OTD Improvement Project - Part 1: Intro, Rushing Analysis
Approximately six months ago, I introduced a new statistic called “opportunity-adjusted touchdowns,” or “OTD.”
Today, I’m debuting an improved version of the same stat.
Created as a replacement for flawed but oft-referenced red zone data, OTD proved to be a much more accurate indicator of scoring potential throughout the 2013 season. But each version – receiving and rushing – had a glaring limitation.
Rushing OTD only included carries out of the backfield by running backs. That means end-arounds and all quarterback rushes were ignored. Receiving OTD didn’t factor in the depth of the throw, which means a quick slant into the end zone was treated the same as a 50-yard bomb.
Neither limitation significantly impacted the 2013 OTD data. We simply didn’t chart quarterback rushing OTD and, now that I’ve done the research, there were no receivers with massive changes in their receiving OTD following the tweaks.
Players accrue Rushing OTD based mainly on the distance they are from the end zone. As the goal line draws closer, so do the odds of finding paydirt. Going forward, I’ll be breaking it down even further. Specifically, there are six different categories a player can fit into: tailback backfield carry, fullback backfield carry, quarterback scramble, quarterback sneak, designed quarterback run, and any end-around.
A carry from the 1-yard line always provides the best odds of a touchdown, but the actual rates are different depending on what position the player is and where he’s lined up. For example, tailbacks have scored on 53.8 percent of carries from the 1-yard line over the last six seasons. Fullbacks convert 45.7 percent of the time. A second example shows quarterbacks scoring from 1 yard out just over 59 percent of the time, regardless of whether or not it was a sneak or a designed run. The reason we split these two apart, however, is the carries from farther away. Of 76 quarterback sneak touchdowns since 2008, 71 are from 1 yard out. The other five came within 5 yards of the end zone. As you might imagine, scores on designed runs come from all over the field. In fact, quarterbacks have run for 31 touchdowns of 10 or more yards on designed runs over the last six years.
Our first chart shows the rushing OTD leaders from the 2013 regular season.
If you followed by OTD series over at ESPN Insider during the regular season, it won’t be a surprise to see Marshawn Lynch atop the rankings. Lynch paced all rushers in scoring opportunity, which, not coincidentally, helped him to an NFL-high 12 rushing touchdowns. Seattle’s lead back punched in three of six tries from 1 yard out and was a healthy 4-of-9 from 2 yards out.
Ray Rice’s appearance on this list provides further evidence that opportunity wasn’t his issue in 2013. Per OTD, Rice should’ve finished seventh in rushing touchdowns. Instead, he averaged one score every four games. Rice converted on only three of 11 tries within 2 yards of the end zone.
|2||Adrian L. Peterson||279||6.4||10||3.6|
|10||Chris D. Johnson||279||3.6||6||2.4|
Next, we’ll take a look at the difference between each player’s actual and expected touchdowns. Our latest chart shows the players who exceeded their expected mark by the highest margin this past season. Determining if the gap should be attributed to luck, skill, or a mixture of both remains a work in progress.
Surprisingly, Donald Brown is our poster boy this time around. Brown scored on all four of his carries within 6 yards of the end zone. He took another in from 11 yards out and padded his numbers further with a 51-yard score.
The Patriots’ lead back down the stretch, LeGarrette Blount, only saw three carries from the 1-yard line. He converted one, instead making his bones from further distances. He was an impressive 3-of-4 on other carries within 7 yards of the end zone. On top of that, the big man scored three low-percentage touchdowns from distance of 35, 36, and 47 yards. And that’s not even including his four-touchdown playoff game!
Our next chart examines players with expected OTD marks significantly higher than their actual.
We discussed Rice earlier, Willis McGahee’s career is probably over, and Bilal Powell is a committee back, so let’s take a longer look at Le’Veon Bell.
Bell racked up an NFL-high 10 carries from the 1-yard line, but scored only four times. His other four touchdowns came within 8 yards of the end zone, which means he failed to provide even one long touchdown run. Bell racked up 220 carries from 10-plus yards away from the end zone and scored on none of them.
Michael Bush (nine), Jamaal Charles (eight), and Fred Jackson (seven) rounded out the Top 4 in carries from the opponent’s 1-yard line. LeSean McCoy, Rashad Jennings, Eddie Lacy, Lynch, Rice, and McGahee each had six.
|9||Robert Griffin III||83||1.8||0||-1.8|
Because I just added it into the mix, I wanted to take a quick gander at the top quarterbacks in terms of rushing OTD from this past season.
There is no surprise here, as Cam Newton easily paced the field in 2013. Newton converted his only try from the 1-yard line and was 4-of-10 on all other carries inside the 10-yard line.
Of Robert Griffin III’s 83 carries, none came within 7 yards of the end zone. That helps explain why he failed to find the end zone. Consider that he scored six of his seven touchdowns in 2013 on carries within 10 yards of the end zone.
Russell Wilson failed to score on a pair of tries from the opponent’s 1-yard line. Regression hit him hard after he was 2-for-2 in the category in 2012. His only score this season came from 10 yards out. He also failed on a pair of carries from the 7-yard line.
|9||Adrian L. Peterson||835||23.9||34||10.1|
Our final chart shows the Top 15 players in rushing OTD over the last three regular seasons.
Working as the lead back in one of the league’s top offenses of the last three years, Frank Gore paces the league in rushing OTD. The veteran has scored 15 times on 29 carries within 2 yards of the end zone. Six of his 25 came on carries of 12 yards or longer.
Adrian Peterson exceeded his OTD by 10.1 during the three-year span. That’s easily a league-high. “AD” converted eight of his 13 tries from 1-yard out and racked up another eight scores from within 5 yards of the end zone. Peterson padded his stats with an impressive six 60-plus yard rushing touchdowns.
That’s it for today, but stay tuned for future installments of this study, which will examine passer and receiver OTD using our most-recent formula.
Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL