this year. His 605 receiving yards are also second most, but to Jamaal Charles, who played nearly 400 more snaps than Woodhead. One thing that neither of them has, though, is a catch rate as high as the 91.6% that Woodhead earned. His 429 yards on the ground aren’t bad considering he’s not the Chargers’ feature back, and with a cap hit barely above those on their rookie deals, he looks set to earn a place on this list next year as well before possibly cashing in big in 2015.

2013 Cap Hit: $1.3m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $7.8m
Value Differential: +6.6m

4. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions

All the talk was on Reggie Bush becoming a Lion and helping revamp the offense, but quietly it was Bell who was the biggest difference maker out of the backfield. He tallied 41 more receiving yards than Bush despite seeing 12 fewer targets. Bell didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his 650 rushing yards, but forcing 48 missed tackles on rushes and receptions isn’t bad considering Detroit’s socialist approach when handing out snaps to its running backs. At $600k, you’re often just looking for a warm body to fill a roster spot, but Bell was quite a bit better than that.

2013 Cap Hit: $600k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $7.0m
Value Differential: +6.3m

5. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

Though their running styles couldn’t be more different, Bernard finds himself on this list in a similar position to Lacy- a second round rookie who’s shown he can be a high quality starter. And it’s a shame Cincinnati saw fit to give BenJarvus Green-Ellis so many touches, as Bernard was far more dynamic. On the ground he broke one fewer tackle than his teammate on 50 fewer carries, but it was in the passing game that Bernard tore it up. His +10.6 receiving grade was third-best among halfbacks, and with a cap hit not expected to exceed $1.7 million over the next three years, Bernard looks to be a mainstay on this list for the remainder of his rookie contract.

2013 Cap Hit: $1.0m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $7.2m
Value Differential: +6.3m

6. DeMarco Murray, DAL – Cap: $800k; JVM: $6.9m; Value Differential: +$6.1M

7. Jamaal Charles, KC – Cap: $4.3M; JVM: $10.4M; Value Differential: +$6.1M

8. Andre Ellington, ARZ – Cap: $400k; JVM: $5.1M; Value Differential: +$4.7M

9. Alfred Morris, WAS – Cap: $500k; JVM: $3.5M; Value Differential: +$3.0M

10. Rashad Jennings, OAK – Cap: $600k; JVM: $3.2M; Value Differential: +$2.6M


Halfbacks — Overvalued

1. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

As the poster child for what can go wrong when a team gives in to a star player during a holdout, Johnson has failed to live up to the $53.5 million contract extension he signed before the 2011 season, and this year was no different. He rushed for over 1,000 yards more by virtue of carrying the rock 279 times than anything else. He forced just 21 missed tackles on the ground (29th-best) despite seeing the sixth most rushing attempts, and unlike many of the others on this list, he can’t point to missing time. With only two 100-yard games this year compared to seven under 50 yards, Johnson looks to be one of the surest cap casualties around.

2013 Cap Hit: $12.0m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $900k
Value Differential: -11.1m

2. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders*

You could argue the point that McFadden missed six games as the reason he had no hope of providing value anywhere near his lofty cap figure. And while that’s undeniably true, there’s no excuse for his play when he did see the field. A rushing average of 3.3 yards per carry is hardly what you look for in a starter, and he didn’t exactly endear himself to us with his pass blocking either, allowing pressure on nearly one third of his pass blocking attempts. Highlighting the inherent risk of first-round rookie deals of the old CBA, McFadden will undoubtedly see much smaller paychecks wherever he lands in 2014.

2013 Cap Hit: $9.7m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $700k
Value Differential: -9.0m

3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

What a shame to see a supremely talented back like Peterson on the overvalued list. But when you’re paid like the best in the league, even an above average year like Peterson had will land you here. He forced more missed tackles on the ground (58) than all bar Marshawn Lynch, and no one (on the Vikings, at least) is complaining about his 4.5 yards per carry or his league-leading 829 yards after contact. Injuries took their toll on AP towards the end of the year, however, as he played just 42 snaps and missed two games over the last four weeks. Combine that with stacked boxes as a result of a one-dimensional offense and you have an overvalued player, even if his ‘down’ year (+13.4) is one many backs would die for.

2013 Cap Hit: $13.9m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $6.5m
Value Differential: -7.4m

4. Arian Foster, Houston Texans*

Another back bitten hard by the injury bug, Foster (+5.6) started strong but never stood a chance to live up to his contract in less than a half-season’s worth of work. The Texans were hoping for more than 334 snaps out of their franchise back, especially considering the five-year, $43.5 million contract he signed two years ago. With three years left on the deal, Houston will hope Foster fully recovers from his back surgery, and if so, he certainly has the talent to avoid this list next year.

2013 Cap Hit: $8.3m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $2.0m
Value Differential: -6.2m

5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars

One year removed from a foot injury that saw him out for most of the 2012 season, Jones-Drew couldn’t come close to replicating his dominant 2011 season in which he lead the league in rushing yards. Age may be an issue for the workhorse back who turns 29 in March, but it’s hard to look at his supporting cast and think that many others would do much better. When the only players on your team to grade above 0.0 for their run blocking are wide receivers, MJD was consistently looking to make absolutely anything out of nothing, and in the run game all too often he simply couldn’t. The silver lining is his phenomenal pass blocking (+6.5) where he didn’t surrender any pressure on 110 pass blocking snaps, something his agent will have to emphasize in upcoming contract talks this offseason.

2013 Cap Hit: $6.8m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $1.1m
Value Differential: -5.7m

6. Ray Rice, BAL – Cap: $5.8M; JVM: $700k; Value Differential: -$5.1M

7. DeAngelo Williams, CAR – Cap: $5.0M; JVM: $1.4M; Value Differential: -$3.6M

8. Trent Richardson, CLV/IND – Cap: $3.5M; JVM: $100k; Value Differential: -$3.4M

9. C.J. Spiller, BUF – Cap: $3.7M; JVM: $600k; Value Differential: -$3.1M

10. Frank Gore, SF – Cap: $6.5M; JVM: $3.4M; Value Differential: -$3.0M


Fullbacks — Undervalued

1. Anthony Sherman, Kansas City Chiefs

At a stellar +17.9 Sherman’s blocking grade was nearly double that of the next closest competitor. Not one to personally advance the ball often (159 total scrimmage yards), Sherman nonetheless made life for Jamaal Charles and company much easier. Six times his run blocking grade topped +1.5, including a +3.0 grade against Oakland where he didn’t grade negatively on a single play. Add in some solid work on special teams and you have the most undervalued fullback of 2013.

2013 Cap Hit: $600k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $3.2m
Value Differential: +2.6m

2. Collin Mooney, Tennessee Titans

Petrified of what might happen if their fullbacks have to take the field, Mooney was forced to earn his +9.1 grade (+8.5 blocking) on just 136 snaps for the Titans. He helped reinforce the idea that it isn’t the blocking in front of CJ2K that’s holding him up. What’s shocking is that Mooney did his best work at the beginning of the season (+5.0 on 38 snaps over Weeks 1 and 2, against Pittsburgh and Houston, no less) before the Titans promptly ripped every page with ‘FB’ on it right out of the playbook. He averaged fewer than 10 snaps per game from Week 3 on until landing on Injured Reserve in Week 13.

2013 Cap Hit: $400k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $2.7m
Value Differential: +$2.3

3. John Conner, NYG – Cap: $500k; JVM: $2.6M; Value Differential: +$2.1M

4. Justice Cunningham, IND – Cap: $100k; JVM: $600k; Value Differential: +$500k

5. Cory Harkey, SL – Cap: $500k; JVM: $1.0M; Value Differential: +$500k


Fullbacks — Overvalued

1. Le’Ron McClain, San Diego Chargers

Even if he channeled his inner Mike Alstott, it was going to be tough sledding for McClain to avoid this end of the spectrum thanks to his massive cap hit (by fullback standards) in conjunction with just 134 regular season snaps. That said, McClain didn’t channel the spirit of a Pro Bowler and was, as he has been for much of his seven-year career, merely average. Average might cut it were he not one of three fullbacks with a base salary over $2 million. But at that price, you expect the guy to be excellent, and quite honestly, McClain was not.

2013 Cap Hit: $3.1m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $900k
Value Differential: -2.2m

2. Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens

Oh, what a fall from grace. At +19.9 a year ago, even Leach couldn’t escape the all-consuming tornado of disappointment that was the Baltimore Ravens’ 2013 offense. Rightly notorious for his bulldozing blocking style, the now-32-year-old Leach struggled en route to a -7.3 run blocking grade as the pieces around him crumbled in similar fashion. It’s hard to say if age caught up with him or if this year is just an aberration, but with a similar cap hit next year, Baltimore can ill afford to have Leach around at his 2013 level of play if it hopes to revamp its offense in 2014.

2013 Cap Hit: $2.8m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $800k
Value Differential: -2.0m

3. Marcel Reece, OAK – Cap: $2.0M; JVM: $1.0M; Value Differential: -$1.0M

4. Montell Owens, DET – Cap: $1.0M; JVM: $100k; Value Differential: -$900k

5. John Kuhn, GB – Cap: $2.6M; JVM: $1.8M; Value Differential: -$700k


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    I’m glad to see Joique Bell on the list, he’s a very underrated running back. The only problem with Bell is that he lacks the elusiveness of Marshawn Lynch and takes way too much punishment. Hard to see him ever being durable, but he’s a BEAST when healthy.